Pitchers will be stepping back into the batter’s box this season. The subject is expected to be explored permanently in the next collective bargaining agreement.
Regardless, Braves manager Brian Snitker intends on having his pitchers prepared, starting hitting drills in camp. But who on the Braves’ pitching staff would likely put up best numbers from behind the plate?
“Max Fried,” Snitker said last week when asked. “If Max wasn’t a pitcher he could probably be an outfielder.”
With 65 plate appearances in the majors, Fried has compiled 11 hits (four for extra bases) and 4 RBIs for a .169 average. His 16 strikeouts in 2019 were the fewest among all Braves pitchers.
Atlanta Braves' Max Fried runs home to score on a double hit by Ender Inciarte during the tenth inning against the Miami Marlins, Sunday, May 5, 2019, in Miami. The Braves won 3-1 in ten innings. (Lynne Sladky/AP)
Braves have historically fielded some hitmakers on the mound. Snitker rattled off a few: Tim Hudson, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz.
“All them guys handled the bat and they helped themselves when they were pitching,” he said.
A 300-game winner, the Hall of Famer hit above .200 in nine of 22 seasons. Not one to hit for power, Glavine was a master of laying down the bunt. He led the league in sacrifices in 2001, posting 216 in his career.
⋅ Career batting stats: .186 average, 1 HR, 90 RBIs
The four-time Cy Young winner was no Silver Slugger, but he did hit above .200 four times in his 23-year career. In 11 years with the Braves, Maddux slapped 134 hits with 35 RBIs and 2 homers — both of came in 1999, the second off power pitcher Kevin Brown (watch).
⋅ Career batting stats: .171 avg., 5 HRs, 84 RBIs
The eight-time All-Star racked up 213 wins along with 154 saves during a Hall of Fame career. Smoltz struck out 3,084 hitters over 21 seasons. He struck out a fair bit himself, 365 in 948 at-bats, but he also managed to hit near or above .200 for four straight seasons before requiring reconstructive surgery on his right elbow in 2000.
⋅ Career batting stats: .159 avg. 5 HRs and 61 RBIs
Braves pitcher John Smoltz shares a light moment with the umpire before batting against the New York Mets Sunday, April 10, 2005, at Turner Field. (Charlotte B. Teagle/AJC)
Hampton didn’t play long in Atlanta. He hit .300 or better in four seasons — despite some shortened seasons due to injury. He hit five home runs across four seasons in Atlanta, to go along with a .202 average (.320 in 2005) and 20 hits and 20 RBIs in 173 at-bats.
⋅ Career batting stats: .246 avg., 16 HRs, 79 RBIs
OTHERS TO CONSIDER
⋅ Knuckleballer Phil Niekro led the league with 18 sacrifice hits for the Braves in 1968. He batted .169 with 260 hits, 7 homers and 109 RBIs across 21 seasons with the Braves.
⋅ Tim Hudson hit .173, with 86 hits (16 for extra bases), 3 homers and 39 RBIs in nine seasons in Atlanta.
⋅ Steve Avery slugged .500, hitting .239 with 11 hits and two homers during the Braves’ 1996 championship season. He finished with a .174 average and 4 HRs in his career.