I’m no fan of the DH, but pitchers batting has got to go

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Anna Hiatt argues for the DH to expand to the NL.  We all know the parameters of this argument by now and have engaged in it many times, so allow me to offer up my opinion on the matter in a way that attempts to eschew the religious war vibe of this time-worn debate.

I am an NL partisan. I have been since I started following the Braves in the mid-1980s. I’m not a fanatic about it, and it matters far less now than it did back before interleague play, realignment and new ballpark construction blurred the distinctions between the leagues, but I still remain an NL guy. And part of that is, yes, I like pitchers batting.

I like pitchers hitting for the same reasons I like medium-rare steaks, pale-skinned brunettes, Batman, bourbon and a lot of regrettable 1980s synth pop: personal taste. These things just strike me the right way and make me feel just so. It’s not an objective thing. Many people are vegetarians, many gentlemen prefer blondes, like Superman, hate hard liquor and would rather die than be subjected to Human League’s “Don’t you want me.” They have their tastes and I have mine, and there is nothing more obnoxious than someone telling you that your subjective tastes are somehow, objectively, wrong, so I live and let live when this kind of stuff comes up and I hope they feel the same way.

With that in mind, it’s worth noting that, though I prefer pitchers batting, I don’t believe the National League’s rules in this regard are objectively better. Indeed, when I take my personal preferences out of the equation and look at the matter rationally, I cannot escape the logic of the DH in today’s game and the futility of pitchers batting.

The game is not played by all-around ballplayers anymore. Pitchers are just dreadful at hitting and, increasingly, are unable to even bunt particularly well. The strategy and gamesmanship my NL friends like to talk up is rather contrived when one thinks about it. Really, these machinations are more about the avoidance of pitchers batting than taking advantage of it. The whole dance in which managers spend so much energy to optimize minor matchups, often costing them their best pitchers and best hitters runs counter to the idea of my best nine playing your best nine and let’s see who wins.

And it’s not like this will get better. If anything, it will only get worse. In the absence of any expectation for pitchers to hit before reaching the NL combined with the absence of any financial pressures that might make adding a specialist to the roster problematic, there is nothing that will incentivize teams to make their pitchers better hitters. It makes no real sense to have pitchers batting now.  We certainly wouldn’t set it up that way if we were starting from scratch today.

I think baseball will, eventually, expand the DH to the National League. It probably won’t be because one side of the great DH debate concedes defeat and the change is made for the greater good of the sport itself. Actually, I figure it will come as a result of some collective bargaining thing, in which the players give up something to the owners in exchange for 15 more high-paying roster spots. But it will happen. Probably within the next decade on the outside.

And when it happens I will be a little sad. But ultimately I must conclude that pitchers hitting is a lot like player-managers, automats, ornate bank lobbies, milkmen, drive-ins and any other number of 19th/20th century things which tickled my fancy. They were cool. I kinda miss them. But they are an artifact of history and today there is no logical reason to have them, even if it seemed natural and logical to have them once upon a time.

Report: Angels to acquire Ian Kinsler from the Tigers

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Update (9:38 PM ET): The Tigers will receive minor leaguers Wilkel Hernandez and Troy Montgomery from the Angels, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports.

Hernandez, 18, was signed by the Angels as an international free agent out of Venezuela in July 2015. This past year, in rookie ball, Hernandez posted a 2.64 ERA with a 44/22 K/BB ratio in 44 1/3 innings. MLB Pipeline rated him the Angels’ 24th-best prospect.

Montgomery, 23, was selected by the Angels in the eighth round of the 2016 draft. Between Single-A Burlington, High-A Inland Empire, and Double-A Mobile, Montgomery batted an aggregate .271/.358/.413 with eight home runs, 38 RBI, 62 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 434 plate appearances. MLB Pipeline rated him as the Angels’ 20th-best prospect.

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Angels will acquire second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Tigers. It is not known yet what the Tigers will receive in return. Kinsler had to waive his no-trade clause in order for the deal to happen.

Kinsler, 35, hit .236/.313/.412 with 22 home runs, 52 RBI, 90 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases in 613 plate appearances for the Tigers this past season. He’s in the final year of his contract and will earn $10 million for the 2018 season.

The Angels were certainly looking to upgrade at second base and did so with Kinsler. They were also reportedly interested in Cesar Hernandez of the Phillies.