Early in the 2015 MLB betting season, St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright went down with an injury to his Achilles tendon, and he will not return until 2016. He didn’t suffer this injury while pitching or fielding his position, though. Instead, he was hurt during an at-bat, as National League pitchers must bat rather than have a designated hitter take their spot in the batting order, as is the case in the American League. His injury reignited the discussion as to whether both leagues should have the designated hitter rule. Personally, I believe that pitchers should bat in both leagues. To compensate for the furor that would erupt from the MLB players’ union at the prospect of lost jobs, I would allow teams in both leagues to add an additional spot to their rosters.
MLB Betting Midseason: Which Pitchers Are the Best Hitters?
Why do I think that pitchers should bat? Because that’s the way things were when the game began. Every player in the field had to come up to bat. It makes things more interesting for managers in terms of lineup choices late in games (if the Texas Rangers had not been playing Games 6 and 7 of the 2011 World Series in a National League park, manager Ron Washington’s notorious use of the light-hitting Esteban German as a pinch hitter would not have been such a painful memory for Rangers fans).
Besides, there are some pitchers who are quite good with the bat. Here’s a look at a few of them.
Greinke went the first three years of his MLB career without batting once as he was a member of the Kansas City Royals organization. Even when he made it to the major league squad, he only averaged four plate appearances per season between 2004 and 2010 because of the way the interleague schedule worked with the Royals’ rotation. However, after Greinke went to the Dodgers in 2011, his OPS has been a red-hot .592, well above that of any other pitcher who has had a minimum of 100 plate appearances during that time frame.
Wood belted seven home runs during the 2012, 2013 and 2014 seasons combined, more than any other pitchers. This came after not batting at all from 2005 to 2007 in the minor leagues. In 2008, he did bat at Double-A Chattanooga and went 0-for-14 with five strikeouts. However, at the Double-A and Triple-A levels in 2009, he batted .244 (quite respectable for a pitcher). He is the only MLB pitcher who has hit at least one home run during each season for the past five years.
It’s true that Bumgarner helped his own cause in a marquee matchup against the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw with a home run off the Dodger ace. However, Bumgarner has always been a solid hitter. In his junior and senior years of high school, he hit .424 with 38 RBI and 11 home runs. He would only see the plate 24 times in his first three seasons in the minor leagues, although he did go 8-for-22 in those opportunities for a .364 average and a couple of home runs. In 2014, he led all MLB pitchers with four home runs. When Bumgarner and Kershaw face off against one another (as happens fairly often as the Giants and Dodgers play each other a lot as division foes), part of the intrigue comes when each comes to bat against the other.