Dear fans of the National League, your time of watching a pitcher hit needs to end now. I don’t want to hear your argument about how it “dumbs down” the game, because in reality having the pitcher still hit is what dumbs down the sport. People make the argument that if you don’t play the field, you shouldn’t be allowed to hit. Well, okay, that’s fine, but if that’s the case, pitchers need to be better hitters then. What are pitchers acquired for? Their pitching, but please, let me know when their bat is also a reason. And no, just because Madison Bumgarner is a good hitter (and he actually isn’t as he just hits better than a normal pitcher does), that is not a good enough reason. Fans also pay to see pitchers pitch, not hit. One thing you’ll notice in this column is I leave one important argument out because while it’s a great one, it’s just used all the time.
With the news a couple months back about possibly seeing the designated hitter coming to the NL according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal as the Major League Baseball Player Association proposed to bring on a universal DH as, according to the article, has been something the MLBPA has been trying to do for nearly three decades. The hope was to implement the DH this season, but realistically that won’t happen until next year or even 2021.
However, the players recognize it too, as it not only produces another job, but they also recognize that pitchers are bought for their pitching and not their hitting. And if anything, most players who are for this for a NL team will be very happy as it will give some players that should be playing every day a chance to do so.
It is obvious pitchers cannot hit. No, Madison Bumgarner is not the “exception” as his numbers are still very poor despite his ability to hit “better.” Last year, the slash line for pitchers overall was a .115 batting average with a .144 on-base percentage and .149 slugging percentage in a combined 4,524 at-bats. So why risk keeping in a player in the lineup who can’t contribute offensively on a regular basis? It makes more sense that all nine players in the lineup can produce. What’s the point of having a pitcher hit in a key situation when everybody knows that it’s basically an automatic out. It makes the game less exciting. The “No DH” people always try to point out when a pitcher actually contributes to a game and always try to say that’s the reason why the DH should not come to the NL. The numbers above don’t lie and because it happens once in a blue moon, it doesn’t mean that pitchers should be still hitting.
Then there is the argument about whether the DH actually “dumbs down” the game. Many fans from the National League say that the DH doesn’t provide any strategy at all. Oh, so finding ways with the double switch and pinch hitting for a pitcher is strategy? Maybe more so if that was the case for all position players, but its not. Literally the strategy is to find ways to not have the pitcher hit. That’s it.
Having the designated hitter not only gives more roster flexibility, it also provides more strategy. More strategy, you say? How so!? Well, it’s quite simple. Here are a few ways that it provides more strategy:
- Get a player with power implemented into the lineup
- Get a player with speed in the lineup
- Someone who hits better against left handed/right handed pitchers
- Someone who hits well against a certain pitcher
- Adding another right handed/left handed bat against a right handed/left handed starting pitcher
- Giving someone a day off from the field
- Improving a teams defense on a certain day by putting someone whose defense is not as strong at the DH and keeping his bat in the lineup, while putting someone whose defense is better in the field.
- Get a player who gets on base in the lineup
- Someone who has been hitting well and are trying to find a way to keep them in the lineup
- Someone whose defense is terrible, but who’s bat is a plus
- Someone who is a good contact hitter
- Someone who is a switch hitter
There are more ways, but twelve right off the bat (no pun intended) should suggest that yes, there is strategy involved with the DH. I love the flexibility it gives, plus you can slot the DH anywhere in the lineup like as the leadoff hitter, in the middle, or even at the nine hole. An example would be the 2016 White Sox as they could’ve used Adam Eaton as a DH or Jimmy Rollins at times so that Tyler Saladino could see the field. However, there are many reasons why it should be used.
One of the biggest things the DH provides is extending careers of aging players, but that’s what it’s traditionally known as. What the DH is now known for is a lot different. However, one of the biggest arguments that it provides is the ability to prevent injuries to key players, most importantly pitchers. It was a shame for the St. Louis Cardinals to lose Adam Wainwright, a Cy Young caliber pitcher, in 2015 after he suffered an injury in an at bat. The Cardinals made the playoffs that year and lost to the Chicago Cubs in the Divisional Round, but if Wainwright was healthy, the Cardinals might have made a trip to the National League Championship Series or even the World Series. Other pitchers that had gotten hurt because of an at-bat were Max Scherzer and Ryan Vogelsong. Speaking of the Cubs, another thing the DH does is it can protect key batters too as in 2016, early in the season, their prized slugger Kyle Schwarber was injured trying to make a catch and he is someone who should have not been playing in the field in general. Had the DH been implemented then and he was the DH, he might have played for a full season.
However, there will always be the people who claim they are traditionalists and who say the DH diminishes the game. It does? The DH has been around since 1973, nearly 50 years now, and many generations have grown up watching it or it’s all they have ever known. So spare me with your “tradition” talk. Yes, that was how baseball was played back in the days, but you have to be progressive. And then there is the argument that if you play the field, you hit. Okay, well that’s fine, but if the pitcher is a legitimate hitting threat, then by all means you have a good point. Oh they don’t hit well? Then that point is moot. Also, in 1980, a committee of NL executives were holding a yes/no vote to the designated hitter being implemented. Of the 12 teams represented of that committee, a majority vote was needed to approve of the designated hitter. It was expected to pass, however, Phillies vice president Bill Giles was tasked to represent the team while the owner Ruly Carpenter was on a fishing trip and being unsure of how he would vote, they could not contact him, Giles was forced to abstain from voting. Also, the Pirates told their representative to vote with the Phillies. Since then, no vote has been held. But that’s literally the only reason the DH has not been in the NL. That’s literally it. Otherwise, we would’ve very likely have watched the DH in the NL for the last 39 years.
That pretty much covers why the DH needs to come to the NL. Most of the arguments here pretty much shows that the DH not only is best for the NL, it must be implemented. NL baseball is losing casual fans because it’s stuck in its old ways. To me, baseball is baseball, no matter what. I can watch baseball any way it’s played, however, for me, there are ways I want it to be played just because it’s a better way and that would be having the DH. The NL is one of only two professional leagues in the entire world to not use the DH (Central League in the Nippon League in Japan is the other). It’s used on the international stage and pretty frequently in Spring Training games, so clearly the DH is the way to go anymore. The players want it too and that right there speaks volumes.
The one argument I did not use to justify my claim, and simply didn’t use it because it’s not only obvious, but used all the time is about fairness. There is an unfair advantage when an away team plays against another team at home from the opposing league as the rules help the home team in that situation. Having two different sets of rules in a sport makes no logical sense. Another argument is that pitchers basically don’t hit from high school and college before going pro, so when they start hitting professionally, that’s unfair to them. The best analogy that I’ve heard about pitchers hitting for the first time since Little League essentially is like when you go from a driving range at a golfing venue to immediately go play in The Masters. It’s just silly.
The funny thing is that the league that would benefit the most from the DH is the National league ironically. Getting that player who needs consistent at bats to have them finally would be huge for those NL teams. Fans of NL teams might have a hard time liking the rule change, but once they see it on a regular basis, I guarantee they will love it.