Back on June 2, Madison Bumgarner – pitcher extraordinaire – stepped up to the plate against the Braves’ Aaron Blair and launched a massive 424 foot home run out of Turner Field.
The home run was Bumgarner’s second for the season, and actually his 11th in his past 190 plate appearances. Why is that notable? Well, each of Mike Trout and Bryce Harper – two of the best hitters on the planet – also had exactly 11 home runs in their last 190 plate appearances at that point.
Of course, no one is arguing that Bumgarner is as good of a hitter as either one of those sluggers, but the stat remains interesting, nonetheless. But that’s not all. After that home run – and a prodigious display of power in batting practice was shared – Madison Bumgarner openly asked to participate in the upcoming home run derby, and now he’s not alone.
In fact, this idea might have some serious wheels, albeit with a slight twist.
Once Bumgarner publicly requested his hat be thrown in the home run derby ring, some other pitchers followed suit. In fact, the Cubs’ own ace, Jake Arrieta, wants to participate, because – surprise! – he thinks he might be pretty good at it.
“We (Arrieta and Bumgarner) both love to hit,” Arrieta said via Carrie Muskat at Cubs.com. “You talk to a lot of people who don’t like pitchers to hit, but we love it. We take it really seriously. We’re in the cage hitting, we’re actually trying to work on things. We have the ability to help ourselves out. I’m not going up there trying to make an out.” He later added that air of confidence that has become synonymous with Arrieta’s name. “People think we can’t hit …. We’ll show you we can hit home runs.”
Arrieta may not have as many career home runs as Bumgarner, but he does have three of his own in his last 116 plate appearances, including a massive 442 foot shot off of Shelby Miller earlier this season (the third longest by a Cubs this year).
And the ball continues to roll:
— Adam Wainwright (@UncleCharlie50) June 12, 2016
— Noah Syndergaard (@Noahsyndergaard) June 11, 2016
And if you think this is all a big joke, or just a couple of pitchers having a bit of fun, you might be wrong. In fact, I’m fairly certain that this is being taken seriously and discussed with an eye towards making it happen. That said, what’s actually being discussed is not the replacement of actual sluggers with pitchers for novelty’s sake. Instead, MLB might entertain a stand alone pitchers’ Home Run Derby:
The Giants had conversations today about Bumgarner being in Derby. Idea floated is a P's Derby. SF open to ideas; he wants to be in Derby.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) June 13, 2016
And in a lot of ways that makes a great deal more sense. Although Bumgarner might technically be qualified enough (as a hitter) to participate in the traditional Home Run Derby, a separate pitchers’ version might alleviate many concerns. If there is a a separate derby, more variables can be accounted for/controlled; most obviously, making it shorter in terms of outs/pitches allowed.
But I wouldn’t worry too much about injuries or any other negative effects of participation. I believe that particular narrative (in regards to the Home Run Derby) has long been blown out of proportion for hitters and I suspect the same would ring true for pitchers. For example, Joe Maddon isn’t concerned. “Everybody’s afraid of injuries,” Maddon said via Cubs.com. “Everybody’s afraid everybody’s going to get hurt every day. I don’t subscribe to that theory, so I don’t worry about it.” But even Maddon would prefer a scaled down version of the event for pitchers. I think that’s a nice compromise.
I’m in favor of the compromise, because – although I don’t want Arrieta to even slightly increase the chances of getting hurt – I’d love to see that contest. A separate home run derby might be the only way to make that happen. In addition to Arrieta, Bumgarner and Wainwright, other potential contestants include Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Zack Greinke. Tell me you wouldn’t just love to see that. I think most people would.
And in the end, isn’t that what we do this for? I know the Cubs have bigger and better things on their mind, but don’t lose the forest for the trees. Baseball is the entertainment of fans by the use of talent, and this would be an excellent use of that talent. Jake Arrieta is a big, strong, competitive dude who wants to represent himself and the Cubs in a fun tournament. I hope it happens, he participates, and ultimately wins. If this really is the Cubs year, let’s take home as much hardware as possible, yeah?