It Still Happens – Pitchers Hitting In The Postseason (And Making A Difference)
In 20 times at bat, Dodger great, Sandy Koufax got only one hit in postseason play.
Koufax is leaving the batters box after stroking a single in game six of the 1965 World Series driving in Ron Fairly. Koufax’s single gave the Dodgers a 6-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh in an eventual 7-0 shutout over the Minnesota Twins. It wasn’t Koufax’s hitting that won the game, it was the complete game, four hitter with 10 strikeouts that he hurled. Still to everyone watching, sans Twin fans, Koufax’s hit was a pleasant surprise.
The Dodgers went on to win the seventh game and Koufax was named the series MVP.
Koufax was one of the worst hitters ever, compiling a minuscule .097 career batting average over 12 seasons. But no one ever came to see Koufax hit, they came to see him pitch. As bad as a hitter as Koufax was there was always the slim chance that he might get a base hit. And when he did guess what? It was exciting.
The use of the designated hitter in the American League and the DH’s use in World Series games only in American League ballparks has effectively eliminated the thrill out of watching the pitcher impacting the game with his bat.
So in this day and age when it is considered a shock when a pitcher comes to the plate and gets a hit, it is refreshing to see pitchers in the 2016 postseason hitting and making a difference in many games.
Giants starter Madison Bumgarner was actually used as a pinch-hitter in game two of the NLDS playoff game against the Cubs. In that same game, Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks singled in two runs and reliever Travis Wood blasted a home run against the Giants pitcher George Kontos.
Then in the next game of the series Cubs starter Jake Arrieta hit a three run homer against the Giants. In the fourth inning of game 4 Giants pitcher Matt Moore singled home the go ahead run in a losing effort.
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw helped his own cause in game four against the Washington Nationals by doubling and scoring the go-ahead run in what ended up being a 6-5 L.A. victory.
If you polled baseball fans most would say they want more offense and never have pitchers bat. It’s true that around eight and a half times out of ten the pitcher will make an out. Pitchers are thought of as automatic outs.
But maybe, just maybe its because baseball has become so blase that it is expected that pitchers cannot do anything beyond their specialization, which is to pitch. Most pitchers seem to have lost the ability to play an all around game. In the past some pitchers not only used to hit, but hit well, and would be regularly used as pinch hitters. Maybe this postseason is changing some people’s minds about pitchers batting. Unfortunately, not the people who run MLB. They will continue to have two sets of arcane rules for two leagues that ceased long ago to have any apparent differences. Why one has the designated hitter and the other doesn’t is just silly at this point.
As for me, I believe the pitcher batting is a good thing for baseball. I like the chance, even if it is a small one, of the pitcher changing postseason game outcomes, not with his pitching, but with his bat.