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Achilles Ankiel
2005-03-09 21:49
by Mike Carminati

As of today Rich Ankiel is no longer going to be cut by the Cardinals as a pitcher. He's going to be sent down this time with the designation of outfielder in front of his name.

Ankiel, a career .207 hitter, announced that his pitching days are over. Surprisingly, his pitching coach Dave Duncan was caught unawares—"I've been trying to get him ready to pitch". He added, "Doh!"

Ankiel will be remembered as promising pitcher who had problems with wildness, was stalked by the media, and had his share of injuries. I can't say what kind of outfielder he'll be remembered as, but I don’t expect that his second career will add much to his baseball epitaph.

Anyway, now that the book is closed on his pitching career let's look at just how wild he was. For every pitcher all time, I added (non-intentional) walks, balks, wild pitches, and hit batsmen and prorated them per nine innings (Actually, minimum of 200 innings pitched). Ankiel came in 61st out of 3020 pitchers. Here are the wildest pitchers all-time along with Ankiel's stats for comparison's sake:

Dick Weik622 5.90 213.7 23719210 10.91
Bob Wiesler719 5.74 241.3 21811641 8.88
Dave Cole618 4.93 237.3 19912710 8.30
Mitch Williams4558 3.65 691.3 54444522439 8.14
Ken Wright1115 4.54 236.0 180111131 7.78
Carl Doyle615 6.95 222.7 155161720 7.68
Tommy Byrne8569 4.11 1,362.0 10372885410 7.56
George Boehler612 4.71 202.3 134141900 7.43
Ken Johnson1214 4.58 269.3 19516910 7.38
Emmett O'Neill1526 4.76 355.7 26016820 7.24
Carl Cashion1213 3.70 255.7 170151620 7.15
Ed Correa1619 5.16 282.7 18929724 7.10
Lefty Mills1530 6.06 435.0 302201910 7.08
Cy Seymour6156 3.76 1,029.0 655608480 7.06
Doug Creek714 5.19 267.0 1921617016 7.04
Ryne Duren2744 3.83 589.3 3923841315 7.01
John D'Acquisto3451 4.56 779.7 5445619525 6.91
Lowell Palmer518 5.29 316.7 2023523118 6.91
Bill Daley2916 3.49 409.7 29110800 6.79
Rex Barney3531 4.31 597.7 410211540 6.78
John Rocker1322 3.42 255.3 1642912417 6.77
Rick Ankiel1310 3.90 242.0 130201222 6.02

So, yeah, Ankiel was wild, but he was no Mitch Williams. And yes the "Wild Thing" moniker fit.

And for all of you who think of Babe Ruth when you hear about a pitcher switching to the outfield, there actually have been 134 men who at one time were primarily a pitcher and eventually played primarily another position. Here are the last ten (and yeah, Kieschnick is a stretch):

Brooks Kieschnick16306221996-04-03
John Upham013011967-04-16
Willie Smith461654241963-06-18
Bobby Darwin832224011962-09-30
Claude Osteen810991961951957-07-06
Hal Brown248485921951-04-19
Bob Cain021437441949-09-18
Don Newcombe15878149901949-05-20
Bobby Shantz1548119991949-05-01
Mickey McDermott961969691948-04-24
Dan Bankhead145951947-08-26
Clint Hartung1437829291947-04-15
Pat Cooper016001946-05-11
Joe Vitelli03001944-05-30
Al Lyons158331944-04-19

For a closer analogue to Ankiel, here are the men who won at least 10 games in a season as a pitcher (Ankiel won 11) prior to moving to another position:

Tony Kaufmann941464621921-09-23
Johnny Cooney2337234441921-04-19
Babe Ruth714839994461914-07-11
Rube Bressler32388126321914-04-24
Reb Russell2297681591913-04-18
Clarence Mitchell712871251391911-06-02
Joe Wood231952116571908-08-24
Fred Mitchell057231491901-04-27
Joe Yeager4185333491898-04-22
Jack Dunn1162264591897-05-06
Cy Seymour52568261561896-04-22
Al Orth1216982041891895-08-15
Cozy Dolan10317412131895-04-26
Bobby Wallace34861824221894-09-15
Nixey Callahan11329599731894-05-12
Tom Parrott1599939481893-06-18
Jack Stivetts3519912031321889-06-26
Kid Gleason1574521381311888-04-20
Elmer Smith37468475571886-09-10
Ed Daily19257366701885-05-04
Bob Caruthers292465218991884-09-07
Dave Foutz314533147661884-07-29
Perry Werden2627401211884-04-24
Dick Burns454425271883-05-03
John Coleman7250823721883-05-01
Charlie Sweeney289464521882-05-11
Larry Corcoran21289177891880-05-01
John Ward2676471641021878-07-15
Frank Hankinson13327216121878-05-01
Terry Larkin184589801876-05-20
Lon Knight3228816281875-09-04
George Bradley322581711511875-05-04
John McMullin4108214151871-05-09
Al Spalding21958253651871-05-05

So, no one's really done it since the era of Ruth. Kaufmann was the last to do it. He joined the Giants at age 28, played the outfield exclusively, and then left the Giants and returned to the mound. Anyway, it'll be pretty rare if Ankiel can pull it off. Given his sad recent past, I hope he can, but I highly doubt it.

