January 22, 2016

The near inevitability of the DH in the NL.

"I do think there’s a certain purity to the idea that everybody plays by the same rules. The significance of that purity goes up when you have interleague play every day... Particularly given the difference between leagues, in interleague play, pitchers who don’t hit on a regular basis probably are more likely to have a problem than pitchers who do."

Terrible! I hate interleague play too, but if they need one rule, get rid of the DH for both leagues.

78 comments:

Gahrie said...

I like interleague play, but I think there should be less of it. I would eliminate the DH completely, pitchers should have to bat.

JAORE said...

Funny that "purity" is now defined as the new (perversion!) rules change to that fine game.

tim in vermont said...

While they are at it, why don't they take away the net in tennis, make the holes twice as big in golf, and double the size of the goal in soccer. They could also tie one of the hockey goalie's hands behind his back. There are all kinds of things they could do to make sports "better."

Why should the manager face so many choices, after all. And this silent part of baseball, the part where the fan just "thinks" about stuff, like, wow, the last two hitters just took him to the warning track for a couple of loud outs, should we pinch hit for him before the trouble starts, or should we leave him in, even though we really need a run here, because he is, after all, getting them out since giving up that big inning early..?


That kind of stuff? You can't show it on TV, so it might as well not be happening. Why bother kids who can't multiply without a calculator with anxiety producing questions like that?

Henry said...

I disagree. DH for both leagues. Some pitchers can hit. Most can't. And poor hitting pitchers leads to NL managers making dumb decisions about when to pull their pitchers. If you want to see the best players compete, you want the DH.

I'm pretty neutral about interleague play. What I really appreciate is the increase in inter-division games from 13 in the '70s to 19 now.

traditionalguy said...

While they are at it, move in the fences 90 feet and pitch underhanded only.

Baseball is like watching paint dry.

tim in vermont said...

And poor hitting pitchers leads to NL managers making dumb decisions about when to pull their pitchers

There is a difference between a dumb decision and a decision based on probabilities and judgement that didn't work out.

I have an idea! Why don't we make the bat really wide, not allow the defenders to wear gloves except for the catcher, eliminate foul balls, anything hit in any direction is fair! Let the batter carry the bat with him while he runs and if he touches first base with the bat before he is touched he is safe! Hundreds of runs could be scored! It would be an offensive fireworks show!

They have that sport you know, it's called cricket. It's not as good as baseball.

Original Mike said...

"DH for both leagues. Some pitchers can hit. Most can't."

Tough titties. If they can't hit they give up their spot to someone who can.

Original Mike said...

If you can't hit you're really not a baseball player, are you? You're just a throwing machine.

tim in vermont said...

The Marlins won a world series on the strength, not just of their pitching, but their pitchers ability to hit. It was great.

Jason said...

Death before DH.

tim in vermont said...

Maybe we shouldn't keep score and give them all a participation trophy at the end of the season so they don't have to make any hard decisions!

bwebster said...

I'm with you, Ann.

tim in vermont said...

DH = Dis Honor, I like it.

Birches said...

Agreed!

Curious George said...

The NL DH is inevitable. The MLBPA will demand it, as it keeps higher paid hitters in the game. Two, fans, especially younger fans, like scoring. And fans, and the $$$ they bring, is what it's all about.

Bay Area Guy said...

They're never gonna get rid of the DH -- it causes more hits, more runs, which translates to more $$.

But, yeah, I opposed inter-play back then, and still do today.

And, Bud Selig, should be in jail. Harumph.

Saint Croix said...

You tell them, Althouse. You go, girl. You rock! The DH is pathetic. Bite my ass, DH! And take your aluminum bats and your artificial turf with you!

Saint Croix said...

The NL DH is inevitable.

"Inevitable"

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

DimeStoreDave said...

The DH allows a few of the stars to remain viable and active which is also good for the fans. Also, what Curious just said.

Lem said...

The best hitter of all time was successful roughly 3.6 out of ten times at bat.

If baseball is to remain competitive it has to go DH for both leagues.

A pitcher is a specialist as much as a quarterback is in football.

Let pitchers pitch and hitters hit.

Saint Croix said...

I still think at some point we will start to see a "shit cascade."

Oh my goodness! What a shit!

