We welcome back the most loyal of loyal Detroit Tigers fans, Jed. This time, he’s out for the National League and the Designated Hitter.
As the Detroit Tigers 2018 season descends into inevitable misery, I find myself browsing MLB.tv for interesting pitching matchups or games with potential playoff implications to watch when watching Warwick Saupold pitch in high leverage situations isn’t satisfying my baseball itch – this has led to me being more exposed than ever to National League baseball & the absolute abomination that is the pitcher hitting.
I’d always hated it – but every time the Tigers would play a National League team during interleague, it would be kind of fun to see how the guys would hit. Daniel Norris hit a home run to dead center in his first career at bat against the Chicago Cubs & Justin Verlander‘s long wait for his first career hit are both fond memories of my time watching Tigers baseball – but once the initial novelty wears off it becomes apparent – pitchers hitting completely ruins the game of baseball.
In a world where MLB are desperately searching for ways to engage younger fans (their current strategy of posting a Bartolo Colon fact once a week is apparently not working) and increase offense to make the game more exciting – they continue to let guys who have absolutely no business stepping in to face major league pitching take at bats.
They want to limit bullpen usage, they want to put a runner on in extra innings, they want to limit defensive positions like a bloody game of netball, they want to implement the pitch clock and potentially risk injuring guys that have worked at a certain pace their entire careers – but they continue to let guys who often don’t hit in high school, college or the minors take at bats in important situations all in the name of strategy. Should I get my pitcher to bunt the ball foul 3 times or stand and watch 3 down the middle…so exciting!
Every at bat from the 6,7,8 hitters becomes less important because opposing teams will just pitch around any potential run scoring opportunity with two outs to get to the pitchers spot so he can proceed to watch the opposing pitcher pump 3 straight fastballs down the middle as he stands up there desperately praying that he doesn’t get drilled on his pitching elbow, and god forbid he actually reaches and has to run the bases, a seemingly simple task that has sent many a pitcher to the DL over the years. A pitcher hitting with RISP is the single most anti-climatic event in sports. It’s the equivalent of winning a penalty in the 70th minute of the World Cup final and having to select a member of the Chinese U14’s table tennis team to come on and take the spot kick – it just doesn’t make any sense!
Games where the pitcher has to come out early so the manager can lean on his bench of career .230 hitting utility guys that are stashed away so they can double switch repeatedly, suddenly grind to a complete halt as the manager tries to mix and match his bullpen for a full five innings – and if you’re really unlucky you might even get the displeasure of watching a relief pitcher stand in and pretend to look interested for three pitches.
Despite my obvious disgust with the pitcher hitting, maybe I just got unlucky and watched a few games where some bad hitting pitchers were up there? After all, plenty of people love to watch Madison Bumgarner, a great hitting pitcher, take his hacks & just last week Cincinnati Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclefani hit a grand slam – how bad can they really be?
Entering Tuesday 26th June, pitchers are hitting a collective .112/.145/.142 on the season. To put that into perspective, The Orioles Chris Davis, who is on track to have the worst full season in Major League history is hitting .149/.230/.239 – you’re literally watching someone worse than the worst hitter in major league history take at bats, every single game. NL Baseball Rulez poster boy Bumgarner isn’t much better himself, hitting .181/.228/.317 for his career.
Fans of National League teams will be quick to remind you that baseball should be played with nine guys as it has throughout history but the fact of the matter is, times have changed. Pitchers simply don’t practice hitting any more & the standard of their at bats has fallen so far below major league quality that it’s almost embarrassing to watch & there’s plenty of aging sluggers capable of putting on a show looking still looking for at bats.
So, MLB officials, if you happen to stumble across this article whilst scouring my Twitter account for any more violations of the collective bargaining agreement, do me a big favor and consider implementing the universal DH before you mess about with shift limitations or runners on second in extra innings – cheers.