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The DH



Can we please make the Designated Hitter universal? Excellent pitchers like Adam Wainwright who have no business batting getting hurt for the year while doing so is only bad for the game. Having pitchers hit is the equivalent of making kickers play a down in an NFL game because they did so in high school. The only good argument against the DH is that the league didn’t used to have it and everyone knows that the way the game was played when Boomers were growing up was the best way and that’s why players using greenies is OK but players using steroids are monsters who should be driven from the game. There is literally no down side to the DH except for those who like to watch utter incompetence in professional sports. And for that, just become a Mariners fan like me.

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  • Mike Lommler

    My counterargument: without pitchers hitting we would not have the above photo.

  • Ann Outhouse

    I used to hate the DH but I’ve come around to your POV on it.

    Probably the two silliest arguments I’ve heard from the DH-haters are

    (1) It takes away the double-switch.

    Yeah. So? Did you come to watch chess or baseball?

    (2) It punishes pitchers who can hit.

    Who would those be?

    • It’s not like a manager couldn’t designate the pitcher as the DH.

      • Mike Lommler

        Travis Wood sometimes pinch-hits for the Cubs.

        • Bufflars

          Wily Peralta had a walk-off pinch hit double in extra innings last year for the Brewers.

      • mikeSchilling

        You don;t understand the DH rule, do you?

        If the starter is designated as his own DH, all the relievers have to be their own DHs too.

        • sanity clause

          Tru dat, but that’s a bit of unnecessary silliness that could easily be fixed.

          I’m glad to see someone arguing that the DH, rather than its absence, should be universal. A pitcher’s value to his team is almost entirely in his pitching, even if he’s very good with the bat.

          In this big-bullpen era, starters are mostly gone by the time the pitcher’s spot comes up for the third time in a (NL) game. And with 5-man rotations being standard, a starter might pitch 35 games a year, if that. So we’re talking 70 plate appearances, or about 1/10 the number of PAs that your leadoff hitter will get.

          If a starter hits .300, he will get 14 more hits per year than a .100-hitting starter. (I’m assuming no walks, but if you want, change BA to OBP, and change it to ‘get on base 14 more times a season’.)

          Is anyone really going to pay a starter significantly more for those 14 hits? I doubt it.

          If anyone privy to starting pitchers’ salary negotiations or arbitration wants to weigh in on the impact of a pitcher’s batting on what a starting pitcher earns, I’d love to hear it, even if I’m proven wrong. But I’d be surprised if it makes a difference.

          • mikeSchilling

            So we’re not talking about the actual DH rule, we’re talking about some version of it perfected by blog commenters? Terrific.

          • mikeSchilling

            How much do you think pitchers get paid for fielding their position?

            So, by the same logic, there should be a designated fielder that plays in the middle of the infield.

            • sanity clause

              The functions of pitching and batting are easily separated. The functions of pitching and fielding, not so much.

              And in response to your other comment:

              We’re talking here about a minor wrinkle in the DH rule that comes up, what, once or twice a season across the entire AL?

              It hardly matters whether it gets fixed or not (it can be, without harm to the DH rule in general), but you’re the one who brought up this wrinkle as if it was a big deal.

              Anyhow, thanks for playing.

              • mikeSchilling

                The functions of pitching and fielding, not so much.

                It is difficult to have another guy stand behind the mound and field in the middle of the diamond. And it’s impossible for a non-fielder like the pitcher to stay out of the way, which is why there are no second-base umpires.

        • ScarletNumber

          That’s true in the American League, but in the NCAA one can be pitcher and DH at the same time. When they are removed as a pitcher they continue as the DH.

    • djw

      (1) isn’t a terrible argument, although I think the case for the DH overwhelms it. I like the idea of in-game management being an relatively more important part of a team’s success or failure. I just like watching players who are actually good at what they do more. And I think losing the late phase of brilliant hitters careers because injuries have sapped their ability to play the field; would be a real loss; is baseball worse off for Edgar Martinez not being forced to retire six years earlier? (Although of course the latter argument doesn’t object to the league split)

      • rea

        is baseball worse off for Edgar Martinez not being forced to retire six years earlier

        Or Victor . . .

    • Scott Lemieux

      I’m agnostic about the DH, but this idea that the double-switch requires some sort of wizardry that only a tiny cadre of baseball genuises can master is bizarre. Like every other Strat-O-Matic player I’ve understood how to do it since I was 10.

      • Ann Outhouse

        I think this is a pretty good if somewhat old article about the effects of DH/no-DH on “strategy”. The main point being that there’s still tons of strategy, including some that only come into play when there’s a DH.

        I’m with you that it seems like the point of keeping the double-switch is so some geeks and broadcasters can feel superior to AL fans who don’t know what it is.

        • AlanInSF

          Having the DH does take away from an interesting subset of strategy, figuring out how to get a run in with the non-hitting part of your lineup. It could be argued that this lent more urgency, and thus more drama, to the hitting part of your lineup getting the job done, and gave the game more shape, an ebb and flow. Also the moral choice: Do you pinch-hit for your effectively-pitching pitcher? Is it not a slippery slope from the “wanting to see a competent performer” argument to free substitution? Should we have to watch catchers run the bases? Finally, everyone always says “Big Papi” or “Edgar Martinez,” but the DH is just as often some .240-hitting backup outfielder. Especially in Oakland.

          All that being said, I’m fine with the DH, but there are lots of reasonable, uniquely-baseball arguments against it.

          • Richard Hershberger

            I fully expect to see the DH made universal within my lifetime. What I am curious about is if it goes beyond that. With pitchers being the camel’s nose in the tent, catchers are the obvious next step. The difference between a starting and a backup catcher typically is not defense. The starter is the guy who can also hit, while the lost cause at the bat only gets to play occasionally.

            So, the argument would go, we have this guy with a rifle arm, who doesn’t let anything get past him, who is a first-rate pitch caller, and (this being trendy nowadays) is great a framing pitches. Does it make any sense to only let him play every five days, just because he swings the bat like my grandmother? Ridiculous! Bring in a DH for him!

            Next up: soft-hitting shortstops.

