Carlos Zambrano beat the Phillies with 7.2 innings of one-run ball yesterday and also homered for the first time since joining the Marlins and the 24th time in his career.
That ties him with Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Walter Johnson for the seventh-most homers by a pitcher in baseball history and Zambrano has hit those 24 homers in just 732 plate appearances, whereas Gibson needed 1,489 and Johnson needed 2,520. On a per-plate appearance basis Zambrano has the third-best homer rate among all pitchers to go deep at least 20 times.
He’s now five homers from tying Don Drysdale for sixth place, but moving up any further than that will be tough. Warren Spahn and Earl Wilson are next with 35 apiece, Red Ruffing has 36, Bob Lemon has 37, and Wes Ferrell is the all-time leader with 38.
Zambrano has shown legitimate 20-homer power if given a chance to play every day for a full season, but his overall production would still be pretty modest for a position player. He’s a career .239 hitter with a .249 on-base percentage and .391 slugging percentage, which is good for a .640 OPS that would rank 345th among the 376 active non-pitchers with at least 700 plate appearances.
He basically hits like a backup catcher or a utility infielder, which is pretty damn good considering he’s got a 2.81 ERA and .207 opponents’ batting average in 74 innings as a pitcher this season.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.
With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.