But I do not say it is inevitable.

Curious George said...

"tim in vermont said...
The Marlins won a world series on the strength, not just of their pitching, but their pitchers ability to hit. It was great"

Oh bullshit.

Game 1 and 2 was at the Yankees...DH in place. No pitchers hitting. The teams split.

Games 3, 4 and 5 at FLorida.

Game 3 won by the Yankees. Game four and five won by the Marlins. Their pitchers went hitless.

Game 6 back at New York. DH. No pitchers hitting.

The Marlins pitchers had no hits in the series.



Game 6 at FLorida:

furious_a said...

"...pitchers should have to bat."

Esp. pitchers that threw brushback pitches in the previous inning.

tim in vermont said...

I guess it doesn't matter what I think, I stopped going to games when they replaced the organist with short obnoxious blasts of loud recorded music.

I just feel bad for people who think that baseball is just about scoring, it's like mistaking porn for making love. But then what is rock music but the rhythm section of a big band struck out on it's own? And rap is abstracted even further.

tim in vermont said...

The Marlins were in two WS, you know, won them both.

Static Ping said...

Can of worms. Can of worms.

Sports do modify their rules from time to time when the current rules are not working. traditionalguy said in jest, but, yes, at one time pitchers could only throw underhand and there were no rules as to fence distances so their were some ballparks with ridiculously short home runs. Do note that the underhand pitching was like fast-pitch softball, not the beer league lob. It is technically still legal to throw like fast-pitch softball with some limitations.

It must be remembered that when professional baseball started out, pitchers were not bad hitters. They were below average compared to the league overall, but not much more below than, say, catchers and shortstops. Pitchers regularly played other positions when not pitching, and some were middle of the order guys. Guy Hecker won the batting championship in the American Association (then a major league) in 1886 playing primarily as a pitcher. However, pitchers have become progressively worse and worse at hitting over the years, partially due to greater specialization, partially due to a lack of emphasis, and partially due to the "Babe Ruth Effect" that funnels players who are both very good hitters and very good pitchers into position player roles. The historical trend has flattened out over the years, but the current plateau of pitcher offense is fairly terrible.

If you were starting baseball today with the exact same cohort of players, the designated hitter would not seem outrageous. In the 1870s the DH would be an unpopular idea because it was unnecessary. It is difficult to argue that there should be someone batting for the pitcher when the pitcher is batting cleanup.

Personally, I don't want to see the National League adopt the DH. If they do, I think it has more to do with trying to keep pitchers healthy as they tend to be more injury prone and owners are getting fed up paying millions of dollars for players that miss years at time due to surgery. This is a different motive than with the American League, which was trying to boost offense after one of the lowest scoring periods in baseball history.

Curious George said...

The reality is DH or not, MLB must figure out a way to get games closer to two hours. The next generation is not going to be interested in watching a three hour game on TV. I love going to games but I cannot stand watching baseball on TV. I prefer to listen on the radio.

Henry said...

If you can't hit you're really not a baseball player, are you? You're just a throwing machine.

Exactly. That is what we have in the National League. A bunch of throwing machines forced to look like clumsy fools three or four times a game. What makes that fun to watch? Red Ruffing retired 70 years ago.

There is an economic issue, but it's internal to the game itself. The value of good pitching is so important to winning that pitchers have no financial incentive to learn to hit, nor do teams want them to spend any time training to hit, nor do pitching prospects spend any time taking batting practice in the minor leagues. No team ever signs a free agent pitcher because of their hitting. No NL team ever balks at signing an AL pitcher who has never hit before.

This anti-DH sentiment is based on an abstraction of how baseball should be, not how it actually is. The way baseball actually is, every 9th out in the National League is a pathetic sideshow in the actual game of skill and grace. The broken cuckoo clock squeaks incompetence on the half hour so the diehards can set their sundials.

CWJ said...

tim in vermont -

I think you'd like the Royals.

Curious George said...

"tim in vermont said...
The Marlins were in two WS, you know, won them both."

So you weren't talking 2003? Are you sure?

In 1997 the Marlins won games 1 and 7 at home. Their pitchers went hitless in both games.

So again, bullshit.

EDH said...

I remember when the HRC was "inevitable".

