When the MLB officially announced the universal DH would go into effect this season (if there is one), it was confirmation of the inevitable. It’s a win/win for owners and players in a time when it seems like they can’t agree on much. Since the announcement however, there has been significant pushback from certain segments of fans about the decision. One person even took up residence on the streets outside Dodgers Stadium with a sign reading “Death to the DH” to protest the change. While that’s clearly one person looking for attention, I’ve seen more and more fans disagreeing with the decision and I just can’t understand any legitimate reason why a universal DH isn’t good for the sport of baseball.
Regardless of whether you are a fan of low-scoring games or HR-filled contests, the universal DH is a much better product than having pitchers hit. For most pitchers, they are faced with the situation of needing to sacrifice over a runner or swing away (or not swing) and hope they don’t get hurt. In 2021, there were 4,829 plate appearances featuring a player who was pitching that day across both leagues and those plate appearances resulted in just 462 hits and a .110 average. The vast majority of those at-bats were non-competitive, which is terrible baseball to watch. The outcome of the at-bat was pre-determined based on who is or is not on base. If you compare the pitchers at-bats to the DH spot, players in the DH spot in the lineup produced a .239 average in 2021. The numbers show a significant increase in legitimate and competitive at-bats when there is a DH in the lineup. Additionally, you add a power-element for those who like lots of runs with a DH vs a pitcher. Pitchers produced a HR every 284 plate appearances in 2021, while players in the DH spot produced a HR every 24 at-bats last season.
There is certainly a lore around pitchers hitting and it seems like we see videos of a pitcher getting a big hit or RBI regularly, but that’s a rare occurrence. I’ve read a bunch of people making the argument that we won’t ever get to see a player like Bartolo Colon hit again with the universal DH and while that’s 100% true, it’s also extremely misguided. Everyone remembers Colon’s big HR in 2016 at the age of 42 and the excitement around that hit lingered for years. Well, in Colon’s career 326 plate appearances during his 21 seasons in the league, he hit .084 with 1 HR and 11 RBIs. Is that 1 hit worth hundreds of non-competitive, terrible at-bats that were unwatchable? The overall product would have been, and will be going forward, more enjoyable to watch. With the universal DH, pitchers in the National League won’t have an automatic out in every single lineup (never fear, there will still be plenty of easy hitters in many lineups) and we will finally be able to accurately compare pitchers in both leagues without needing the caveat that one was in the AL vs the NL.
As it relates to the players, the universal DH is a great thing for the sport. The DH allows an additional position player to get in the lineup every single night and it affords older players who have lost a step defensively a place on a roster and playing time. It creates more opportunities for players like Red Sox DH/LF J.D. Martinez, who would have been confined to the AL when is contract is up, but now can explore options in both leagues. The expansion in the NL now allows a team the option to take a player who is a defensive liability and remove them from the field while keeping their bat in the lineup. It opens up opportunities in both leagues for future stars like 1st ballot Hall of Famer David Ortiz, who was tremendously talented in the batters box, but was just average or below defensively.
My least favorite argument against the universal DH is that it’s not “real baseball” or “not the baseball I grew up with.” First off, if you are saying either if those lines you’re probably right in the baseball average demographic, 50+ years old. Second, every single sport grows and evolves over time to attract a broader audience and fit the current environment. Just as basketball added a 3pt line and hockey reduced the size of goalie pads, baseball needs to adapt. I would argue that baseball is significantly further behind than other sports in terms of bringing in younger viewers, which in the long term is detrimental to the league. Adding a more competitive batter in the lineup every night is at least a push in the right direction (albeit a very small one).
With the MLB struggling with viewership and in the middle of a public, ugly CBA negotiation, the addition of a universal DH is at least one positive step forward. Finally we can put to bed the days of fundamentally different strategies depending on your league. I, for one, am extremely excited about this change and anyone who wants to see baseball not only survive, but thrive, should be as well. Now, let’s hope for a 2022 baseball season.
7 thoughts on “Love for the Universal DH”
While I agree that this change is good for baseball, what happens to a Shohei Ohtani, who is the exception as a pitcher and can really hit as well. He had 100 RBIs and 46 home runs in 2021
Nothing, he’s in the AL and is a DH when not pitching. No change.
Totally forgot about that 😀
Also, for what it’s worth, he hit .045 lower when in the game as a pitcher and hitting vs days he wasn’t pitching and hit a HR every 13 at-bats when not pitching and once every 22 when pitching
It is not good for baseball, because it isn’t baseball. 9 players field, 9 players hit. An older player takes the roster spot of a younger player. Why is this a virtue? Pinch hitting and strategic pitching changes offer more intrigue and a better game. Not better single at bats, a better game.
Thanks for your comment. Having a DH doesn’t mean a younger player doesn’t get a roster spot, it means another player on the roster gets regular playing time and that player may be young. Pinch hitting still exists and happens quite often, even with a DH spot. The match-up strategy with the opposing pitcher is very real even in the AL who has had the DH for a long time and happens in nearly every game. The double-switch strategy does get eliminated with no pitchers hitting.
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