Top 10 Yankee pitcher hitting moments since 1996

"I'm sorry for destroying many of your kin."- Mo - Christian Petersen

TL;DR: Yankee pitchers do not hit much, so they are kind of terrible at the plate. Here are some instances of rare success in the mostly-Interleague years.

I'm an American League fan. I would always, always much rather see an actual hitter at the plate than a pitcher. The hitter doesn't have to be at the levels of Edgar Martinez or Hideki Matsui; even the rotating door of elder position players is often better than whatever the Dillon Gees of the world have to offer at the plate. Even pitchers that win the Silver Slugger like Stephen Strasburg did last year are often only around league-average hitters. That's the peak; the valley is a miserable wasteland of hitters "on the interstate."

Whenever the Yankees travel to a National League park for Interleague play or the World Series, fans are subjected to the terrors of joke hitters like Ivan Nova in the lineup instead of the DH. Nova is a wee bit more than a slight step down from Travis Hafner; his 1-for-11 career with 10 strikeouts would make Rick Ankiel proud. I ran the official numbers for Yankee pitchers' hitting statistics since 1996, including the postseason. I originally planned to just capture stats for the Interleague play era since '97, but since I was including playoff numbers to increase the sample size, I decided to add the '96 World Series numbers to the pack as well since pitchers like Andy Pettitte and David Cone appear there, too.

Here's the full spreadsheet I generated, updated with the most recent series in Colorado. How do the numbers look, computer?

































Woof. Triples and homers were not even categories listed because no pitcher has done either since the American League adopted the DH in '73. The last pitcher to triple was CBS era ace Mel Stottlemyre, who tripled to right field at the pre-renovated Yankee Stadium on September 1, 1972 against some 21-year-old punk named Rich Gossage. The last pitcher to go yard was veteran reliever Lindy McDaniel (most notable for his inclusion in a later trade with the Royals for Lou Piniella), who took Tigers ace Mickey Lolich deep on September 28, 1972 to give the Yankees a ninth inning lead at Tiger Stadium, stunning Billy Martin's eventual division champions.

Trivia answers aside, the numbers from 1996-2013 did not necessarily need to be shown to understand that whenever Yankees pitchers have batted, they have badly failed, but there they are anyway.

BUT IT IS NOT THIS DAY! Yankees pitchers might have only reached base without an error 52 times in 431 plate appearances over the past 17 years, but we are here today to celebrate the 10 best moments at the plate for Yankees pitchers. Although he vast majority were forgettable (even some of the successes), the select few at the top should be fondly remembered.

Honorable Mentions

David Cone, 1999 World Series Game 2 vs. Braves, E6, +4% WPA

Cone's early years with the Mets gave him a better idea of what to do with a bat in his hands than most pitchers, but he still only went 3-for-20 during his Yankee years. Cone's honorable mention here actually didn't even come through a hit or any fair method of reaching base. The Yanks were already up 4-0 in the second inning of '99 World Series Game 2 when Cone came up with two outs and runners on second and third. Against reliever Terry Mulholland, he hit a low liner toward shortstop, an easy play, but the Braves defender dropped it, allowing a fifth run to score. Though Cone went 0-for-4 in the game, he pitched seven scoreless, one-hit innings in a 7-2 victory that helped the Yankees sweep Atlanta on their way to a second World Series title in a row. So why is this meaningless ROE on here?

The shortstop was Ozzie Guillen. Heh. I might GIF this later because it's on the '99 World Series film.

Roger Clemens, 6/15/2002 vs. Mets, double, +6% WPA

This game is not being mentioned for the double, though Clemens's .563 OPS in 19 plate appearances is higher than any other Yankees pitcher with at least 10, for what that's worth (bupkis). This game is exactly the one you're thinking of, and even though the Yankees lost is a blowout, there is no way I could have made the list without it. The Mets wanted to hit Clemens for his treatment of star Mike Piazza in 2000. Everyone knew it going into the game. Mets starter Shawn Estes tried to hit him and completely failed, throwing it behind Clemens instead. They got more impactful revenge later when Estes stunned the crowd with a two-run homer off Clemens, but I think people generally remember the missed HBP more than the dinger and loss.

