Detroit Tigers: Which Tigers Pitchers Are the Best Hitters?

Jul 21, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander grabs a bat against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 21, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander grabs a bat against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Detroit Tigers pitchers hitting is entertaining because we get to see pitchers trying to hit. Whether it’s an embarrassing strikeout or a surprising home run, pitchers batting is a sight to behold. Which Tigers pitchers do it best?

Detroit Tigers pitchers generally don’t get to hit. Because of the team being in the American League, it is not often you get to see your favorite pitchers in the batters box. There have been more opportunities for inter-league games in recent years due to the now even number of teams in both leagues.

Do not confuse me for some anti-designated hitter activist. I would much rather Victor Martinez crush balls into the gap rather than get lost in a sea of backwards k’s at the hands of pitchers slotted in the nine hole in the lineup. Pitchers hitting is like baked Alaska. Not everyone likes it, it can be great in moderation and done properly it can be a magical experience.

In the opening weeks of the Major League Baseball season we have seen some pitchers in the national league look very comfortable with a bat in their hand. Pittsburgh starter Francisco Liriano pitched a gem on opening day and notched the first RBI of any player in 2016 with a single down the right field line. 

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Some star pitchers have flexed their muscle, showing some power at the dish. San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner hit his 12th career home run off three time Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw while last years Cy Young award winner Jake Arrieta blasted a 440 foot bomb against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Even Justin Verlander had a bloop single in the Tigers season opener in Miami. There is not a pitcher on the Tigers roster who can truly rake like Bumgarner and Arrietta but they do have a fair number of games in national league ballparks this year where pitchers will need to step up to the plate. You might see some offensive surprises for Tigers pitchers this season.

Everyone remembers Daniel Norris‘ major league debut at the plate last August in Wrigley. The newly-acquired Norris launched a ball into the center field seats in Chicago, and I’m sure if you ask him he wouldn’t mention the wind blowing out.

Detroit Tigers
Aug 19, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Daniel Norris (right) celebrates with second baseman Ian Kinsler (3) after hitting a two-run home run against the Chicago Cubs during the second inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports /

Norris is not the only Tigers pitcher with a dinger under his belt. Former Washington Nationals starter Jordan Zimmermann is a career .169/.193/.197 hitter and was able to belt a homer back in 2012. Ironically enough, Zimmermann hit his homer off of then Miami Marlins pitcher Carlos Zambrano, one of the most offensively gifted pitchers in major league history.

Anibal Sanchez spent some time in the national league with the Florida and Miami Marlins before joining the Tigers via trade in 2012. Sanchez has mustered together only one lone hit in a Tigers uniform and was not much better with the Marlins. A career .089/.144/.101 hitter Anibal “the Cannibal” has struggled at the plate during his career to say the least.

Sanchez is not the only member of the Tigers to have suffer from an offensive deficiency. Shane Greene took all five of his major league at-bats last season with the Tigers, all five of which resulted in strikeouts. 

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Mike Pelfrey is the other pitcher on the Detroit staff who has had a substantial number of plate appearances. Though many fans may remember Pelfrey with the division rival Minnesota Twins Pelfrey spent his first seven big league seasons in the national league with the New York Mets.

Pelfrey has not fared much better than Sanchez in his career, hitting .104/.151/.123 lifetime. Pelfery’s 6′ 7″ frame makes for a large strike zone that is very vulnerable and prone to strike outs. Pelfrey does have five career extra-base hits and his 240 lbs body makes him a candidate to possibly put one out at some point in his career.

There are a number of Tigers pitchers we have never seen hit in game action and likely never will. While general manager Al Avila made strides in crafting a bullpen that could get hitters out, it would be interesting to see some of these relievers step into the batting cage.

Current Toledo Mud Hens reliever Bruce Rondon can bring the heat on the mound but there is no telling what his exit velocity could be on balls batted in play. The 6′ 3″ 275 lbs Rondon is four inches taller and the same weight as former Tigers slugger Prince Fielder. Not sure Rondon has the same uppercut swing however nut as long as we are just talking warm-ups I’d love to find out.

My personal candidate for the Tigers reliever who is most likely to be the best hitter is lefty Kyle Ryan. Ryan’s wiry 6′ 5″ frame looks like it has some slap singles  locked deep within it. Listed as a left handed hitter Ryan’s demonstrative stature could translate into some pop.

No telling if Ryan could reach the Belle Tire sign in right field but if anyone is coming out of the bullpen to appear at the plate, I’m picking him. The herky-jerky delivery on the mound is deceptive for Ryan, leading me to believe his stance and swing would be similar to that of Giants outfielder Hunter Pence. Anyone who remembers Pence from the 2012 World Series knows what I mean.

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In reality, as long as these guys are getting outs on the mound and are staying healthy, it doesn’t matter what they do at the plate. If they want to hit one out though, everyone is content with that as well.