            • mikeSchilling

              And really, who wants to see Benjie Molina try to run the bases? There should have a designated runner for catchers.

            • mikeSchilling

              Also, why should your left-handed specialist have to pitch to a right-hander just because the opposing manager set up his lineup lefty-righty-lefty? Free substitution for pitchers!

        • sanity clause

          ‘Strategy’ is a matter of responding to constraints. If you are not operating under any constraints, strategy is unnecessary.

          So yes, having the pitcher hit for himself introduces an additional element of strategy. But it’s still not a very good reason for having the pitcher hit.

        • gorillagogo

          I think it’s a lousy article. The writer just waves away most NL tactical decisions because he thinks all managers always do the same thing. Then the writer gives extra credit to AL managers because they have to know when to pinch hit for a position player or remove a pitcher who is getting tired — completely oblivious to the fact that NL managers do the same exact things. Every single thing the writer cites as an AL tactical decision also occurs in NL games. No surprise that a self described Yankees fan would seem to have a poor understanding of what NL games are actually like.

    • And because of inter league play it punishes AL teams who build their teams to win the 130 games or so they play against AL teams, not the 15 or so they play in NL parks. We’re not in a golden era of DH’s but there are some who are integral to their teams’ successes and can’t be used elsewhere. Where are the Red Sox supposed to put Ortiz? And what do the Tigers do, sit Victor Martinez, or have him try to remember to catch over their everyday catcher who’s adequate in OBA and an elite defender and game caller? Or move Cabrera back to third, take a greater risk of him getting injured and make their defense worse at both third and at first (where Miggy, when healthy, isn’t that bad a defender but Victor is not a good defender)?

      AL teams are built with the DH in the plan. No NL team builds their roster incorporating the expected offensive production of their pitchers.

      • matt w

        And because of inter league play it punishes AL teams who build their teams to win the 130 games or so they play against AL teams, not the 15 or so they play in NL parks

        And equally punishes NL teams who build their teams to play the games they play in NL parks and don’t carry DHs on their roster. Yeah, no NL team builds their roster incorporating the expected offensive production of their pitchers, but they also don’t build their roster with the expectation that they’ll be able to start nine position players.

        • There’s kind of a big difference between letting you have an extra hitter vs saying you can’t play one of the guys you count on to be a key offensive producer.

          • EliHawk

            Not really, because it’s saying you have an extra banjo hitter while the other team has a professional, ready-made slugger. Being able to slot in David Ortiz vs the NL team slotting in their fourth outfielder is a much bigger advantage than the Red Sox having to give up the defense of slotting him in at first base when playing the NL.

            • Irrelevant. AL teams build their rosters to win by AL rules. When the Tigers had Prince, Cabrera and V-Mart they were built to win with those three as their power hitters. In 15 game they Only got to play 2/3 of their big producers because Victor can’t really catch anymore, A d Prince can’t play anything but first.

              Look, if the NL thinks the game is better with every ninth at bat a joke, fine. But if that’s the case, let’s get rid of interleague play (which is already a mess, since there’s no balance in strength of schedule).

              • [I hate typing on the iPad]

              • matt w

                AL teams build their rosters to win by AL rules.

                And NL teams build their rosters to win by NL rules. It’s possible that NL teams are at a lesser disadvantage when playing by AL rules than AL teams are when playing by NL rules, but you’ve provided no reason to think this is so.

                It certainly can’t be the case that NL teams are at no disadvantage when playing by AL rules, because if that were so then AL teams would be stupid not to use the same principles of roster construction that NL teams do–it wouldn’t (ex hypothesi) disadvantage in AL games and it would help them in interleague games.

                Anyway, last year NL teams had a 73 wRC+ from their DH spots, while AL teams had a 109 wRC+ from theirs. That’s a starting point for the penalty that NL teams face by having to press bench bats into DH service. It’s a little hard for me to believe that the penalty AL teams face by having to sit one of their hitters is comparable.

                • That you don’t recognize or accept my reasons doesn’t mean I didn’t give them. But like I said, if the NL prefers to have shitty hitting and shorter outings by starters, fine, let the NL play their game and the AL play their game.

                • Besides, AL teams that pay big money for their DH may not spend as much for a second baseman or 4th outfielder. I kind of don’t care if in the aggregate it helps or hurts AL teams more (which, btw, you can’t discern by only looking at production in AL parks, which is a big part of my argument). If you’re an AL team who relies on your DH, it hurts you compared to AL teams with crappy DH’s.

                • matt w

                  That you don’t recognize or accept my reasons doesn’t mean I didn’t give them.

                  Well, you said that NL teams aren’t at a disadvantage because in AL parks the rules “let [them] have an extra hitter.” But on non-baseball matters you’re an intelligent enough person that you can’t possibly think that’s a reason. (Hint: The other team also gets an extra hitter! And their extra hitter is better, because of the ways NL teams and AL teams construct their rosters! And baseball is a zero-sum game!)

                • You’d have a point if I said or implied the NL isn’t at a disadvantage in AL parks. But I didn’t. [edited]

                • And to be clear, I think the AL has the advantage in AL parks, but I suspect the NL has a bigger advantage in NL a parks. But my main objection is inter-league play under different rules distorts intra-league results, in both leagues but probably more in the AL.

                • NobodySpecial

                  And to be clear, I think the AL has the advantage in AL parks, but I suspect the NL has a bigger advantage in NL a parks. But my main objection is inter-league play under different rules distorts intra-league results, in both leagues but probably more in the AL.

                  You would be wrong.

                  As of 2011.

                  In the AL’s run since 2004, they have been vastly superior in AL parks where the DH is employed. The AL’s interleague record in home games since ’04: 576-354. In NL parks, NL teams actually own a winning record (482-458) since ’04.

                  .619 winning percentage for AL teams in AL parks; .512 winning percentage for NL teams in NL parks. It’s not even close.

      • Brien Jackson

        I would say this is pretty clearly backwards: AL pitchers aren’t notably worse hitters than NL pitchers, even though they don’t hit very often (after all, NL starters are still only playing ~30 games). On the other hand, AL teams then get the benefit of a regular DH in AL home games, and the benefit of the likely best pinch hitter on either team in NL home games.

