In the Cardinals’ 13-2 tanking to the Dodgers last week, Defensive-Spectrum Defier™ Skip Schumaker took one giant leap for his kind, moving all the way off the spectrum chart to pitcher, striking out two of the five batters he faced. He was no Aaron Miles, but he at least proved his versatility and added his name to Tony La Russa’s list of non-pitcher pitchers.
So where does the latter-day Howie Shanks rank among La Russa’s rag-armed fielders who have done a stint on the mound for the Cardinals? Here’s the list, ranked by number of appearances:
- Miles may be TLR’s all-time fielder-reliever, but Joe Mather also got a lot of work in (second with 12 batters faced).
- For all of his bellyaching about pitchers not plunking batters, Tony La Russa’s mop-up men have been relative head-hunters, hitting about 5% of the batters they’ve faced (compared to less than 1% among this year’s regular pitchers).
- Rick Ankiel both pitched and played games in the field, but never in the same season.
- The profile of the La Russa fill-in pitcher appears to be a switch-hitting (half have been) third baseman (all).
Let’s extend our quest to include La Russa’s Oakland Athletics days. Did the profile hold true back then?
- Kevin Seitzer
- Vance Law
Though neither was a switch hitter, both were third basemen. (We should note here that Seitzer had a perfect outing, striking out the only batter he faced back in 1993.) You have to go all the way back to TLR’s ChiSox tenure to find the first mold-making fielder-pitcher: the infamous left-handed catcher — and yes, sometime third baseman — Mike Squires.
While we’re at it, let’s look at the reverse: TLR’s Cardinal pitchers who have played somewhere else in the field:
Of course, the Cardinals had a tradition of fielding pitchers before La Russa came to town. Whitey Herzog switched his relief pitchers into the outfield with aplomb:
- Todd Worrell
- Ricky Horton
- Jose DeLeon
Oh, and Whitey also had a couple of infielders that he turned to to handle the blowout innings. One was Tim Jones. The other? Tony La Russa’s longtime and current third-base coach, Jose Oquendo.