Switching from the American League to the National League has some drawbacks for Yu Darvish.
Most pitchers love making the switch from the American League to the National League. The DH goes away and the eight-hole hitter is usually some sort of light-hitting infielder or utility player. It’s a much better place to pile up strikeouts and bring your ERA way down. Yu Darvish has enjoyed that part of his NL experience so far with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Darvish is 2-0 with a 2.50 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 18.0 innings since leaving Texas.
For Darvish, however, playing in the National League comes with some unpleasant moments — namely standing in to hit against fellow MLB pitchers.
In seven at-bats since joining the Dodgers, Darvish has struck out all seven times and has seen only 27 total pitches. Thirteen of his 21 MLB plate appearances have ended with a strikeout, but he does have three hits. There’s no reason to begrudge him his half-hearted swing against Carlos Rodon’s 91-mph fastball. Rodon has some very nasty stuff, even if he has not put it all together yet for the Chicago White Sox.
Swings like this are not all that uncommon, and it’s easy to tell when a pitcher has no interest in hitting. Nothing will ever quite top San Francisco Giants reliever Santiago Casilla being forced by chance to hit in the ninth inning of a game.
I do understand the love some baseball fans have for seeing pitchers hit. Don’t get me wrong, for every weak swing like Darvish’s there is a Madison Bumgarner home run, but it just feels like a waste of time on most occasions. Twelve MLB teams have a collective pitchers’ batting average below .100, including four National League teams who still bat their pitchers almost every game.
There are pros and cons for pitchers continuing to hit, but a few random home runs a year by the pitchers who are not completely helpless at the plate doesn’t seem like enough benefit to keep this tradition going. It’s only going to get worse as more players specialize at a younger age. Double switches to bring in an infielder off the end of the bench are nice, but give me a dominant reliever trying to figure out how to get David Ortiz out in the bottom of the ninth any day of the week.