Barstool: Abolish the Designated Hitter?

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STEVE: The Designated Hitter is a position where one player only bats in place of a pitcher. Currently, The American League adopts this rule while the National League does not have the Designated HItter. It is my position to state that both the American League AND the National League should use the Designated Hitter.

I will admit that I used to think otherwise, and that I was not a proponent of the DH used in either league. However, after the injury to Adam Wainwright while batting, that ended his season. I think that the DH should be used in the NL as well. Why risk injury to your pitcher, when he is being paid to pitch, not hit. While some pitchers can hit (Bartolo Colon) okay not really, other pitchers are just an easy out (Jon Lester). In some cases, you may have a scoreless game, runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out, and the pitcher comes up and the majority of the time strikes out. It is almost too predictable. I mean, seriously when a pitcher hits a home run, it is featured on Sportscenter over and over again. Fans want offense, more runs scored in a game. Teams need their pitchers, and cannot afford to have their pitcher pull something while swinging a bat, or worse, get hit in their pitching arm with a 90 MPH fastball. It is simply not worth the risk, and the DH needs to be adopted in the National League. Let pitchers do their job, pitch.

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DAN: The Designated Hitter was brought to the American League back in 1973 and there has been debate in its 42-year history of whether they should adopt it to the National League, keep it in the AL or get rid of it completely. Before that year, pitchers always hit.

The DH should be removed from MLB completely. While I understand the concept, I feel as if it’s an unnecessary thing. There isn’t any hard, substantial evidence of an increase in injuries without the DH to pitchers, which seems to be one of your main concerns. Every position player both plays the field and bats. I expect the same thing from my pitcher.

In baseball, there are a lot of good hitting pitchers. They hit in high school, they hit in college. Why not have them hit when they reach the professional baseball? Even if they can’t do much at the plate, how you use a pitcher creates more strategy. You can use a sacrifice bunt, which player to substitute in the late innings, etc. Catchers don’t generally hit well or are known for their hitting yet they still are at the plate.

With a DH, most teams keep a player to just hit, not field. David Ortiz comes to mind. In my opinion, every player should get paid to field AND hit.

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STEVE: While I agree with you that injuries are few and far between when it comes to a pitcher hitting, the risk is still there. Now, you mention they pay a DH right now to hit, okay that is a true statement though the DH does field on some occasions. Pitchers are paid to pitch. Yes they hit in High School, but they do not hit in college like you mention, there is a DH in college, at least in Division I baseball. There is also a DH in the minor league system so the pitcher does not even get a chance to hit while coming up in the minors. That is part of the reason why pitchers don’t have a lot of success at the plate. While they are great athletes and have the ability, they never get the at-bats to work on their form.

Some pitchers are able to hit, I question you when you say a lot? There are really a handful of pitchers that are good hitters. I mean Clayton Kershaw just had a three hit game earlier in the week. And that was featured on Sportscenter. Madison Bumgarner hit a Home Run off Kershaw, and they showed it over and over again. My point is, when pitchers do something offensively, it is huge news in the sports world.

This all comes down to what the fans want. Fans want offense, and that is why the American League traditionally scores more runs, and hits more Home Runs, because they have the DH. It also gives players who may need a little rest, to still contribute to his team. For example, Jose Bautista has recently had some injuries. Do you want to take the bat out of his hands and sit him because you want him to rest? No, you put him in the DH spot and he can rest up and not play the field.  The DH needs to be in both leagues.

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DAN: There are a lot of different pitchers who have had a lot of success at the plate. Over the past several seasons alone there are pitchers known to getting hits/home runs. Like, for example, Zach Greinke’s 2013 season where he hit .328 BA and .409 OBP. Mike Hampton was known as a good hitter. He retired with a .246 BA and .296 OBP.

You mention that the offense in the American League scores more runs. I really don’t feel like it’s that much of a difference. But at the same time, you have less strategy and equality in the MLB. You need to make it an equal playing field by eliminating the DH.

