DH, no DH, or a compromise

The drumbeat is increasing in volume. Each year it becomes more and more apparent that a sport can not go on forever using different rules.

In football the AFC doesn’t have the option for going for two points while NFC teams playing against others in their conference can only kick for the one.

In basketball the three point line is the same distance from the hoop for every team.

And we don’t have the goalie restricting trapezoids in some hockey arenas in the NHL and not in others.

But in major league baseball going all the way back to 1973 the American League has used the Designated Hitter rule while the NL has eschewed (as in “shoo – go away”).

As a National League fan and traditionalist I have always opposed the use of the DH. If baseball were to name me the dictator for a day I would happily throw out the DH rule, tell the Wilpons to sell the Mets, and then retire happily.

None of that is happening and all indications are that the pro-DH forces have just about won this war. There is little doubt that if baseball fans had to vote the DH up or down that up would win and probably win handily. It’s likely that baseball execs would give it the same result if they were the ones voting.

If we agree that both leagues should play by the same rules – and it is awfully hard to make the case against that – then some time in the next few years both leagues will be using the DH rule.

Not to go down without a fight I wonder if some kind of compromise could be reached which would give each side a partial victory.

We know that the pro-DH people think it silly to have pitchers come up to bat and be virtually helpless at the plate. To some, like myself, it’s part of the charm. We are so used to seeing people who are great at hitting baseballs (people like Ruben Tejada excepted) facing people who are great at throwing baseballs that it is easy to forget how daunting a task it is. When a pitcher comes to bat we see what happens to a regular human facing a 90+ mile per hour fastball or a darting breaking pitch.

Baseball is trying to speed games up while American League games routinely take longer than National League games. This is because the DH makes almost all pitching changes occur during innings adding more of those close to two minute breaks. In the NL many pitching changes occur after a pinch-hitter has done his thing for the pitcher. No extra timeout added there.

A compromise would have to preserve the jobs of DH types like David Ortiz, Billy Butler, and Chris Carter while simultaneously maintaining some of the strategies that we NL fans like.

Here’s a rough draft of my plan.

Both leagues adopt a rule in which their team’s pitcher can be pinchhit for a maximum of two times per game. Those two times the pitcher need not be removed from the game and the first pinchhitter remains eligible to be used later as a pinch-hitter or as a replacement in the field. The second time the pitcher is hit for the pinch batter is out of the game unless he is moved into a defensive position.

So what does this do?

The career DH’s still have jobs although the numbers of at bats they will get in the season will be down.

Managers have new strategies to create. No one on, two outs, and the pitcher is due. Maybe it’s best not to waste a pinchhitter here. Or runner on 1B with no outs – let the pitcher come up and bunt rather than using one of the precious free pinch hit opportunities. Could even avoid some DPs that way.

The pitchers who have a clue with the stick, e.g. Jacob deGrom, will give their managers an extra edge. Those guys who barely know which end of the bat to hold, e.g. Bartolo Colon, will likely need the pinchhitter the first two times the 9-hole rolls around.

The chance of a compromise like this being passed by major league baseball is admittedly very small. More likely we will all be telling our grandchildren how we remember way back when when even the pitchers had to come to bat when it was their turn.

8 comments for “DH, no DH, or a compromise

  1. blaiseda
    April 20, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    Good article and nice try. Id like to see the DH thrown out as well, but I agree I think it’s going the other way. One other point.. watching pitchers bat isn’t the same as watching normal people try to hit.. they are still top athlete’s they just don’t practice hitting enough… if you put a normal 32 year old at the plate versus the worst MLB pitcher it would look far worse then even Barolo hitting as they would not be able to even get the bat moving before the ball was in the catcher’s glove.

    ….

    • Larry Smith
      April 20, 2015 at 4:21 pm

      I disagree with that to a minor extent. I am certainly no great athlete yet when I was in my 30s and 40s I tried at time to hit against a pitching machine set at its highest speed which I guess would be around 90 mph. I didn’t make much contact but had my share of foul balls and dribblers. So I think an average adult could at least get a swing going.
      But it’s fun to think of it.

  2. April 20, 2015 at 4:20 pm

    Respectfully, I don’t think the answer on how to resolve a dilemma surrounding a gimmick is to create another gimmick.

    I look at it like this — it gives fans the option to watch the type of baseball they prefer. If you hate watching pitchers hit, gravitate towards the AL. If you prefer ballplayers to perform on both sides of the ball, gravitate towards the NL.

    Instead of looking at it like a bug – view it as a feature.

  3. Eraff
    April 20, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    My solution to the DH has always been to decide on a Point of the game (7th inning?) that use of the DH at that point would mean removable of the Pitcher. Kind of a Light nod to “Strategy”.

    I’ve since recovered from my “purity”— I’d now be ok with the DH as the rule has been used. The game is certainly more tactical than ever— mostly situational pitching moves. We’re not lacking for for pondering and second guessing Managerial moves, so tacticians will never “starve”.

    Go DH!!!

  4. teddylongball
    April 20, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    I agree, it should be one or the other for both leagues. Pitching continues to dominate and I don’t see it reversing anytime soon. To try and keep pace with pitching there is a need for the extra at bat. The major league brain trust is worried about lack of offense. The DH will be implemented in a few years .

  5. Metsense
    April 21, 2015 at 12:02 am

    It is a problem that the two leagues play by different rules because they play inter league games against each other. Even if there were no more interleague games there would still be a difference in the World Series.
    I am a National League fan and love the strategy of the National League game. The fact that there are inter league games has convinced me that the DH will become common for both leagues. In the not so distant future baseball will go to 8 four team divisions with another realignment and the hitting pitcher will fall to the wayside.
    Larry your line “More likely we will all be telling our grandchildren how we remember way back when when even the pitchers had to come to bat when it was their turn” reminds me of telling my kids that before the 69 Miracle Mets there were two ten team leagues and only the pennant winners went to the World Series.

  6. April 28, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    Sorry for not making a real contribution to the conversation, but I cannot stand the designated hitter. It eliminates a great deal of strategy, disconnects the pitcher from his trade and creates large paydays for one-dimensional players.

    Heard Terry Collins discuss the DH last night, and wanted to throw up. Sad what happened to Wainwright, but this is baseball and these are athletes paid millions of dollars to wear uniforms, play the game and exercise. It’s akin to the changes in football and hockey made more for the appearance of safety than actual safety – e.g. wide receivers practically made untouchable.

    • Larry Smith
      April 28, 2015 at 3:57 pm

      Thanks for your thoughts Mike. The truth is when I saw that there was a new comment to this article from eight days ago I assumed it would be some kneejerk reaction by someone wanting to go DH because pitchers are hurting themselves as batters and as runners.
      Glad to see that some people can look at the game and the bigger picture.

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