Don't worry, there will be actual success further on down.

Roger Clemens, 2003 World Series Game 4 vs. Marlins, single, +5% WPA

It's probably generous even giving this Clemens hit a mention, but at the time, it looked like a future Hall-of-Fame ace notched his first ever World Series hit in his final career start. That was kind of cool. Welp. At least it was against Carl Pavano.

Top 10 Yankees pitcher hitting moments since '96
10. David Wells, 6/6/2003 vs. Cubs, double, +4% WPA

Career -28 wRC+ hitter David Wells doubling off the ivy at Wrigley against Carlos Zambrano in his prime and "running the bases" remains one of the funniest things I have ever seen while watching a baseball game. I wish this clip was available to the public. It's an absolute damn shame.

9. Mike Stanton, 6/6/2000 vs. Expos, single, +1% WPA

Stanton was a reliever for all but one of his 1,189-game, 19-year major-league career, an incredible number of games that ranks behind only Jesse Orosco's 1,252 on the all-time list. Since he often came out of the bullpen, he rarely had to bat, but he hit a more-than-respectable .333/.360/.375 in 26 career plate appearances. This single off Guillermo Mota in an 8-1 blowout at Olympic Stadium was his only hit in five times at bat with the Yanks, but it was the first hit by a Yankees reliever since McDaniel's surprising dinger in '72. Stanton came around to score, and the hit made him 1-for-1 on the season.

I didn't see the game, but it made its impact on me through High Heat Major League Baseball 2002 for Game Boy Advance. (No, I'm not quite sure why I had it, either.) Through weird programming, Stanton's 1.000 average and slugging percentage made him an solid choice for the Home Run Derby feature, though admittedly not as much of an absolute monster as Devil Rays reliever Esteban Yan, who homered in his only at-bat of the year (the first of his career). LolMets, indeed.

8. Tyler Clippard, 5/20/2007 vs. Mets, double, +1% WPA

Hey, remember when the Yankees traded a future All-Star reliever for Jonathan Albaladejo? D'oh. Admittedly, Albaladejo had very good numbers in the high minors and then-starter Clippard was less impressive in '07 both in a six-game, 6.33 ERA MLB cameo and in a more substantial minor league stint (4.50 ERA between Trenton & Scranton). Nonetheless, it stings in hindsight considering how terrible Albaladingdong pitched for the Yankees. Back on topic, this game was Clippard's MLB debut, a 6-1 victory over the Mets. Clippard's double off Scott Schoeneweis did not make any impact on his first big-league win since he was stranded, but it was an amusing footnote since it was just his third career plate appearance after having none since high school.

7. Andy Pettitte, 6/19/2009 vs. Marlins, RBI double, +8% WPA

Pettitte's second double as a Yankee gets notice here for being the last extra-base hit by a Yankees pitcher to date, and it also helped give him some run insurance in an eventual 5-1 victory. Marlins starter Sean West is not a pitcher in the majors anymore, and the fact that he somehow gave up back-to-back doubles to Pettitte and Angel Berroa (one of just three hits Berroa had in his miserable half-season as a backup) was probably evidence enough for his disappearance. (Video)

6. Andy Pettitte, 6/19/2002 vs. Rockies, RBI double, +10% WPA

I promise that the rest of this list isn't all Pettitte doubles. (That would be impossible.) Again, Pettitte gave himself some insurance by doubling in a run. He hit it in the fourth inning of a 3-1 game off quickly-declining starter Mike Hampton in Coors Field's crazy pre-humidor days, and it scored another terrible Yankee, Rondell White. The final score of this game was, of course, 20-10. Yankee starting pitchers took advantage of the altitude to go 3-for-5 in this three-game series that featured 70 combined runs. Classic Coors at its finest.