As an example, you mentioned that fans want offense. But you can definitely get more offense with the pitcher batting instead of a DH. Will you ever see a DH bunt? Will you ever see a hit and run executed with a DH? You can see that with a pitcher all the time. Also, you’ll only get about 2 at-bats from the pitcher in a game before you replace them with a pinch-hitter, which adds more strategy for managers. You only have a limited amount of bench players. You can’t use a C in case it goes into extras, your catcher suffers an injury, etc. It takes strategy to know who you can pinch-hit, who you can save, etc.

The final point I have is about specialists. What type of batters are DH typically? Power hitters right? You’ll never have speed or a contact hitter. What good is that? If a player gets paid, they should get paid to play the field and bat. Not just be one-dimensional. Do you see players in the NHL, NBA or NFL get any rest days where all they do is shoot but don’t play defense? Or just catch the football? If you play baseball, you should play both the field and hit. That goes for pitchers too.

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STEVE: Okay so you mention 2 hitters out of how many pitchers that had a decent career at the plate? I am not taking anything away from the game with having a pitcher hit. At one time, I thought the same way too, as it puts some strategy in the game. However, my point to the matter is this; You pay a pitcher to pitch, Jon Lester did not sign a 150 million dollar contract with the Cubs for his at bat skills, he was paid for his pitching performance. Sure if he is able to get a hit during a game that is just a bonus. But why risk a top pitcher getting hit by a 90 plus MPH fastball to the arm, to the ribs, the legs, or even the face? While I get it, it doesn’t happen THAT often, but the problem is, that it could happen. If I am a manager of a top tier pitcher, and he is my bread and butter when it comes to the rotation, I don’t want him at the plate.

How in the world do you think you can get more offense with a pitcher at bat? Not a chance. Okay he can lay down a bunt, but statistically speaking the pitcher will end up striking out more times than not, causing for an easy out. Sure you only have a limited number of bench players, but you also have a limited number of pitchers.

Comparing to the NHL, NBA, or even NFL. Well wait let me just use the NFL here, yes you have one player doing one job. A Running back runs, a receiver passes, and a quarter back throws. Is a quarterback going to play defense? I guess you can make an argument that he can if he throws an interception and has to tackle the defender, but how often do you see that? Plus those guys get a week off, while baseball players play the most brutal schedule at 162 games. They need the DH in both leagues.

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DAN: I named two pitchers for an example, I can continue with CC Sabathia being a power hitter. Yovani Gallardo could always hit. And that’s just recently. Over time, there have been a lot of pitchers who were able to contribute positively at the plate.

With regards to more offense, you can accomplish more things with the pitcher than with a DH. Like I mentioned before, the hit-and-run will put runners in scoring position for the top of the order. You can conduct sacrifice bunts and suicide squeezes as well to accomplish the same thing. That helps two causes – more runners in scoring position creating more scoring opportunities for the top of the order which generates more runs and more strategic planning by the coaching staff on how they want to go about their lineup before and mid-game.

For example, look at the success the Cardinals had with Tony LaRussa placing the pitcher in the 8th spot. He generated more runs, had better overall success at the plate and won games. Imagine if they had a DH, he wouldn’t have had that flexibility and would’ve been stuck with a slow, power-hitting batter who unless they hit get a loud single, a double or a HR won’t contribute anything, I’d rather take the pitcher.

How many times does a pitcher get HBP? It’s rather rare and if it happened I’m sure it’d be talked about all on ESPN. But in reality, that doesn’t happen and to me, there’s not much risk. If you pay a player to play the game, they need to both hit and field. In the case of the pitcher, their main focus is to pitch, not hit. But they should still be required to hit. Why pay a DH just to hit? Does he deserve to be there when he’s too old to play the field? Or he’s bad at playing the field? If he can’t field anymore, he has no business playing anymore in my opinion.

There should be no DH in MLB. You get paid to be a complete player – both bat and play the field, not to be one-faceted and only do 1 thing on the field.

