What the Universal DH Rule Would Mean for Baseball

We have seen some ugly swings from pitchers day in and day out. One name that comes to mind is the great Bartolo Colon when he was with the Mets taking hacks like no one has seen before. Then, Dellin Betances for the New York Yankees had to bat against the Phillies in the 8th inning on one night in June, and it was a sight to see. Doing his best Gary Sheffield impression, Betances sure didn’t look like him hitting past the batting stance. He whiffed on three straight pitches bailing out on all three but taking a fucking hack on the second pitch.

“I hit in high school, but it’s been 12 years. It’s just crazy because out of anybody in this clubhouse, I didn’t want to hit. I was telling all the pitchers, ‘I don’t want an AB! It’s been 12 years. I’m not going to look good out there.’ But it was definitely fun. My teammates got a kick out of it.”  Said by Betances himself.

12 whole years it’s been since that man had swung a bat seriously. Some say it is entertaining, as did Betances, but is it better for the sport to keep letting pitchers hit? That is the question that keeps getting asked and will continue to be asked until this comes to fruition.

Aaron Boone had his thoughts on the DH discussion after the game. “I’m in favor of this DH thing, “That’s what I’m thinking. That said, I thought he had some pretty good swings. They were violent, but he was on it. My heart skipped a beat about seven times now watching our pitchers swing the bat. I don’t love it.

Coming from a man who spent the first half of his career in the NL, it seems he might have changed his stance on having the DH become universal. Then you have a player who has spent his entire career hitting with a pitcher in the lineup come out and add this to the never-ending discussion:

“I lightly lean toward no, just because I’m used to the National League style of play,” Cincinnati’s Joey Votto said. “I find that the American League is a little more basic and the games are longer. That doesn’t excite me. On the other side, I guess I do like the idea of the occasional break and getting to DH.” Credit it to the Washington Post on that great quote.

More importantly, we had some higher level baseball figures weigh in on the debate going on. First, we had MLBPA leader, Tony Clark speaking to members of the Baseball Writers Association of America on July 17th saying that “players are talking about more than they have in the past” said Clark. Doesn’t sound like much but for him to even hint at the idea says a lot. Next, we have the commissioner of Major League Baseball, Mr. Robert Manfred give his insight on this debate at one of the quarterly owners meetings in the middle of June.

“I think that is a continuing source of conversation among the ownership group and I think that the dialogue actually probably moved a little bit,” said Manfred.

Different perspectives from different guys in different leagues including some insight from some important higher up figures in baseball. Hilarious how Votto called the American League basic, but not the point. Votto admitting he “lightly” leans towards not having a DH in the National League but still agreeing that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get some rest from running out to the field every inning. With those quotes from two of the higher up figures in the game says a lot. It shows that baseball is definitely considering it. Obviously there is more discussions to be made, but with both of them not flat-out denying it, says a ton about their stance. The games being longer is a good point though. But is it really about the league or is it about the teams? I should have searched the dark web for answers to this question, as I could only find articles written in 2014, the latest, on that topic.

Then came along a man by the name of Carl Bialik, who got down the nitty-gritty side of things. This man broke down game times from 1997 (the year interleague games started) to 2013, the last year info was provided by ESPN Stats & Info, to calculate the times of games to see whether it was in fact the league with the DH or was it the actual certain types of play styles by certain teams. He found some crazy findings that are really strange.

The first finding had been that American League teams did in fact have a longer game time when playing against their own league teams by 2 minutes and 15 seconds rather than the National League teams playing against National League teams. Then this gruden grinder broke down the teams playing in the World Series to see if the games played in the National League park were indeed longer than the games being played in the American League park with the DH. The results were surprising with that the games played in the National League parks, with the pitcher hitting, took longer but a total of 15 seconds. This evidence does show that it could be the teams different style of play. Whether it be from the manager or just the different types of players on the team, that it might be a little far-fetched that the DH is causing games to take longer. Then again this is 2018 and times have changed now.

