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Monday, January 24, 2011

D-Backs to sign Micah Owings

Come back to the Bank One, Chubby Dean, Chubby Dean…

The D’Backs announced that they have agreed to sign Micah Owings to a minor league contract. The right-hander will also get an invitation to Spring Training. The D’Backs intend to use Owings as a pitcher and occasional first baseman, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports (on Twitter).

Owings posted a 5.40 ERA in 33 1/3 innings for the Reds last year, striking out 9.5 batters per nine. The 28-year-old walked 6.8 batters per nine, however…

Owings… is one of baseball’s best-hitting pitchers. He has a remarkable .293/.323/.538 career line with 9 homers in 198 plate appearances.

The District Attorney Posted: January 24, 2011 at 10:25 PM | 34 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: arizona

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   1. 57i66135 is a hard word for me. Posted: January 25, 2011 at 01:48 AM (#3735612)
The D’Backs intend to use Owings as a pitcher and occasional first baseman
i really hope this works out, as it'd be cool as hell.
   2. Adam Starblind Posted: January 25, 2011 at 01:54 AM (#3735615)
I understand why it is that most pitchers can't hit, but it strikes me as weird that it is SO rare that one can.
   3. Forsch 10 From Navarone (Dayn) Posted: January 25, 2011 at 01:55 AM (#3735616)
He was my DH on a past championship Diamond Mind team. You da man, Micah.
   4. Swedish Chef Posted: January 25, 2011 at 01:58 AM (#3735618)
Does Owings insist on pitching? I don't get why a team wouldn't convert him to a full-time position player.
   5. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq., LLC Posted: January 25, 2011 at 02:13 AM (#3735619)
I understand why it is that most pitchers can't hit, but it strikes me as weird that it is SO rare that one can.
Not really. To be a non-terrible major league hitter, you have to be a great hitter by general population standards.

To find someone who is both a great pitcher and a great hitter would be rare.
   6. shozzlekhan Posted: January 25, 2011 at 02:48 AM (#3735631)
Exactly.

How many PA's do you think you'd need at the major league level before you'd get a hit? 100? 1000? To hit .150 with the odd double is pretty outstanding by 'general population standards.'
   7. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: January 25, 2011 at 03:24 AM (#3735641)
IF you told me what pitch was coming, and IF all the games were day games, and IF all my ABs came against the worst of the worst, and IF I could conquer my fear of a 90 MPH fastball, I might get a hit after a few years.
   8. PreservedFish Posted: January 25, 2011 at 03:54 AM (#3735650)
To hit .150 with the odd double is pretty outstanding by 'general population standards.'


But pitchers are not "general population." Almost all of them were the cleanup hitter on their high school teams, they're all 6'2" 220, they're, you know, really good at baseball. Lots of current players put up eye-popping numbers as pitchers and hitters in college, and some were considered strong prospects on both sides of the ball.

I understand that it should be rare, but I'm also surprised that the competent, Rey Ordonez-level hitting pitcher is almost nonexistent.
   9. salvomania Posted: January 25, 2011 at 04:14 AM (#3735661)
the competent, Rey Ordonez-level hitting pitcher is almost nonexistent.


Last year, there were 7 NL starting pitchers who hit better than Rey Ordonez:

Dan Haren (.364/.375/.527)
Yovani Gallardo (.254/.329/.508)
Mike Leake (.333/.407/.354)
Chris Narveson (.327/.365/.347)
Felipe Paulino (.292/.346/.333)
Wade LeBlanc (.295/.311/.295)
R.A. Dickey (.255/.296/.294)

And there are a bunch of others---like Adam Wainwright (career .223 hitter with 5 hr in 301 ab)---who had an "off year" in 2010 but who are arguably better hitters than Ordonez....
   10. Ron J Posted: January 25, 2011 at 05:42 AM (#3735684)
#7 My only try (in a cage dialed up to major league mediocre) left me with very sore hands. I had to cheat (timing the machine) to get a bat on the ball and my best efforts might well have resulted in an infield single for somebody who could run (ie not me)
   11. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: January 25, 2011 at 06:16 AM (#3735688)
If I had to go up against MLB pitching. I would squat, stand as close to the plate as possible, lean in, and keep my eyes closed (to avoid natural reflexes of avoiding the pitch if it came at me). Between walks and HBP, I might pull off a .000/.110/.000 line.

