Since my last two posts have been on the MLB’s service time rules and the unwritten rules of baseball, I thought I should continue this trend of oddities around the game. This one’s a little more fun, though. We’re going to talk about *cue Cut4*
We've got a first time…..
( (> PLAYER
<) )> PITCHING
— Cut4 (@Cut4) August 25, 2020
What Makes That So Special?
While in your standard Little League, or even in most high school leagues, there are no designations between pitchers and position players. Once you get to college baseball and beyond, players start to specialize. You have some outliers, such as current San Diego Padre Jake Cronenworth, but generally you end up with two types of players. However, some teams will use a position player to pitch when they’re down by a lot. This is so they don’t have to use one of their actual pitchers. This is done in an attempt to “save their arms” for closer games in the near future.
Fans on social media generally love when this happens, because there’s something so entertaining about someone who hasn’t pitched in years trying to prevent the world’s best baseball players from doing the things they’re paid to do – hit balls and score runs. Imagine, for example, a 300 lb defensive lineman setting up to score an extra point, or a third or forth string forward on your favorite hockey team putting on the pads to play goalie. Or even better, your team using an random Joe off the street emergency goalie! There’s something captivating about seeing athletes play out of position, no matter what sport that may be.
I think this is because it allows us, in some form, to imagine ourselves in the place of that player – especially if we played that sport in high school or college. This is a player who likely last pitched around the same time we last pitched, so if they can strike a guy or two out, maybe we can too. Of course, they’re still a professional and we’re not, but it brings them closer to our realm. It’s close enough to cause us to suspend our disbelief, in a sense.
It’s intriguing to note, too, that many times teams will use the same player as their “position player pitching.” Some players will have 4 or 5 outings during their career, especially if they did well the last time. And sometimes they do!
Shoutout to the inspiration for this article, this tweet from @MLBRandomStats:
Position players pitching have allowed 12 hits and 3 runs in 12.1 IP this year.
Phillies pitchers have allowed 26 hits and 18 runs in 14.2 IP in the ninth inning this year.
— Jeremy Frank (@MLBRandomStats) August 25, 2020
– Pat Shuman (@PShu1996 on Twitter)