Madison Bumgarner is pulling off a feat that was more common towards the beginning of the live ball era: dominance on both sides of the plate. His batting line of .255/.281/.491 more closely resembles his center-fielder’s Angel Pagan (.258/.290/.308) than the other members of the starting rotation like Chris Heston (.227/.227/.273).
With this in mind, it is not a surprise that manager Bruce Bochy has begun to utilize the bat of Bumgarner just as much as he does his arm by playing him at pinch hitter. In an era where most of the starting pitchers today hit around 20 points shy of the Mendoza line, Bumgarner’s new role is making headlines. A managerial decision like this may have been no large news to baseball fans a century ago.
As the Society for American Baseball Research’s Bob Davids informs us that pitchers were some of the first players to be used as pinch hitters when the position was first allowed in 1891. Pitchers before the live ball era showed success in the spot to the extent that, the pinch hitter with the eleventh most hits of all time is a pitcher, Red Lucas.
What seems to be separating Bumgarner far above other starting pitchers who hit this season is his power. His .491 slugging percentage is at least 200 points above any starting pitcher not named Tyson Ross.
Given the context of history, where does Bumgarner’s current season performance at the plate rank among other pitchers historically? Or even some of his modern day peers? To get some insight use the interactive graphics below to see other pitchers with similar or better hitting stats along with their hitting relative to their WHIP or ERA. I hope Don Mattingly does not get a hold of this.