Useless let-those-pitchers-hit information

Never in the nine seasons of interleague play have AL pitchers inflicted more damage swinging a bat than this year.

Originally Published: June 16, 2005
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

There's nothing we love more about interleague play than the sight of those American League pitchers heading for home plate, lumber in their very own hands.

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And never, in the nine seasons of interleague drama, have those AL pitchers inflicted more damage than they have this year. So here they come, our most useless AL-pitcher offensive nuggets ever:

Crazy eights
From now on, maybe we should rename June 10 "Who Needs The DH Day" – because this year on June 10, eight AL pitchers got a hit.

Don't believe it? Go ahead. Count 'em: Dan Haren, Mike Maroth, Chan Ho Park, Joe Mays, Bartolo Colon, Jon Garland, C.C. Sabathia and Zack Greinke.

When's the last time that many AL twirlers got a hit on the same day? How about Aug. 20, 1972, according to the Elias Sports Bureau – when these nine pitchers looked like Ty Cobb (in the box scores, anyway):

Wilbur Wood, Terry Forster, John Curtis, Bill Slayback, Chuck Seelbach, Clyde Wright, Don Stanhouse, Rob Gardner and Sparky Lyle.

Hot to trot
The clear pick for the most fascinating hit of the June 10 barrage: A home run by Greinke – on a day when, in a not-so-meaningless subplot, he also gave up 15 hits and 11 runs. You won't be surprised to find that we've looked into this a little.

Dave Smith, founder of the invaluable Retrosheet.org, pored over data from the last 45 years and found 41 pitchers who gave up 11 runs in a game in which pitchers were allowed to hit. Would you believe Greinke was the only one to do that and hit a homer in the same game?

What was particularly incredible about Greinke's homer, though, was that he hit it after being allowed to bat in the fifth inning, with his team behind by six runs.

Last AL pitcher to homer with his team down six, according to the Sultan of Swat Stats, SABR's David Vincent: Ken Tatum, for the Red Sox, on Aug. 12, 1971 (off Oakland's Diego Segui).

Jason Johnson
Starting Pitcher
Detroit Tigers
Profile
CAREER BATTING STATISTICS
AVG R RBI BB K SLG
.125 2 1 2 15 .250
Threepeat dept.
But Greinke wasn't the only AL pitcher to homer last week. Detroit's Jason Johnson hit one June 8, off that pitcher-friendly Jeff Weaver.

In case you weren't counting along at home (or don't have Weaver on your fantasy team), you might be shocked to learn that this was the third homer Weaver has given up to a pitcher this season. Well, you don't see that much.

The Sultan reports that Weaver is only the fourth pitcher in the DH era to serve up three gopherballs in one year to his fellow pitchers. The others: Al Downing in 1973, Ferguson Jenkins in 1983 and Doug Brocail in 1993.

But of course, Weaver has many pitchers left to face. So he should know that only three pitchers in the last half-century have given up four homers to pitchers in one year – Ron Schueler in 1972, Rich Hand in 1970 and Pedro Ramos (in both 1961 and 1958).

And only one pitcher since 1900 has served up five – Bill Hands in 1968.

Good thing the pitchers got to hit
Before we get off the subject of that Jason Johnson homer, you should know a couple of things about it:

1) It's the only home run by any AL pitcher in the interleague era that kept his team from getting shut out the day he hit it.

2) As Booth Newspapers' Danny Knobler reports, it was the highlight of a 20-inning stretch by the Tigers in which their only run was driven in by a pitcher – and part of a 15-inning stretch in which the pitchers (Johnson and Maroth) reached base three times while all the position players combined reached base once.

Kenny Rogers
Starting Pitcher
Texas Rangers
Profile
CAREER BATTING STATISTICS
AVG R RBI SB OBP SLG
.143 5 4 1 .200 .179
The Triple Crown
Those pitcher homers aside, it's possible the most stupendous offensive moment of the week was a triple – if only because it came off the bat of noted triple threat Kenny Rogers.

Not only did that June 11 shot give Rogers more triples this year than Scott Podsednik, it made Rogers just the fourth 40-year-old pitcher to hit a triple since the 1950s. The others: Frank Tanana in 1993, Ferguson Jenkins in 1983 and Early Wynn in 1960.

It's all cyclical
Rogers' triple also completed a rarefied cycle for those sweet-swinging AL pitchers this year. The only other seasons in the interleague-play era in which they had both a triple and a homer were 1999 (Dwight Gooden homer, James Baldwin triple) and 1997 (Bobby Witt homer, Omar Olivares triple).

Oh, say can you C.C.
Then again, one AL pitcher seemed intent on hitting for the cycle this year without any help. Indians bopper C.C. Sabathia homered in Cincinnati on May 21, then doubled last week in San Francisco. Which makes him just the second pitcher in the interleague era to smoke two extra-base hits in the same season. The other, according to Elias: Witt, in 1997.

Wade-ing in
Until Wade Miller made it into the batter's box last Saturday, Red Sox pitchers had gone 10 for their previous 147 (.068) in interleague play – the fewest hits by any staff in the AL.

But Miller then singled twice in one game at Wrigley. And according to Elias, that made him the first Red Sox pitcher to have an official multihit game since Sonny Siebert got three hits against the Yankees on Sept. 7, 1972.

DiMaggio alert!
And let's hear it for Oakland's Dan Haren, a man working on a two-game hitting streak. He doubled in a May 21 game against the Giants, then singled June 10 in Atlanta.

OK, so he might not catch DiMaggio. But Haren is the first A's pitcher to be working on a single-season hitting streak since Catfish Hunter got a hit in his last six starts of the pre-DH era in 1972.

Who'd have thunk it dept.
Finally, here's a stat we guarantee you never thought you'd see come June 15:

  • Home runs this year by American League pitchers: 3 (in 225 AB)
  • Home runs this year by Yankees cleanup hitters: 4 (in 249 AB)

Jayson Stark is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your Useless Information to uselessinfodept@yahoo.com.

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com