Yesterday, at FanGraphs, I wrote a little something about position players pitching in 2012. I really like to examine the sum performance of position players pitching because haha they aren't supposed to do that. Turns out this past season there were five semi-regular actual pitchers who performed worse on the mound than the position players did. That's just a little bit embarrassing, but only if someone points it out, which hopefully someone has, like a bunch of times.
As is often the case, when I get one idea in my head, I start to think of related ideas. So I'm here now to discuss the related idea of position players pitching throughout Seattle Mariners franchise history. This is something that has happened only three times: once in 1983, once in 2000, and once in 2008. It hardly seems fair, since between 2007-2010 Aaron Miles made five pitching appearances all on his own. Note that I'm not including the Anthony Vasquez experience from 2011, even though I'm pretty sure Vasquez was a position player who just never told anyone. We're looking at the certain three.
In 1983, there was Manny Castillo. In 2000, there was John Mabry. In 2008, there was Jamie Burke. Away we go, in that order.
June 26, 1983
Reason for pitching
2.2 innings, 7 runs, 3 walks, 2 strikeouts, 3 dingers
The 1983 Mariners won on June 15. They didn't win again until June 25, the day before this day. They were 27-47 when they took on the much better Blue Jays on June 26, and though the Mariners were at home, the Mariners got stomped. Bob Stoddard was removed in the third inning, having allowed five runs. Roy Thomas was removed in the third inning, having allowed four runs. Mike Stanton (not that one) (or the other one) was removed after the fifth, having allowed three runs. It was 12-3 Blue Jays going into the top of the sixth, so brand-new manager Del Crandall handed the ball to terrible utility infielder Manny Castillo.
Castillo lasted a while before yielding to Bill Caudill. He also gave up seven runs. In the sixth, he allowed back-to-back dingers to Mickey Klutts and Rance Mulliniks. In the eighth, he gave up another dinger to Mickey Klutts. This was one of two multi-homer games Klutts would have in his big-league career. The bright side is that Castillo struck out both Lloyd Moseby and Jesse Barfield. In his career, Barfield never struck out against Doyle Alexander over 19 plate appearances. He never struck out against Ed Vande Berg over 14 plate appearances. He struck out against Manny Castillo. He was also beaned by Manny Castillo. Manny Castillo must've had something against Jesse Barfield.
The Mariners would lose 19-7, but Castillo managed to make franchise history. This was just Crandall's second game at the helm. After 1983, Castillo would never again appear in the majors. It's worth noting that he pitched once in the minors, for Omaha in 1980. He lasted an inning, allowing three runs on zero hits and six walks.
May 28, 2000
Reason for pitching
0.2 innings, 2 runs, 1 walk, 0 strikeouts, 0 dingers
This game is somewhat famous for two reasons. One, John Mabry pitched in it. Two, John Mabry pitched in it after Jose Mesa pitched in it, and Mesa's performance was legendary. The Mariners were playing in Tampa Bay, and it was 3-3 going into the bottom of the eighth. The Mariners would lose 14-4. If you didn't already recall Mesa's performance, you just got a strong clue.
The first batter Mesa faced was Mike Difelice, and Difelice went yard. Then Russ Johnson flew out. That was the one and only out Mesa would record, and he would still face another eight batters. Those eight batters combined for four singles, two doubles, and two walks. The last of the batters was Difelice again, and Mesa walked him on four pitches, each closer to Difelice's body than the last. After the fourth pitch, Mesa was ejected. Lou Piniella needed a new pitcher in a blowout with two runners on.
Enter generic backup Mabry, who finished the frame. The damage got worse; after a groundout, Mabry allowed a single, a walk, a single, and a double. When Fred McGriff flew out, it was 14-3. But Mabry faced four fewer batters than Mesa did, and he got twice as many batters out. He pitched well enough that he would pitch again, in 2001 for the Marlins. That time he retired one of seven batters.
But, Mesa. It's really about Mesa. One pitcher in baseball history has been charged with nine runs after facing nine batters. Six other pitchers in baseball history have been charged with nine runs after facing ten batters. Mesa is one of them, along with guys like Zach Britton, Mark Redman, and Steve Trachsel. Mesa posted a 5.36 ERA that season as a 34-year-old. He'd continue to pitch through 2007. In November 2000, the Phillies signed Mesa to a multi-year contract. Here is an article.
July 6, 2008
Reason for pitching
out of pitchers
1 inning, 1 run, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts, 0 dingers
Usually, position players pitch in blowouts. Jamie Burke pitched in the 15th inning of a 1-1 game. Why was he needed? While Tigers starter Nate Robertson breezed through nine innings on 100 pitches, Mariners starter Ryan Rowland-Smith lasted five innings. Brandon Morrow was unavailable out of the bullpen, having thrown four times in five games. Arthur Rhodes was unavailable out of the bullpen, having slept on his arm funny. Blockquote:
It didn't help that Brandon Morrow (four appearances in five days) and Arthur Rhodes (slept funny on his arm) weren't available, and when Cesar Jimenez reached his limit after four innings of hitless relief, Riggleman had to get a little creative.
So Jim Riggleman went to the reserve catcher, even though there were options.
One by one, they came up to Mariners manager Jim Riggleman in the dugout.
"Skip, I can pitch if you need me to."
Willie Bloomquist. Adrian Beltre. Ichiro Suzuki. Even R.A. Dickey, who had thrown 105 pitches less than 24 hours earlier.
Burke said he had just a little bit of pitching experience, so he went to the mound, and he even shook off a few signs and dabbled with a slider. He allowed a leadoff double to Miguel Cabrera, then he moved the pinch-runner to third with a wild pitch on a slider that sailed to the backstop, but then Burke retired the next three batters, even getting a swinging strike from Ivan Rodriguez. Marcus Thames drove home the runner with a sac fly and Edgar Renteria's out was a line-out, but Burke did limit the damage. And it was because the Mariners had Burke on the mound that they didn't try playing for one run in the bottom of the 15th. Willie Bloomquist reached base to lead off, but instead of calling for a bunt, Riggleman had Yuniesky Betancourt swing away. Betancourt grounded into a 6-4-3 to kill the rally and basically kill the Mariners' hopes.
Burke was tagged with the loss. He finished his big-league pitching career 0-1. Here's a slow .gif:
This is just something I had to include somewhere. We always figured Ichiro had the ability to pitch, and we always figured Ichiro had some desire to pitch. Still, in the majors, Ichiro has never pitched. From an article from late March 2004:
Ichiro occasionally "indirectly" delivers a hint that he is ready, willing and able to pitch an inning.
"He pitched in high school and has the arm," Melvin said. "I know, indirectly, that he wants to (pitch)."
"Well, when he throws curveballs to (John) Olerud and when I see him doing it, he will look at me and nod his head," Melvin said.