Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Max Fried celebrates the last out in the first inning in Game 6 of baseball's World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Max Fried celebrates the last out in the first inning in Game 6 of baseball's World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Left-hander Max Fried just had a pretty good week, maybe his best since, oh, the week before, when the Atlanta Braves won the World Series.

Not only did he win a Gold Glove for the second year in a row, but Fried also won a Silver Slugger for being the best hitter at his position in the National League. Only two other pitchers in history, Zack Greinke in 2019 and Mike Hampton in 2003, won a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger in the same season.

The only thing missing from Fried’s to-do list is the Cy Young Award and, while he's not a finalist for that piece of hardware, Fried can watch the presentation next week and give himself something to shoot for next season. He's not all that far away; his 1.74 ERA in the second half led the major leagues.

It's even more likely that Fried will be able to take pride in being the last player ever — at least who's not named Shohei Ohtani — to win a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger in the same season.

One of the many details being covered by the owners and players in collective bargaining negotiations is making the designated hitter a permanent fixture in National League games. They tried it in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic shortened the MLB season, and the change was met without apocalyptic hysteria on the NL side, so it’s expected to become permanent over the course of CBA negotiations. Even with the DH in place universally, someone like Ohtani hypothetically would be winning the awards at two different positions — Gold Glove for pitcher and Silver Slugger for DH. Ohtani the unicorn would persevere, while Fried the dinosaur would become extinct.


Atlanta Braves' 2021 World Series parade celebration

And that's a good thing for Major League Baseball, which shouldn't continue with two sets of rules any longer. For one, major league pitchers of all kinds haven't been properly prepared to hit in decades. In the minors, pitchers don't hit in games below Double-A no matter their affiliation, and they only hit in Double-A or Triple-A games if both teams are NL affiliates.

Even so: Most of the professional pitchers absolutely stink at hitting when compared to their position-player counterparts. Most, as in closer to 99 percent than 51 percent. When he walks to the plate during a game, someone like Fried does so enthusiastically and confidently. Like he belongs in a batter’s box. But is he actually a good hitter?

Fried hit .273/.322/.327 with four walks, three doubles and 15 hits overall in 67 plate appearances. New York Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom had better percentages, but had only about half of the plate appearances because of injuries. Among pitchers with at least 20 plate appearances, deGrom was the only one with a weighted on-base average of .290 or higher. His .331 wOBA mark computes to above-average by, like, 15 percent. Fried was about 25 percent below average.

Not bad! Not bad for a pitcher. Compared to the typical utility infielder or even backup catcher, the sport wouldn't be missing much if most of these guys never got close to an on-deck circle again.

Not only is the hitting system unfair to all pitchers, it's particularly unfair to AL pitchers, who still have to prepare for interleague games after sometimes going literal years without hitting in games of any kind — in the minors and majors. We don't need to see any more pitchers straining a hamstring by running out a grounder, or doing something equally nonsensical during batting practice, just because that's how we used to do it 50 or 150 years ago. To expect them to go out and endanger their health to keep some half-considered tradition going is obscene.

The strategic factors are less important but, as we saw during the World Series when the Houston Astros put DH Yordan Álvarez in left field, making pitchers hit definitely puts one team at a competitive disadvantage. It’s another reason to bring the DH to both leagues.

These negatives outweigh the positives — which do exist.

There is "something" to be said for the ideal of complete ballplayers who compete in all phases of the game. There is "something" to be said for doing it that way because that's the way they've done it for 150 years. There is "something" to be said for adding an extra layer of tactics to a game, where the manager must consider pinch-hitting for his pitcher or keeping him out there because the bullpen can get a little rough — or because the pitcher might be capable of running into one like Madison Bumgarner. There is "something" to be said for the aesthetic differences in the leagues, which have been all-but erased by interleague play and other developments. Not to get all George Carlin, but the differences in MLB games from city to city — ballparks are like snowflakes, for example — are a plus. In football, you have 32 gridirons and they all measure to be the same surface area. Grr!

If MLB were having a conversation about eradicating the DH and making pitchers hit everywhere, it might be one thing. But there's no such groundswell of support for that, because nobody really wants more pitchers to hit. Zack Greinke getting a pinch-hit single for the Astros in Game 5 of the World Series was awesome. If you want to wait another 100 years for something like that to happen again, be my guest. Great moments with pitchers batting happen too sparingly. They're not worth it. Pitchers hitting, in general, is a complete joke, and only funny if they’re not hurting themselves.

MLB has to pray at the beginning of the season that at least one pitcher hits .250, lest the award look completely ridiculous by somebody winning it by hitting .150. It's happened a couple of times. A total of six pitchers have won Silver Sluggers batting under .200 since the award debuted in 1980. Nine times, the Silver Slugger went to someone who slugged under .300. Nine times! More like a sliver slugger. When Hampton won in 2000, he hit .274 — all singles. And they gave him a trophy!

So here’s to Max Fried. May he never have to grab a bat in competition again.

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