It doesn’t look like the National League will be adopting the designated hitter any time soon, so NL teams will continue to have to send their pitchers to the plate every two or three innings to try to somehow put the ball in play or lay down a very exciting sacrifice bunt. Sometimes pitchers have to come up in big spots and having a pitcher who can deliver a big RBI every once in a while can be a major key to making the playoffs.
The 2016 statistics even back up the fact that having pitchers who can hit is important. The top four teams in batting average by pitchers, the Nationals, Cubs, Cardinals and Giants, all either made the playoffs or came within one game of October. The Marlins, who finished 7 1⁄2 games out of a playoff spot, ranked eighth among NL teams in batting average by pitchers at .126 and 13th in on-base percentage at .144.
Although eighth in the NL may not seem like too bad of a standing, the .126 average looks pretty bad and it gets worse when you realize that Jose Fernandez hit .250 this season in 61 plate appearances, which was the most for any Marlins pitcher. The other pitchers besides Fernandez were 23-for-227 this season, good for a .101 batting average, and out of the many things that the Marlins will miss about Fernandez, his bat will be one of them.
It wasn’t just one or two of the starters bringing the cumulative batting average down, it was a result of every Miami pitcher severely struggling at the plate. Here’s how every pitcher besides Fernandez faired in the batter’s box this season. You may notice that Wei-Yin Chen may be the worst hitter in baseball, so that doesn't help.
Now, I’m not saying that the Marlins need to go out and look for a pitcher who can hit in the offseason. Edwin Jackson and Jhoulys Chacin are the best career hitting starting pitchers who are upcoming free agents, and they pitched to 4.81 and 5.89 ERAs, respectively, this season. All I’m saying is that if this group of Marlins pitchers barely hits over .100 next season, it could be the small detail that maybe keeps Miami out of the playoffs.