Baseball is crazy these days. Just a few nights ago, we saw Tampa Bay outfielder Brett Phillips pitch against reigning AL MVP Shohei Ohtani. The next day, Ohtani was on the mound to throw at Phillips. When was the last time something like this happened? We now have a universal DH. This shouldn’t happen!
Both Ohtani and Phillips did pretty well against each other. Ohtani doubled in his lone at bat against Phillips, but when the pair switched sides the next day, Phillips managed to walk and hit a single in his two at bats.
In encounters like these, I think, “Who would win in a nine-inning game: pitchers or position players?” I’m not the only one who thinks about that hypothetical one of both.
Except for the very wise man at the end, those guys were all clearly very biased. What this question needs is a centrist, someone with no dog in the fight who can give a clear, sober opinion. There is clearly no one better for the job than me.
The first thing we need to do is establish the rules for this imaginary game. Who can play in it? What about the DH? And which team does Shohei Ohtani play for? Why am I doing all this for a game that will never happen? Don’t worry about it.
First of all, this hypothetical game will only take place between current MLB players and current MLB players. No Babe Ruth. No Rick Angie. New Pablo Sandoval† He would be too overpowered anyway. In addition, all pre-existing injuries, such as that of Fernando Tatís Jr. and Jacob deGrom, for this to lapse. Everyone is happy and healthy in our fictional utopia.
Second, this game will work with modern MLB rules, meaning a universal DH is fine. While either team’s pitcher may also participate as a designated batter, either team may also choose to use another player for their designated batter role.
Finally, while Shohei Ohtani is classified as both a designated batter and pitcher on his baseball reference page, for the purposes of this article, we are going to put Ohtani on the pitchers side. He rarely plays on the field and is part of a rotation where he has days off so I think he’s more of a pitcher than a batter already.
Now let’s put the teams together. We will decide the pitchers’ positions on the field based on positions they have played in the past or positions they have publicly inquired about before. The position players’ team will be mostly All-Stars in their natural positions, but we’ll need at least one person on the mound. I might even name a few players because these position players probably don’t have the stamina to last a whole 9 innings game. Anyway, here are the teams, with some explanation.
Team Position Players:
C Yasmani Grandal – JT Realmuto considered, but I thought Grandal’s walking ability would be better served in this setup than Realmuto’s speed. Perhaps Yadier Molina could be considered, as he is a pitching coach in his own right and the pitchers definitely need some advice in this game.
1B Freddie Freeman – great glove, great plate discipline, easy choice.
2B José Altuve – could defend Marcus Semien, but his 2022 struggle is cause for concern; could also make a case for Ketel Marte or Brandon Lowe.
3B José Ramírez – Sorry Arenado stans, Ramírez is the pinnacle in the hot corner.
SS Fernando Tatis Jr. – I was thinking of Trea Turner, but no. Defense is important, but it matters much less when pitchers are at the plate.
FROM Mike Trout – duh
OR Byron Buxton – doubtful
FROM Ronald Acuña Jr. – mainly because I don’t like Bryce Harper that much.
DH Juan Soto – again it’s because I don’t like Bryce Harper.
SP Charlie Culberson – in 5.1 career innings pitched, Culberson has a 1.69 ERA† In 2018, Culberson hurled the fastest pitch thrown by a position player since 2016 – 93.7 mph.
RP Brett Phillips
RP Williams Astudillo
RP JD Davis
C Kenley Jansen – a catcher in the Minor Leagues. He also has a career average of .333 in the Majors with one double and had 15 career dingers in the Minors
1B Madison Bumgarner – you knew he would be on this team. Although Bumgarner had told Bruce Bochy, the former Giants manager, that he wanted to play shortstop after scoring his first grand slam of his career on April 11, 2014, he threw a lefty, relegating Bumgarner to first base or to the outfield. . He is 1.80 meters. He plays first.
2B Zack Greinke – although he never played there, his .225 batting average is too good to pass. His arm isn’t what it used to be, so putting it second is the logical choice.
3B Noah Syndergaard – he has six career dinghies. Not bad. Not bad. Also, his lefty bat will fit in well with this lineup that lacks pop from that side of the plate. And look at his hair. He has the hot corner written all over him.
SS Kenta Maeda – Maeda isn’t the best on the record, but he would be usable, especially with position players throwing at him. Although he never played in the infield, he made one appearance as a leftfielder during his stay in Japan. That gives him more field experience than most MLB pitchers, and since defense is a priority in building this team, he’s an obvious choice.
OR Sean Doolittle – lefty, relegated to the outfield; raised as first baseman in the minors.
OR Shohei Ohtani – duh
OR Michael Lorenzen – career .233 batting average; has played 96 career innings in the outfield.
SP Jacob deGrom – yes, Jacob deGrom was originally a short stop so it would make sense to put him there. He’s not slow on the plate either, but just because he’s throwing doesn’t mean he can’t also DH. The pitching team needs deGrom on the mound. deGrom could probably hold the batters to three runs on his own, meaning the pitchers don’t have to score much to win the game. deGrom is so far the best pitcher in baseball that there is no point in putting him anywhere else. If he can play a full game, there is reason to believe that the pitchers can win.
RP Josh Hader – preferably deGrom would go all nine but just in case you also need to get a good close up. You could make a case for Liam Hendriks. However, I would prefer the left-right combination of Hader and deGrom over Hendriks, even though Hendriks is the slightly better reliever.
Are there any players I missed on the pitching team? Maybe, but I think I did pretty well. So now comes the question of the game itself. The questions surrounding this game would be, “Can deGrom limit players’ position to two or fewer runs with a terrible defense behind him?” and “Can the center of the pitchers’ line-up collect enough basehits to drive into runs?”
The fact that neither question revolves around the team of position players is probably a good indication that the position players are and should be the favored team. They know how to defend. They regularly face top pitches and as untouchable as theGrom is, these players are the best of the best. It would be hard to imagine a game where they don’t tag the Mets’ ace at least once or twice.
That said, I wouldn’t say this game is unwinnable for the pitchers. There is a very real chance that Bumgarner, Syndergaard, deGrom, Ohtani or Jansen Culberson could hit deep. Bumgarner wanted to participate in the Home Run Derby for God sake. If that can only happen four times, that’s enough support for the Grom, who has only allowed more than four earned runs at a start three times since the start of 2018. If I were Vegas, I’d put the line on Position Players (-180). The line would be Position Players (-2.5) and the over/under for the game would be 5.5. Of course, this is all speculation for a game that will never happen. As the wise man in the TikTok said, “Don’t ask stupid questions”, but that’s what I do best.