The DEFEND Cleveland Show

Why Pitchers Shouldn’t Hit


 And now a quick Defend Cleveland stance on getting rid of pitchers ever hitting in the MLB again. Aka, All Hail the Designated Hitter! Don’t blame us for this one, we had to talk about something on this the slowest day of sports in a calendar year, so here you go…

Beyond all the business sense of how the DH creates an extra roster spot (something the MLB Players Union should be a lot more vocal in their support of), and how the DH reduces injury rates among pitchers who are inherently more prone to getting hurt when asked to hit as well as run the base paths, not to mention the fact that having half the league operating under a different set of rules is obviously flawed thinking and also unlike any other major team sport in the world, let’s first just look at the overall “damage” pitchers cause at the plate, shall we.

The Basic Facts: Pitchers on average hit at a rate that’s comparably half that of the average MLB hitter1, which is also a rate that’s well below the proverbial Mendoza line.2 Add to that such generally constant notables like how in 2014 alone pitchers hit at a HR rate 8.5 times lower than the league average, scored a run 2.5 times lower than league average, knocked in an RBI at a rate 3 times lower than league average, and also struck out at a rate nearly double that of the average,3 and you start to put in perspective just how awful it is, on average, every time you ask a MLB pitcher to go to the plate with bat in hand.

Once you digest even these simplest of stat comparisons which are relatively stagnant year after year, you quickly gain perspective in how specialized hitting and pitching has become at the Big League level. It then is easy to come to the conclusion that asking pitchers to hit in today’s MLB makes about as much sense as asking position players to pitch. Something no one beyond the morbid curiosity of watching train wrecks is ever really all that interested in. Why, remember back in June when Raburn and Murphy combined for one inning of work and surrendered 7 runs to the Cubs? Exactly the point.

Now, for those fans who scream having pitchers hit requires more strategy and therefore it makes for better baseball, it indeed requires more strategy but only due to the fact that pitchers create a handicap in your lineup you’re always having to account for. Why should anyone root for a forced handicap in a game that features the best players pitted against one another? Name one other team sport in this country where we root for a lesser product simply because it requires more strategy? This thinking is literally akin to sending one player out into the field without a glove and then shouting, “Look at how much more strategy you have to use when aligning your defense because that dude don’t got no glove! Now that’s good baseball!”

For those who scream, “Pitchers just need to learn how to hit like everybody else!” Really? Stop and think about this for a moment, if that’s all it took, to have pitchers learn how to “hit like everybody else”, then not only would pitchers be following this easy advice, so would every other player ever who found out hitting a Major League pitcher was one of the most difficult things to do in all of sports. In other words, if only baseball (and life) were truly this simple.

And finally, for those who scream that pitchers hitting is the only way to hold them accountable for purposefully beaning a hitter, how about we just try to eliminate this “eye for an eye” bullshit retribution of threatening to use the deadly force of a 100 mph fastball on another player in the first place. Baseball is well known for its unwritten rules, sure, but how about we just make a very clearly written rule that states if an umpire determines a pitcher hit a batter intentionally, said pitcher can be subject to an automatic ejection from the game as well as possible fines and further suspension. What’s that? They already have a very clearly written rule in baseball for this? Wow…how novel.

Bottom line, baseball fans, your sport played at its highest level over the years has become so specialized and skilled it’s impressive enough when someone can excel at one thing or the other, hitting or pitching. Asking of anyone that they do both even at an average level in the Majors is not only unrealistic, it’s ultimately bad for business. You could also argue it’s borderline sadistic. Sure it would be great if every pitcher could hit like Babe Ruth and, well, also pitch like Babe Ruth. Turns out, however, there’s only one Babe Ruth, even he didn’t spend too much time doing both, and as he made the switch from pitcher to hitter he only really excelled when he focused on one over the other. Essentially, he was a pitcher, and then a hitter. Not both at the same time. Just like how it should be for all involved in today’s MLB, too.


– Mike James


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  1. Pitchers range in the .120-.140 batting average over the last 5 years. Whereas the average hitter in baseball over this time (pitchers excluded, of course) have hit in a range between .255-.260 []
  2. i.e., the general rule that states any average below .200 is generally regarded as the cutoff point for hitting in the Bigs, and not being in the Bigs []
  3. All these numbers crunched based on stats found on Fangraphs []

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Posted by on Jul 16 2015. Filed under Featured, Show Reports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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