I don’t watch a lot of National League baseball. The Tigers only travel to NL parks a handful of times each year, and when I’m searching for a non-Tigers game to watch I often select an American League game (feeling that it would have more relevance to my Tigers fandom). So, while I obviously know that pitchers hit as part of the every day lineup in the NL, it’s always sort of a surprise to me when I’m watching and it happens.
Here’s my thought process during the second inning of Game Five of the NLCS:
“Wow, the Cardinals have runners on second and third with only one out. If they knock these runs in, this series could be over.”
“Wait, the Giant are intentionally walking Pete Kozma to load the bases in the SECOND INNING? Oh, right, Lance Lynn is on deck. He had what… oh THREE HITS all season?”
“… and yep. He grounded into a double play. Go figure. The guy with the .060 batting average couldn’t drive in the runs”.
Of course, this similar strategy backfired on the Cardinals in Game Six when they walked San Francisco’s number eight hitter to pitch to Ryan Vogelsong who showed bunt, pulled it back, and hit ground ball to shortstop that Kozma played into an error (plating the run). The critical mistake here was that Vogelsong is a much better hitter than Lynn because he had FIVE hits and an .093 batting average during the season.
It’s not fun for me to watch National League pitchers step up to the plate, but at least they’re used to doing it. What’s even less fun is watching American League pitchers do it on baseball’s biggest stage. Starting Game One of the World Series for the Tigers will be Justin Verlander, owner of 33 career plate appearances (35, actually, no reason we shouldn’t include the 2006 World Series). Verlander and his .000/.000/.000 career slash line will have to bat as part of the lineup. Who could get excited about seeing that? He’s going to make two or three outs (depending on how long he’s in the game), and the best case scenario for Detroit is that perhaps he’s able to move a runner over with a sacrifice bunt. Yawn.
“Now batting for the AL Champion Tigers, a guy who was a good hitter in Little League, probably”.
I understand that having the pitcher hit reflects the original intent of the game of having nine guys field and the same nine guys hit, but that game was designed when professional baseball probably more closely resembled your municipal recreation softball league. I like watching pitchers pitch and batters bat. I don’t like the fact that the best hitting starting pitcher in any of the three remaining teams’ postseason rotation is Matt Cain and his 26 OPS+.
I’m almost certain the National League will adopt the DH rule in my lifetime, but that day can’t come soon enough for me. Watching most of these guys flail away is embarrassing.
“Congratulations Detroit, you made the World Series! Now 11% of your batting lineup will be replaced by players who don’t even take regular batting practice!”