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Is Cubs Carlos Zambrano an All-Time Great Hitter?

This Saturday, Cub starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano blasted a home run against Johnny Cueto of the Cincinnati Reds. It’s hardly surprising that he’d go deep. After all, it’s his 23rd career homer, easily the most by any current pitcher. In fact, it’s more than the next two combined.

Heck, Zambrano's lifetime .154 isolated power (which is slugging percentage minus batting average) is higher than the career marks for Omar Vizquel, Johnny Damon, Orlando Hudson, and yes even Derek Jeter.

And that's just contemporary players. Zambrano's .154 ISO also tops that of Paul Molitor, Rickey Henderson, Paul Waner, Honus Wagner, Brooks Robinson, Home Run Baker, new Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar, and all-time triples king Sam Crawford.

This is the ninth straight year Zambrano has bashed as least one homer. The last man to do that? Gary Peters, an American League pitcher in the pre-DH days.

In other words, Zambrano is quickly becoming a historically great homer hitter for a pitcher. Where does he rank overall? Let’s find out.

For this list, we’re looking only at how many homers a guy hit as a pitcher. That knocks out a pair of guys because of what they did while playing another position or pinch hitter. We’ll discuss them in a bit.

For now, here are the top ten all-time at hitting homers while pitching:

HR Pitcher
37 Wes Ferrell
35 Bob Lemon
35 Warren Spahn
34 Red Ruffing
33 Earl Wilson
29 Don Drysdale
24 Bob Gibson
24 John Clarkson
23 Walter Johnson
23 Carlos Zambrano

Zambrano is tied with Walter Johnson for ninth.

Sort of. Johnson actually has a 24th homer, but it was a pinch-hit homer and so doesn't count here. In fact, half the list hit pinch-hit shots that don't count here. Aside from Johnson, Wes Ferrell hit one while Bob Lemon, Red Ruffing, and Earl Wilson each had two. The Cubs have used Zambrano as a pinch hitter on occasion, but he's never gone deep in the role.

Also, two guys hit more homers overall, but many were hit as position players. Pre-WWII ace Bucky Walters began as an infielder with the Phillies, and showed some power, but then transferred to pitcher where he was much better.

In the 1890s, Jack Stivetts was such a great hitting pitcher his team had him play the field on some off days. Four-tenths of his homers came away from the mound.

But if you look just at homers hit while pitching, Zambrano just crashed into the top 10.

Zambrano: the most dangerous hitting pitcher of his generation.

Read more great baseball stuff at The Hardball Times.


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