        • I would say this is pretty clearly non-responsive to the point implied in the original comment and made explicit down the subthread, which is that with inter-league play, the issue is less AL vs NL aggregate advantage, it’s that teams build for intra-league competition to make the playoffs, and inter-league play under different rules distorts intra-league outcomes, especially since there’s schedule balance within the AL and within the NL w all teams in a division playing the same number of games against division opponents, and each team playing the same number of games (home and away) against every out-of-division league opponent, but there’s no such parity/schedule balance in inter-league play.

          • elm

            Given that everyone interpreted your original comment to mean that Al teams were at a disadvantage compared to NL teams rather than that that some AL teams were at a disadvantage relative to other AL teams, perhaps you might consider that you were unclear rather than the rest of us are stupid.

    • Darkrose
    • Manju

      It punishes pitchers who can hit.

      One day there will be a player who can hit like Babe Ruth and pitch like Babe…errr…Greg Maddux.

      DH means he doesn’t have to choose one or the other.

      • Manju

        And he’ll be ambidextrous, allowing him to be the starting pitcher 60+ times / season.

      • It does unless he never needs to be replaced by a reliever.

        • Manju

          Well yeah…but I was thinking more about the games in which he is not the starting pitcher.

  • Mike Lommler

    I think it’s entirely reasonable to standardize the leagues and do away with near-automatic outs, but is hitting really some profound injury risk to pitchers? If you tear your achilles getting out of the batter’s box, I’m inclined to believe it was coming one way or another.

    • Max Scherzer also is hurt from having to hit. Basically, I’d say that not being trained to do something is a good way to get hurt at any job.

      • Davis X. Machina

        Another argument against the citizen-legislator!

        • Lee Rudolph

          Proportional Representation would solve this problem, too!

          • Gregor Sansa

            Yesss… my plansss are ssshaping up nicely… Sssoon you ssshall all be under my sssway.

          • It’s OK if they hit, but only for two consecutive seasons, then they should get termed out.

          • It’s OK if they hit, but only for two consecutive seasons, then they should get termed out.

        • If legislators were at a higher risk of on-the-job injury, we might have better sick leave and workers’ compensation laws in this country.

      • Ann Outhouse

        Speaking of which, another thing’s that changed is that NL pitchers are trying to hit the ball. Forty years ago when the DH was adopted, you almost never saw pitchers swing. They bunted, regardless the outs or men-on-base.

        I don’t know if AW got hurt swinging or running, but swinging with full power at a major-league pitch is a good way to pull something.

        • Scott Lemieux

          orty years ago when the DH was adopted, you almost never saw pitchers swing. They bunted, regardless the outs or men-on-base.

          This is just completely false. Take a look at any team in 1972 and you’ll see pitchers getting ABs in the vast majority of their PAs.

          • Denverite

            A non-sacrifice bunt counts as an AB. (But I bet you’re right anyway.)

            • Scott Lemieux

              Well, yes, but it’s pretty obvious that the ratios would be higher if they were bunting every time up.

      • EliHawk

        The plural of anecdote is not data. Over the 100 plus years of baseball, how many pitchers have missed significant time from injuries incurred during hitting / baserunning?

        • I don’t know but even if it has no effect on injuries at all, there’s still no reason to see people do something incompetently at the professional level.

          • Besides, pitching is different. 20 or 50 years ago pitchers weren’t expected to have SO/9IP of 8.0-9.5. They throw many more pitches per inning, and probably at a higher average intensity per pitch than ever before.

          • matt w

            there’s still no reason to see people do something incompetently at the professional level.

            Sure there is–part of the tradeoffs inherent in a game played by rules is that you may have to decide whether someone’s skills in one part of the game outweigh their incompetence in another part of the game that they’re required to participate in. Otherwise the logical step really would be to turn baseball into football–there are plenty of no-hit infielders and position players whose bat gets them into the lineup even though they’re not good fielders (and some teams have more than one, so they can’t all DH). There are players who are incompetent at hitting left-handed pitching but wind up having to do so sometimes because they’re good enough at hitting right-handers that it’s worth playing them, and sometimes they have to be left in against LOOGYs. Even in football sometimes the kicker has to try to make a tackle, they don’t have him run off the field and have a real defender run on in case the returner breaks loose.

            This isn’t to say that the DH is bad–it’s an aesthetic preference either way. But you can’t get there by some simple argument against incompetence.

            • It’s not a game played by rules, it’s a game played by two different sets of rules.

            • jroth95

              Exactly. Why shouldn’t we have gotten 15 years of Rey Ordoñez’ wizardry?

              5 DHs per team, and then you don’t have to see clumsy guys field or guys built like jockeys try to hit. Every pro-DH argument that invokes competence and/or aesthetics applies just as well to my proposal.

          • Darkrose

            So we also should have Designated Fielders, too, right? Because watching a glove-first shortstop hacking away can be pretty awful. And Buster Posey aside, most catchers are noticably better at defense or offense; MLB should probably look into that, especially given how much wear and tear catchers take behind the dish. And speaking of Posey, I love the man, but watching him run the bases is painful. Let’s just have a Designated Runner in there so we don’t have to watch him, or Michael Morse, or Pablo Sandoval trundle slowly around the bases.

            • Mrs Tilton

              Excellent ideas, all of them. Now just introduce a Designated Spectator to watch it all in my place, and we’re in business.

              • Lee Rudolph

                Very generous to offer the DS the use of your place. Will you be serving snacks and beer, or spending the time elsewhere?

            • sanity clause

              Actually, why the hell not? As long as you keep the 25-man roster limitation, and can’t put a player back in once he’s taken out, you’ve got to give up something somewhere else in order to do these things.

              Teams these days typically carry 11 pitchers. If you’ve only got 14 position players/DHs, and you DH for the C and SS as well as the pitcher, that’s 11 nonpitchers in the lineup, which means you’ve got only 3 guys on the bench. Seriously, why not let managers take that risk if they want to?

          • mikeSchilling

            You’re right; big men like Shaq should have designated free-throwers.

