Rob Neyer has an interesting piece on Brooks Kieschnick, the washed-up, power-hitting corner outfielder turned pitcher that is a non-roster invitee for the Brewers.
I agree with Neyer that Kieschnick deserves a shot to be the first two-way player in decades. Check out his numbers with Triple-A Charlotte. First batting:
Player G AB R H 2B 3B HR TB RBI BB SO SB CS AVG SLUG OBP OPS
B Kieschnick 69 189 32 52 11 0 13 102 40 14 46 0 0 .275 .540 .325 .865
Projected 162 444 75 122 26 0 31 239 94 33 108 0 0 .275 .538 .325 .863
Player W L ERA G CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP K/9IP K:BB
B Kieschnick 0 1 2.59 25 0 0 0 31 30 9 9 1 10 30 1.29 8.68 3.00
Those are pretty respectable numbers. I don't know what Charlotte players' equivalency averages generally look like, but I don't see too many problems with either set. Yeah, he could walk more-a .325 OBP isn't lighting up the world, but it's not the worst, and these are the Brewers. Actually, I just checked and Baseball Prospectus projects him to a .253 major-league average with 11.6 runs above a replacement level, not bad.
Actually, that the Brewers are involved may put the kybosh on the deal. Why do you ask? Well, because to get the most out of having a two-way player, you have to have another productive player who would otherwise not make the team. The Brewers just don't have that many guys hanging around at the fringe of their roster who they will feel compelled to bring north with them.
Now, if the Braves of the Cards had a Kieschnick, they would relish him. Tony LaRussa could carry four catchers on the roster and Cox could clone Rafael Belliard.
One last comment on the Neyer article. He says that he isn't quite sure who the last two-way player was:
As I'm sure you all remember, major-league baseball's last two-way player was ... actually, I don't remember who was the last two-way player. There's Babe Ruth, of course; in 1919, he pitched in 17 games -- and went 9-5 with a 2.97 ERA -- and also played in enough other games to hit 29 home runs, a new major-league record.
C'mon, Rob, you did do research for Bill James once, didn't you? Define your terms and go.
Let's do the work for him. OK, to qualify as a two-way player, you have to appear in more than one or two games as a pitcher if you are a position player. We don't want to include Wade Boggs and Bert Campaneris. By the same token, a pitcher must play more than a game or two in the field. Paul Richards' old trick of hiding a relief pitcher in the outfield shouldn't qualify the player as a two-way-er.
Let's use ten games as the basis. A player must play 10 games in the field and pitch 10 games to qualify as a two-way player. Now, it's easy.
There are 350 player years all time that qualify. Ruth shows up there two times in 1918 and 1919.
The last player is Wonderful Willie Smith, who played for the LA Angels in 1964. He had batted .380, had a pitching record of 14-2, and been an All-Star pitcher for Syracuse in the International League in 1963. In 1964 he was 1-4 with a very respectable 2.84 ERA in 31.2 innings. He also batted .301 in 359 at-bats with an OPS that was 25% better than the league average, playing left an right field fairly regularly. He would be the Angels starting left fielder the next season and play nine major-league seasons in total, but he would only pitch part of one more year (1968). His career ERA was 10% better than the league average and his OPS was slightly (94%) below average.
Here's the list of everyone who did it since Ruth:
Name Year Team GP G Field
Willie Smith 1964 LAA 15 87
Johnny O'Brien 1957 PIT 16 10
Bob Lemon 1946 CLE 32 12
Rene Monteagudo 1945 PHI 14 35
Earl Naylor 1942 PHI 20 34
Bobby Reis 1938 BSN 16 15
Bobby Reis 1935 BRO 14 27
Wes Ferrell 1933 CLE 28 13
Johnny Cooney 1929 BSN 14 16
Ossie Orwoll 1928 PHA 27 34
Johnny Cooney 1926 BSN 19 32
Bob Smith 1925 BSN 13 37
Johnny Cooney 1924 BSN 34 17
Johnny Cooney 1923 BSN 23 12
Clarence Mitchell 1920 BRO 19 15
Lyle Bigbee 1920 PHA 12 13
Rube Bressler 1919 CIN 13 48
Babe Ruth 1919 BOS 17 116
Ray Caldwell 1918 NYA 24 19
Jack Coombs 1918 BRO 27 13
George Cunningham 1918 DET 27 20
Babe Ruth 1918 BOS 20 72
One more last note: Neyer cites Valenzuela and Schatzeder as pitchers used as pinch-hitters. There were two more recent examples that he overlooked: mike Hampton pinch-hit three times in 2001 and was 1-2 with a walk. In 2000, Jesus Sanchez appeared in 13 games as a non-pitcher (apparently as a pinch-runner-he didn't pinch-hit) for the Marlins.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention famous brother, Ken Brett's, 1974 season. He was 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA for the Pirates and batted .310 with 2 home runs, 15 RBI, and 13 runs in 87 at-bats over 43 games, 16 of which were as a non-pitcher (though he never played the field).