To be honest, my motive was to address several other articles I had read recently that offered up hope that the arrival of the designated hitter in the National League would occur soon enough to provide a solution for Adams’ playing time need with the Cardinals. Simply put, that does not seem to be the case.
A by-product of my extra writing was a re-opening of the long-festering wounds caused by the DH.
In the comments section of the earlier post, Lou Schuler posed a number of related thoughts. As my response grew in length, I decided to turn it into its own post.
My summary of Lou’s key points:
- Despite being a traditionalist, he wishes the NL would adopt the DH.
- Because baseball uses the DH at all levels, MLB pitchers are unprepared to hit.
- Precious MLB outs are wasted on unproductive hitters.
- Having no DH forces older players out of the game sooner than if there was a universal DH.
These are each solid points, worthy of discussion. I will address them all, though in a slightly different sequence.
I agree with a comment that blingboy made following the initial article. The strategies inherent with the pitcher hitting make for a better, more interesting game. Tony La Russa, who has World Championships in both leagues, has often made this point. Of course, this is a matter of preference, of opinion.
Like Lou, I am a traditionalist at heart and have been against the DH since before it was first implemented in 1973. Unlike him, I have not softened my fundamental opposition – or have I?
Despite what Commissioner Selig said in his quote included in the first article, I think the difference in rules between leagues does hurt the game – and it is only going to get worse. As the number of interleague games increase, I believe the inherent differences in roster construction favor the AL.
In fact, my concern over the AL-NL difference has led me to modify my long-standing point of view. My stance has evolved to the point that would I rather see both leagues use consistent rules, even if that means the NL adopting the DH.
Of course, that is exactly what it means.
As many others have noted, there is only one direction to get the leagues back together. The AL is never going back to pitchers hitting and the Players Union would not agree, even if the owners did.
How many less unproductive outs might there be?
I had some fun with the unproductive outs point. Last season, NL pitchers logged a collective .129 batting average. Quite mediocre, indeed. In the AL, the DHs were a collective .256, almost double.
In the following quick-and-dirty analysis, I looked at how many more hits those batting in the place of the NL pitchers over the same number of at-bats would have needed to average .256, like the AL DHs.
(I purposely held the number of pitcher/NL DH at-bats constant at 298, since the other at-bats in the pitchers’ spot in the NL were already taken by more accomplished hitters.)
|2012 team average||Average||At-bats||Hits||Hit increase|
|AL designated hitters||0.256||581||149|
|NL DH incremental||0.256||298||76||37|
As the data indicates, at this most basic of levels, the incremental increase per team over the course of the season would be just 37 hits in total, or about one more hit every 39 innings or 4 1/3 games!
Is the DH really worth that?
I readily admit that I did not look at on-base, slugging, RBI, runs scored or any additional stats that would accentuate the difference.
Keeping older players in the game
I don’t think older men leaving the game because they are no longer able to function as complete players at a major league level of performance is necessarily a bad thing.
As crdswmn touched on, pushing the game more in favor of hitting may interest the casual fan, but I am among those who prefer a better balance.
MLB pitchers are ill-prepared to hit
The observation that all levels from youth baseball on up deploy the DH is a compelling argument – but only to a point. Usually the players that eventually reach the majors were the best athletes at whatever the level of amateur play at which they competed. If anything, they were probably the best hitters, as well as best at throwing and defense and everything else. They probably played in the field and hit on the days they were not pitching.
I have not researched the contention that elite college pitchers do not hit, so will not dispute it. We should note that some players are drafted directly out of high school, though.
Certainly, professional pitchers do not get as thorough hitting training as back in the pre-DH days. Unless both leagues standardize, this would not change.
I believe that what I call “the surround factor” will eventually contribute to universal implementation of the designated hitter. After four decades, the DH has become too ingrained to be phased out. It may take years more, as Selig has tied it to geographic realignment, but MLB will eventually get there, I predict.