Tonight in Oakland, the San Francisco Giants take on the Oakland Athletics. Madison Bumgarner is on the bump for the Giants, but here's the fun thing: Manager Bruce Bochy has elected to forgo the designated hitter and let Bumgarner hit.
We all know Bumgarner can swing the stick. With 11 home runs in 183 at-bats during the past three seasons, he has a higher home run rate than Bryce Harper or Josh Donaldson. After hitting .247 with five home runs in 2015, he's hitting .175 with two home runs in 2016. He has, however, drawn five walks in just 46 plate appearances, a sign that opposing pitchers are pitching with a great deal of respect. That's more walks than Gerardo Parra has drawn in 249 plate appearances and half as many as Matt Kemp.
— MLB (@MLB) June 30, 2016
I'm more afraid of Mad Bum than the rest of the Giants lineup...
— J ⚾️ (@jeff_gray_) June 30, 2016
Still, this is an unusual move. It's the first time a National League manager has let his pitcher hit in an interleague game. Other than a mistake Joe Maddon made when filling out his lineup card in a 2009 game -- forcing Andy Sonnanstine to hit for the Rays -- it's the first time a pitcher has hit in a DH game since 1976, when Ken Brett did it twice for the White Sox. Brett went just 1-for-12 that year, but hit .262/.291/.406 in his career, better than most middle infielders of that era. (Yankees manager Billy Martin used pitcher Rick Rhoden as a DH in a 1988 game, but he didn't pitch that day.)
Is this a slap in the face to Giants position players? Not really. With Joe Panik just landing on the concussion DL and Hunter Pence and Matt Duffy also on the DL, the Giants are short-handed as is on offense. Bumgarner is probably their best option. Bumgarner hits right-handed and with lefty Dillon Overton starting for the Giants, Bochy's other options were lefty-swinging Gregor Blanco or Jarrett Parker, or backup catcher Trevor Brown (with Buster Posey getting a day off and serving as the DH).
In fact, the bigger question may be: How come Bochy doesn't use Bumgarner more as a pinch-hitter? He hasn't used him at all this season, just four times last year and just once in 2014 (and that was in the 11th inning).