Henry said...

While they are at it, move in the fences 90 feet and pitch underhanded only.

You should take the time and go watch a vintage baseball game, 1864 rules:

* The pitcher delivered the ball underhand from 45 feet away, as opposed to the 60 feet 6 inches that pitchers today throw from.

* There were are called balls and strikes but calling balls and strikes is at the discretion of the umpire. If the umpire felt the batter was taking too many good pitches the umpire could call a striker warning then proceed to call strikes. If the umpire felt the pitcher was not delivering fair pitches he can call a hurler warning and proceed to call balls. After a warning there are 3 strikes for a strike out and three balls for a walk.

etc.

Chuck said...

I like interleague play, but if it ended I would not much care.

I agree that the AL should drop the DH. The notion that NL pitchers are lousy hitters misses the point entirely. The real point is that is how the game began -- with everybody batting -- and that one of the great charms of baseball strategy is lineup management. Managers have to make hard decisions about pulling pitchers for pinch batters and it affects the entire game just like everything in baseball.

What I don't get is why there needs to be a DH if you don't want pitchers to bat. Just have an 8-man batting lineup. But that gets us into another bit of DH controversy, which is whether the DH position gives fans a chance to watch older hitters stretch a hitting career beyond what might happen if they also had to play in the field.

I say all of this as a devout American League (Tigers) guy. The DH is rotten, and it has always been rotten.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Why not make all the hitters pitch? Or reinstate Rules 10 and 20 of The Knickerbocker Rules:

10TH. A ball knocked out of the field, or outside the range of the first and third base, is foul.

20TH. But one base allowed when a ball bounds out of the field when struck.

If you can accept 3 divisions and wild card teams and instant replay (a direct contravention of the hallowed 17th Rule that there is no appeal from the decision of the Umpire), you can accept the designated hitter.

tim in vermont said...

Well Curious, Maybe I am remembering playoff game. From Wikipedia:

Despite struggling with his pitching, Willis showcased his remarkable (for a pitcher) hitting ability by going 3-for-3 with a triple and scoring a run during that game, which the Marlins won 7–6 to advance to the NL Championship Series against the Cubs,

This is just one game I remember. The point stands whether it was the against a DH or not, the hitting of the pitchers carried them.

khesanh0802 said...

I am with you, Ann.

mccullough said...

In NL games, a pitcher will hit at most twice in a game. Most of the time it's just once. Then the double switches happen and the pitcher is moved around the line up to avoid coming to the plate. This adds to much time to the game.

If people were really purists, they would insist that a pitcher must hit in the same spot in the line up as the starting pitcher. They don't.

The fans and advertisers don't pay to watch Clayton Kershaw hit. They pay to watch him pitch. They pay to watch Miguel Cabrera hit.

MLB should cut the number of teams to 24. There aren't enough good players for 30 teams. Put in a DH, have no more than 3 pitchers a game (unless injury); limit pickoff throws to 3 an inning, and MLB will be much more enjoyable for the fans.

Bob Ellison said...

I don't like the DH rule, but I don't mind the difference the two leagues on that.

Interleague play is important and good, because in the old days it sucked when one league was way better than the other and the World Series was therefore a snoozer.

Curious George said...

"tim in vermont said...
Well Curious, Maybe I am remembering playoff game. From Wikipedia:

Despite struggling with his pitching, Willis showcased his remarkable (for a pitcher) hitting ability by going 3-for-3 with a triple and scoring a run during that game, which the Marlins won 7–6 to advance to the NL Championship Series against the Cubs,

This is just one game I remember. The point stands whether it was the against a DH or not, the hitting of the pitchers carried them."

LOL

In the Series against the Giants, the Marlins pitchers had:

Game 1: not hits, shutout loss
Game 2: had one hit that didn't result in a run in a nine run win
Game 3: no hits, 4-3 win
Game 4: Game 4, the Willis 3-3 game. He only scored one run, and had no RBI's. Miguel Cabrera carried that game. 4 for 5. 3- RBI.

Now, let's go to the Cub series. I can tell you that Miguel Cabrera carried that series. I'm a Cub fan. It still hurts. Derrick Lee, who would become a CUb, also played well. But the Marlins pitchers went 2 for 11 (.181) with no runs or RBIs.

