Most people can agree that these are some of the greatest pitchers of our generation. But I would argue they’ve also generated some of the greatest at-bats in baseball history, not as pitchers, but as hitters.
A lot of people may disagree, but I like the idea of pitchers swinging a bat. I know, I know, you can start booing me now, but with the NL likely returning to no DH in 2021, we’re all just going to have to deal with it for at least one more season. So instead of complaining about it, how about we look at five of the most fun at-bats by a pitcher in recent history and find five fun reasons why pitchers should hit.
1. Trevor Bauer Pays Homage to His Teammates
Pitching is all about making adjustments. On any given day, if a certain pitch isn’t working, or a certain hitter has shown success at hitting a certain pitch, most pitchers will try something different. I assume Trevor Bauer is part of this group, but do you remember the time Bauer made adjustments from the plate?
On a rainy night in Pittsburgh, Bauer stepped up to the plate in the top of the seventh and did just that. Except he didn’t do the usual adjustments that hitters make at the plate. He didn’t choke up or shorten his swing or start his leg kick a little earlier. No, he literally changed his batting stance.
Sure, Bauer’s actual swing path didn’t change much and I doubt he was doing this to actually fix some issue he was having with his swing that day, but it sure was comical to watch. I mean, how many times have you seen a hitter change his stance that drastically multiple times in a single at-bat?
But that’s not even the best part. The result of this at-bat? A nine-pitch walk. Maybe more hitters should follow Bauer’s game plan.
Here’s the first reason pitchers should hit: pitchers are memes.
2. Zack Greinke Shows Off
Pitchers are usually an easy out at the plate. Three straight fastballs right down the middle and on to the next hitter.
Zack Greinke is not one of those pitchers.
On August 6, 2015, Philadelphia Phillies pitcher David Buchanan tried to sneak a belt-high first pitch fastball by Greinke and Greinke sent it 396 ft to left center for a solo shot.
Greinke’s slash line as a hitter in his 519 career at-bats is .225/.263/.337 and he’s hit nine home runs in that span. That’s more home runs than some hitters will hit in their entire career.
But I’m not here to applaud a pitcher’s ability to hit, that’s coming later. No, this section is dedicated to Greinke’s bat flip.
We’ve all seen our fair share of awkward swings from pitchers at the plate, but there was nothing awkward about this bat flip. He must’ve been good friends with his then-teammate Yasiel Puig because this bat flip is a thing of beauty. One smooth motion from the finish to the flip, as if he was expecting nothing less. Greinke looked like a man who wanted to make a statement.
So here’s reason two: pitchers have personality.
3. Michael Lorenzen Breaks the Rules
Some people argue that it’s boring to watch pitchers hit. Their at-bats usually result in either a sac bunt or a strikeout or maybe every once in a while a home run.
Well, what if you got all three in a single at-bat?
Cincinnati Reds pitcher, Michael Lorenzen did all three in a single at-bat on August 29, 2018. I have no way to adequately describe the chaos, so just watch this video tweeted by Kent Murphy:
Michael Lorenzen wasn’t called out on an attempted bunt with 2 strikes and next pitch ends up hitting a dinger pic.twitter.com/v8DHvevJis
— Kent (@RealKentMurphy) August 30, 2018
Clearly, if you’re a Reds fan or a Brewers fan, this at-bat was not boring. If you’re a Reds fan, you’re probably laughing at the Brewers’ misfortune and hooting and hollering from wherever you’re watching this from. If you’re a Brewers fan, you’re probably fuming and wondering how much the Reds paid the umpires for this. Either way, clearly this at-bat matters to you.
Sure, maybe if there’s a DH, the hitter still hits a home run here. But maybe if there was a DH, the hitter also isn’t told to bunt in this situation.
It’s quite possible that we only get all this chaos because a pitcher had to hit here.
And that’s reason number three: pitchers are chaotic.
4. Madison Bumgarner Wins a Game
A true mark of excellence is delivering when you are needed the most. That’s precisely what Madison Bumgarner did.
Now, if you’re asking, “What’s so great about a random walk-off single?”, you’ve probably forgotten the circumstances surrounding this at-bat. Bumgarner didn’t pitch this entire game. No, he was called on as a pinch hitter.
Just as a true mark of excellence is delivering when you are needed the most, a true mark of trust is when you are called upon in a moment of dire need. Bruce Bochy displayed a whole lot of trust in a pitcher hitting.
Now I know there were no other position players left for Bochy to use, so he was left deciding between letting Mark Melancon hit or using Bumgarner. With a DH, Bochy wouldn’t even need to pinch hit in this situation. But none of that takes away from the unique thrill of this situation. Walk-offs are great. Pitchers hitting walk-offs are even greater. Pitchers pinch hitting and hitting walk-offs are the greatest.
So there’s the fourth reason for you: pitchers are unique.
5. Big Sexy
Almost every baseball fan has seen this moment in history: the moment a 42-year-old, 285 lb pitcher hit the first home run of his career.
Bartolo Colon’s home run might be the most iconic home run by a pitcher in this past decade. It might even be the first at-bat that comes to your mind when you think of pitchers hitting.
But do you remember at-bats like this one?
This swing probably seems familiar. I’m sure most baseball fans remember times like this when Colon was swinging out of his shoes (and helmet) and looking downright silly at the plate.
But I’d argue that his lone home run in his 21-year career is much more memorable and unique. You see, we’ve gotten accustomed to seeing swings like this (and even worse swings too!) from pitchers. Pitchers statistically can’t hit. Pitchers fail more at the plate than your average hitter.
But that’s what makes it so cool to see pitchers like Colon at the plate: because their at-bats represent all that is good in baseball.
Bartolo Colon’s career at the plate shows us how to approach a game that is defined so much by failure: like a kid. Like a kid who isn’t afraid to make a fool out of himself in hopes of one day, connecting on a lucky stroke that allows him to briefly taste glory. A glory that might not be as glorious if not for all the previous failures.
That’s the fifth reason why I think pitchers should hit: because when pitchers hit, they remind us of the beauty of baseball.
Photo by Joshua Sarner (Icon Sportswire) | Design by Quincey Dong (@threerundong on Twitter)