If Jorge Sosa can get back to the big leagues, he may claim his rightful place as the best hitting Dominican pitcher of all-time
Watching former big league pitcher Joaquin Andujar swing the bat was one of the most entertaining things I ever saw on a baseball diamond. Though he batted only .127 and struck out 52% of the time, he did manage to homer from both sides of the plate in his career, with an inside-the-park shot and a grand slam among his five career four-baggers. In 13 seasons, he never got cheated!
In Andujar’s honor, here are the 10 best hitting pitchers from the Dominican Republic, in ascending order based on OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage):
10) ODALIS PEREZ – Career .135 hitter with 1 homer, 12 RBI & an 80:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 318 official at-bats (thru 8/1/08). Currently with the Washington Nationals (and batting .194 this season), Perez had his best year at the plate for the Dodgers in 2002 when he drove in a career-high 4 runs, and notched 6 of his 10 career extra-base hits, including his only career long ball off Arizona’s Rick Helling. He also won 15 games that year and went to the All-Star Game.
9) AMAURY TELEMACO – Batted .121 from 1996-2004, with 3 RBI, zero home runs & a 51:6 K:BB ratio in 116 at-bats. He never pitched enough to qualify for an ERA title, so it’s tough to find a “best” hitting year, but we’ll go with 2003 when he batted .286 for the Phillies, and three of his four hits were doubles.
8) SILVIO MARTINEZ – In a career that lasted only 1977-81 due to shoulder problems, Silvio hit .145 with 10 RBI and a 78:4 K:BB ratio in 179 at-bats. He never went deep. His best year at the plate would probably be the strike-shortened 1981 season, when he blossomed into a .200 hitter with career bests in on-base and slugging. Unfortunately, he was never healthy enough to get on a big league mound after that.
7) SALOMON TORRES – Currently closing for the Milwaukee Brewers, Torres recorded most of his career .146 with 1 RBI & 46:2 K:BB ratio in 103 at-bats during his days as a starter. His best year with the stick may have been 1993, when he hit .231 as a 21-year-old rookie that Giants fans will never forget (or is it forgive) for losing the final game of the season as San Francisco missed the playoffs despite 103 wins.
6) JOAQUIN ANDUJAR – OK, by now I completely understand if you’re double-checking to make sure this is a list of best hitting pitchers, but it is. I’m perhaps his biggest fan, and I admit Whitey Herzog –who insisted Andujar was a “switch-batter” not a “switch-hitter”– had it right. Nevertheless, .127 with 5 homers and 38 RBI in 607 at-bats with a nifty 315:30 K:BB ratio add up to the sixth-best OPS on this list. Two of his carer long balls came off 5-time All-Star Steve Rogers, and he also victimized Rick Wise, Jeff Dedmon and Bill ‘Spaceman’ Lee. I’d pick 1984 for Andujar’s best year, as he homered twice, logged a career-high 8 RBI and even walked 9 times.
5) JESUS SANCHEZ – Though the lefty-swinger managed only one extra-base hit in his career from 1998-2004, his .176 batting average, 6 RBI and 41:3 K:BB ratio in 142 at-bats place him among the handful of the best. For the Marlins in 2000, he batted .232 with 4 RBI and got more plate appearances than ever.
4) JUAN MARICHAL – In 1221 career at-bats, the Hall of Famer batted .165 with 4 homers and 75 RBI. He drew 38 walks and struck out 269 times. His long balls came off Milt Pappas, Tracy Stallard, Bill Singer and Elroy Face. Got to go with 1966 as his best hitting year, when he averaged .250 and drove in 15 runs with the Giants.
3) NINO ESPINOSA – Nino died tragically of a heart attack at age 34 after shoulder problems shortened his career to 1974-81. When healthy, he batted .171 in 258 at bats, with 19 RBI & a 78:9 K:BB ratio. He never hit a home run. Let’s go with 1978 as his best hitting year, as he managed a .209 average, with 3 doubles and 4 RBI.
2) JOSE RIJO – From 1984-1995, and a miraculous comeback in 2001-02, Rijo was a very good pitcher, but he could hit a little bit too. Overall, he batted .191 with 2 homers, 29 RBI and a 101:8 K:BB ratio in 445 at-bats. He knocked 22 hits in his best-batting season of 1993, good for a .268 average and 8 RBI. In his career, Rijo went deep off Terry Leach and Andy Ashby.
1) CARLOS PEREZ – I wanted desperately to have Carlos’ picture atop this post, but the incident I had in mind proved elusive even in this find-everything-on-the-internet age. I do apologize. Anyway, we’ll just point out that Carlos had a memorable performance with the bat on 6/17/1999 when he got pulled from a game after walking the bases loaded. Perez proceeded to whack a water cooler not once, twice or thrice…but 14 (count ’em!) times, in a move that anyone who’s ever had a bad day at the office had to understand. Oh well, Carlos was a .152 hitter in 250 career at-bats with 4 home runs, 15 RBI and a 107:12 K:BB ratio. Mike Williams, Bobby Jones, Kevin Ritz and Kevin Millwood all served up long balls to him. He was never more locked in with the bat than that 1999 season though, when he batted .296. Carlos is only 37 and still active in the Dominican League last winter, so my fingers are crossed that we’ll see him again.
Those are rhe top 10 hitting pitchers from the DR (based on OPS) with at least 100 career plate appearances, which brings us to Jorge Sosa. Despite a .136 career batting average, Sosa would top this list with his current .477 OPS (Carlos Perez & Rijo are a .439) by a good margin…but he has only 99 plate appearances. In 2006, Sosa became the first Dominican pitcher to blast three homers in a single season, but two years later he’s on his third organization of 2008 after posting a 7.06 ERA early on with the Mets. Sosa spent the first four years of his professional career as an outfielder in the Rockies system, so I hope he can get his pitching together enough to claim his rightful spot atop this list.
And finally, the bottom 5 OPS (minimum 100 plate appearances):
Jose Acevedo (.229), Ben Rivera (.227), Jose DeLeon (.226), Victor Santos (.224) & Claudio Vargas (.199).
Honorable mention: Baltimore’s Daniel Cabrera. Despite an imposing 6’9″ frame, Cabrera has struck out in all 14 of his career official at-bats.