2017 did show that baseball is longer and more boring than ever. To the average guy who hates to watch baseball from the first pitch to the last, 2017 showed that the average MLB game lasts a record-setting 3 hours and 5 minutes. Not a good look for MLB who is trying to generate more young fans and losing all the adults/kids with attention spans of little gnats flying around. In today’s world, no kid will want to sit around for 3 hours when they could be playing Fortnite all night. MLB did implement new rules with mound visits and the length between innings and during pitching changes. That all should be good, but is it enough to shorten games? Not sure, really. Guys will still take their sweet ass time walking up to the plate, rituals before they hit and everything in between.

With every argument, you have to weigh the positives and negatives. This year to date, there are only 4 total pitchers with averages higher than .200 with 30 ab’s or more. Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, German Marquez, and Carlos Martinez. German Marquez actually is batting .361 through 36 ab’s, very solid for a pitcher.

Positives

Pitchers Not Getting Hurt With the universal DH being put into play, it would definitely have managers at ease. Not having to watch their starter, who they want to last at least 6 innings, have to run the bases, possibly strain a hammy or anything else is a nightmare waiting to happen. Not to mention, if they bring in their closer or best reliever in the 8th inning to get out of a tough situation, they would have to let him bat if his spot in the lineup is due up, putting him at risk if he swings out of his shoes or tries to beat out a ground ball maybe resulting in injury.

More Bombs- Nobody wants to watch a pitcher lay down a sacrifice bunt when you have a guy like Kris Davis, Nelson Cruz or Evan Gattis, who are not the smoothest in the field, come up and drop a 450 foot bomb. Those are the guys who are guaranteed to give you a better at bat than most because they will have only one job coming into the game, hit the shit out of the ball. Which they are good at.

More Jobs- Pay the men! We have seen guys like Russell Branyan (fucking great throw back), Chris Carter, Dan Johnson (only people who would know him are Rays fans), Mark Trumbo, Lucas Duda to name a few, be without jobs because they were/are incompetent fielders. These are the type of guys where you give them $1-2 million and just let them do what they do best, and that is hit. Guys who are on the brink of being out of the league because they are out of a job in the field, could make a comeback and get paid to provide for themselves or family. Obviously it’s a business and the team is going to do what is best for them in the long run, but it could prolong careers like we have never seen before.

Negatives

League Identity-  This is what makes baseball one of the most unique sports. No other American sport has two leagues with different rules for each league. I mean, it may not sound like much because it is just adding a hitter to a lineup instead of the pitcher, but it is what defines the leagues. It makes the rosters more versatile without the DH as well. Instead of carrying a guy that is one dimensional, teams carry a guy that can play multiple positions and offers more value than just dropping bombs.

Longer games?- Implementing the DH to the National League could mean longer games. As i said earlier, from the research that man did, it really didn’t have too much of an effect, but we won’t really know until they actually do it. The games could go longer just because having an extra hitter instead of pitcher in the lineup could mean more opportunities for hits coming from that spot in the lineup which could cause more pitching changes, which could cause the game to run a little longer than expected. Or the occasional streaker could always cause a 5 minute delay but I still need to do my dark web research on how much extra time streakers put on the clock at baseball games.

End of Bunting- Doesn’t that sound sad? I know the world would probably go into shock with not seeing a sacrifice bunt from a pitcher every other inning, but it could happen. It just means that teams would probably gear towards using a power hitter in the lineup, someone who could drive the ball in the gap or further, rather than choose someone who is more of a singles hitter and threat on the bases.

There could be a chance that they give this a try in the next season or two. If so, look for some guys to get chances that have never really gotten a chance to play full-time now that they wouldn’t have to do anything except hit. If so, we could be looking at longer careers for some guys that otherwise wouldn’t be given a second chance. Also, look out for a Russell Branyan resurfacing, I’m just not sure the world could handle that man one more go around.

JD Sig

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