Opinions

Should Major League Baseball Expand the DH to the National League?

As a “super-fan” of baseball, I tend to think more into alternate scenarios and what would happen if rules were changed. All rules in baseball apply to both the American League and the National League, except one. The Designated Hitter. As of right now, it is only used in the American League, but, in my opinion, if it was implemented in the National League, it would benefit baseball.

The Designated Hitter belongs in both leagues. Not only do DH’s tend to be better hitters, they allow for more competition and more opportunity for dynamic offensive games, which fans appreciate more than the typical 1-0 pitcher’s duel. Also, with the use of the Designated Hitter in both leagues, pitchers can focus solely on the aspect of the game they are getting paid to do well rather than being required to go to bat as well.

To fully explain my argument, I need to bring in the raw statistics. I have below attached the data from the 30 best offensive NL pitchers and their offensive production in 2018.

PAHRRRBISBBB%K%BABIPAVGOPS
1609179010953.91%32.33%.279.184.288

From this chart you can see that in a sample of 30 pitchers (with the outlier of Michael Lorenzen who slashed .290/.333/.710 with 4 HR), their hitting was far from league average. Pitchers walked a mere 4% of the time while striking out in nearly 33% of their plate appearances. To me, this is unacceptable. Why are we forcing pitchers to put up terrible numbers when there are competent hitters sitting in free agency that can put up better results and allow pitchers to do the job they are paid to do?

I believe that this data is enough evidence to show that pitchers are not good hitters, but let’s take a look at how they compare to the stats of designated hitters. Again, I have taken the top 30 designated hitters in the American League, as I have pitchers, and pooled together the counting stats and averaged the percentages to analyze the effectiveness of the Designated Hitter position in comparison to the pitcher.

PAHRRRBISBBB%K%BABIPAVGOPS
1249155815171743599.2823.29.285.270.724

The results of this data show that the Designated Hitter position is better at creating offensive production, and provides more offense to the game of baseball.

Using this sample of the top 30 offensive pitchers and Designated Hitters in terms of Plate Appearances, the “average pitcher” would have 54 Plate Appearances, less than 1 home run, 3 runs scored, 3.7 RBIs, and 1/6 of a stolen base. In comparison to the “average DH” who would accumulate 18.6 home runs, 50 runs, 49 RBIs, and a little less than 2 stolen bases in 416 plate appearances. Pro-rated to the same number of plate appearances that the pitchers have, the league average DH would hit 2.4 home runs, 6.5 runs scored, 6.4 RBIs, and a whole fourth of a stolen base – roughly double the production of the average pitcher. The stats don’t lie. Pitchers are ineffective at hitting, and even the “worst” designated hitter is better offensively than pitchers (maybe with the exception of Michael Lorenzen).

To conclude my argument, pitchers are at risk of injury without the DH rule in effect. For example, on June 9th, 2018, Masahiro Tanaka injured his hamstring scoring on a sacrifice fly against the New York Mets. He went on to miss the rest of the month of June, and made his next start on July 10th. Pitcher injuries while hitting may seem few and far between, as they are used mostly to sacrifice bunt, but the use of the DH in both leagues would eliminate pitcher injuries as a result of hitting altogether. There was no reason for Tanaka to miss that month other than the fact that he was hitting and running the bases, something he does not practice or prepare for.

The DH must be implemented in both leagues. It adds more offense to baseball which keeps fans interested, and it protects pitchers from unnecessary injury. Pitchers are getting paid to pitch, and asking them to perform a task that they aren’t preparing for is unfair, and removes focus from the main task at hand: getting opposing hitters out.

Anthony Messineo

Mets Advocate. Fan of All things baseball. Contributor for Diamond Digest.

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