You're dreaming.

MadisonMan said...

I've not seen a game in person since -- well, I guess it was 2008, maybe, single A State College Spikes at Lubrano Field (the view!!). Last Major League games was probably 1982 at County Stadium on a cold May day.

So: MLB cares not about what I think, but my remembrance of the DH was to keep creaky old hitters in the game because "fans" wanted to keep seeing old favorites.

I thought then it was a bad reason and it still is.

Cemeteries are full of irreplaceable people.

I'm not big on Interleague play, either, but the easy transitions of so many teams from one league to another renders that opposition moot. Bring back the days of AL East/AL West and NL East/NL West only.

D. B. Light said...

If pitchers don't hit, it ain't baseball.

Todd said...

tim in vermont said...

They have that sport you know, it's called cricket. It's not as good as baseball.

1/22/16, 12:57 PM


Neither is soccer.

Both of those statements are faint praise...

Wilbur said...

Why does each league need to have identical rules? "Purity"? That's the sort of thinking that leads to nationwide standardization, not always a good thing. How's that U.S. Department of Education worked out for ya'?

If each league likes their own rules, then leave things like they are.

Birches said...

The reality is DH or not, MLB must figure out a way to get games closer to two hours. The next generation is not going to be interested in watching a three hour game on TV.

True. They could eliminate at least a half an hour by just forbidding a hitter from leaving the box and grabbing himself, kicking the dirt, and practice swinging after every pitch.

Mark said...

Keep the DH in the AL, get rid of interleague play.

Meanwhile, while not a rule, get rid of the over reliance on relief pitching. Bring back more complete game pitchers. All those relievers coming in the game in the sixth inning because . . . well, because -- no reason, just because -- is like the prevent defense in football.

Curious George said...

"Mark said...
Meanwhile, while not a rule, get rid of the over reliance on relief pitching. Bring back more complete game pitchers. All those relievers coming in the game in the sixth inning because . . . well, because -- no reason, just because -- is like the prevent defense in football."

Do you really think that teams do this just because?

themightypuck said...

Agree. Go 4 divisions of 8 teams. No DH. No wildcards. 7 game series. Last place in each division plays in AAA for a year.

tim in vermont said...

Ever watch a cricket game? They put up graphics that look like financial charts to keep track of the dozens, scores, and even hundreds of runs. That's what baseball needs.

Widmerpool said...

Of course DH for both leagues, and make various rule changes designed to make games shorter and more watchable. Ann (and other like-minded commentators): you have a serious case of George Will disease. God did not create the rules of baseball. Look at the NFL, which is running laps around MLB - each and every year they get together and consider rule changes to make the game more interesting for spectators.

mccullough said...

There are 15 teams in each league. You can't get rid of interleague without realigning the leagues or else 1 team from each league will have to be off while the other teams play their 3-game or 4-game series during the season.

Mac McConnell said...

Widmerpool got it right, rule changes to make games higher scoring and protect assets...err players.

tim in vermont said...

each and every year they get together and consider rule changes to make the game more interesting for spectators.

My only argument is that the DH makes the game *less* interesting by removing high stakes strategic decisions from the game that can be argued and talked about and that require real baseball judgement. It is not about *purity* or anything else. When you can build a "short porch" in right field in Yankee Stadium to accommodate certain hitters, and inflate stats, purity is a thing that never was.



M Jordan said...

Here's a DH's "work" day. Get up at noon. Eat all day. Go to the ballpark at 5:00. Eat. Take BP. Sit. Walk up to the plate 4 times. Strike out 3 times. Hit one home run. Job the bases. Go back to the hotel and eat.

Pay for said day: one billion dollars. Or thereabouts.

Michael said...

Widmerpool

Where to begin! You remember what happened to the real Widmerpool dashing about there in the glen. He too made the error of thinking that God had no hand in devising the rules of Cricket. And he was struck down by it.

No. Out with the DH and out with games and noise between innings. We want quiet. We want neckties on the men. And hats. We want to follow the real rules of baseball goddamnit. And we want long peaceful games with the sounds of leather and bats cracking balls. The DH was the step out onto the slippery slope.

Bricap said...

