One of the proposals included in both the MLB and MLBPA offers for a 2020 baseball season was to have the designated hitter for all games for both leagues.
That would put the DH in N.L. home games for the first time, and most likely, once it’s in place it’s not going anywhere.
This article is not intended to revive the debate regarding the DH. I’ve made my position on this topic clear and if you’d like to read a well-researched article on this topic, here’s one from Craig Calcaterra at NBC Sports.
Rather, what I want to show you here are two hits by Cubs pitchers, which, if the DH is instituted in the N.L., are likely the last hit and home run by any Cubs pitcher... forever.
In the second-to-last Cubs game of 2019, September 28 in St. Louis, Cole Hamels threw four innings. In those four innings, he batted twice, and had two hits.
Wow, talking about going out with a whimper. That’s not much of a hit, a comebacker deflected to the left side of the infield, with Hamels reaching base. But there it is, most likely the final hit by a Cubs pitcher... ever. Both runners wound up stranded, but the Cubs eventually won the game 8-6.
The honor of hitting the last home run hit by a Cubs pitcher goes to Jon Lester, which seems ironic because he was just a brutally bad hitter when he first came to the Cubs, setting the MLB record for most hitless at-bats at the start of a career, 0-for-66, before he got an infield hit off his buddy John Lackey, July 6, 2015.
Lester went from “horrific” to “awful” at the plate over his five years with the team, and hit three home runs, one each in 2017, 2018 and 2019. In fact, those three home runs account for three of the last four homers hit by a Cubs pitcher. The other was by Hamels against the Pirates September 24, 2018 at Wrigley Field, the only run in a 5-1 loss.
Here is Lester’s 2019 home run, hit July 13 at Wrigley Field, also against the Pirates. It will likely stand as the final home run by a Cubs pitcher, ever [VIDEO].
Earlier in that game, Lester had a two-run single, so he had three RBI for the afternoon. The Cubs won the game 10-4 and Lester and Hamels are also thus the last Cubs pitchers to have a multi-hit game.
Other similar “lasts” of note and other batting accomplishments by Cubs pitchers:
- Last Cubs pitcher to have a three-hit game: Kyle Hendricks, May 14, 2019 vs. Reds
- Last Cubs pitcher to have a four-hit game: Carlos Zambrano, May 23, 2008 vs. Pirates
- Last Cubs pitcher to have a multi-HR game: Fergie Jenkins, September 1, 1971, two HR vs. Expos
- Most RBI by a Cubs pitcher in a game: 5, accomplished three times — Claude Passeau, May 19, 1941 vs. Dodgers, Milt Pappas, August 11, 1972 vs. Mets, Jason Marquis, September 22, 2008 vs. Mets. Marquis’ 5-RBI game included a grand slam; he’s the last Cubs pitcher to do that.
- Most HR by a Cubs pitcher in a season: 6. Fergie Jenkins, 1971 and Carlos Zambrano, 2006
It should be noted that while Big Z finished his career with the fourth-most home runs by a pitcher (24) and hit .238/.248/.388, which produced 5.6 bWAR as a hitter, for those who clamored to see him pinch-hit, he was a lousy pinch-hitter. Career as a PH: 3-for-33 (.091, all singles) with 15 strikeouts.
Some of this will be missed, I grant that to those of you who don’t like the DH. The fact that MLB pitchers hit .128/.159/.163 in 2019 and struck out in 43.5 percent of their plate appearances — not so much.
Lastly, as of this writing the last pitcher in a regular-season game for the Cubs was Ben Zobrist, who threw the eighth inning in a 9-0 blowout loss to the Cardinals last September 29. Zobrist was on deck when Tony Kemp popped up to end the game.
Wouldn’t it have been weird if Zobrist had batted and homered? That would officially have been a home run by a pitcher, since Ben was in the game as a pitcher.
Hail and farewell, pitchers batting in the National League.