Giants starter Madison Bumgarner, known as one of the best hitting pitchers in the game, opened up in a San Francisco Chronicle story Monday about his lack of power as a player, his disdain for recent MLB rule changes, and the absurdity of pitchers who don’t want to hit and run the bases out of fear of injury.
MLB rule changes ‘out of hand’
One of the biggest debates in baseball right now is over the need for rule changes to speed up the pace of play, and protect players from potential injury. Rules already implemented include a limit on mound visits, video replay challenges, and the amount of time relievers have to get in the game. A handful of other rules, including a pitch clock, have been proposed.
Bumgarner, best known for his stellar 2014 World Series performance in which he threw 21 innings over three of the seven games, is against the changes.
“I understand they don’t care what I say,” Bumgarner said. “I’ll play whatever rules we have, but I think it’s kind of getting out of hand.”
Given Bumgarner’s status as a revered veteran, it’s also a powerful statement that he believes MLB doesn’t care what he says.
Baseball strategy is more interesting without the DH
As MLB officials and a growing number of players seem to be in favor of enacting a universal DH, Bumgarner got real about the level of strategy required by teams when they don’t use a DH. However, he acknowledged that there are upsides from a hitter’s perspective.
“There’s 100 percent more strategy. You see American League managers — the game moves a little quick for them when they come over here. That might offend some people. It’s the truth. It’s a more difficult game to manage. At the same time, you’re giving more (hitters) jobs. I get that, too. There are two sides to it,” he said.
In his 10 years of MLB experience in the National League, Bumgarner has hit 17 home runs – five of which came in 2015 alone – so he is somewhat of an outlier as a pitcher who is actually good at hitting. Eliminating the DH would effectively lower his value as a player.
Out of seeming frustration, the Chronicle reported, Bumgarner claims not to care what happens:
“Honestly, I don’t care anymore,” he said. “We’ve changed so many rules, I can’t keep up with it. I play the game that they have for us. Who knows what that’s going to be when I’m finished, as much as I’ve seen changes in the little time I’ve been here.”
Bumgarner questions the reasoning behind universalizing DH
There are a number of reasons used to argue that the DH should apply across both leagues. Those include standardizing rules across MLB, making interleague play more fair, and avoiding injuries sustained by pitchers while hitting.
However, as Bumgarner said, not having a DH allows increased use of managerial strategy, preserves baseball tradition, and allows pitchers to help themselves get their teams wins as two-way players.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Bumgarner said. “My job is pitching. That’s what I’m going to focus on doing. But the whole reason I work on hitting is because that’s how we play in the National League. You can help a team win a game. Like you saw (Thursday) night, cases like that or getting a bunt down, whatever it might be.”
Bumgarner drove in a run via a sac fly in his eight-inning shut-out performance last Thursday night.
Further, he noted that pitchers usually run as part of their conditioning, so it is odd to use fear of running the bases as a reason not to hit. This issue was reignited recently when Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka strained both hamstrings running the bases and had to hit the DL.
“I don’t understand,” Bumgarner said. “As pitchers, we do all kinds of running. I don’t know what the reason is. Maybe some guys don’t run, I don’t know. Here, we run our guys every day. There’s no difference running as part of a workout or running during a game.”
Bumgarner certainly is not the only MLB player to have voiced his concerns – in February, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen called pace of play rules “ridiculous” – but he took on much more than most current players have dared to.
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