QuickPitch: The Case for the Two-Way Pitcher
Baseball’s new Green Monster doesn’t reside in Fenway. Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig is most likely at his home in Wisconsin, seething with envy for current commissioner Rob Manfred, who is at the helm of MLB’s newest renaissance. Baseball is back, and it’s being led by an offensive insurgence not inspired by needles and creams but by a cast of unlikely suspects: the National League’s band of mashing hurlers. Yes, the pitchers are joining Bryce Harper in making baseball fun again, which is ironic given the cacophony of talks during the offseason that the National League would soon adopt the designated hitter. Owners and GMs alike must be scratching their heads, while somewhere in a dark corner of Wrigley, baseball shaman Joe Maddon is cackling for being ahead of the curve (once again) in often batting his pitchers eighth. In fact, it is one of Maddon’s very own hurlers who is making the biggest case for this generation of offensively-capable pitchers. Cy Young-winner Jake Arrieta has voiced his desire to participate in this year’s Home Run Derby during baseball’s midseason All-Star weekend, strengthening his argument by launching a much-needed opposite field home run in an 11-8 Cubs victory over the Reds on Monday. For the season Arrieta has posted a line of .294/.368/.500, a batting average higher than all but one Dodgers offensive starter.
However, Arrieta isn’t the only free-swinging pitcher trying to get in on this year’s Derby action. Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner and Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright have both been very vocal about participating, each launching home runs of their own this season. While big-hitting pitchers have been a novelty in the past (Carlos Zambrano, anyone?), their emergence this season provides National League owners with an interesting dilemma. Just when the dominance of pitchers, who are throwing harder than ever, seemed to necessitate changes to revive offense in the game, the hitting prowess of these very same players has brought scoring – and a whole lot of fun – back to baseball. Who can forget the hysteria surrounding Bartolo Colon’s first career dinger at the ripe old age of 42 back in May? Certainly not any of the fans who rushed to swoop up the 7500 limited edition baseball cards Topps produced to memorialize the home run within 24 hours of the ball leaving the yard.
Yes, baseball is certainly fun again due to the newest crop of position players. We have Bryce Harper to thank for leading the campaign and guys like Mike Trout, Kris Bryant, and Nolan Arenado* to applaud for making the game so entertaining to watch on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. But baseball will always be more enjoyable watching the supposed underdog pitcher hold his own swinging the lumber. So think wisely, owners, and let the boys play.