5. Mike Mussina, 6/16/2001 vs. Mets, RBI single, +10% WPA

"Moose" played his entire career in the AL, but he was not as much of a joke at the plate as his peers. He took it upon himself to get some run support in a Subway Series game against the Mets in '01, a year in which he often received poor run support from his offense. Although he was likely the best pitcher in the league that year, his rotationmate Clemens took home the Cy because "WINZ" and a record 20-1 record through mid-September. Bernie Williams hit a homer off Kevin Appier to lead off the second to give him a 1-0 lead, and later in the inning, Moose grounded a base hit up the middle to score a second run. He would need it, as the game ended in a slim 2-1 margin.

4. Brandon Claussen, 6/28/2003 vs. Mets, RBI single, +1% WPA

Claussen's a forgotten name in Yankees history because he had a forgettable career and this start was his only career appearance as a Yankee. Called up to start a game in one of the Subway Series's weird road/road doubleheaders in both Queens and the Bronx, the lefty threw 6.1 strong innings of one-run ball in his MLB debut to earn his first career win, despite Sterling Hitchock and Dan Miceli's best efforts to blow a nine-run lead. Like Clippard, he was batting in his first game for the first time in his pro career, but he helped his own cause with an RBI infield single toward second base. It turned out that he would need that extra run since the final score was 9-8.

It was quite a debut for the 24-year-old, but a month later, Claussen was traded to the Reds in the Aaron Boone deal. After his initial 1-for-4 debut at the plate, he went 9-for-95 with just one more RBI over the next three years. Baseball!

3. Mike Mussina, 6/23/2002 vs. Padres, 2-for-3, +8% WPA

Moose makes the list for a second time through the Yankees' only multi-hit game by a pitcher since Steve Kline turned the trick on September 27, 1972. Moose notched two clean singles to the outfield off Padres starter Brian Lawrence, and he came home to score on a Jeter single in the sixth inning. Although the Yankees won, Moose did not get the victory since the offense only gave him two runs. That was sadly a constant theme throughout his stellar eight-year career in pinstripes.

2. Mariano Rivera, 6/28/2009 vs. Mets, RBI walk, +8% WPA

Unlike that majority of moments on this list, this pitcher plate appearance is actually remembered by a plenty of fans. It was Sunday Night Baseball and Mo entered in the eighth inning to try to secure a one-run lead for his 500th career save. He struck out catcher Omir Santos with David Wright in scoring position to end the threat, and he could not possibly have been expecting a plate appearance with fellow All-Star closer Francisco Rodriguez on the mound in the ninth. K-Rod was wild that night though, and with Derek Jeter batting with two outs and runners on first and second, the Mets elected to walk the Captain to pitch to Rivera.

Mo had batted just five times in his career, but K-Rod could not seem to throw simple strikes down the middle. After seven pitches, K-Rod walked Rivera to force in a much-needed insurance run. It also led to a pretty excellent troll face. Mo locked up number 500 and had his first career RBI to boot. (Video)

1. Andy Pettitte, 2009 World Series Game 3 vs. Phillies, RBI single, +12% WPA

As glorious as Mo's embarrassment of the Mets was in June of that championship season, Pettitte's hit unquestionably had far greater importance. The veteran southpaw only has eight hits in his Yankee career (.131/.145/.164 in 68 plate apperances), but he has made them count enough to appear on this list three times. The World Series against the Phillies was tied at one, and Philly had the home-field advantage for the next three games. Pettitte's start began inauspiciously when the Phillies scored three runs off him in the second, but Alex Rodriguez got two back on a two-run homer (the first confirmed by replay in Series history).

Nick Swisher led off the fifth against Phillies ace Cole Hamels with a double, and a Melky Cabrera strikeout later, Pettitte came to bat. Facing a lefty, it looked like he was hopeless at the plate, but he blooped a base hit to center, scoring Swisher to tie the game at three. Jeter followed with a single, and Johnny Damon doubled them both in to give the Yankees a 5-3 lead. They went on to win 8-5 and took a lead in the series that they did not relinquish. They might not have had the opportunity to tie the game up if not for Pettitte's surprising single.

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