The separation between pitcher and hitter is as old as the game itself.
Babe Ruth’s Major League Baseball career began as a pitcher in the summer of 1914. That year Babe Ruth was moved to the Major League Boston Red Sox from the minor league Baltimore Orioles as a pitcher.
The Babe would pitch four solid seasons for the Red Sox, finishing with a career earned run average of 2.28.
But even as a pitcher he could crush it, unlike anyone in that time, after all that was the dead-ball era. In his final full season as a pitcher, 1918, he hit 11 home runs, tying for the lead in the big leagues for all players. Moving to the outfield was the best thing that ever happened to the Babe where he would go on again to lead the majors many more times.
Fast forward nearly 100 years later and we have Madison Bumgarner who probably would be approaching Babe like numbers if it weren’t for the five-man rotation, relief pitchers and all that sort of thing. The San Francisco pitcher has hit 2 home runs thus far this season which puts him tied for first among pitchers along with New York’s Noah Syndergaard. Bumgarner has hit 11 home runs in the last three seasons combined.
Madbum said he’d love to participate in the home run derby in San Diego this July. His manager Bruce Bochy is opposed to the idea, the pitcher still wants to do it.
Meanwhile, two other National League throwers would like to participate, Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs and Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals have voiced their willingness to participate, thus breeding the idea of an all-pitcher home run derby.
Wainwright said, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “I’m ready if they call. Of course, the Cardinals would have to approve.”
Wainwright also campaigned on Twitter:
— Adam Wainwright (@UncleCharlie50) June 12, 2016
But regardless of whether MLB holds a pitchers-only hitting contest in San Diego, or even allows a pitcher in the contest (odds are they don’t, MLB is not apt to make baseball fun) there is a wider movement and question, closely related to the designated hitter debate, why in fact don’t pitchers hit better if they are required to at least two to three times a game? And why don’t we see more pitchers come up through the ranks as true dual-players both able to pitch and contribute offensively.
Well, a man who knows a thing about duality in sports, Jeff Samardzija, the former Norte Dame wide receiver and current San Francisco Giants pitcher explained it best.
“It’s tough,” Samardzija said via The San Francisco Chronicle.
“Hitting is not like playing golf. You’ve got to do it all the time and be comfortable with your swing. So for (Bumgarner) to hop in there every other day and do what he does is really impressive.”
So there’s your answer. It’s possible to make great pitchers decent hitters, but to the level where they would sacrifice their pitching just hasn’t happened in the last 100 years. Don’t expect a major movement towards offensively minded pitchers, but you might see a pitcher here or there make it to the bigs and help his own cause as they say.
As far as the pitcher’s-only home run derby this summer, Buster Olney originally reported this past Sunday there was some talk it might be in the works, in the three days following his report on ESPN’s Sunday Night baseball broadcast, there has been no official announcement or word that such an event is taking place.