Steve has won this Barstool 7-6

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  1. As most know, I gave been in and around baseball for over 40 years as a player, coach and fan. I have to go with Steve for a few reasons, accuracy of facts the most important. Division 1 college baseball uses the DH to begin with. Another point that was made is that you don’t ever see a DH bunt or sacrifice. While that is true it isn’t relative. In general, a DH is one of the better hitters on a team. They do not hit in the traditional pitchers spot at the bottom of the order but rather are usually found somewhere in the heart of the order where the are expected to drive in or produce runs. Those same spots in the order of National League either. Most important baseball is struggling with remaining relavent with the younger generations. Young fans want action and don’t have the attention span to wait around while runners are “manufactured.” I love the strategy too but realize baseball gas to speed up and increase the action. Personally, as a coach I am not interested in hitting my pitcher for the simple sake of tradition and most coaches agree. I want my best players in the game and welcome any rule that allows me to accomplish that goal. Let’s be honest, watching pitchers flail at the ball uselessly is boring. There is no time for them to spend working on their hitting mechanics as they spend so much time concentrating on the mechanics, strategy and mental aspect of their real job….pitching. Let’s also be honest, good pitching is in short supply. I can find or create good hitters. I don’t want my season torpedoed by a single “useless” at bat.
    Just my two cents! 😉

  2. I was ready to do this Barstool and if at some point somone wishes to re-hash this I am willing.

    I do not have as much of a problem with the DH “rule” (MLB Rule 6.10) as I do with the whole “Position” designation within the record books. The AL has been so “wishy-washy” with their teams and how they “title” a player that the lines have become blurred since the inception of the rule in 1973.
    There are fifteen teams in the American League. That means there are fifteen spots for each of those games played in AL stadiums for a player to excel as a Designated Hitter. At this point in the season only 7 of those fifteen teams have such a player that qualifies as a batter with enough At-Bats to be listed in the running for Stat Leaders.
    The entire MLB batting average this year is still hanging right around the .250 mark. Just about any year when you look at the entire MLB team batting average it will be hovering right around the .250 mark.
    When you look at the 15 teams in the AL and then only the seven players that qualify for hitting stats as a DH, there are only 4 of the 7 that have a .250 BA or better.
    What does all this mean? Simply this, that with all the hoopla that is made year in and year out about how baseball “needs” the DH to make the game more exciting that there are only 4 Players, of the entire 1200 players on MLB’s 40 man rosters, that even qualify to defend that claim.
    At the end of the 2014 season only 3 players finished the year with enough team ABs to qualify for awards in the offensive categories, V. Martinez, D. Ortiz and B. Butler. In 2013 the exact same 3 players were the only true DHs for the entire season. In 2012 Billy Butler was the ONLY DH to qualify with enough Abs for any type of end of season awards.
    Now many of you will be saying that “End of Year” awards does not really quantify the value of a DH but IF a player is not Available and/or Productive enough to be in your lineup day in and day out as your so called DH then of what value to the team is he when he wears that title?
    For just a second let’s backup and say this, “DH is not a title but a position that anyone can fill”. This is true. An AL Manager can stick anyone’s name on the active roster he wishes onto the lineup card before the game begins. And many of the managers do this on a rotational basis. If a strong southpaw is pitching against them that day and his star DH bats left but is struggling against lefties then he may elect to give a right handed bench player a few more Abs then he might not normally get by sliding him into the DH for that game. And that is cool.
    When you go to MLB.com and check stats for batting in the DH position, and even though the dropdown option is there when you select NL only, there are NO stats published for those players that were “Designated” as the DH during those interleague games played in the AL parks. Why?
    Because DH is an AL “designated” position ONLY. But at the same time there are currently several AL teams that do not even carry a DH position player on their roster. Why is that?
    And when you look at some of those teams that do not carry a DH on their roster they have a position player that has enough at bats to at least be listed in the DH stats colulmn. The LA Angels do NOT list anyone on their roster as a DH however, C.J. Cron has over 70 at-bats as a DH in which he started most of those games as the DH. He is also only batting .205 as a DH with only 1 Homerun, 6 RBIs and 23 strikeouts. But yet, NONE of his stats show up in the MLB.COM stats records under the DH position stats. Why? Well, for one I don’t think MLB and the AL wants these types of numbers reflecting their “Professional Hitters” that pose as DHs.

