Feb. 21: Q of the Day
In the past, the Cardinals have had some good hitting pitchers, but most pitchers on all teams have very low batting averages. Do pitchers take batting (not just bunting) practice? Could they be taught enough to raise their batting average even a bit because it seems like it could help the team overall?
— Tom M.
Pitchers’ hitting practice is a daily activity down here in Spring Training. They will rotate through the batting cages and take their cuts there. Similarly, there are daily bunting drills. To expect this all to translate into improved offensive stats, though, is a stretch. You have to keep in mind that pitchers got to this point with their arm and, with the exception of those who were recently two-way players in high school/college, they haven’t prioritized hitting in years.
In 2013, Cardinals pitchers batted .126, a figure that ranked 11th among the 15 National League teams. The league average was .135. The top-hitting Cardinals pitchers was Adam Wainwright, who ranked 10th in the NL (minimum 25 plate appearances) with a .214 average. Jake Westbrook (.176) and Joe Kelly (.156) were the only other two St. Louis pitchers to post an average north of the league mean.
With the reality that pitchers’ batting averages are going to remain low (regardless of practice hours), it’s bunting work that should be prioritized. Having pitchers capable of laying down sacrifice bunts can be a difference-maker. The Cardinals improved in this area last year but still seek to be even better.
UPDATE: As timing would have it, manager Mike Matheny actually addressed this topic in length while meeting with the media today. I’ll have a more thorough answer and his thoughts on pitchers hitting over in the cardinals.com notebook.
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