        • Richard Hershberger

          “Over the 100 plus years of baseball…”

          Not incorrect, but an odd way of characterizing it. By the most conservative measurement, organized baseball is in its 139th year. By the most expansive, it is up to 170 years. 158 and 144 are also defensible numbers.

          • sanity clause

            You could also say that “baseball as we know it” began with the introduction of the lively ball in 1920.

            Can you imagine what it would have been like if the AL had gone to the lively ball in 1920, but the NL, lacking the Babe, had kept the dead ball?

            Wonder how many years it would have been before the NL caved, and how passionately traditionalists would have argued that the AL and its lively ball were an abomination that should be abandoned.

            • Richard Hershberger

              ‘You could also say that “baseball as we know it” began with the introduction of the lively ball in 1920.’

              Eh, you could, but why do you privilege this particular change over all others since then?

              The live vs. dead ball debate, by the way, goes back to the 1860s. The elite opinion at the time was that good teams, meaning good fielding teams, favored a dead ball. Lively balls were favored by poor teams, since a rabbit ball could easily be hit through the infield without giving the infielders a chance. This was when pitching was still full underhand and fielders didn’t wear gloves, so the argument was actually pretty sound. Also, the lively balls were very lively indeed, some having over four ounces of rubber in the core. This goes a long ways toward explaining why scores were routinely in the double digits.

              • sanity clause

                Which change since 1920 would you say changed the nature of the game nearly as much?

                • Richard Hershberger

                  Larger rosters, which changed the resources available to a manager.

                  Greenies, which changed the ability of players to maintain intensity over the course of the season.

                  Lower pitcher’s mound, which changed the relationship between the pitcher and the batter.

                  Cheap video, which changed training techniques.

                  Tommy John and other surgical techniques, which extended innumerable careers and thereby expanded the pool of healthy and capable pitchers.

                  Steroids, which (for a time) changed the nature of the game.

                  Quasi-effective steroid testing, which (for a time) changed the nature of the game.

                  Changing ideology of relief pitching, which changed the relationship between the pitcher and the batter.

                  Information management, including such features as spray charts leading to the routine use of the shift.

                  Even cheaper video combined with information management, so (for example) a better can watch video of every plate appearance he has ever had against a given pitcher, including the one last inning.

                  We could argue endlessly about the particulars, and whether they are individually as significant as the end of the dead ball era. But any individual change is not the point. The point is that baseball has been constantly changing since the Knickerbockers first wrote down their rules (and long before that, in reality). Some changes are more rapid or more interesting than others, but we cannot usefully point at any one change and declare it to be the tipping point between Ye Olden Tyme and modern baseball as we know it today. Baseball continued to change and will continue to change.

      • Phil Perspective

        You forget that Ryan Howard suffered the same injury almost the exact same way. So it’s not specific to pitchers.

      • slightly_peeved

        Except that in Cricket, the world’s top bowlers are trained at batting as well, and some do quite well at it. One of the advantages that won Australia the World Cup was that all the bowlers could bat reasonably competently.

        For both bowling and batting, cricketers are at more risk of injury – when they’re batting, they’re swinging a less aerodynamic bat, they have to perform a range of different motions rather than a single swing, and the bowler is encouraged to aim the ball at their body, head, and hands. When they bowl, as they have to bowl with a straight arm, they’re running at a significant speed while they bowl. In spite of this, a number of the most renowned bowlers were also skilled with the bat – Jacques Kallis, Ian Botham, Imran Khan, and Sir Gary Sobers come to mind.

        • Richard Hershberger

          No love for W. G. Grace?

    • Cheap Wino

      If you tear your achilles getting out of the batter’s box, I’m inclined to believe it was coming one way or another.

      This gets to the core of it. Watch how it happened. He was going to hurt the achilles sooner rather than later anyway. If you’re going to make the argument that pitchers shouldn’t have to hit because they aren’t trained to do it you have to answer why they aren’t trained to do it.

      We know they are only superficially trained to hit, a choice the team makes in an effort to be more efficient overall. Perfectly reasonable. But if you want to say that, because they aren’t particularly good at it they shouldn’t have to do it, you should also explain why baseball doesn’t just adopt complete offense and defense teams. Of course, some players might play both sides of the ball but why would it be essentially arbitrarily different for some positions and not others?

      That pitches are typically poor batters is part of the game. Any other stance and you might as well have all DH lineups on offense and all defensive lineups in the field.

      • “That pitches are typically poor batters is part of the game.”

        Not in the AL. And it works just fine.

        • Cheap Wino

          Then why not full lineups of DH’s for every position?

          • Than why not pitchers for all nine batters? #BadArguments

            • Cheap Wino

              Wait, I point out that arguments for the DH lead to things like pitchers for all nine batters and it’s my arguments that are bad?

          • sanity clause

            I’d say sure, if that’s how you choose to use that many of your 25 roster spots.

            Let’s see: 8 nonpitching fielders, and 9 hitters, that leaves 8 pitching spots. Even back in the 4-man rotation, lots-of-complete-games era of the 1960s and 1970s, few clubs carried only 8 pitchers.

        • sanity clause

          Also, not in college ball, or in rookie or A ball. Even in AA and AAA ball, the DH is used in games between AL and NL farm teams, as well as in games between two AL affiliates.

          So “that pitches are typically poor batters is part of the game” is true only in the NL and some interleague play, and in games among NL affiliates at the AA and AAA level.

          Given that most minor leagues are mixtures of AL and NL farm clubs, that means 1/4 of AA and AAA games have poor-hitting pitchers hitting for themselves, and it doesn’t happen at all in A or rookie or college ball.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        i’d have to disagree with your last sentence. baseball is full of weird little rules and having a dh for the pitcher only is just another quirk

        • Cheap Wino

          Rather than quirk, I’d describe this one as arbitrary rule change.

          • jamesepowell

            Arbitrary? I do not think that word means what you think it means.

            • Cheap Wino

              Of course, you’re right. It’s not really arbitrary. And thinking, quirky rule change does describe it well.

      • ThrottleJockey

        Yep, bad Achilles (something I have too much unfortunate experience with) are a ticking time bomb. He could’ve ruptured it just as easily walking up his own stair case.

        • mikeSchilling

          Or trying to field a bunt.

