Diamondbacks starter Micah Owings is just about the best hitting pitcher you or I have ever seen.
How good is he? Well, last year he led the entire Diamondbacks squad with a 1.033 OPS, including a .333 batting average, 4 homers, and a .683 slugging percentage. In one incredible game against the Pirates on September 27, he went 4 for 4 with 3 doubles and 3 RBI while pitching 6 1/3 innings of shutout ball, en route to an 8-0 victory.
And this season, having gone 2-3 with a run scored in his victory yesterday, his batting average now is up to .308.
Of course, pitchers don’t get too many at bats, so these are some pretty small sample sizes we are talking about, but you can be sure that Owings is for real. For one thing, he was a star two-way pitcher/first baseman at Division-I Tulane, and would certainly have been draftable as a hitter if he hadn’t been drafted as a pitcher. There is also the fact that in his two minor-league seasons, he put up a combined line of .377 /.381/.525.
By my reckoning, Owings is presently the 5th best hitter on the entire Diamondbacks team. He is certainly better than catcher Chris Snyder, shortstop Stephen Drew, or second baseman Orlando Hudson. Which is why it is so odd that the Diamondbacks are still batting him in the traditional 9th spot. He should at least be batting 7th, and maybe even higher.
Of course, there is always the fact that as a pitcher, Owings usually does not play the full game. But this is the good ol’ National League, and that is precisely what the double-switch is made for.
The point is that the Diamondbacks have a rare two-way player on their hands, and if they are smart the should do everything in their power to get him as many at-bats as they can. One way to do that is to put him higher in the lineup, which is so obviously a smart move that it is baffling they haven’t done it already. In addition, they should also probably be pinch hitting him just about every game, and should maybe even consider sneaking him in at first base from time to time. And he should almost certainly be their DH in interleague games.
Obviously they don’t want to risk injury to him by making him play a demanding position in the field, because oh yeah he is also a pretty good pitcher, off to a 4-0 start this year with a 2.42 ERA.
But batting him 9th just because that is where all other pitchers bat is just stupid.