Saturday, December 10, 2022

Batting at ninth position for another weekend: Pitcher

Batting at ninth position for another weekend: Pitcher

Atlanta – You could hear Tom Glavin’s familiar grin through the telephone.

After generations of debate and bickering and correctness testing, this Sunday, he knew, could be the end of pitchers regularly hitting (or trying) in Major League Baseball.

Hall of Fame left-hander Glavin, who hit .203 or better in nine, “Take brutality, so to speak, what pitcher hitting has become, and I still feel like it’s in the National League.” Allows for more strategy.” Out of his 22 seasons, Lamented. “I’m hoping that part of the argument will certainly strengthen, but now it seems there is more momentum than ever to get rid of it.”

Whether the appearance of the pitcher’s platter is a righteous tradition or a time-honored, time-wasting embarrassment, they could largely disappear by 2022’s Inauguration Day. Baseball’s next collective bargaining agreement is still under negotiation, and a major change being considered is the adoption of a universal designated hitter. If that happens, Game 5 of this year’s World Series, which Atlanta will host at its National League stadium on Sunday night, will be the last time pitchers were forced to bat.

“I really enjoy hitting, but it’s good for the game,” said Max Fried, an Atlanta pitcher and finalist for one of this year’s Silver Slugger Awards, of a possible rule change.

“At the end of the day, for me to go out and hit every five days, or to be a pitcher who’s getting hits, it’s not good as a guy whose job it is to hit,” Fried said. Said, who hit .273 this season. . “I understand it, but I will miss it – extremely.”

Another star of Atlanta’s rotation, Charlie Morton, said he wouldn’t miss the hit: “I actively try not to think about it just yet.”

Pitchers would still be allowed to hit in the era of a universal DH Most, however, that would not happen if baseball’s past was left on the bargaining table and the American and National Leagues permanently settled on the matter at once. aligned for the first time. half century. (Baseball temporarily adopted a universal DH for the pandemic-disrupted 2020 season.)

The designated hitter rule was conceived as a way to dial down the offense after years of disappointing hits and, in turn, generate more money and interest in the game. The American League adopted the DH in 1973, which was designed as a three-season experiment. The disdain for the National League was evident from the beginning. NL president Charles S Feeney said at the time, “We love the game the way it is.” It never adopted the rule.

But the AL has since outperformed the NL in batting average, including 15 points in 1989 and 1996. The gap has been narrower in recent seasons, such as by a 3-point margin this year, when, at .244, the MLB average tied its fifth lowest point since 1871.

Pitching has also emerged as a discipline in the decades since DH’s introduction, and attention has been drawn to the risks faced by pitchers whenever they step into a batsman’s box or wind up on the basepath. And so some of the NL veterans are beginning to deviate from their historically party-line opposition.

“For every Adam Wainwright, there are 10 guys who can’t hit, who have scored a comparatively impressive 75 in their 16 big league seasons,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said, referring to St. Louis pitcher. Don’t hit at a young age anymore, they specialize in pitching or whatever at a young age, so after experiencing it last year, I’m in for DH”

Of course, there are exceptions.

Shohei Ohtani reached the All-Star Game this year as both a pitcher and DH. The breakout star for the Los Angeles Angels hit 46 home runs and a major league-leading eight triples, while 9-2 as a pitcher with 156 Record posted. Strikeout and ERA of 3.18.

While not coming close to matching Ohtani’s mastery at the plate, others have shown at least some occasional pop. Madison Bumgarner, the Arizona pitcher, has 109 hits, including 19 home runs in his 13 seasons, and Jake Arita of the Cubs has six home runs in his career, including Bumgarner once in a playoff game.

For the most part, though, National League pitchers come to the plate, looking at some of the pitches and occasionally making a weak swing on them. This upsets people like Glavin, who prided themselves on forcing opponents to treat them as easy outsiders.

“I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I was a great hitter, but as a pitcher, I was definitely a good hitter, and I felt my ability to do that every time I went on the mound. If I am, there is an advantage,” Glavine said. “I wasn’t necessarily going to get an RBI base hit or whatever, but I knew two things: No. 1, if I had to bunt, I was going to get the bunt down, and No. 2, I didn’t. There’s going to be an automatic out.”

Or, as Clayton Kershaw, the Los Angeles ace who once had a full-game shutout and hit the afternoon’s winning home run, put it: “Baseball is a two-sided game, offense and defense. I think you should Must play both, even if you’re not good at one.”

Kershaw finds himself embroiled in the so-called double-hook rule, which would force a team to forfeit its DH when its starting pitcher leaves the game, thus an incentive to emphasize the start rather than the reliever. offers. It is unclear whether the major leagues, who watched with interest this year testing the independent Atlantic League’s approach, would include such a provision in a rewritten rulebook.

Morton, the veteran after a season who left Game 1 with a broken leg, argues that most modern pitchers have no place in the batting order.

Morton said before a National League Championship Series game, “I’m always late to the on-deck circle, just because I need to unplug for a minute, and I like to worry about the work that’s going on.” I have to do it on the mound.” . “That’s what I’m paid to do, that’s what I set out to do, spend most of my time doing it. They’re giving people a lot of money and people are trying to be good hitters by their tails.” I’m working from there, and I’m batting there.

Also, he said, he doesn’t like pitching to pitchers.

“It’s a lose-lose situation for me because he shouldn’t get hit,” said Morton, whose 2016 season ended when he tore his hamstring while running to first base after a bunt.

Morton is sure to get his wish.

And while the game’s bigwigs may object to the change, and players like Bumgarner may lobby to continue to hit for themselves, at least one reliever argues that he has something to do with losing hope that He may be asked to bat.

Will Smith has been around the NL since 2014, but his lone official came in 2019, when he was with the Giants. With runners in second and third, Smith, now closer to Atlanta, beat the fastball 3-1 to right field for a two-run single.

Never mind that Bryce Harper almost knocked him out already.

“I finished with a 1.000 career batting average, so I’m fine with that,” he said.

James Wagner Contributed reporting.

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