In the NL, the pitcher’s spot in the lineup is generally a free out, but this does not hold true for the Cardinals’ starting 5.
When any Cardinals fan thinks back on the 2015 season, one play will stick out in their mind much more than any other. On April 25th, Adam Wainwright was up to bat against the Milwaukee Brewers in the fifth inning. As he turned to leave the batters box to run to first base after a hit, he stumbled and, in the process, tore his left Achilles tendon. There, with one play, went Wainwright’s season.
Though just a very unlucky play all-around, plays like these where pitchers hurt themselves batting, fuel the debate for whether the NL should implement the designated hitting rule. However, the fact of the matter is that the rule is unlikely to change anytime soon. For now, Cardinal’s pitchers will continue occupy the 9 (or 8 a la Tony LaRussa) spot in the lineup. But make no mistake, there are a couple pitchers on this team who can hold their own at the plate.
This offseason, the Cardinals acquired Mike Leake, one of the best hitting pitchers in the league. He was a .299 hitter at Arizona State University, playing in a major baseball conference. In his 6-year career as a professional, he has a .212 batting average with 6 homeruns and 16 doubles. Leake has shown that he is more than a free out for the opposing team when he steps up to the plate. Look for him to hit a couple into the bleachers of Busch Stadium this season.
Wainwright, though from now on Cardinals fans would rather see be sent to the plate wrapped in bubble wrap, isn’t a bad hitter either for how little batting practice he gets. In high school, he was an over .500 hitter. In the MLB, he is a.198 hitter with 6 homeruns. Many longtime Cardinals fans may remember that on the first pitch he ever saw in his professional career, he hit a homerun in Busch Stadium. Even Wainwright has the ability to go yard a couple times this season.
Leake and Wainwright are both tied for fifth amongst active pitchers with the most homeruns at 6.
— Dan Buffa (@buffa82) January 18, 2016
Behind Leake and Wainwright, this is where the batting average amongst the starting pitchers start to drop. Michael Wacha is a .118 hitter. Jaime Garcia is a .143 hitter with 2 homeruns (the last one came in 2012). Carlos Martinez is a .157 hitter. Though these numbers are lower in comparison to Wainwright and Leake, it is more of the latter two being better hitters. Garcia, Wacha, and Martinez all have respectable batting averages for pitchers.
First and foremost, the pitching staff is paid to pitch and to get outs. However, it is always an added bonus when they step up to the plate and get on base. This sets up the top of the order well and it is truly exciting for fans to see a pitcher get a hit. In the Cardinal’s rotation, there are two particularly good hitters in Wainwright and Leake. Don’t be surprised when they hit a couple homeruns this year. When it happens, cheer loud and be grateful because not many other teams have this luxury.