          Speaking of which, who wants to see a pitcher try ro field his position?

      • SatanicPanic

        Of course, some players might play both sides of the ball but why would it be essentially arbitrarily different for some positions and not others?

        Because pitchers have a unique duty- a very poor fielder who can hit well is miles more useful than a very poor pitcher who can hit well.

    • Jackov

      The NL should test designated runners for pitchers (mainly for the lols and connection to Charlie Finley) before moving to the DH. Managers would need to put the runner on their lineup card but are free to replace the runner per the usual rules. The runner stands in the batter’s box opposite the pitcher but if he is hit by pitch it merely counts as a ball.

      • Your last line is the best

      • Manju

        If a left-handed pitcher is batting, the DR should get to run to 3rd.

        • Lee Rudolph

          …and then on later plays, as possible, run to 2d, 1st, and home plate–at which point his team’s score is reduced by 1!
          Co-occupation of any base with a teammate is governed by Fermi-Dirac or Bose-Einstein statistics depending on which league is involved.

    • ASV

      Yes, Wainwright is a bad poster child for this. Technically, he was injured “while batting,” but what he was actually doing was taking a step. That’s it. He could just as easily have done the same thing covering first base. Anyway, the important thing about pitcher health is the two guys who were injured while holding bats, not the 50 whose elbows will explode this month.

      • mikeSchilling

        Pitchers have no business covering first base . They could hurt themselves!

  • Brad Nailer

    Oh, waah, pitchers look stupid trying to hit! Too bad; let ’em learn; God gave us the sacrifice bunt for a reason. The Giants had a catcher, Eli Whiteside, who actually looked like a pitcher trying to hit. I’m not sympathetic.

    Madison Bumgarner had a .258 batting average in 78 plate appearances last year, which included 4 homers and 15 RBIs. It can be done.

    • Denverite

      I’d certainly pay to watch a .452 career OPS hitter!

    • So what is the argument here?

      • Darkrose

        That being a pitcher doesn’t automatically mean you can’t hit.

        Last year, Bumgarner had a better line than anyone on the Giants bench with roughly the same number of plate appearances. If you asked him if there was anything he could have done better in the postseason, I would bet you real cash money that he’d say, “Coulda hit better.” He takes his at-bats seriously, because he believes that’s part of his job.

      • Brad Nailer

        My comment about Whiteside was parenthetical. That might have confused the issue somewhat. He was kinda funny at the plate, nevertheless, in a sad way.

    • Reynard

      Ha! Yup. MadBum would come after anyone who tried to stop him from batting. The Giants seem to always end up with a batter or two who knows how to whack the ball. No sympathy from this Giants fan either.

  • Denverite

    OT, but did you know FIP thinks David Robertson (and his 19.1 K/9) is a time-traveling wizard who can go back in time and strike people out several innings before he comes into a game?

    • Mike Lommler

      Clearly his stats are inflated because he doesn’t have to hit.

  • pacanukeha

    I’d rather see the game move in the direction of more generalization. Every player has to pitch and hit!

    • dilan

      I think this is the actual argument against the DH.

      It isn’t that the game HAS to have generalization rather than specialization. Football, after all, is enormously specialized now. But there are real costs to specialization– dealing with the things your players don’t do well is a strategic aspect to sport.

      Some examples:

      Do you leave Shaquille O’Neal or DeAndre Jordan in a game late when they can block shots and dominate the middle but are also a liability from the free throw line?

      Do you pull your star goal scorer from a soccer match when you are up 2-1 and the substitution will benefit you defensively, but in a situation where if you give up the goal you could really use the striker on the pitch?

      Do you put in a catcher who is better on defense and give up the home run hitting power of your starter, or put in the left handed position player when the opposing team goes to the bullpen.

      And notice the last one is a baseball one. You see, if Erik really had a slam-dunk case, wouldn’t you really want an UNLIMITED number of DH’s? That way, you could build a lineup of offensive specialists while having a bunch of defensive specialists on the field, and we wouldn’t need to worry about a great fielder like Brooks Robinson getting hurt at the plate while batting .267.

      The point is, there are benefits to generalization over specialization. Old-time football fans have told me about the sheer pleasure of watching a guy like Bob Waterfield, who punted, kicked, passed and run, play. And Chuck Bednarik, who just died, was apparently a joy to watch play both ends of the ball for almost 60 minutes a game.

      It’s a line-drawing problem, and drawing the line in favor of one DH is just one arbitrary place to draw it and in no way eliminates the problem that Erik identifies; it just eliminates it as to pitchers.

      • Brien Jackson

        It isn’t arbitrary at all: It (generally, there’s nothing that says the DH *has* to replace the pitcher instead of the second baseman or whatever) replaces the fielder who by general practice in the game doesn’t even spend a negligible amount of time training to be a hitter/runner. The difference between a pitcher and a bum of a shortstop is that the latter is still taking regular batting practice like everyone else, and the former probably doesn’t even pick up a bat before the games he starts.

        • mikeSchilling

          there’s nothing that says the DH *has* to replace the pitcher instead of the second baseman

          Except, you know, the rule itself.

          • Thom

            I’m a National League, and Giants, person, so I find the DH odd. But here is an excerpt from MLB rule 6.10:

            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.

            • mikeSchilling

              If there’s a DH, he replaces the pitcher. If there’s no DH at the start of the game, all pitchers will hit for themselves.

        • dilan

          The difference between a pitcher and a bum of a shortstop is that the latter is still taking regular batting practice like everyone else, and the former probably doesn’t even pick up a bat before the games he starts.

          Bear in mind, that just begs the question. Those practices you describe are based on how teams react to the current set of baseball rules. For a counter-example, Babe Ruth used to pitch for the Red Sox (and he was one of the best pitchers in the majors at the time) and play the outfield on his “rest” days (and he had a great batting average and set a still standing record for home runs by a pitcher). Nothing precludes a team from taking steps to improve the hitting of their pitchers. They make a cost-benefit analysis of some sort and determine it isn’t worth it, but that’s a managerial decision, not anything inherent in the game of baseball.

