When you carry 12 pitchers – 5 starters and 7 in the pen – your options on the bench become limited rather quickly. With 8 positional starters, you’ve got just 5 guys on the bench, one of whom is a near lock to be a light-hitting back-up catcher. So if your team carries 12 pitchers, and you’ve got a pitcher who can hit, I certainly understand the temptation to use him as a pinch hitter from time to time.
And that’s what Mike Quade intends to do with Carlos Zambrano, he told reporters yesterday. To which I respond: probably Quade’s first bad idea.
While I’ve never gotten into the whole “pitchers pitch, hitters hit” thing (having a pitcher who can also hit is not a bad thing), I do get into the whole “don’t expose your best pitchers to additional opportunities for injury.” Zambrano has one gear: megafast. It’s got to be damn near impossible to tell him not to bust it out of the box on a chopper to short. And when a dude has been sitting on the bench all day before the at bat, disaster is but a tweak away.
But even setting aside the added injury risk – which, yes, is exaggerated by some – Zambrano simply isn’t a good pinch hitter. Despite being a .236/.244/.387 hitter (by the way: that’s good for a pitcher, but terrible for anyone else), he’s just 2 for 28 as a pinch hitter, including an 0-7 effort last year. And those two hits? Just singles. It’s possible that Zambrano is sent to the plate with one directive – hit a home run, or else just don’t run – and that is sapping his PH stats. It’s also possible that, when he’s not on the mound, Z’s mindset at the plate is very different, and he swings himself out of his shoes of his own volition.
Whatever the cause, Z simply isn’t much of a pinch hitter – some guys just aren’t. And at point, regardless of the bench situation, a manager needs to recognize that, *gulp*, sending up Koyie Hill to pinch hit is likely to result in something more productive than sending up Zambrano. Based on Quade’s limited track record, I suspect that, in the end, he’ll get this one right.