Should the MLB Eliminate the Designated Hitter?

The designated hitter is by far the most controversial position in the MLB.

 

They are hired specifically to hit and make an appearance about three to four times per game, yet they get paid around the same amount as a positon player. Fans have debated for years now over whether this rule should be eliminated, bringing the pitcher back into an AL lineup.

This rule was added to the AL in 1973 with the original intent of boosting attendance numbers. After a 17% increase in its first year in action, the rule has stuck ever since.

 

The DH gives an AL manager several ways to shape his lineup.

 

He has the opportunity of giving his everyday player an “off day” by taking him out of the field while still keeping his bat in the lineup.

As position players age, they are able to move into a full time DH role to extend their careers. David Ortiz is a prime example of this. He remained a lethal part of the Red Sox even after he was taken out of his position in the field.

 

The DH creates much more offense than a pitcher, which results in more entertaining games.

 

Collectively, starting pitchers batted a mere .116 this past season, whereas DH’s batted .269. A pitcher up at the plate is almost a sure out. Many of them are inexperienced hitters because they spend so much time perfecting their pitching.

Pitchers run the risk of getting injured while at the plate. Taking a 95 mph fastball to the leg and having to go on the disabled list is not something that general managers want to have to deal with. They spend too much money on these players for them to get injured in a non-pitching incident.

 

On the other side of this argument, the DH makes the game strategically challenging for an NL manager.

 

Making double switches and choosing when to pinch hit for the pitcher is an interesting chess-like aspect that fans love to watch. It tests the greatness of managers and some of these decisions can win or lose games.

Perhaps the biggest argument is that a DH creates a one-dimensional player. Some fans think that it is not fair for a DH to be paid as much as a position player because a DH only contributes to the offense, whereas a position player contributes to both offense and defense. All they do is hit. Baseball purists insist that one dimensional players should not be in the MLB.

 

In my opinion, the DH needs to be present in both the AL and the NL.

 

I like that players such as Frank Thomas and David Ortiz were able to play a couple extra years. Ortiz may not have been around to win a World Series in 2014 if there were no DH’s; similarly, Thomas certainly would not have ended up with as many home runs if his career were cut short.

Players like that are definitely more fun to watch than any pitcher hitting.

 

It is ugly to watch a pitcher hit.

 

There are some rare cases where a pitcher will hit a home run or two, but overall it is not a pretty sight. Bartolo Colon is a testament to just how good a pitcher is at hitting.

 

Although Colon’s at-bats are comical, a designated hitter is much more entertaining and less cringing to watch.

Pitcher’s at-bats are very predictable and usually result in wasted outs. They get two to four at bats per game, potentially adding up to over a half inning worth of wasted offense.

The fact that pitchers are not good hitters is completely understandable. They have to worry about scouting reports, bullpen sessions and several other preparations for their outings. They simply do not have much time to spare for hitting.

 

The argument that the DH creates one dimensional players is misleading.

 

A DH is not one dimensional. They specialize in hitting, just as a relief pitcher specializes in pitching. A relief pitcher comes in for 1-3 innings and does not even play in over half of the games. A DH usually has three at bats and has a spot in the lineup in almost every game.

Specialization is everywhere in today’s game. I could make the argument that relief pitchers are just as “one dimensional” as a DH, if not more. The people who say DH’s need to go should be saying the same about relievers.

These players are focusing on one part of their game. A DH may be “one dimensional,” but there are other positions that fall in the same category. They are not the only ones.

 

The MLB needs to be under level playing fields in terms of the rules in each league, which is why a DH needs to be put in the NL.

 

There is a huge advantage that the home team has in the World Series not only because they get to play on their home field, but they also get to play under their set of rules. Having a pitcher or a DH hit in the lineup could be the deciding factor of the series.

The DH will not be eradicated in the MLB because there is some form of a DH at every level of baseball, except for Little League. Therefore, taking out the DH would mean a substantial change in MLB structure that cannot simply happen overnight. Plus, the Players Union is too powerful and would not allow the MLB to just take it out.

It is more important for the MLB to have fair rules than try to hold on to past traditions. The NL needs their “Big Papi”.

Freshman at Springfield College majoring in Sports Journalism and minoring in Sports Analytics. Born in Detriot, Michigan but raised in Northern VA. Avid sports fan, especially baseball (Go Yankees!). Feel free to connect with me on social media!