“Implementing the DH universally takes the strategy out of the game! It’ll be the death of the pinch-hitter!”
“Why would I ever want to watch a pitcher hit? They’re an automatic out!”
“The league would be so much more exciting with more offense with a DH!”
“With a universal DH, we won’t have legendary moments like pitcher Bartolo Colon AKA Big Sexy hitting a homerun! Or find out that Madison Bumgarner is a pitcher that can absolutely rake too!”
“The universal DH extends the career of hitters that get out of shape and can’t play in the field anymore!”
We’ve heard these back-and-forth arguments for as long as I can remember. It’s a tale as old as time. You have the “traditionalist” group that wants to keep the pitchers hitting in the national league and believe that the Designated Hitter position was the worst thing that happened to baseball. You have the non-traditionalist begging for uniformity in both leagues that can’t stand to see pitchers step into the box.
The pressure to implement the universal DH has ramped up over the years. This upcoming season, after the success we saw last year in the experimental shortened COVID-19 year, there’s discussion as to making it a permanent change. We got some extra offense we wouldn’t have gotten in normal circumstances, like Marcell Ozuna on the Braves and Kyle Schwarber hitting bombs in positions that would normally have been occupied by pitchers in the DH role.
However, we also lost the managerial strategy late in a game where platoon guys have come in the game for lefty-righty matchups or to fill-in for a pitcher; that’s such a chess-move, a strategic factor that adds to the pressure down the stretch. As many free-agent DH-type hitters await the decision before signing, it’s made teams reluctant to spend money.
So with great debate that will seemingly never end, is there a compromise?
Allow me to propose an idea.
The pro-DH crowd wants a guy that isn’t a pitcher, believed to be an automatic out, to fill the position for universality throughout the league and have a better chance at some offense. It would also prevent teams from pulling their dominant pitcher early if he comes up in a big-hitting spot, and you’d rather have a pinch-hitter.
The anti-DH crowd prefers the strategic element of deciding who and when to pinch-hit for pitchers, creating a defensive-minded league and putting more of an emphasis on managerial decision-making.
What if we incorporated the element of having to switch hitters without forcing that burden upon the pitcher? Here it is: you take the 9-hole spot and make it a DH position, but place a limit on the number of innings the DH player can use at a maximum of 3. For example, if David Ortiz were to enter the game in the lineup in that 9-spot as the DH so he wouldn’t have to field, he would only get to play during the first three innings maximum; throughout the rest of the game, the Red Sox would be platooning other pinch-hitters as the DH for three-inning increments at max.
The element of strategy that the anti-DH crowd would be present: you’d have teams have to figure out who to hit from the 9-hole DH spot and when you only get 3 innings at a time out of them. It would also emphasize having deep rosters and maybe even result in more jobs for position players considering you would need more effective hitters to come in and take cuts.
The pro-DH crowd wouldn’t have to watch a pitcher, a “guaranteed out,” be forced to hit and even risk pulling a muscle running to first base or getting some injury. You also get guys who are used to hitting to step up at least for a few at-bats apiece.
Pitchers shouldn’t be hitting is the reality of the matter. They’re too valuable commodities, and around 97% of them don’t practice nor want to partake in it. That doesn’t mean we can’t have the pinch-hitter-friendly strategic element implemented into it that the traditionalists love so dearly.
Baseball is a game of checkers, not chess, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do the smart thing and let the players who are paid to hit dingers and let the players who are paid to pinch-hit, pinch-hit.
Featured Image: The Daily Herald