Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pitchers Hitting

We voted some time ago to abolish the DH after the upcoming season, but we never decided exactly how we would change the rules to implement this. There's a rule in our constitution which prohibits pitchers from batting; obviously that will have to be removed, but what will go in its place? I'd like to lay out the possibilities and get a discussion going, so that when the time comes to vote on something we can do so with informed opinions.

The first question is, will we allow pitchers to pinch-hit? The answer to this drives the rest of the discussion. The simplest course would be to say that pitchers cannot pinch hit, that they may only bat if they are in the game when their turn at the plate comes. With that rule, we wouldn't need any other limits on pitcher batting. (You could abuse the system to a slight extent by bringing in a good-hitting reliever with two out the inning before the pitcher's spot is due to bat, but I don't think there's a way to rule this out short of bending the game completely out of shape.)

On the other hand, the case for allowing pitchers to pinch hit is that we're playing National League rules, and in the NL pitchers can and do pinch-hit. Teams with good-hitting pitchers are, I'm sure, looking forward to taking advantage of them. (Full disclosure: Micah Owings is on my roster.) And there may not be a way of preventing the CM from pinch-hitting with a pitcher; I've never played a game on the computer without the DH rule, so I don't know how the CM functions under that condition.

If we do allow this, we absolutely need limits on the number of times each pitcher can bat; otherwise every pitcher with a #3 rating or better will be trotted off the bench 130 times a year. We can't base the limit on real-life at-bats; an American League starter will blow by his actual total his first month in a BRASS rotation. Maybe someone has another idea, but I see only two alternatives: a flat limit for any pitcher (say, 80 PA for starters, 15 for relievers) or a limit based on innings (perhaps 1/3 of a pitcher's IP; it would have to be at least that, or some starters might be forced to leave games late in the season because they were running out of PA's).

And this leads to something which might not have occured to everyone. Any reasonable limit rules will leave a team with some 200-odd available pitcher PA's more than are needed for the normal in-game situations where pitchers bat for themselves. A team with position-player shortages will be able to pinch-hit for position players with pitchers just to save at-bats for the position players. You may consider this a welcome addition to the toolbox or you may think it's an abuse, but it's something to keep in mind.

If you do consider it an abuse, you might want a rule which forbids pitchers to bat for position players, while still allowing them to hit for other pitchers.

I think that lays out the issues we need to consider. Now let's see some comments.

3 Swings of the bat:

dwdick said...

I think the most prudent course is to not limit at-bats, as that can in effect limit the innings your pitcher can pitch.

I've played in multiple leagues that don't use a DH and I have never seen HAL bring in a pitcher to pinch hit.

I think it would be prudent to have a rule that states pitchers are not allowed to pinch hit for position players and are only allowed to pinch hit for other pitchers. We're only talking about a handful of pitchers that will have useful hitting cards, so it shouldn't be that big of a deal.

David Silverberg said...

BLOC league does not place limits on this, and honestly, the amount of games it impacts seems to be minimal. I mean, I had CC Sabathia hit a couple of bombs for me this year, and I had Wainwright PH for a game-winner against me, but in the big picture it will be small impact. I think less rules is more in this case, and with PA restrictions being so severe, I like the toolbox option of bailing out limited guys with a pitcher pitch-hitting for them.

Steve Klein said...

Any at-bats limit for pitchers definitely has to be large enough that it doesn't limit their innings. But if I have a #8-hitting pitcher (Micah Owings won't have that rating in the '09 set, but he does for '08 and is a threat to get it back any time), and his at-bats aren't limited at all, he'll be the first guy off the bench in any home game or Netplayed away game where I hit for the pitcher. If he gets, say, 50 pinch appearances and I win the division by one game, my opponents will probably think it's a pretty big deal.