  3. Another thing that gripes me about the DH “position” is the additional voting into the All Star Game for someone as a DH. Why do we do this? IF they have this “special” position to vote for then the players listed for that vote should HAVE to be listed as a DH from their respective team; in other words if they are NOT listed on the team roster as a “DH” then they cannot be voted on as a DH for the ASG. Currently every AL team has a player that you can vote as the DH however, they are all juggle-fudged in the way that they are listed. A prime example of this is that Seth Smith for Seattle is on the voting ballot as an outfielder and Nelson Cruz is on the ballot under Designated Hitter. The voting site will NOT let you write in Nelson Cruz as an outfielder. Wtf over? Neither player is listed as a DH on the roster and they have shared the DH role. Both players bodies of work are comparable as time spent as the DH with both having approximately 35% of their Abs as the DH. So, who determines which is listed as the DH and which is on the ballot as an outfielder? IF MLB is deciding based on who on the team has the most ABs as the DH then that is BS because it can change after every stinking game.

  4. I have thrashed this issue around in my head for years like most baseball fans. I have concluded that the only way to answer it is to chose in terms of which form of baseball you prefer — like baseball before and after the “juiced ball,” do you prefer pitchers’ duels to home run derbies?

    As a fan of an AL team, I have come to accept the DH rule (“love it” is a little more than I care to express). But I feel that Dan’s presentation is better since he comes closer to the criterion I feel should be used (not real close, perhaps, but closer than Steve).

    BTW, my understanding is that the AL DH rule applies to anyone in the lineup. A superstar shortstop, for example, who cannot hit might be replaced in the batting order by a DH. Have I got it wrong?

    It really doesn’t matter since 100 times out of 100, it will be the pitcher who is DHed either way.

  5. Here is the rule: The DH is used to bat for the Pitcher only.

    6.10
    Any League may elect to use the Designated Hitter Rule.
    (a) In the event of inter-league competition between clubs of Leagues using the Designated Hitter Rule and clubs of Leagues not using the Designated Hitter Rule, the rule will be used as follows:
    1. In World Series or exhibition games, the rule will be used or not used as is the practice of the home team.
    2. In All-Star games, the rule will only be used if both teams and both Leagues so agree.
    (b) The Rule provides as follows:
    A hitter may be designated to bat for the starting pitcher and allsubsequent pitchers in any game without otherwise affecting the status of the pitcher(s) in the game. A Designated Hitter for the pitcher must be selected prior to the game and must be includedin the lineup cards presented to the Umpire in Chief.
    The designated hitter named in the starting lineup must come to bat at least one time, unless the opposing club changes pitchers.
    It is not mandatory that a club designate a hitter for the pitcher, but failure to do so prior to the game precludes the use of a Designated Hitter for that game.
    Pinch hitters for a Designated Hitter may be used. Any substitute hitter for a Designated Hitter becomes the Designated Hitter. A replaced Designated Hitter shall not re-enter the game in any capacity.
    The Designated Hitter may be used defensively, continuing to bat in the same position in the batting order, but the pitcher must then bat in the place of the substituted defensive player, unless more than one substitution is made, and the manager then must designate their spots in the batting order.
    A runner may be substituted for the Designated Hitter and the runner assumes the role of Designated Hitter. A Designated Hitter may not pinch run.
    A Designated Hitter is “locked” into the batting order. No multiple substitutions may be made that will alter the batting rotation of the Designated Hitter.
    Once the game pitcher is switched from the mound to a defensive position this move shall terminate the Designated Hitter role for the remainder of the game.
    Once a pinch hitter bats for any player in the batting order and then enters the game to pitch, this move shall terminate the Designated Hitter role for the remainder of the game.
    Once the game pitcher bats for the Designated Hitter this move shall terminate the Designated Hitter role for the remainder of the game. (The game pitcher may only pinch-hit for the Designated Hitter.)
    Once a Designated Hitter assumes a defensive position this move shall terminate the Designated Hitter role for the remainder of the game. A substitute for the Designated Hitter need not be announced until it is the Designated Hitter’s turn to bat.

  6. Archie,

    Thanks.

    I could have looked it up myself, I suppose, but sometimes I get afflicted with laziness. I hope it isn’t terminal.

  7. If the rule was that you must use a DH, many arguments would be valid. But the Yankees are free to let that power hitting CC blob to hit, and they don’t. If he were truly a good hitter, he’d bat even on his days off.

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