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.