Jaffe: Shelby Miller joins notable group of pitchers playing the outfield

From SABR member Jay Jaffe at Sports Illustrated on April 25, 2016:

Extra innings acquaints a man with strange bedfellows, as noted baseball fan William Shakespeare once wrote. Sunday’s 13-inning, five-hour-and-25-minute marathon between the Diamondbacks and Pirates—won by Pittsburgh 12–10—had plenty of that, capped by Shelby Miller’s first professional foray into the outfield. Though he’s hardly the first pitcher in recent memory to be pressed into outfield duty (the Rockies’ Jason Gurka played an inning there on Sept. 15), he has nonetheless joined a notable fraternity.

Via my unofficial Baseball-Reference Play Index count, there have been 42 instances of pitchers playing the outfield in the past 40 seasons (starting in 1977) including Miller and Gurka. That tally doesn’t include outfielders who took a turn on the mound or players such as Brooks Kieschnick and Dave McCarty who transitioned to pitching in mid-career. The past decade has been a popular one for what has generally been a desperation tactic, as bullpens have expanded due to workload concerns and an increase in lefty specialists, with benches shortening as a result; I counted 12 such instances dating back to 2007. By comparison, there were only three from 1994 through 2004, though for the ’77–93 period, it’s a rare season that did not feature such an occurrence.

I can’t cover all of those cameos, but what follows here is a roundup of some particularly notable instances from the aforementioned span, with a few others shoehorned in for good measure. Since Miller’s adventures deserve a closer look, I’ll start with him and work backwards chronologically.

Read the full article here: http://www.si.com/mlb/2016/04/25/shelby-miller-diamondbacks-pitchers-outfield

Originally published: April 25, 2016. Last Updated: April 25, 2016.