I'm not a fan of the DH, either, but I'm fine with one league having it and the other league not having it. What probably brought this to a head is that the average NL team is at a disadvantage when playing on the road at the average AL park, because an AL team by definition is designed to have that extra hitter, whereas that roster spot in the NL is more likely to be an extra reliever or utility player.

Clyde said...

I grew up in Kansas City in the 1970s as a Royals fan, and we had Hal McRae at DH, which was a lot better option than having Dennis Leonard or Paul Splittorff at the plate. I liked the DH then, and still like it now. There aren't any "gimmes" in the #9 slot of an AL lineup.

One thing to note is that pitchers don't bat in the minor leagues. This means that they don't have the opportunity to hone their hitting skills until they reach the majors, and then only can do so regularly if they are in the NL. There are a handful of really good-hitting pitchers, but most of them aren't, because hitting ability isn't part of the skill set required for a pitcher to make it to the major leagues. Even the best defensive catcher or shortstop is likely to have a short career if he can't hit his weight. That's not true of pitchers.

Henry said...

M Jordan wrote Here's a DH's "work" day. Get up at noon. Eat all day. Go to the ballpark at 5:00. Eat. Take BP. Sit. Walk up to the plate 4 times. Strike out 3 times. Hit one home run. Job the bases. Go back to the hotel and eat.

That describes Hanley Ramirez's work perfectly, except that in between at bats he would stand in left field and watch balls go over his head.

CWJ said...

Mark wrote-

"Meanwhile, while not a rule, get rid of the over reliance on relief pitching. Bring back more complete game pitchers. All those relievers coming in the game in the sixth inning because . . . well, because -- no reason, just because -- is like the prevent defense in football."

The team that perfected that strategy almost won the World Series last year, and did so this year. You'd think that early reliance would deplete their bullpen, but look at all the extra inning games the Royals won. Mark, what you miss is a statistic (complete games), but statistics (except for 1) are not success. Indeed, to play for Dayton Moore and Ned Yost means checking your personal stats at the door for the sake of the team. Darn few players willing to do that which is why I love this team and watching them.

mccullough said...

Frank Thomas and Edgar Martinez were great hitters who were long-time DHs. The NL's pinch hitters who end up hitting for the relief pitchers are the .250 hitters

Forbes said...

Ah, the designated hitter rule. For those that don't follow baseball closely, but have an opinion on the DH rule, this little detail might help. There are only two leagues where pitchers go to bat, the National League, and Little League. The only rule change that will happen in Major League Baseball is extending the DH to the National League.

Though I agree with Althouse, I despise inter-league play.

Jim at said...

"The fans and advertisers don't pay to watch Clayton Kershaw hit."

Speak for yourself and yourself only. One of the best regular season games I watched was Opening Day 2013 when Clayton Kershaw shut out the Giants 1-0.

And that one run? Kershaw hit a homerun for the only run.

Take your DH and stick it somewhere.

dwick said...

CWJ said...
"The team that perfected that strategy almost won the World Series last year, and did so this year..."


Sparky Anderson 'perfected' that strategy back in the early 1970s with the Cincinnati Reds' 'Big Red Machine' - went to 4 World Series in 7 years and won 2 of them (the last NL team to win back-to-back WS) The Reds of that era generally had middling starting pitching (aside from Don Gullett and on some days Jack Billingham) and a bullpen full of rubber-armed fireballers (Clay Carroll, Pedro Borbon, Will McEnaney, Rawley Eastwick, Tom Hall, etc) Sparky even got the nickname 'Captain Hook' back then for his propensity to so frequently change pitchers.

mccullough said...

Stick it in the AL where the games are shorter and the AL has won more World Series since 1973 and has won more games since interleague started in 1997. Over 18 seasons, the data is in. The AL is better.

Kershaw is a great pitcher but he'll never play in the World Series until the NL gets its act together. Their pinch hitters and double switches and pitchers who bat once a game should have translated into more wins against the AL. But it hasn't. The AL teams and managers can bunt, pinch hit and double switch but it just makes the game longer. The result is the same.

Bob R said...

I prefer the NL game with no DH, but the evidence is becoming clearer that not having the DH makes players better. AL teams have been (slightly) better in both DH and non-DH games. AL players coming to the NL have done better than NL players going to the AL. It's not completely clear, but even if the effect turns out to be small, I don't see those of us who prefer no DH to prevail.

