Hampton’s Hitting

Mike Hampton has always been a good hitting pitcher, and even as he approaches his 37th birthday, he’s continuing to provide value with his bat. On the season, he’s hitting .324/.350/.432 for a .340 wOBA in 41 plate appearances. His offense has been worth half a run over that of an average hitter.

But, of course, Hampton isn’t replacing an average hitter on the days he swings the bat. He’s replacing an average hitting pitcher, and they perform far worse when they are called upon to hit. As a group, pitchers are hitting .145/.187/.186, which is good for about a .160 wOBA. Hampton’s rate stats are more than double what an average pitcher is producing at the plate this year.

How much does that matter? Well, over 41 plate appearances, a 180 point difference in wOBA is worth about six runs. If we knocked six runs off of Hampton’s earned runs total, his ERA would drop from 5.30 to 4.82. I’d say there’s a pretty significant perception difference between those two numbers.

In most cases, the value of what a pitcher contributes isn’t that significant. With players like Hampton, though, they really can add to their value at the plate in a way that reflects on the scoreboard, and ultimately, on their teams ability to win when they take the mound. While a .340 wOBA isn’t Hampton’s true talent level, of course, he has posted a .287 wOBA over 845 plate appearances, so we shouldn’t be totally shocked when he has a good hitting season every once in a while.

Pitcher hitting – it’s one of those small, usually overlooked parts of the game, but in some cases, it actually matters.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

10 Responses to “Hampton’s Hitting”

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  1. The A Team says:

    “Pitcher hitting – it’s one of those small, usually overlooked parts of the game, but in some cases, it actually matters.”

    My favorite example is from last post-season’s Myers vs Sabathia matchup.

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  2. Matthew says:

    how about Randy Wolf….

    he has won two games in a row for the dodgers not only with his superb Pitching but he also knocked in the only 2 runs of the game in his last start and went 3for3 in the other game falling short of the cycle with only a triple missing….

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  3. DavidA says:

    The best hitting pitcher I think I’ve seen is Micah Owings. Granted, it’s a small sample size, but for his career Owings has a .368 wOBA in 180 plate appearance. His power numbers are awesome too–OPS of .873 with ISO .of 246. That’s better than a lot of teams’ starting left fielder. Given that his pitching has been pretty atrocious, it makes me wonder if we might have another Rich Ankiel in the making here.

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    • MCR says:

      There was a post on this at some point, and I think the conclusion was that he’s better off as an average or slightly below average but above replacement level pitcher than as an outfielder.

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      • Alex JN says:

        Yeah, but that’s based on him remaining an average or slightly below-average pitcher, which may or may not hold true into the future.

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  4. Jamie says:

    should we compare these guys to replacement level pinch hitters?

    can we get a war value from that?

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  5. James C-B says:

    awesome post. i’m wondering – does this adjust his war? it probably should, although i don’t think war takes into account pitchers’ hitting…

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  6. Eric says:

    Terry Forster had a .402 wOBA in 80 PA from 1971 to 1986…

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  7. arch support says:

    Take this for what it’s worth:

    In my OOTP X dynasty (http://www.ootpdevelopments.com/joomla/), I’m managing a National League team. When the pitcher is up to bat, I have him take as many pitches as possible, meaning take until two strikes, then swing away.

    Of course, most of the time, this results in a strikeout. But often, the pitcher will draw a walk. So often, in fact, that it’s not unusual to have a pitcher with an OBP of .300 or so over the course of a season’s worth of plate appearances.

    I don’t mean to suppose that this can cause a huge difference in offensive value from a pitcher, but I’m surprised more teams don’t try this. A pitcher will often strike out as is, contact from a pitcher is not that valuable (low average, low slugging), and taking until two strikes has the advantage of boosting the opposing pitcher’s pitch count at least a little. Add in the benefit of a few more walks a season and I think this becomes a strategy worth trying.

    Would more opposing pitchers just lay meatballs over the plate to get a strike if they knew the batting pitcher is not going to swing until two strikes? Sure. But most pitchers aren’t afraid to throw over the heart of the plate against batting pitchers anyway.

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  8. Joe R says:

    Speaking of good hitting pitchers, anyone check Owings’ ridiculous (albeit SSS alert) slash line?


    He makes Bengie Molina look like Luis Castillo at the dish right now. Only 54 PA’s, but that’s a higher ISO than Kendry Morales / Mark Teixeira.

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