The MLB strike percentage is around 65%, which would mean somebody who never swung would expect to walk a bit over 10% of the time. Of course, some pitches are intentionally out of the zone, but others are out of the zone but become strikes by being swung at.
   12. shozzlekhan Posted: January 25, 2011 at 06:51 AM (#3735692)
Do you know what the number is on fastballs? I can't imagine anyone would throw you a breaking ball. And hell, they'd probably dial back the fastball a few MPH too to improve accuracy.
   13. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: January 25, 2011 at 07:07 AM (#3735695)
I think with some BP, I could hit... a BP fastball, anyway. After years of playing slow-pitch, I played in a student-faculty HS game (without any practice at all beforehand). It was, how you say, humbling.*



* Until one of the little ####s threw me a curve ball. Then it was more "embarrassing."
   14. shozzlekhan Posted: January 25, 2011 at 07:19 AM (#3735696)
   15. Jack Sommers Posted: January 25, 2011 at 11:34 AM (#3735703)
Best hitting pitchers since 1994, minimum 198 PA's

LINK
   16. Adam Starblind Posted: January 25, 2011 at 01:34 PM (#3735712)
If I had to go up against MLB pitching. I would squat, stand as close to the plate as possible, lean in, and keep my eyes closed (to avoid natural reflexes of avoiding the pitch if it came at me). Between walks and HBP, I might pull off a .000/.110/.000 line.

The MLB strike percentage is around 65%, which would mean somebody who never swung would expect to walk a bit over 10% of the time. Of course, some pitches are intentionally out of the zone, but others are out of the zone but become strikes by being swung at.


How long do you think it would take bigleaguers to figure out that the squatting lawyer with his eyes closed wasn't going to swing at anything? ;-)
   17. MM1f Posted: January 25, 2011 at 01:43 PM (#3735716)
"Dan Haren (.364/.375/.527)
Yovani Gallardo (.254/.329/.508)
Mike Leake (.333/.407/.354)
Chris Narveson (.327/.365/.347)
Felipe Paulino (.292/.346/.333)
Wade LeBlanc (.295/.311/.295)
R.A. Dickey (.255/.296/.294)"


Of those seven Haren and Leake were star hitters in college as well.
   18. More Dewey is Always Good Posted: January 25, 2011 at 02:00 PM (#3735723)
Does Owings insist on pitching? I don't get why a team wouldn't convert him to a full-time position player.

Looking at his peripherals, I think he'd be exposed pretty quickly if he was in the lineup every day. A best-case scenario for him is Shane Reynolds with less defensive ability.

People would point to Rick Ankiel, but (1) Ankiel spent several years in the minors, working exclusively as a hitter, years that Owings no longer has, and (2) Ankiel was exposed pretty quickly as a hitter, as well.
   19. flournoy Posted: January 25, 2011 at 02:20 PM (#3735729)
Ankiel also has defensive value. Owings is limited to P/1B.
   20. More Dewey is Always Good Posted: January 25, 2011 at 02:26 PM (#3735733)
Er, that's Mark Reynolds, not Shane Reynolds.
   21. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: January 25, 2011 at 03:23 PM (#3735762)
the competent, Rey Ordonez-level hitting pitcher is almost nonexistent.

