Mets pitchers talk hitting, not pitching
Hot topic a conversation starter after Perez is slotted No. 2 Thursday
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Little prompting is necessary for pitchers to discuss their hitting. It is a most favored topic among the batter's-box-challenged. So when manager Jerry Manuel's batting order was posted on Thursday morning, the tall tales began. It prompted second looks, because it listed Oliver Perez as the second hitter. Honest.
But it is Spring Training, and preparation for the real games takes precedence over form. And Manuel loves life outside the box.
Moreover, Perez is not the most gifted bunter. And with him scheduled to pitch two innings -- he struck out three Marlins on Thursday -- there was little chance he would get a chance to work on his sacrifice-bunting skills as the No. 9 batter. Hence the order -- Luis Castillo, Perez, Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Ryan Church, Daniel Murphy and Brian Schneider.
Manuel passed through Pitchers Row, and he asked Perez if he had seen the lineup. The pitcher had heard all the hitting talk. His response to his manager was to lay one down with an invisible bat. Satisfied, Manuel went on his way. And later, Perez was successful in his sacrificial role.
Now, about pitchers' hitting: As Manuel addressed Perez, John Maine was regaling Livan Hernandez with tales of his hitting accomplishments, which, after 129 big league at-bats, includes one home run, one double, six RBIs and 11 walks. Mike Pelfrey proudly noted his strikeout ratio -- 31 in 103 big league plate appearances -- was rather good, one per every 3.3 plate appearances.
Turns out, Maine and Pelfrey were making their cases to the wrong guy.
Hernandez has the lowest career ratio of strikeouts to plate appearances among the 97 active pitchers with at least 100 career plate appearances -- one strikeout for every 8.4 plate appearances. Also, Johan Santana has a 1-4.1 ratio and Perez a 1-3.4.
And Hernandez has nine career home runs, more than the other starters and candidates combined. Moreover, Hernandez has 34 career doubles, two triples, 75 RBIs and four seasons with at least 20 hits. Of course, those seasons were when he was routinely pitching more than 200 innings -- he averaged 236 frames from 2000-05 -- and getting more than 80 at-bats.
But Hernandez is still lacking as an offensive force in one regard. He has no stolen bases. He has reached base 213 times (hits, walks, errors and a hit by pitch), and he has zero steals in zero attempts. His half brother, Orlando Hernandez, has reached base 20 times and has three steals, all with the Mets.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.