The Curious Case of Marcus White

The Bull League’s two leagues, the Lake League and the Metro League (formerly the American Eagle League), were both no-DH leagues from 1995 until 2001, meaning pitchers used to take their turn at bat.

The removal of the designated hitter rule can often put added pressure on a manager when making lineup changes during a game, mainly a decision on whether to pinch hit for a pitcher during critical times, typically because even a great pitcher is normally not a great batter.

This was not the case with Marcus White, who was one of the most successful batting pitchers ever in the Bull League. White, who played for the Chicago Pit Bull and the Nevada Speeders, from 1995 to 2005, was not only a solid starting pitcher, but he was also an incredibly successful hitter, with some amazing achievements at the plate, and an interesting personal story to go along with it.

Despite his offensive utility, which earned him four Gold Crown awards as a pitcher, and five All-Star appearances in his career, he was dropped from the Hall of Fame ballot in his first year of eligibility, which was at the time was 5 years after retirement, collecting just 3.1% of votes in 2011.

But White was a legend among pitchers nonetheless. In 280 career plate appearances, he leads all pitchers with hits (70), doubles (19), and extra base hits (21). When looking at some advanced metrics, White again surpasses his peers, with an astonishing 31.0 runs created (retired hurler Dick Slurve was far behind with 19.7), which works out to 4.1 per 27 outs.

Although not known as a patient hitter (he walked just 1.8% of the time, compared to striking out 15.7% of the time), when he connected there was a decent chance of driving in runs, and he did so with regularity, batting in 25 runs in his career (5th on the all-time leader board).

His .300 career batting average puts many position players to shame, and he is the only pitcher with over 100 plate appearances to hit the .300 mark.  John Cass, who retired in 2012, batted .406 as a left-handed hitting pitcher, but spent half his non-DH time as a reliever and so made far less appearances (just 94).

More amazingly, White seemed to be improving as a hitter the older he got. In 2001, the last year of the no-DH rule in effect, White batted in all 17 of his games with Nevada, making 33 at bats, and hitting safely a career-high 15 times, for a .455 average, another career best. The year before that was the first time he touched the .400 mark, going 10-for-25, with just 2 strikeouts. In those two seasons, he was over 1.000 in OPS, giving the Speeders a reliable source of bottom-of-the-order contact and extra bases. Without any doubt, his regular appearances helped the Speeders achieve their first Bull Cup championship in 2001.

What makes his 2001 season results even more interesting is that he started off the season with a serious injury, after shooting himself accidentally in the foot just before spring training, causing him to miss 4 weeks of play. He still managed to maintain his conditioning, earn another trip to the All-Star game, and take home his 4th Gold Crown award.

White was not only a great hitter, but he was a solid and reliable right-handed starter as well. His career win-loss record was 69-41, an enviable total for any starter. In fact, his only two losing seasons were his last two, in 2004 and 2005 with Nevada, when he started transitioning to more of a spare starter. He racked up 611 career strikeouts, allowed just 253 walks, and held an ERA of 4.01

A truly underrated pitcher, who often helped his own cause as a batter, the Canadian native of Toronto, Marcus White, retired after 2005 after 11 seasons of play. His last arbitration contract was nearly $9 million, but at age 42, and with declining skills on the mound, and a serious injury in June of his final season, he went to free agency after the season and had no serious interest. The retirement decision made sense.

For 2020, the now-57 year old White has decided to try his hand at coaching. What kind of coaching job is the career .300 hitting pitcher looking for? You guessed it. A hitting coach.

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