It’s been a strange weekend for baseball. The Canada Day game for the Blue Jays, normally a haven for baseball lovers and patriots alike, became a burning cesspool of despair. What started as a likely precursor to some festive summer drinking, turned into a 19 inning, six and a half hour affair, where beers stopped flowing after seven innings. Kudos to all of those who lasted through the entire event.
That Jays game ended with Carlos Santana taking infielder Darwin Barney out of the park – but not before infielder Ryan Goins turned in a scoreless inning. Over in Boston, Ryan LaMarre handled a scoreless inning the Red Sox blowout loss to the Angels. Then on Sunday, Catchers Chris Giminez and Miguel Montero were handed the ball in blow outs – both in an effort to minimize the damage to heavily taxed bullpens.
Normally, I write about which pitchers have the best stuff (full breakdown and explanation here). But given the events of this weekend, today I’m writing about the best stuff from those oddballs highlighted by the Twitter account @70MPHastball , the position player pitcher.
I did a search for PITCHf/x data of all pitchers, averaged since the 2007 season (the season where PITCHf/x began). I cross referenced this against Baseball Reference’s list of non-pitchers with pitching appearances list. As a rule, the players couldn’t have been actual pitchers (like Rick Ankiel, or Jason Lane) in order to be eligible for the list. They also had to throw a minimum of 10 pitches. In the end, I ended up with 71 “pitchers” to rank. You can find them all in the chart below:
At the top of this list, and thanks to his huge differential in velocity – is Adam LaRoche. This is paired with a respectable fastball (85 mph), and a good amount of resultant distance between his pitches. He even racked up a K in his appearance. Now that Adam is retired, you can only imagine he spends his days striking out poor Drake over and over again.
Next up is Padres Catcher, Christian Bethancourt – he managed a mid 90’s fastball, and dropped an Eephus in there (in the high 50’s) – giving him a >30 percent change in velocity. That’s a monstrosity of a speed differential! He also had the hardest fastball on this list, which is no surprise given his primary tool is arm strength.
Ryan Goins was third on the list, but the first position player who didn’t get the majority of his stuff ranking from velocity differential. Goins threw a mid 70s curve to one of the first batters he faced, which dropped a whopping 21.2” compared to his fastball. That’s in the absolute elite of all actual starting pitchers.
Further down the list, we start to see where the positional guys are probably just trying to put some pitches in play – but if you had ever wondered where you stack up against a major league pitcher, this is a good point of reference. Dean Anna pitched a scoreless inning for the Yankees back in 2014, and did so with a mid to low 60’s fastball – and nothing else. He has the lowest stuff on the list, at around -10. To put it in perspective, I was checking out Platinum Blonde at Gage Park in Hamilton on Friday night – and low and behold, there was a “guess your pitch speed” booth there! While significantly limited by my choice of Canada Day footwear, and lack of athletic ability, I did my best to let my arm go, and topped out at 65 mph. Now, this was at the maximum of my arm’s potential, so I had about… three more of those left in me before having to give Dr. James Andrews a call. But I think I can safely say that my stuff would be in that -11 range. I’m coming for you, Dean Anna.
A special guest to the Stuff Report is Nick Dika from Baseball Prospectus, Arkells, and any Hamilton establishment that has a wing night. In honour of former top prospect, and holiday BBQ champion Travis Snider (the Lunch Box), he’s rating a few of these position players on their ability to transition to the mound on a more permanent basis, on a scale of 1 to 5 lunch boxes.
Chris Davis – 5 lunch boxes
Unlike a lot of position players that take the mound, Chris Davis has the bonafide “country hardball” type of pitcher build that drives scouts crazy. His big, strong frame screams power and he possess the body type that can consistently log 200 innings per season, unlike his position player pitcher cohorts Ichiro, Alexi Ramirez and Darwin Barney. Standing 6’3″, he creates plenty of downward plane and his neptune-sized wad of chewing tobacco tells us that he projects to have the same upside as other dipping starters like Jake Peavy and Madison Bumgarner. While Davis’ stuff doesn’t grade out particularly well (-1.81, or fourth percentile) based on his body of work thus far, his raw talent (he touched 89) and Clemens-esque build will have scouts drooling. Most importantly, Baltimore needs the all the pitching help they can get.
Ryan Goins & Darwin Barney – 4 lunch boxes
Vs. Chris Gimenez – 2 lunch boxes
This weekend’s series between Cleveland and Toronto was a hard fought battle between two teams that could very well meet again come playoff time in October. While the teams split the four game series at the Rogers Centre, the Blue Jays did come away with a clear advantage in terms of position players pitching. While Cleveland catcher Chris Gimenez (-1.86, fourth percentile) was touched up for four runs in two innings of work, Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney combined for two innings of one run ball for the home side. Beyond his ineffective outing on Sunday, Gimenez relies primarily on a super slow changeup (that was so wonky, MLB Gameday thought it was a knuckleball), which can be notoriously fickle from day to day. On the Blue Jays side of things, Darwin Barney (-1.30, seventh percentile) touched 85 mph and Ryan Goins (0.87, 74th percentile!!) flashed plus breaking stuff without walking a batter – something that seems to evade the regular Blue Jays relievers a lot of the time. If future matchups see the teams get into their “special relievers” (and hopefully it happens during a Trevor Bauer start), the Blue Jays hold a clear advantage.
JP Arencibia – 1 lunch box
JP Arencibia on the mound is actually just regular JP Arencibia, but in pitcher form. Like most lists that involve ranking performance on a Major League baseball field, Arencibia can be found right at the bottom, ranking 69th (from what I recall, he may be a guy who would appreciate something like that) out of 71 position player pitchers with a Stuff ranking of -7.46. That is in the zero percentile. Tough to do! While Arencibia was often criticized for being a hitter without patience, he practiced what he preached on the mound as well, throwing only 10 pitches to four batters in a scoreless inning. Much like his plate appearances, it may not have been pretty but at least he didn’t drag them out too long.
So there you have it! The definitive Stuff report for non-pitchers. We can’t wait to see who else adds their name to this list in the near future.
Lead Photo: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports