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The best position-player pitchers of the last 50 years

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Sure, Skip Schumaker and Casper Wells can pitch, but where's the star power? Let's take a look at the last All-Stars to pitch for their teams while they were in their prime.

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This is the second installment of Position Players Pitching Theater here at Position Players Pitching Nation. There are 7,301 planned installments. Pull up a chair.

In this installment, we spend 13,399 words on Joe Inglett's outing in 2008:

We'll evaluate him in 73 different categories: form, delivery, velocity, holding runners, presence, sock height ...

Okay, this is probably the last one for a while. But three position players pitched over the weekend, and I can't stop thinking about PPPs. When writing about the longest drought between position-player-pitching games, I noticed something very obvious: great players don't pitch. It's always Ingletts and Schumakers and Puntos. Occasionally you'll get a guy like Chris Davis, who was still something of a prospect/potential cog, or an aging vet like Mark Grace. But not stars.

Well, not in the majors, at least.

In Japan, they're a little more cavalier about cansecoing a star, I guess. And college, too:

I suppose we could be getting closer to an Ichiro appearance, but we're about 20 years away from Harper pitching again. Which brings us to the question of this article: Who are the best players to pitch in a game? Not just "they were great, then they aged, then they pitched" players like Mark Grace or Wade Boggs. But the players who were in the middle of an extremely valuable stretch for their respective teams.

And we'll have to restrict the search to, say, post-expansion. Because in the days of yore when managers didn't give a rip, all these guys pitched:

  • Honus Wagner
  • Tris Speaker
  • Sam Rice
  • George Sisler
  • Ty Cobb
  • Jimmie Foxx
  • Ted Williams (when he was 21!)
  • Stan Musial

And Babe Ruth came back to pitch in both 1930 and 1933, so he kind of counts, too. No, let's limit this to the age in which teams and managers were more aware that the human arm is filled with bitey pirañas that could get especially nasty with a little provocation. defines the Expansion Era as starting in 1961, and that's as good of a cutoff point as any.

There's probably a way to calculate all of these guys' WAR on a three-year average at the time they pitched and divide by age … but, yeah. Not for something this frivolous. I'll eyeball it. And maybe instead of "Five best position players to pitch in the post-expansion era," let's just call this the "What in the absolute hell were these managers thinking?" list. The five WITAHWTMT leaders:

5. Chili Davis (33), 1993
Davis was in his second tour of duty with the Angels, and '93 happened to be his least productive season in a decade. Still, he had made the transition from outfielder to one of the better DHs in the American League, and apparently Buck Rodgers got tired of Davis sitting around between innings, flossing his toes. Maybe Davis was really, really annoying.

Chili Davis: Hey, what was Twiki really like?

Buck Rodgers: ..

Davis: I'll bet he just went "biddi biddi biddi" all day.


Davis: biddi biddi biddi

Rodgers: …

Davis: biddi biddi biddi biddi biddi biddi biddi biddi biddi

Rodgers: You know, Chili, let's see what you can do on the mound. Which is far away from me.

Making a key 33-year-old hitter throw an inning seems pretty reckless to me, but not compared to some of the other people on the list.

4. Bert Campaneris (23), 1965
Campy was in his first full season with the Kansas City Athletics, and he had a fantastic arm. He was never a hitting star, exactly, but he could hold his own in a way that most slick-gloved shortstops couldn't at the time (or today, even). He was highly regarded as a prospect at the time, but it appears that his appearance on the mound was one of those stupid play-all-nine-positions stunts:

In a September 8th game (in 1965) against the California Angels, he became the first man in major league history to play all nine positions in a single game (a feat later matched by Cesar Tovar, Scott Sheldon, and Shane Halter).

Tovar just missed the list, as he pitched his game as a 27-year-old in the middle of a pretty valuable career.

3. Tim Wallach (29, 31), 1987, 1989
Wallach was already a two-time All-Star the first time he took the mound, in the middle of a fantastic bounce-back season after a lackluster 1986 campaign. The '87 Expos were a good team, winning 91 games, and they were kind of counting on Wallach more than, say, Casey Candaele or Razor Shines. But it was Wallach who took the mound down by eight runs, which doesn't really seem like PPP territory, really.

2. Rocky Colavito (24), 1958
He isn't a Hall of Famer, but he was the Giancarlo Stanton of his day, booming 40 homers a year, which wasn't all that common in the '50s. Seventeen players hit 40 home runs in a season between 1950 and 1959, and Colavito was one of nine to do it twice, even though he didn't play his first full season until 1957.

Colavito's best season was '58, in which he hit .303/.405/.620 with 41 homers and finished third in AL MVP voting. In the second game of a doubleheader, though, the Indians' manager (Hall of Famer Joe Gordon) decided to use Colavito on the mound. That's odd enough, right? Making a young star pitch?

He threw three innings.

It was a one-run game.

Everyone else on the staff had the grippe, apparently. I looked for an explanation in Google's news archives, but nothing came up. A star 24-year-old outfielder pitching three innings in a one-run game. The Indians were 18 games back, but still …

Colavito would pitch again for the Yankees when he was 34. He was later joined by Doug Dascenzo as one of 17 players to pitch five innings or more without allowing a run in his career.

1. Jose Canseco (28), 1993
You figured he'd be on the list. The only question was if he'd be #1. He is. And not only because he actually blew his arm out doing it, though that certainly doesn't hurt.

While the story goes that Canseco hurt himself in that game, look at those pitches. He might not have been at full strength before he went into the game. Why would an outfielder with a sore arm cajole his manager into letting him pitch an inning? Well, it would be 1,393 on the list of stupidest things Canseco has ever done, so I'll believe it happened just like that.

He never lost that pitching bug, either.

He never lost it, bless him. Well, at one point he completely lost it, but we're talking about the pitching bug. He never lost the pitching bug. Maybe the pitching bug feeds on brains.