Last year, there were 7 NL starting pitchers who hit better than Rey Ordonez:


Rey Rey was a career 59 OPS+ hitter, here are the active MLB pitchers with career OPS+ (30+ PAs) of 54 or higher:
Rk Player OPS+ PA
1 Micah Owings 117 198
2 Mike Leake 109 60
3 Brian Bannister 87 33
4 Yovani Gallardo 77 189
5 Ron Mahay 76 30
6 Chris Narveson 75 69
7 CC Sabathia 69 101
8 R.A. Dickey 67 66
9 Mike Hampton 67 845
10 Dontrelle Willis 67 413
11 Jason Vargas 61 58
12 Carlos Zambrano 59 660
13 Bobby Livingston 59 31
14 Guillermo Mota 56 40
15 Adam Wainwright 55 337
16 Wade LeBlanc 54 75
   22. SoSH U at work Posted: January 25, 2011 at 03:37 PM (#3735777)
How long do you think it would take bigleaguers to figure out that the squatting lawyer with his eyes closed wasn't going to swing at anything? ;-)


Yes, which is why the Gaedel experiment would have ultimately failed. Take away the "Holy ####\" factor the pitcher was likely dealing with that first time, and big league pitchers would have started quickly started fanning him pretty regularly.
   23. The District Attorney Posted: January 25, 2011 at 03:45 PM (#3735781)
Does Owings insist on pitching?
I just read yesterday that he does, yes, but now I can't find where I read it.

Of course, if he were no longer able to find work as a pitcher, he'd most likely change his tune. I don't think we can confidently speculate about how he would hit if he devoted himself full-time to it. We simply don't know. For the same reason, we also can't state as certain that he would only be able to play 1B. (Certainly, all other things being equal, if you could play the guy with the best arm on the team somewhere besides 1B, it would be nice.)

Anyways, that's all for the possible future. For now, it'll just be cool for him to pinch-hit frequently, and hopefully get in the field once in a while. Hell, Arizona's 1B options are unimpressive anyway.

Towers:
I would imagine he will see a little bit of time at first base -- how much time I couldn't tell you," Towers said. "We definitely want to get him some at-bats. He is kind of a dual-weapon guy and it would be nice to have a guy [where] on the days he may not be pitching, you still have a very good right-handed bat that could win a game for you."
   24. JJ1986 Posted: January 25, 2011 at 03:49 PM (#3735784)
I don't think Bobby Livingston is active.
   25. DL from MN Posted: January 25, 2011 at 03:56 PM (#3735792)
Part of why there are no good-hitting pitchers is they don't practice it in the minors. The DH is entrenched throughout the minor leagues. Imagine how bad your typical shortstop would hit at the MLB level if they hadn't seen a pitch throughout the minors.
   26. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 25, 2011 at 04:03 PM (#3735796)
I think it would be interesting if teams used Sergio Santos and Tony Pena Jr. out in the field once in awhile, although I don't think they'd help much at the plate. But I think a budget conscious team with an "outside the box" manager could benefit from having a two-way player, especially if you had a right two way player and a lefty two-way player and you could switch them up on the mound depending on the hitter.
   27. SoSH U at work Posted: January 25, 2011 at 04:08 PM (#3735800)
Part of why there are no good-hitting pitchers is they don't practice it in the minors. The DH is entrenched throughout the minor leagues. Imagine how bad your typical shortstop would hit at the MLB level if they hadn't seen a pitch throughout the minors.


Or college, for the most part. My buddy pitched for a D-1 school and on his team you had to run (or suffer some kind of punishment) if the manager even saw you with a bat in your hand.
   28. North Side Chicago Expatriate Giants Fan Posted: January 25, 2011 at 04:09 PM (#3735803)
Part of why there are no good-hitting pitchers is they don't practice it in the minors. The DH is entrenched throughout the minor leagues. Imagine how bad your typical shortstop would hit at the MLB level if they hadn't seen a pitch throughout the minors.


