In youth baseball, it’s often the Pitchers, Shortstops, Centerfielders who are the best all around athletes on the team. These three players on a youth team will regularly play two or three of these key positions. Also, due to arm strength requirements, there are many catchers who spend some of their time pitching. These players often bat in the top half of the order all the way through youth baseball and High School. They are quite often multi-sport athletes that contribute significantly to those other teams.
If you look at the major leagues, there’s a transition that occurs. Often you see players in these key defensive positions batting low in the order. One would think that a high performance athlete like an MLB pitcher would also be of use in a batting order. Other than Babe Ruth, I really struggle to come up with a name. Of course there are pitchers who swing a decent bat–for a pitcher, but I’m talking about someone who would be in the line up, even if he wasn’t on the bump. Surely, there is an athlete out there who could function as a DH when not pitching? When was the last time you saw a pitcher hit for himself in the American League?
What is the driving force behind the decline of the pitcher’s usefulness in the batting order? What’s the trigger that knocks these athletes out of contention for a regular spot in the defensive line up? Is it the need to protect the team’s investment? At what point does offensive production drop off to the point that it makes this disappearance from the batting order an inevitability?
What are your thoughts on this vexing topic?