          So all you are really saying is “based on the theories of baseball management currently in vogue, not having a DH effectively requires fans to watch players who don’t get much hitting practice take a turn at bat”. And maybe that’s enough to justify the DH, I don’t know. But it’s just a line being drawn here– you can also reasonably conclude that coming to bat is just as much an inherent part of playing baseball as shooting free throws is in a basketball game, and therefore every player, including the pitcher, should do it.

          The DH draws one line, which is not the only line that could be drawn here. It doesn’t uphold some great principle (and to be clear, neither does making the pitchers hit).

          • Brien Jackson

            Well no, because the same practice holds in the National League where there is no DH as well. What you have in actuality is a general feeling that the pitching is so much more important to their job description and the hitting so relatively worthless that everyone will just essentially concede the out.

      • ASV

        Of course, the NBA is now trying to clear the way for Jordan’s inability to make a free throw not to matter. Eventually they’ll get the game right where they want it — nothing but dunks and three-pointers. And some day baseball will reach its purest form — each game with a dozen homers and somehow finished in two hours.

  • Denverite

    I think football should take the NL’s lead and require kickers and punters to get a dozen or so carries or targets per game.

    • matt w

      And I think baseball should follow the NFL’s lead and have completely different teams for offense and defense.

      • Lee Rudolph

        On the contrary, I think American football should follow baseball’s lead: start with 11 players, substitute if you like, but no special teams and once you’re off the field, you’re out of the game.

        • EliHawk

          So, soccer, but with unlimited subs?

        • ThrottleJockey

          The physical intensity of the games is vastly different. That’s a recipe for a meat grinder. We may as well as have the guys go back to leather skull caps.

          • matt w

            Yeah, what I really think is that arguments comparing baseball and football don’t tell us anything because the sports are so different.

            • slightly_peeved

              The one point in both cases: the rest of the world play similar games with far less substitution of players. If they did introduce a rule that kickers and punters also had to run plays, I think those two rules would be filled by one ex-rugby player and one ex-Australian rules player on every side. They’d be lining up to join NFL teams then.

          • Richard Hershberger

            The physical intensity of football is higher in part because unlimited substitutions makes it possible. Put in baseball-style substitution rules and they would have to pace themselves, and knowing when to pace yourself and when to go all-out would become part of the strategy of the game. This is a variant on the discussion around a Chip Kelly-style hurry-up offense and whether or not it can be sustained over the course of an entire game, or for that matter season.

            The broader lesson is that lots of non-obvious factors affect how a game is played. Look at a team photo from a hundred years ago. There are about fifteen guys in it. Not all of them went on every road trip, since leaving a few guys at home would save on expenses. So even though the playing rules were very similar to those of today, how this played out on the field was different. Modern managing is based on the 25 man roster. Play with twelve or fifteen and you can’t use your pitchers the same way, which in turn means that the pitchers have to pitch differently.

            The modern larger roster wasn’t instituted because anyone thought it would improve the game, whatever that means. Rosters expanded as the economics of the game made this possible, since a larger roster would give a team a competitive edge. Rosters were eventually capped, and this again was for economic reasons, to keep payrolls from getting out of hand, while giving a level playing field (at least with respect to roster size).

            So is today’s game better than that of a century ago? Today’s starter can go all-out, and if he lasts six innings he’ll get a pat on the butt from his manager. Back in the day the starter would be pacing himself to avoid the ignominy of being pulled after just six innings.

            If we went back to fifteen-man rosters, pitchers and managers and fans would figure it out again.

        • djw

          Ugh, that sounds awful. I prefer to watch people do things they’re actually good at.

          • gmack

            Hmm. Until 50 or 60 years ago, it was pretty common to have many football players play both ways. I’m not a nostalgist here, but I find the implication that they weren’t good at their activities to be, well, weird. The rules of the game, after all, define what job they’re supposed to be good at. If the rules of football, for instance, severely limited substitutions (say, by making it impossible to re-enter a game after one has left it), then that rule would greatly expand the range of activities one would have to be good at to be considered a good football player. You’d have players who were really good on offense but not so good on defense, and coaches would have to balance which skill sets they wanted on the field. You’d also almost certainly eliminate players who were hyper-specialized 350 lb behemoths who only can play twenty snaps per game. Would this be a better game? I don’t know. There’s a whole lot to hate about contemporary football, but the point is that one’s preference for this or that version of a sport is purely aesthetic.

            • Lee Rudolph

              but the point is that one’s preference for this or that version of a sport is purely aesthetic.

              Not purely aesthetic, surely. For instance, for some people (I wish it were for all), other things being equal that version which produces fewer injuries (or, at least, fewer life-changing injuries like those consequent on repeated head trauma or improperly supervised use of steroids) is preferred to other versions that produce more.

              I don’t know (and don’t know how to find out) how the distribution of such injuries today compares to what it was “50 or 60 years ago” in American football, much less to what it would have been then with the rules of those days but the protective gear, training, medical care, etc., of today. Someone who did know that (or could make an educated guess) would be in a good position to have a non-aesthetic preference for one or the other version of the game (and, as I say, ought then to have such a preference).

              • gmack

                Fair enough. You’re articulating a point my dad always likes to make; he thinks (without any evidence, in his particular case) that single platoon football would reduce injuries. My only point was that djw’s claim that single platoon football would be bad because he wants people to be “good at their job” seems, well, weird. In single platoon football, your job would be defined in a way that being good at it would require a broader skill set than is currently acceptable. To be a good player, you’d have to be good at more than one position. That means that a lot of players who are good in the contemporary game would not be very good at single platoon football; players not good in the contemporary game, however, might end up being good single platoon players.

                • Richard Hershberger

                  I am pretty sure that a lot of injuries in top-level athletes occur because they are operating at the upper margin of the human body’s biomechanical specs. So you see a 100 meter guy go down just out of the blocks, with some tendon or muscle strain. I can run a 100 meters. It will take me a lot longer than that guy, but I’ll get there with my tendons intact. The difference is that I am not putting them under anything like the strain that he is, even if I am running as fast as I can.

