There's nothing better than pitchers batting

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I tend not to enjoy arguments about religion, but once in a while you have to go there:

It’s a real shame that so many American League pitchers have been
denied a chance to hit. As much as A’s fans enjoyed the pure athletic
ability of Vida Blue, Mike Norris, Rick Langford and Dave Stewart over
the years, they could have seen so much more. Given a reason to work on
their hitting, they all would have responded professionally. Or maybe
not, in a case or two. You learn something there, too.

“But it’s an age of specialization,” people say. On what basis?
There are no designated runners or fielders. Specialization is an NFL
team employing different defensive units on four consecutive plays.
Specialization was forced upon the American League when the DH arrived
in 1973, but it never was warranted. Without question, we’ve witnessed
golden DH moments from the likes of Tony Oliva, Orlando Cepeda, Harold
Baines, Edgar Martinez, David Ortiz, but I invariably ask myself, why?
In what brand of league does a player not bat for himself? Have we
become a generation of elitist pipe-smokers, outraged at the sight of
an athlete’s vulnerability? “Fetch me my Thoreau, Jeeves. Barry Zito is
batting.”

The “different set of rules” argument gets tiresome, as well. Thank
goodness the National League has a traditional set of rules, and the
disparity doesn’t harm the game in the slightest. It’s still the same
game. Different rules would be three balls for a walk, or you start out
by running to third.

I’ll come out and admit that I’m a National League guy and I hate the
DH. Like Bruce Jenkins in this article, however, my dislike of the DH
is not necessarily about being a traditionalist, the beauty of the
double switch or the strategy or any of that. As history has shown,
most managers overthink that crap anyway and all of that switching
tends to bring the game to a grinding halt.

No, I’ll just come out and admit it: I like to see pitchers hit. I
know that’s usually the first attack against the NL setup — Pitchers
are feeble! It’s horrid to watch them flail! — but to me it truly is
an aesthetic plus. Seeing an overmatched pitcher trying to hit is the
closest thing we can get to seeing what it’s like for schmos like us to
hit. True, most of the time they fail, but when they succeed, I am
thrilled for them and feel strangely vindicated. And even if they do
fail, it just makes you appreciate how good even the eighth best batter
in a given lineup truly is.

If I had to guess, I’d say that the AL is more popular than the NL,
and that because of it there are more DH fans than not. And I’ll even
grant that my rationale for getting rid of the DH — pitchers batting
is beautiful, baby — is pretty far out there. But like I said in the
beginning, this is really a religious argument.

And like all other religious arguments, understand: once you realize
how irrational and wrong you are, and how right I am, the quicker we’ll
have peace.

(link via BTF)

Wade Davis? Greg Holland? Who needs ’em?

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 21: Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The story of the two-time defending AL champion and current defending World Series champ Kansas City Royals cannot be told without talking at length about their bullpen.

In 2014, Wade Davis, Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera formed a shutdown brigade that not only made it next to impossible for the opposition to mount late rallies, but managed something which seemed utterly impossible before 2014: they turned Ned Yost into a tactical genius. Indeed, the only time Yost got criticism at all that fall was when he messed with the autopilot formula that had that three-headed monster handling the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.

Much the same happened in 2015, of course, despite Holland’s sharp decline and eventual injury. Davis and Herrera continued their dominance. They were joined by Ryan Madson and a cast of other effective relievers who, along with timely hitting, great defense and good health, helped propel the Royals to the title.

This year had not been quite the same story. Holland has been out all year and Davis, while effective when he’s pitched, has missed time due to injury. As has longtime contributor and presumptive next-man-up Luke Hochevar. Herrera is basically still Herrera, but Ned Yost has been presented with a decidedly different set of choices. Lots of choices and Ned Yost don’t always go together well, but lately that hasn’t mattered.

Last night the Royals’ bullpen came in to a close game and tossed three scoreless innings. That set a franchise record with 32 straight scoreless frames, besting the previous record set back in the club’s inaugural season in 1969. The streak is a huge part of why the Royals have won nine games in a row.

Unlike the success of 2014-15, the streak is not a three-man show. As Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star notes, eight different relievers have appeared for Kansas City during the streak, with Joakim Soria and Matt Strahm leading the crew with five and a third innings pitched. Herrera has tossed five scoreless. Otherwise it’s been a group effort with even Peter Moylan offering a couple of scoreless frames. And here you thought Moylan was, I dunno, gearing up for the upcoming Brisbane Bandits season. Nope.

The Royals are still not, in my view anyway, a lock to make the postseason. It’s a a crowded field right now. They’re seven and a half back in the AL Central and four back in the Wild Card with a bunch of teams in front of them. But they’re certainly playing themselves back into the conversation. They’re interesting. And they’re doing it in much the same way they’ve done it the past two years. Only with different dudes doing the do.

Video: Mookie Betts made a ridiculous throw last night

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 10.16.51 AM
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Mookie Betts was an infielder once upon a time and the knock on him both then and since his move to the outfield was that maybe his arm was not fantastic. As an infielder there was talk that he was better suited to the right side than the left. As an outfielder people were saying that, with work, his arm could be average and/or serviceable. Not bad, of course, but not anything to write home about.

Maybe we need to reassess that, because last night he uncorked one from right field that would make Dwight Evans says “dang, man.”

 

And the throw mattered, as Kiermaier represented the tying run in a game that, at the time, the Sox were leading 2-1.

Betts is a dangerous middle-of-the-order bat at age 23. And now he shows that he’ll nail a fast runner with a frozen rope if he has to. The guy is going to win an MVP award some day. And maybe not just one.