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Pitchers cannot hit. In the National League, pitchers are batting a combined .111/.154/.148 with a -17.95 wRC+ (through 7/17). The major league average for wRC+ is 100, NL pitchers are combining to bat NEGATIVE 17. Runs are fun. Homeruns are thrilling. Sac bunts, or practically guaranteed outs are not. It’s time for National League to adapt the DH.
The National League has some aspects I really enjoy. For one I love the double switch and tactical decisions. Managers must “press the right buttons” with pinch hitters as well. More players can see playing time with at least one at bat as a pinch hitter. But not having a designated hitter has its drawbacks for the National League: fewer runs per game and pitchers hitting. Above average hitters with defensive liabilities are frustrating to watch i.e. Matt Kemp, Kyle Schwarber (last year), Yasmany Tomas, Jason Werth, and Jay Bruce to name a few. Players like Evan Gattis, Nelson Cruz, and Matt Holiday can receive regular playing time as a DH and not negatively impact their team on defense.
Simply changing to the American League DH rule removes some complexities from the NL game, and keeping the status quo has its drawbacks as well. With my modified DH rule, I combine the best aspects of the NL and AL.
My idea goes like this: instead of having a player DH the entire game, the player would act as an extended pinch hitter. For however long the pitcher remains in the game, that is how long the batter can act as the DH. For example, if a pitcher goes 6 innings, comes up to bat three times. The “DH” would bat for that pitcher three times. Once a new pitcher enters the ballgame, and that pitcher’s spot in the lineup comes up a new designated/pinch hitter is needed.
This modified rule lets players get more at bats that pitchers would usually get, and allows more players to enter the game that the AL rule does not. The players’ union should be happy in this regard that more players get playing time. Rob Manfred, the commissioner of baseball, should be happy too, since it should increase the amount of runs per game.
My modified DH rule does come with its flaws. If a pitcher leaves early due to injury or gets shelled, an additional player may get burned if the pitcher comes up to bat. One solution to this problem would be to allow the DH to stay in for the next pitcher if the pitcher is removed for injury. If the pitcher gets shelled, then the team will probably have to let the next pitcher (or use a different starting pitcher as DH).
My idea does not burn extra players, since the first DH would likely come off the bench for the pitcher to pinch hit anyway. The modified rule also creates some unique tactical choices for managers. Should the DH hit at the top of the order or near the bottom? The manager’s decisions could become a new market inefficacy in the game. Teams with better managers could find themselves at a slight competitive advantage.
While traditionalists will likely oppose this rule change, the days of Babe Ruth are long over. Sure, seeing pitchers like Madison Bumgarner hit dingers is exciting, and if Bruce Bochy wants Bumgarner to hit, this change does not prevent that. Seeing Bartolo’s improbable homerun is temporarily good for the game, but a game with more runs and players entering the game enhances the game for both the players and fans in the long run. Manfred and the commissioner’s office already evaluates the game and makes rule changes when necessary (intentional walks).
As baseball continues to evolve, ideas that make the game more exciting should always be considered. Sacrifice bunts and watching pitchers swing a bat like a club is not exciting to watch. Baseball is already much different than the game 100 years ago. My modified DH rule preserves some aspects of the NL while making the game more exciting. Isn’t that what the fans want?