By the way, if by the title I made anyone think of the execrable Brad Pitt vehicle (think Pinto) "Troy" I apologize abjectly.

2005-03-10 06:21:57
1.   Murray
I don't think you counted pitchers who were forced to shift positions due to injuries in the minors--like Stan Musial.

And you left Roy Tucker--The Kid from Tompkinsville--off your list of big league moves from the mound.

2005-03-10 06:35:01
2.   Mike Carminati

Yep, this is just at the major-league level.

2005-03-10 06:35:59
3.   mattapp
He didn't fit any of your filters, but Lefty O'Doul would've been an interesting comparison. He did throw 77 2/3 innings in the majors before disappearing for five years and reappearing at the age of 31 as one of the best contact hitters the game ever saw.
2005-03-10 06:37:49
4.   mattapp
Just to add to my previous comment, admittedly the sample size was small, but nothing O'Doul did in his stint as a ML pitcher suggested he could come back later as a hitter of his caliber.
2005-03-10 06:46:02
5.   Mike Carminati
Yeah, I just mentioned O'Doul's pitching when I looked at Yankee-Red Sox trades. He was involved ninth most lopsided of their transactions:

#9 (tie):

Date: July 23, 1922
Trade: Yankees send Lefty O'Doul, Chick Fewster, Elmer Miller, Johnny Mitchell, and $50 K to the Boston Red Sox for Joe Dugan and Elmer (J.) Smith.
Pre Career WS Diff: 76 (favoring NYY)
Post Career WS Diff: 94 (Bos)
Pre Year WS Diff: 9 (NYY)
Post Year WS Diff: 0
WSAB Pre Career Diff: 29 (NYY)
WSAB Post Career Diff: 59 (Bos)
WSAB Pre Yr Diff: 2 (NYY)
WSAB Post Yr Diff: 2 (NYY)

The Yankees give up too much to get two veterans? The trade drew a protest from then contending St. Louis, causing Commissioner Landis to change the rules to bar non-waiver trades after June 15.

O'Doul was still a young pitcher when the Yanks shipped him to the Sox. He would blow his arm out in Boston and then go back to the PCL to turn himself into a very good batting outfielder with the Giants, Phils, and Dodgers. (Also when in San Francisco, remember to visit Lefty O'Doul's pub. I have a menu from there that I kept as a souvenir.) He was the prize of the trade though the Sox didn't directly benefit from it.

Smith stinks up the field in NY (.185 batting average), and survives only one more year with the Yankees (122 OPS+) and two more years in the majors. Dugan was the Yankee third baseman and leadoff hitter for many years. So even when the Red Sox "win" one, they don't benefit from it.

2005-03-10 07:42:19
6.   Mike Carminati
By the way, comment 2 got cut off:

The Kid from Tompkinsville?!? What about Henry Rowengartner?

2005-03-10 10:45:03
7.   Devin McCullen
Actually, Rube Bressler should be on that list somewhere - he won 10 games with the 1914 A's. (And since you missed him, it's obvious you're overdue to reread Glory of Their Times, so get on that.)
2005-03-10 11:57:33
8.   Mike Carminati
Actually a few dropped off the final list, Bressler among them. I'll have to update the post:

Name HR AB W L Debut
Tony Kaufmann 9 414 64 62 1921-09-23
Johnny Cooney 2 3372 34 44 1921-04-19
Rube Bressler 32 3881 26 32 1914-04-24
Reb Russell 22 976 81 59 1913-04-18
Fred Mitchell 0 572 31 49 1901-04-27
Bob Caruthers 29 2465 218 99 1884-09-07
Perry Werden 26 2740 12 1 1884-04-24
Terry Larkin 1 845 89 80 1876-05-20

And Kaufmann, the latest to do it, was moved to the outfield exclusively at age 28 by the Giants but the next year then returned to the mound to finish out his career. Odd. Must have been an injury.

2005-03-10 18:56:35
9.   Mike Carminati

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