7 reasons why the NL finally should embrace the DH
If you want to turn the room ugly, talk about politics, religion or the designated hitter. Few debates in sports are as polarizing as whether the pitcher should bat in baseball. Since the 1973 season, the American League has used the DH -- and the National League has resisted the urge to follow suit. But Cardinals GM John Mozeliak recently admitted the idea of the DH in the NL is gaining some momentum. Here’s why the NL ultimately should just give in already.
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Both leagues should play by same set of rules
Name another sport with such a difference in rules. Imagine the NBA with a 3-point line in the Western Conference but not the Eastern Conference, or the NFL with field goals in the AFC but not the NFC. This past October, Royals right-hander Edinson Volquez didn’t bat when he started Game 1 of the World Series but was required to do in his Game 5 start. With interleague action every day of the regular season, it’s past time to fix this disparity in the national pastime. Those who argue that the answer is to get rid of the DH in the American League need to face reality: The players association never will allow that to happen.
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Pitchers get hurt at the plate and on the base
The Cardinals were without ace Adam Wainwright (center) for nearly the entire 2015 season after he tore an Achilles tendon while at the plate in April. And the instances of pitchers tweaking hamstrings, ankles, feet, etc., while running the bases are far too common. Not every injury is preventable, but these certainly are. And with pitcher contracts skyrocketing, teams are going to be more cautious than ever with their investments.
Getty ImagesMike McGinnis
Not every pitcher is Madison Bumgarner
Sure, there are some pitchers who can rake. Bumgarner hit .247 with five homers and two doubles last season, but he is the exception. For every pitcher who can handle the bat, there are 10 times as many who can’t -- even when it comes to bunting. As much as we enjoy watching Bartolo Colon try to hit, he has become a sideshow. Overall in 2015, pitchers hit .132/.160/.170.
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The DH extends careers
No one wins the battle against time, not even great athletes. But the DH spot is a way for some of those athletes to buy a little extra time. Albert Pujols is a great example (don’t be fooled, that’s a photo of him and not a video of him running). Last season, Pujols started 62 games at DH and got 265 plate appearances there. And he still has six years and $165 million left on his deal, which the Angels never would have given him if they didn’t envision using him as their DH late in his contract. And Pujols is just one such player.
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But the DH isn't just for old dudes anymore
Twins slugger Miguel Sano finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting last season, when he batted .269/.385/.530 with 17 doubles, 18 homers and 52 RBI in 80 games. He started 69 of those games at DH because he was blocked at third base -- his natural position -- by Trevor Plouffe. Without the second-half spark Sano provided, the Twins wouldn’t have made a wild-card run or won 83 games. The DH spot is a way to ease a young player into the lineup, but he doesn’t have to stay there. In fact, Minnesota plans to use Sano in the outfield this season.
Getty ImagesBrace Hemmelgarn
The sport needs more offense
Everyone loves a 2-1 pitchers’ duel, but not in every game. Baseball still needs scoring, and the DH can do that. Take last season’s highest-scoring team, the Blue Jays, for example. Toronto was able to use Edwin Encarnacion at DH for 85 games and use a three-headed monster of Chris Colabello, Justin Smoak and Encarnacion at first base. Last season, the AL averaged 4.39 runs per game while the NL checked in at 4.11 (with limited use of the DH).
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The DH gives the manager flexibility
Sure, there is some charm to the double-switch and late-inning lineup decisions, but a manager isn’t on auto pilot with the DH. And not every DH has to be the traditional homer-or-nothing slugger. In fact, there are few of those left; only six players in the AL had more than 400 at-bats at DH last season. Teams can use the DH spot to rotate and rest players. And it is a huge advantage for teams with tremendous depth. With the DH, Cubs manager Joe Maddon wouldn’t have to worry about how to get Javier Baez’s bat in the lineup.