The National League Needs to Adopt the Designated Hitter
This is getting ridiculous. The MLB has a massive problem that they seemingly don’t think needs fixing. What if I told you that in the NFL, teams in the AFC had four downs, while teams in the NFC had three? What about in the NHL where minor penalties in the Eastern Conference are two minutes, whereas minor penalties in the Western Conference are three minutes? You’d probably think that those are pretty stupid, right? Well then why does the MLB continuously get away with having a massive rule difference between their leagues?
The fact that pitchers are still forced to hit in the National League is laughable at this point. Here are a few reasons why they need to finally add the Designated Hitter to National League teams:
Avoid Pointless Injuries
Imagine having your World Series hopes crushed because your best pitcher tears his ACL while sliding into second. Luckily, major injuries to pitchers while hitting or running are few and far between, but even one is one too many. This year alone we have seen both New York teams lose a starting pitcher to an injury that didn’t occur while pitching. Back in early May, in a game against the Atlanta Braves, the New York Mets star pitcher, Jacob deGrom, left the game early after hyperextending his elbow while swinging the bat. deGrom is one of the ten best pitchers in the game today and there was a possibility that he could miss a significant amount of time due to something that wouldn’t be in his job description if he was on an American League team. Luckily for the Mets, deGrom only missed one start. This past weekend, in a game against the Mets, New York Yankees pitcher, Masahiro Tanaka, had eight strikeouts and only one hit allowed in five innings before leaving the game due to an injury sustained while running the bases. Tanaka was on third base and ran home on a sacrifice fly. While running home, he strained both hamstrings and is expected to miss a minimum of one month.
If we go back even further than this season, there are a few more glaring examples of why pitchers having to hit and run is stupid. Back in 2008, Chien-Ming Wang was coming off of back-to-back 19 win seasons for the Yankees. On June 15, in an interleague game against the Houston Astros, Wang was running the bases when he tore a ligament in his foot, while also partially tearing a muscle. Wang missed the rest of the season, and was never able to find success in the Major Leagues again. In 2016, Steven Wright of the Boston Red Sox dove back into second base and sustained a shoulder injury. Up to that point of the season, Wright was 13-5 with an ERA of 3.01. Wright missed a few weeks of action before returning for two starts. In those two starts, he went a total of 10 innings while allowing 9 earned runs. After the second start, he was shut down for the rest of the season.
As you can see, pitchers shouldn’t have to worry about getting injured because they swung the bat too hard, or because they slid wrong into a base. If a pitcher is injured while on the mound, we as fans can live with that. But a pitcher getting injured while hitting or running is inexcusable.
NL Pitchers Have a Massive Advantage
This one is pretty simple. Pitchers in the National League have the luxury of facing a pitcher, or a pinch-hitter, at least three or four times a game. Essentially, they are getting a free out every time they go through the lineup. In the AL, pitchers have to deal with absolute monsters at the plate. If an American League pitcher loads the bases in the second inning and has to face a DH, there’s a real possibility that a grand slam is going to be hit. If a National League pitcher loads the bases for a pitcher, they’ll typically get out of it without allowing a run. Luckily they hand out awards for each league, so an NL pitcher can’t beat out an AL pitcher for the Cy Young, but it’s still an advantage nonetheless. Let’s play a quick game of “Who Would You Rather Pitch To?” Clayton Kershaw or David Ortiz? Stephen Strasburg or Giancarlo Stanton? The answers are obvious. This is why last season, four of the top five pitchers in terms of ERA were in the National League. Not necessarily because they are better pitches, but because they are handed free outs in every start.
Pitchers Suck at Hitting
It’s hysterical how bad pitchers actually are when it comes to hitting. So far this season, not including Shohei Ohtani, there are thirty-eight pitchers who have had at least 20 at-bats. Among those thirty-eight pitchers, there have been a whopping three (!) homeruns hit. Just for fun, let’s take a look at the breakdown of batting averages for this group of pitchers. Batting average above .200 - 5 total Batting average between .100 and .200 - 13 total Batting average below .100 - 20 total Batting average of .000 - 3 total Think about that for a minute. The amount of pitchers who have failed to register a hit are almost equal to the amount who have an average above .200. It’s an absolute joke.
It Creates More Jobs
National League teams are actually at a disadvantage when it comes to building their teams and recruiting certain players. There’s a large group of players that are just simply not options for an NL team to acquire. What if David Ortiz became a free agent, or a possible trade piece in the later years of his career? It would’ve been difficult for an NL team to acquire him because they would have had to put him in the field on an everyday basis. This past off-season, J.D. Martinez was a big name free agent and ended up going to the Boston Red Sox, where he has been one of the best hitters in the league this year. The biggest problem with Martinez is that he is a historically bad outfielder, so being able to put him at DH is a valuable option for half of the league. You don’t think that a team like the Dodgers would’ve liked to add his bat to their lineup? With a DH spot it would’ve been a possibility. An example from this season is Hanley Ramirez, who was DFA’d by the Red Sox a few weeks ago. He is currently a free agent and is having trouble finding a team because half of the league is hesitant to sign him due to the fact that they would have to play him in the field.
It Ruins the Game
You’ll hear baseball “purists” claim that having the pitcher both pitch and hit is “how the game is supposed to be played” but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The game is supposed to be played at the highest possible level. Not having the designated hitter is an intentional way of making the on-field product worse. If a pitcher is putting together a quality start, they shouldn’t have to worry about being taken out of a game just because it’s their turn to hit and there’s two on with nobody out in the 6th inning. If it’s the second inning and there’s a runner on first with one out, bunting the runner over shouldn’t be the main option for the hitter. If it’s a pitcher at the plate, it happens more times than not. In the World Series, if the NL team has home field advantage, then you’re forcing AL pitchers, who never hit, to go up to the plate in four games of the Championship deciding series. You’re essentially giving the NL team an extra advantage. Even if the AL team technically has home field advantage, you’re still giving the NL team a leg up in three of the games. In the end, it’s ludicrous to think that a professional sports league is doing actually doing something to make their product worse. You can make the argument that other sports leagues, such as the NHL, have made rule changes over the past few years that that made the game worse, but at least those rules are league wide. Having fifteen teams play with one set of rules, while the other fifteen play with a completely different set is embarrassing. I’ve been a baseball fan my entire life, and I have still never heard a legitimate reason as to why pitchers hitting is good for baseball. Let the pitchers pitch and let the hitter hit.