                  So there are two arguments for limited substitution producing fewer injuries. One is that the players would have to pace themselves. They can’t be going all-out all the time, so they aren’t making their body operate at its upper limit. The second is that by forcing them to generalize, they are spending a lot of time on activities where they can’t reach that upper limit. That 100 meter guy can accelerate so much that he blows a tendon out. I couldn’t manage that. I might drop dead from a heart attack, but I won’t accelerate like that guy.

                  Of course this is all theory.

                • gmack

                  Just to add to the second argument about why limited substitution might limit injuries: The theory is that having smaller players who don’t operate at their upper limit would also reduce the severity of the collisions in football. Again, I haven’t the faintest idea whether this is true; I’m somewhat dubious, especially with regard to the head trauma issue (my understanding that a lot of the head trauma issue is connected the accumulation of sub-concussive events, which single platoon football would make worse).

          • mikeSchilling

            Me too, but Loomis will insist on writing about baseball.

    • ThrottleJockey

      I like the fact that kickers have gotten better and better. Give them another 25 years and they’ll be able to score field goals their own 20 yard line!

  • Linnaeus

    Whenever some NL fan blathers about “real baseball”, I usually respond, “You mean the game with 9-man lineups, right?”

  • NobodySpecial

    You know, the arguments for a universal DH taste much better without the extra whiny Steroid Sauce. Maybe they can work in a few tiny violins into the next CBA.

    • ThrottleJockey

      and that’s why players using greenies is OK but players using steroids are monsters who should be driven from the game.

      Is there a reason why steroid users shouldn’t be driven from the game? I understand the reason you defend Barry Bonds, but I see no reason to defend the use of steroids. It destroys the integrity of the game. I don’t like cheating of any kind, much less the kind that requires chemical interventions. I want to see a sporting contest, not a chemistry contest.

      I was reminded of this this week when I read an article saying that Millenials were turning to ADHD drugs in order to improve office productivity–increase their concentration and stamina. I’m like, shit, do I have to take a drug now just to maintain my office competitiveness? That would be horrible.

      • Brien Jackson

        “I want to see a sporting contest, not a chemistry contest.”

        If this were true, fans would be demanding that everything from the quality of equipment to the allowed medical treatment of players be exactly as it was in 1920.

  • No, I’m saying the generational moral outrage over the records held by the players of the 1950s–who were taking PEDs–being surpassed by players of the 1990s who were also taking PEDs is ridiculous.

    • ThrottleJockey

      Oh, ok gotcha, that’s fair.

    • Richard Hershberger

      Moral outrage over the purity of records is always silly. It is based on the assumption that the game of today is the same as in Cobb’s day, except for the influence of drugs. There are any number of other differences. Elsethread I used the example of roster size, with a team back then typically carrying around fifteen guys, and not always bringing them all while on the road. This alone is ample to screw up comparing records.

      We can do a lot more recent than that, with game strategy. The rise of the specialty relievers occurred within my lifetime. When I was a kid the discussion was whether to have nine pitchers or ten. Now it whether to have twelve pitchers or thirteen. This changes how you use your pitchers. It also changes how you use for utility fielders, since you don’t have as many.

      Then there is the shift. Shifts have been around a long time (arguably since the 1860s) but they have been rare. We are in the midst of a major change in strategy, with shifts becoming routine. This affects records in batting, pitching, and fielding: which is to say, nearly the entire game. So how can we compare the records of left-handed power hitters today with those of their predecessors? What would Babe Ruth’s batting average have been, had he played in todays environment?

      I could go on. (Cheap video revolutionized training techniques. Cheap computerized video did it again.) The idea that there is any pure baseline, and we should ensure that this baseline is maintained unsullied, is simply ignorant.

  • wengler

    I’d go in the exact opposite direction and start insisting that more position players become mop-up relievers. Pitcher bloat has been pushing 12-13 pitchers on the 25 man roster which is way too many.

  • Ahenobarbus

    That picture isn’t an argument against the DH, it’s an argument against baseball.

  • Darkrose

    That picture is the best anti-DH argument ever, next to what you get when you GIS “Madison Bumgarner Grand Slam”.

  • randy khan

    The “pitchers are no good at hitting” argument has a couple of flaws. One of them is that the way the game is structured below the majors, pitchers hit much less than they used to – and it’s because of the DH. If the DH weren’t in place, pitchers would hit much more on their way up to the majors, and likely would be better at it. You actually have a fair number of starting pitchers reaching the NL these days who have double-digit plate appearances in the minors, which is not remotely preparation to hit in the majors. And never mind what happened to pitchers who are drafted out of college, where the DH is universal. And, interestingly enough, pitcher hitting was improving relative to overall hitting over the decade or so before the DH was adopted in the AL, and then started a decline that has not really stopped since.

    I’ve never thought that the double-switch argument was that compelling, but there are significant differences in game management between the game with the DH and the game without the DH – with the DH a manager does not have to decide what to do when the reliever’s spot comes up or is coming up soon. You may consider this a problem with the DH or a benefit, but I like strategy, so I consider it a problem.

    • Mellano

      Would be interesting to see the numbers on pitcher hitting before and after the DH rule.

      What is the incentive for pitchers to hit better, in the real world? Any starter worth a rotation slot will be involved in something like eight times more at bats as a pitcher than as a hitter.

      I’ve been coming around on the DH rule because it seems like in practice pitchers as a group just are not effective MLB hitters. And the more I think about it I just don’t get what the system would be where a pitcher would waste valuable development time in a batting cage when their main job is already insantely difficult. From the front office perspective, the differences between pitchers hitting must be so far down the list of factors it’s not worth basing a decision on. Whereas even a glove-first position player has to be able to hit, because it’s a relatively much larger part of their impact on the game.

      • Darkrose

        Maybe the Giants are just weird, because the starters take BP along with the position players. With only one exception, they take pride in their hitting, even if it’s just being able to lay down a bunt. The incentive for doing it well is because it’s part of their job.

        To me, part of the beauty of baseball is that everyone is expected to hit, throw, run, catch, and field. Not every guy is going to have all five tools–that’s part of the point. Jon Lester can’t field his position for shit; should he get a Designated Fielder to try to throw guys out at first? Should Buster Posey have a Designated Runner to make up for the fact that he’s incredibly slow?

        • Woodrowfan

          I agree. The pitchers are baseball players. make them take their at bats.