Mark said...

The team that perfected that strategy almost won the World Series last year, and did so this year.

Key word there -- perfected.

Most other teams -- nearly every other team -- is far from perfection. They take out a starter who has shut down the other team. And the other team is happy to face the middle relievers, who routinely proceed to give up the lead. Part of it is limiting innings/pitches by the starter, part of it is an over-reliance on playing the right vs. left percentages.

You put three, four, five pitchers in a game routinely, that is three, four or five people that can run up the score against their own team.

CWJ said...

Dwick,

Thanks for memory lane. So what happenned in the intervening 40 plus years? I remember "Captain Hook " but then pulling a starter now and then was a shocking novelty rather than a day in day out strategy, hence the nickname.

CWJ said...

Mark,

Point taken, Obviously. It's only been this past two years that I've come to realize what a treat it is to watch baseball in KC. I actually hope that other teams can replicate this. It would revitalize baseball.

Mark said...

Your starter is like your QB in football. That's why all nearly all the great pitchers in history have 150-plus complete games on their record.

Meanwhile, pitchers all across the league have been trying to be too cute by nibbling on the corners, apparently trying for the K even when they are not strikeout pitchers, rather than relying on the fielders to make the play. What that does is run up the pitch count, making the game longer and increasing the temptation to pull starters.

Basil said...

There needs to be a compromise. Pinch hitters can hit for the pitcher, but the hitter is then out of the game but the pitcher can stay in the game. Extra offense and extra strategy. Win win.

Mark said...

Pinch hitters can hit for the pitcher, but the hitter is then out of the game [and] the pitcher can stay in the game.

Or, pinch hitters can hit for the pitcher, and the hitter can stay in the game and the pitcher can stay in the game too.

Bob Ellison said...

Two to stay in stop-throp. That'll force a quidding, unless Throwererby are confident of a gonsnoot.

Georgia Lawyer said...

Kudos for being on the winning team, Ann. The DH is an abomination. The fact that it gives the AL an advantage in the World Series, All-Star game, and interleague play is a reason to get rid of it in the AL - not to adopt it in the NL.

Bricap said...

With regard to which league's games take the longest to finish, the answer appears to be neither, interestingly enough.

After the 1980 Oakland A's debacle, we'll never see an emphasis of any kind on complete games again in our lifetimes. The starter plus three relievers win is not a model I grew up watching, but I've gotten used to it.

mccullough said...

The DH doesn't give the AL an advantage. The AL wins more games in NL parks than the NL wins in AL parks. AL Designated hitters are better hitters than NL pinch hitters who bat for the relief pitchers. Generally, the AL has better hitting, better defense, and better pitching than the NL. That's why they win more WS, more All Star Games and more interleague games.

Bricap said...

The AL should have a bigger home field advantage because of the DH, mccullough. You seem to be arguing for that while claiming otherwise. The DH versus lack thereof when playing in an AL park is more meaningful, and the DH who isn't playing in an NL park will likely be better than the NL team's best pinch hitter. The AL should win more often

Fielding percentage is negligible, year in and year out (you can go back a number of years on this site). Switching to pitching on that link, you will find that ERA is consistently lower on average in the NL, though one has to control for the DH or lack thereof, and I'm not wont to devise such a model right now. I welcome anybody else's attempt to do so here.

Real American said...

like most elites, these people are not consulting their customers about whether they'd like the change. Most fans of NL teams do NOT want the DH.

raf said...

Why stop at one DH? Let's have separate offensive and defensive teams like football. That will allow all players to be true specialists at hitting, pitching, or fielding. Surely the increased skills at all positions would be an improvement. And why the limit on substitutions? Football doesn't have a strict lineup. Let's allow the offensive coordinator to put at bat any member of the offense not on base, and let the defensive coordinator change players to optimize the skills for the batter/runner situation for every at-bat.

After all, it's not like there is anything sacred about any of the rules, is there?

While we are at it, get rid of the infield fly rule.

Char Char Binks said...

They should just get rid of baseball entirely. Sports are stupid, and baseball is a particularly stupid and boring sport.