Designated hitters belong in all of baseball

Designated hitters belong in all of baseball

With the World Series in full swing, American League (AL) pitchers will once again take the plate at their opponents’ stadiums. On Saturday night, Houston Astros pitcher Zach Grienke stepped into the batter’s box as the first pitcher to hit in the 115th fall classic. While Grienke only had one earned run in 4.2 innings pitched, his only plate appearance of the night ended in an out.

Before the start of the 2019 season, Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) was considering a rule change that would introduce the designated hitter (DH) position to the National League (NL). Since 1973, AL teams have had the option to include a DH in their batting lineup. This player takes the pitcher’s position in the lineup, and does not take the field for defense. 

The case is different in the NL. There is no DH position, and pitchers take up a spot in the 9-player batting rotation.

Every year, the possibility of the DH in the NL comes back into question around World Series time. 

When playing at the stadium of an NL opponent, AL teams are forced to put their pitchers in the lineup, when they are not often comfortable hitting. NL pitchers have been batting all year long, giving them an advantage over their AL colleagues. 

It is finally time for the NL to accept the DH position. Pitchers hitting is detrimental to the flow of the game and its enjoyability.

While it hurts to even think of, some would say baseball is slowly dying. The top 50 most watched sports events in 2018 did not include a single baseball game, according to Sports Media Watch. The vast majority of this list are NFL games- high paced and electrifying. Many today say baseball is “too boring,” or “slow.” The addition of a DH in the NL can help eliminate this viewpoint.

Watching pitchers hit is almost always aggravating. The Washington Nationals, a NL team, had only one pitcher hit above .200 in 2019 (Jeremy Hellickson), and Hellickson only had nine plate appearances. Hence, pitchers are almost always automatic outs. When a pitcher comes to bat, the viewer automatically sets their expectations low. This hinders the viewer enjoyment. 

In the AL designated hitters are often one of the best, if not the best, hitter on the team. This may contribute to the fact that four out of the five top scoring teams in the MLB in 2019 were AL. They had nine players in the lineup every game capable of scoring. More scoring leads to a more exciting and rewarding experience for the viewer.

This means that when a DH comes to bat, the viewer expects action and henceforth enjoys the at-bat more. This is the opposite of when a pitcher comes to bat, who often times will bunt, jog to first, and be an easy out for the defense. This sequence of events is irritatingly predictable. 

Pitchers are already the most at risk for injury out of any position — especially season ending injuries. In the NFL, the death sentence injury is a torn ACL. In the MLB, it is when a player needs Tommy John surgery. This season ending surgery is needed when a player has torn a ligament in their arm. Naturally, pitchers are the most common victim of this injury. 

This is why many teams in the NL often choose to have their pitchers bunt when at bat. Pitchers will still swing the bat on some occasions, and having a DH would eliminate the need for pitchers to put more stress on their body through hitting.

Having a DH would make life easier on NL managers. They wouldn’t have to consider offense when making pitching substitutions. Or in other words, they wouldn’t have to be concerned about the next pitcher’s ability to hit the ball. The manager and the pitcher should be purely focused on getting the next three outs. Having a DH would provide for offensive consistency. 

NL fans are missing out on the experience AL fans have. NL fans don’t know the feeling you get when your DH comes to bat with the bases loaded. They have never known a Big Papi or a JD Martinez in recent times. 

The NL knows it is time to make this change. Whenever the two leagues come together, a DH is used. The NL uses a DH in the All-Star game. They use a DH when playing at AL parks in the world series. It is time for a new age of baseball — with even more electric offense.