      • Richard Hershberger

        “What is the incentive for pitchers to hit better, in the real world?”

        They are more likely to get a win.

        • Mellano

          There were three pitchers in 2014 whose positive offensive value — from a grand total of 60-70 PA each — amounted to more than a rounding error. At a glance, this has been pretty much consistent since 2010. (And while Mighty Bumgarner did earn a whole win over replacement with his bat, he accomplished this with a flukey high BABIP (.382) while striking out in a preposterous 40% of his at bats.)

          Seems like pitchers are more likely to pick up wins by polishing their pitching, which is relevant to something like 700-900 PA over the course of a season. Leaving aside relievers, of course, which starters are at danger of becoming if they can’t pitch well enough.

  • Peterr

    Two arguments in favor of ending the DH in the American League . . .

    (1) Here in KC, there’s a certain school of thought that says the Royals wouldn’t be having as big a mess about players getting hit by pitches (either Royals being hit by opposing pitchers or vice versa) if pitchers had to bat as they do in the NL. According to this school of thought, by putting pitchers in the batter’s box along with everyone else, it helps keep them more honest when they deliver their pitches.

    (2) Dave Stieb. Back in the day, I ran the scoreboard at Southern Illinois University baseball games. Dave was a center fielder, with a great bat (in 1978, he had a .670 slugging and .394 average). His older brother Steve played catcher, and during Dave’s junior year, the two of them would warm up before the game playing catch, with Steve standing at home plate and Dave standing on the warning track. Opposing teams learned not to run on either one of them.

    Comes the end of the 1978 season and the run-up to the college world series, and SIU is running out of pitchers. I’m sitting in the press box as Itchy Jones, the coach, heads to the mound to talk with the starter. “Itchy’s gonna try to calm him down, because there’s no one warming up in the bullpen,” say the radio guys, but then Itchy motions to center field. He brings Dave in as a reliever. Steve holds his glove here, and Dave hits it. Steve holds his glove there, and Dave hits it. Throwing nothing but fastballs, he strikes out the side. The opposition knew all he was throwing was fastballs, and they couldn’t do squat.

    His senior year, Dave transitioned to pitching but still played center when he wasn’t pitching. When he was drafted by an AL team (the Blue Jays), I cried, as taking the bat out of his hands was a crime.

    See also “Gibson, Bob”.

    • Darkrose

      I’m a fan of NL ball, but I think 1) doesn’t make much sense. It’s not like the D-backs don’t get in beanball wars with the Dodgers or Pirates or anyone else in the NL.

      • mikeSchilling

        There’s a reason they’re called the D-bags.

  • Breadbaker

    I’m old enough to remember when the DH came in, and to have seen the entire career of Edgar Martinez, one of the few men who mastered the position (and it absolutely is not for everyone to be able to come out and bat four times and do nothing else on a diamond every game).

    I’m gratified the conversation is heading in this direction, as opposed to “now let’s abolish the DH”.

    I suggest one more loop of all AL teams getting to have their pitchers hit in their own parks when the NL teams come, and use the DH in the NL parks, followed by adoption of a universal DH rule in all baseball past high school. Is there anywhere besides the NL that would have to make a change?

  • Gwen

    I grew up as a fan of NL teams (Atlanta during the Ted Turner “Mouth of the South” days, Pittsburgh, Houston pre-Crane). So I used to think the DH rule was stupid.

    But now, I see that it gives an opportunity for older sluggers to still be useful.

    OTOH, we get head-scratching trades like the Evan Gattis thing.


  • Poicephalus

    PEDs = Bad
    Distorts the stats
    DH = Good
    Distorts the stats
    What the MF F????

  • Having pitchers hit is the equivalent of making kickers play a down in an NFL game because they did so in high school.

    And the problem is…?

    The DH is a corporate, fascist tool.

  • This is a stupid argument: players get hurt. Shall we have designated runners too? Maybe de poor little snowflakes can even have designated fielders!

    Stop. Nine on the field. All nine hit. End of discussion.

  • Joe_JP

    Adam Wainwright had Tommy John surgery and was out for a year. Just one of many reasons pitchers are out — a fairly rare one? Getting hurt as a batter. Maybe they shouldn’t field the ball either. AW is a pretty tough athlete. He’s not some AL pitcher who doesn’t know what to do up there.

    Pitchers hits changes the nature of the NL & some like the resulting style of play. Your comment amounts to “not me,” which is fine, but others like the strategic moves etc. that arises when pitchers hit. A few pitchers can hit & basically their job is to know how to bunt. And, watching pitchers try to hit (Colon btw got a hit and RBI this year) is sorta fun.

  • njorl

    The logical extension of the designated hitter:

    Offensive teams consisting of one hitter, with designated base runners who take his place on the bases if he reaches. You have to get him out three times each inning.

    The pitcher should have a “fielding buddy”, who jumps in front of him after the pitch.

    Each outfielder should have an optional “throwing buddy”, to whom he can flip the ball for throws to the plate.

    • Hey, we can take this further!

      I’m offering my services — for a price* — as a Designated Fan. I will sit in YOUR seat and cheer YOUR team on and drink YOUR cheap-swill beer and eat YOUR crappy hot dog while you go about your day-to-day business!

      *It’s a tiered pricing scheme based on the team’s place in the standings, the opponent’s place in the standings, the relative probability of sitting in either freezing cold or boiling hot temperatures, and how close to a beach the stadium is. For instance, the LA Dodgers would rate a lower fee than the Atlanta Braves, unless the Braves are facing the Mets for first place, and so on.

  • tsam

    Worm can: OPENED!

    This is a discussion I systematically avoid around alcohol. I’m in favor of the DH because Edgar Martinez. I know that’s not a good reason, but it’s my reason and I like it.

    • Jordan

      ha. I like how a lot of the comments say the exact same thing over and over.

      • tsam

        I know–pretty pointless argument, I think. But whatever—this debate will likely go on until the NL brings in the DH.

  • YosemiteSemite

    Ooooh, poor ball player gets hurt by playing the game by the rules. Ooooh, too f**king bad.

  • ScarletNumber

    I think Colon has redeemed himself this season.

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