With the Baltimore Orioles in Pittsburgh (and then off to Milwaukee early next week), it’s probably a good time to discuss the overall concept of the designated hitter.
But this is going to sound a bit different from the normal DH discussion. Count me as a writer who’s against the designated hitter. Miguel
Gonzalez went 0-for-3 at the plate last night, however one thing that some people don’t know is that Buck Showalter only has his pitchers practice their bunting for the most part. (Some guys do take some swings in the cage here and there, but their “official” BP is just bunting.)
But baseball isn’t an offensive game, or a defensive game for that matter. Part of the charm of the sport has always been that it’s a thinking man’s game. The best hitters, pitchers, coaches, etc. are also great thinkers. It’s a game of strategy, and sometimes one of chess. Thus it would stand to reason that American League pitchers, who aren’t as used to hitting as their National League counterparts, would only practice bunting. A ground ball in the infield could start a double play and run the team right out of the inning. So while some would argue that having pitchers almost exclusively bunt is a waste, it’s actually strategic.
But perhaps more importantly, the last time I checked pitchers were part of the nine on the field. The question posed should be why shouldn’t pitchers have to hit? Occasionally we hear pitchers complain about run support; that pitcher would bear some accountability for that if he had to hit.
Speaking for myself, it would be tragic if pitchers league-wide didn’t have to swing the lumber. It boils down to the fact that it’s a part of the game. Under National League rules, managers have to be much more strategic and think a bit harder when it comes to when to lift a pitcher and so forth. Why should American League managers not have to do the same? Granted, most pitchers aren’t the best hitters in the world. But is that due to the fact that they’re pitchers or that they’re in theory only hitting once a week or so?
Go figure, on occasion we’ve even seen pitchers that were darned good hitters. Recently, Carlos Zambrano and Dontrelle Willis could hit pretty well. He was a career .238 hitter that actually hit 24 home runs over the course of his career. In fact, his average probably would have been even better had managers not decided to send him up as a pinch hitter from time to time – he wasn’t the greatest pinch hitter in the world. (To compare, Oriole legend Mark Belanger retired with a career .228 average.) The Washington Nationals would also use Livan Hernandez as a pinch hitter from time to time.
I understand why teams don’t generally use their pitchers in pinch-hitting roles, however that opens up another point of discussion; what if a team runs out of bench players? Remember in 2012 when the Orioles played a 17 and 18-inning game? Everyone remembers Chris Davis pitching, but what if the inverse had occurred? Let’s say a field player gets injured or ejected, and the team has nobody left on the bench. That should never happen, because there are four other (starting) pitchers on the bench that should be fresh. Wouldn’t it be a luxury to be able to summon a starting pitcher to the plate and know that he has a chance at coming through?
This is all well and good, but I don’t see the AL ever getting rid of the designated hitter. In fact, I suspect that at some point the NL will adopt it, meaning that we’ll never see pitchers at the plate. But to my real point here, if a player (pitcher or otherwise) is on the 25-man roster he should be able to hit. That’s part of baseball.
Tags: Baltimore Orioles