Is there any more divisive topic in baseball than the designated hitter? Fans either love it or hate it.
On the one hand are those that say the DH is an abomination. They are convinced that Abner Doubleday rolls over in his grave every time Victor Martinez or David Ortiz strides up to the plate. To them, the essence of baseball’s purity is a pitcher swinging weakly at three fastballs down the middle before heading back to the cool shade of the dugout.
Supporters of the DH say that it makes the game more exciting. They prefer lineups with no easy outs, as teams slug their way through high-scoring, four-hour games, the double-switch be damned. Heck, even Connie Mack, who was managing games at the turn of the century (the 20th century, that is) pushed for a designated hitter, without any luck.
But the pitcher’s job is to pitch, not to be an offensive force. A team will let a hurler look comical at the plate three times a game if he can give them six solid innings. You’ve heard of the expression “good field, no hit,” right? But have you ever heard of a scouting report that said “good pitch, no hit?” Of course not, because it is a given.
Still, whatever camp you are in regarding the DH (and regardless of how you feel about VMart getting a rich four-year deal with the Tigers), you have to admit that some pitchers should be kept away from a bat rack at all costs. Here then, is a list of the worst-hitting Tiger pitchers of all time. These guys make Justin Verlander, who has two singles in 32 career at-bats through 2014, look worthy of a Silver Slugger award.
Jeremy Bonderman: Once projected to be a stud at the top of the Tigers rotation for years, Bonderman was a hard thrower who had some good seasons in Detroit, but never realized his full potential. At the plate, he was 1-for-28 in his career with the Tigers, the lone hit being an infield dribbler that he beat out for a single.
Dean Chance: By the time Chance arrived in the Motor City, the former Cy Young award-winner was nearly washed up at 30 years old. He’d been a flame-throwing right-hander for the Los Angeles (and later California) Angels in the early 1960s, a good-looking kid with a penchant for dating Hollywood starlets. Injuries derailed his career, and the Tigers picked him up from the Mets following spring training, 1971. In 21 at-bats in Detroit, Chance went hitless. He was slightly better on the mound, garnering four wins in ten decisions, with a 1.572 WHIP. It was Chance’s final season in the big leagues.
Fred Gladding: A native of Flat Rock, Michigan, Gladding’s tenure in Detroit spanned 1961-1967. He was a situational lefty out of the bullpen, before they were called situational lefties, fashioning a low 2.70 ERA in 216 relief appearances for Detroit. Gladding may have been the worst hitting pitcher in baseball history. He had 40 at-bats for the Tigers, with no hits. He was the player-to-be-named-later in the deal in which the Tigers picked up future Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews from the Houston Astros. Gladding led the National League in saves with the Astros with 29 in 1969. He evidently found his stroke as a hitter once he left Detroit; he had one hit in 23 at-bats in Houston.
Herb Moford: On the 1958 Tigers, this right-hander appeared in 25 games, making 11 starts, with four wins against nine defeats. In 37 trips to the plate, he managed only one single, off the Senators’ alliterative Johnny Romonoski. Moford’s greater claim to fame was being one of the pitchers for the New York Mets in their first game ever, in 1962.
Daryl Patterson: He was a rookie on the 1968 world champion Tigers, appearing in two games in relief in the Series. That was the highlight of his career. He pitched for Detroit for four years, going 9-7 in 110 games out of the bullpen. He later played for Oakland, St. Louis, and Pittsburgh. Patterson was 0-25 as a hitter in Detroit. He had ten more big-league at-bats after he left the Tigers, but still couldn’t manage a hit. As a member of the Pirates, Patterson was involved in a bench-clearing brawl against Cincinnati. In the scuffle, Reds pitcher Pedro Borbon bit Patterson, who later had to receive a tetanus shot.
Ed Rakow: Originally the property of the Brooklyn Dodgers, Rakow (pronounced ROCK-oh), holds the record for most official at-bats in a Tiger uniform without a hit. Rakow pitched for Detroit for two seasons (1964-65), compiling a record of 8-9 with a 3.91 ERA. He made 42 official trips to the plate during those years, without as much as a single. That’s right, 0 for 42. Rakow also suited up for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Kansas City Athletics, and the Atlanta Braves. He finished with a lifetime batting average of .084, including (somehow) two doubles.
Sailor Stroud: The origins of his nickname are unclear. Perhaps it simply sounded better than Ralph Vivian Stroud, his real name. Stroud’s only season with the Tigers was in 1910, when he went 5-9 in 28 games (15 starts). In 39 at-bats, Stroud had only one hit, before sailing off into the sunset.
Dave Wickersham: From 1964-67, Wickersham won 40 games for the Tigers, including 19 in 1964. In 200 at-bats, he had 12 hits, for a .060 batting average, including a whopping 69 strikeouts. He is one of only four players to have played for both the Kansas City Athletics and the Kansas City Royals.