Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer reacts after hitting Pittsburgh Pirates pinch hitter Jose Tabata during the ninth inning of a baseball game at Nationals Park, Saturday, June 20, 2015, in Washington. Scherzer threw a no-hitter and the Na
Alex Brandon
June 22, 2015

There's always something oddly fascinating about a position player pitching.

Perhaps that's because it only seems to happen during the monotony of a blowout - or during a long extra-inning game in which neither team has scored in a while.

This past week was a big one for imposters on the mound, with seven position players coming in to pitch - eight if you go back to June 12. In all, it's happened 12 times this season.

What's amusing is that occasionally these players will look semi-effective, especially when compared with the pitcher who preceded them. In Seattle's 10-0 loss to Houston on June 12, catcher Jesus Sucre took the mound and threw a scoreless eighth, needing only seven pitches to get through the inning.

In that same game, Seattle star Felix Hernandez lasted only one-third of an inning while allowing eight runs. Go figure.

Sometimes, the results are more predictable. Cleveland brought in two position players in the ninth inning of its loss to the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday. Ryan Raburn allowed two runs and David Murphy gave up five as 10-0 became 17-0. Raburn and Murphy could take some solace in that all of those runs were unearned - the Indians made an error during the inning.

So what's the ''expected'' performance level of a position player on the mound? Well, since the start of 2011, position players have pitched in 66 games for a total of 58 innings, according to STATS. Their composite ERA is 6.21.

To put that in context, only two pitchers last season - Andre Rienzo and Edwin Jackson - threw at least 58 innings with an ERA higher than 6.21.

Here are a few more developments from around baseball last week:


There was some controversy in Washington on Saturday when Pittsburgh's Jose Tabata was hit by a pitch with two out in the ninth inning, breaking up a perfect game attempt by Max Scherzer. Tabata's elbow appeared to move ever so slightly down toward the ball, but it's hard to say if he did that on purpose. It may have simply been a reflex.

Or it may be a byproduct of his approach at the plate. Tabata has been hit 20 times in his career - once every 88 plate appearances. The major league average this season is about once every 115 PAs.

But Tabata's hit-by-pitch rate doesn't really stand out. Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs, for example, has been hit once every 51 PAs in his career.


In leagues that allow daily lineup changes, owners can take advantage of platoon splits that make otherwise nondescript players more valuable. When he's not mopping up on the mound, Raburn is a good power threat against left-handed pitchers. On the flip side, Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal has struggled against lefties but is usually worth playing when there's a right-hander on the mound.

Not all leagues allow this type of day-to-day micromanagement, but matchup advantages like this can be useful in the long run.


Scherzer's no-hitter Saturday is the easy choice here, although one of his former teammates deserves quite an honorable mention. Detroit's J.D. Martinez homered three times Sunday against the Yankees, part of a three-game series in New York in which the teams combined for 16 home runs.

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