This is an issue that comes up on Twitter every time the San Francisco Giants play in an American League park.
Why not just let Madison Bumgarner hit for himself instead of replacing him with a designated hitter?
I don’t think we ever thought it would go beyond Twitter banter. But today it did.
The Giants will become the first team to intentionally opt against using a designated hitter when playing in an American Park since 1976 when Bumgarner will bat for himself against the Oakland A’s on Thursday night.
Ever since the DH was first inacted by the American League in 1973, only four pitchers have hit for themselves instead of using a designated hitter: Fergie Jenkins of the Texas Rangers (1974), Ken Holtzman of the Oakland A’s (1975) and Ken Brett of the Chicago White Sox (twice in 1976). Andy Sonnanstine of the Tampa Bay Rays did it in 2009, but that was not by design but become of a lineup mixup.
Oddly enough, Sonnantine was one of only two pitcher to get a hit when hitting for the designated hitter when he went 1 for 3 in a 7-5 win over the Indians on May 17, 2009. Jenkins got that other hit.
So pitchers hitting in place of DHs are 2 for 13 (.154), which is probably why no one has done it on purpose in 30 years.
And then there’s the Giants.
“He’s a good hitter, he’s dangerous and we’re facing a lefty (in Oakland’s Dillon Overton),” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
Bumgarner is only hitting .175 this season, after hitting .247 last year and .258 in 2014. But he does have two home runs, five RBI and five walks.
But this decision has as much to do with the sorry state of affairs with the Giants lineup as anything.
Hunter Pence on the DL. Matt Duffy on the DL. Kelby Tommlinson on the DL. Joe Panik on the 7-day concussion DL. To make matters worse, Ramiro Pena left last night’s game after colliding with outfielder Mac Williamson.
So the options are limited.
No lineup has been announced, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see it look something like this.
CF Denard Span
LF Angel Pagan
1B Brandon Belt
C Buster Posey
SS Brandon Crawford
RF Mac Williamson
3B Conor Gillaspie
P Madison Bumgarner
2B Ruben Tejada
So Bochy’s decision boiled down to this: Do you want Trevor Brown in the DH spot (as Buster usually catches MadBum)? Or do you want MadBum hitting?
- Trevor Brown has a slash line of .258/.301/.412; Bumgarner .175/.261/.350
- Trevor Brown hits a home run once every 24 plate appearances this season; Bumgarner once every 20.
- Bumgarner strikes out 42.5 percent of the time; Brown 21.6 percent of the time.
- Bumgarner walks 12.5 percent of the time; Brown 5.2 percent.
But because the Giants have been going with the lean four-player bench, having Brown DH would leave them with two healthy players on the bench: Gregor Blanco and Jarrett Parker.
Given that the Giants are in a three-game skid with two games of paltry offense, Bochy is looking for anything to provide a spark.
That’s why MadBum hits.