That's pretty much it. Sadly, this is an argument for the DH. Even NL teams don't care much about the pitcher hitting, and they likely would rather have more PA for other position prospects (edit: in the minors, of course). It seems weird, though - wouldn't a good hitting pitching staff be pretty valuable (all things being equal) to an NL team? They wouldn't have to be Micah Owings or Gallardo or Wainwright, but let's take the Giants. Lincecum/Cain/Sanchez/Zito were all pretty awful hitters in 2010. Madison Bumgarner was less bad, with a .179/.220/.205 line. If the prior 4 could add 50-60 points to their OBP and SLG lines, that would be reasonably valuable, right?

Apparently the injury risk isn't worth it? Or the time away from pitching?
   29. The District Attorney Posted: January 25, 2011 at 04:15 PM (#3735809)
That's pretty much it.
I feel really confident that that isn't "it." Pitchers' hitting had been steadily getting worse and worse for decades before the minor leagues introduced the DH. That continuing trend is one of the (several) reasons why I believe the underlying cause is the level of MLB competition continually getting better.
   30. North Side Chicago Expatriate Giants Fan Posted: January 25, 2011 at 04:26 PM (#3735823)
I feel really confident that that isn't "it." Pitchers' hitting had been steadily getting worse and worse for decades before the minor leagues introduced the DH. That continuing trend is one of the (several) reasons why I believe the underlying cause is the level of MLB competition continually getting better.


Maybe it's not the only reason, but pitchers not hitting in the minors has to be directly related to at least a further drop in pitcher hitting quality. Guys not hitting for one to several years absolutely must contribute strongly to poor hitting performance.
   31. More Dewey is Always Good Posted: January 25, 2011 at 05:44 PM (#3735898)
Guys not hitting for one to several years absolutely must contribute strongly to poor hitting performance.

I'm not sure why this would be, considering a pitcher's ability to hit has absolutely no bearing on his career. 3-4 plate appearances a week isn't going to do you much good unless you study those plate appearances afterwards, and spend time in the cage with a hitting instructor, working on whatever flaws you uncover. No MLB organization is going to encourage their pitchers to spend their time on that.
   32. Drew (Primakov, Gungho Iguanas) Posted: January 25, 2011 at 05:48 PM (#3735902)
#7 My only try (in a cage dialed up to major league mediocre) left me with very sore hands. I had to cheat (timing the machine) to get a bat on the ball and my best efforts might well have resulted in an infield single for somebody who could run (ie not me)


A friend of mine was once on a minor league field taking batting practice against a machine. He absolutely crushed one--best contact he ever had. And it went 200 feet.
   33. North Side Chicago Expatriate Giants Fan Posted: January 25, 2011 at 06:27 PM (#3735941)
I'm not sure why this would be, considering a pitcher's ability to hit has absolutely no bearing on his career. 3-4 plate appearances a week isn't going to do you much good unless you study those plate appearances afterwards, and spend time in the cage with a hitting instructor, working on whatever flaws you uncover. No MLB organization is going to encourage their pitchers to spend their time on that.


Just about every pitcher in MLB was a good hitter in little league, babe ruth ball, HS, and if applicable, college (substitute foreign equivalents when applicable). Then the pitchers just stopped hitting at all. Why spend even 5 minutes in the cage when there's a DH? At least 3-4 PA per week - and on a 5-man rotation, it's probably more than that, plus some cage time, should help retain some of that ability. I'm not saying a ton of time, but enough to keep one's swing fairly repeatable and actually using those muscles.

Look, I'm not running the numbers, but if it were possible to get a little better hitting out of your pitchers, wouldn't that make a measurable difference during the season? Maybe 1 win? I don't know. And I don't know how hard it would be to get that improvement, but these guys are all major-leaguers. Sure, perhaps it's too late with Barry Zito, but maybe some work with younger guys would be worth it. Giants starters got 357 PA last year. How much improvement would it take to rate 1 win?
   34. eric Posted: January 25, 2011 at 07:08 PM (#3736001)
I think it's an economic decision. Having starters work on their hitting more regularly may be worth 1+ win over 357 PAs, but then how much does it cost them on the pitching side? Between time not spent working on pitching-related skills and an increased chance of injury I can see how any gain on the hitting side might quickly be negated.

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