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)

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.