DH Issue Shouldn’t Hold Back Cardinals Or Rangers

It’s World Series time, so that must mean it’s time to discuss (read — argue about, mock, decry, belittle, etc.) the differences between the American and National Leagues. Sometimes, the fact that an extra hitter has to hit for a National League team or that one less gets to hit for the American League team can lead to some interesting decisions, like Vladimir Guerrero playing right field, David Ortiz playing first base or Ryan Spilborghs serving as a designated hitter. This season however, the moves should be pretty cut and dry.

Last year, Rangers manager Ron Washington had to think about whether or not he could shoehorn the aforementioned Guerrero into his lineup in San Francisco. This year, he has no such quandary. In all ten of the Rangers’ postseason games, the top seven in Washington’s batting order has been identical. The bottom two spots are the ones with which he has played around, and even then, it’s been minimal. David Murphy has played seven of the eight times a righty has started for the opposition, and sat in favor of Craig Gentry in the two matchups against left-handers. The final spot has flitted between Mitch Moreland (six starts), Yorvit Torrealba (three) and Endy Chavez (two). It is this spot that figures to fall by the wayside in St. Louis.

This is marvelous news for Rangers fans. Of the 12 Rangers who tallied at least 100 plate appearances this season, Moreland, Torrealba and Chavez were three of the four least valuable (with Murphy being the fourth). Looking at the season totals, you could build a minor case that Chavez should start over Murphy, but that evaporates when you look at their splits, as Murphy sizzled through the second half and has flamed on in the playoffs, while the majority of good in Chavez’s stat line is a .351/.400/.595 May — his OPS went steadily down in the four months subsequent. About the only bad news is that it means Michael Young has to play first base, and while he isn’t as good a defender as Moreland is there, the effect shouldn’t be that dramatic. Young played 302 innings at first in the regular season without embarrassing himself too much, and he played first in three of the last four games of the ALCS — perhaps in preparation for the World Series — and survived them without any major gaffes.

On the other side of the coin, we see that Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has a similarly easy decision, with the caveat that there’s no guarantee that La Russa won’t La Russa and pull some stunt like having Skip Schumaker or Nick Punto DH. But assuming he sticks to the thinking us mere mortals can comprehend, Allen Craig figures to start in the first two games in Texas. As I discussed last week, Craig has been a monster bat for the Cards when he gets in the lineup, and that has been especially so in his small sample against lefties, which is notable since Texas’ hurlers for Games 3 and 4 will be the lefty tandem of Derek Holland and Matt Harrison (and then C.J. Wilson in Game 5). La Russa seems to agree, as Craig has batted second in the lineup in all three games against lefties this postseason.

Whether Craig is the actual DH, or he spells Lance Berkman or Matt Holliday (he spelled Holliday in the Kansas City series earlier this year) won’t likely make as big of a difference as his bat in the lineup in place of the pitcher will. Craig will give the Cards a very American League-looking lineup, and his bat should be better than the chosen member of the Moreland, Torrealba, Chavez trio that suits up for Texas. While trying to figure the difference in runs the Cards could expect in such a small sample would be a fool’s errand — especially since they just put up 19 of them in their last two games without the luxury of the DH — suffice to say that the Cardinals will be even with the Rangers or better in Texas.

There will likely be a lot of drama in the World Series. Before we start, we have some from the baseball side and some from the blowhard side, and with the way that Washington and La Russa have managed their bullpens, the fireworks are likely to continue once the action moves in between the lines. But as much drama as we’re likely to see, the drama probably won’t be surrounding the designated hitter or lack thereof. The Rangers won’t lose much, if any offense in St. Louis, and the Cardinals will be able to match, if not best the Rangers DH options in Texas.

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Paul Swydan is the managing editor of The Hardball Times and a writer and editor for FanGraphs. He has written for the Boston Globe, ESPN MLB Insider and ESPN the Magazine, among others. Follow him on Twitter @Swydan.

29 Responses to “DH Issue Shouldn’t Hold Back Cardinals Or Rangers”

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  1. Telo says:

    They are pretty lucky to have an extra bat like Craig around, otherwise this is usually a slight but legitimate advantage for the AL team.

    The average wRC+ of the 11 qualified DHers in the AL is 118. Not many NL teams have a 118 bat riding the pine.

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  2. CircleChange11 says:

    I favor DH in both leagues, and players like Allen Craig are one reason why. A good player that could play full time, and IMO, make the game more interesting.

    Watching pitchers bat is my second reason for having the DH. As exciting as it is watching Carpenter single off Halladay and then not injure himself sliding and running the bases, I’ll take another quality batter in the lineup, and let pitchers focus solely on what they need to do. It’s not like “other” positions in the demands of the field, except for maybe catchers.

    I hope Craig just goes off.

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    • Anon says:

      DH or pitcher batting is a false argument. Having an 8 man lineup is a better system than DH in my opinion. (Full disclosure: I prefer the current NL rules.)

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      • Doug Lampert says:

        Ditto. The real problem with the DH rule is not that pitchers don’t need to hit with a DH, it’s that DHs don’t need to play the field.

        And there’s no reason for that. Just have an 8 man rotation, each team can leave one player out of the rotation, don’t even specify that the non-batting player needs to be a pitcher.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Reasonable enough.

        Both sides of the discussion have valid points.

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    • GMH says:

      I agree that it is and was much more enjoyable watching David Ortiz, Frank Thomas, Edgar Martinez, and Paul Molitor hit, but guys who could hit like Ortiz, Thomas, Martinez, and Molitor would have played somewhere in the field without the DH rule. Teams wouldn’t turn away hitters like that when a corner infield or outfield position would do. See Lance Berkman.

      The DH is a horrible rule because it conflicts with a number of baseball’s great principles that distinguish it from football and basketball: (1) Everyone plays offense and defense, and, in theory, everyone gets equal turns at bat (9 players, 27 outs); and (2) once you take a player out of the game, he can’t come back in. But the DH in effect violates those principles and permits a fallacy: The pitcher in a DH league is substituted with a pinch hitter, but only when he has an at bat. The DH rule turns baseball on its head.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        I think that something like the courtesy runners (for catchers and pitchers) we see in HS ball and below would drastically affect the game in a negative way.

        Pitchers don;t bat in college or the minors, right? Oh, but we’ll ask them to hit at the highest level of competition, while taking minimum practice at it.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Sorry, “wouldn’t”. Even something like courtesy runner wouldn’t destroy the fabric of the game or smite its underlying principles.

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      • Telo says:

        The only reasons for a non DH league are historical or aesthetic or…neither f those are the right words… qualitative…emotional…still not the right…

        Not based in logic, that’s the theme. The game is better with a DH. It’s fairer, more exciting, more flexible for managers so regulars can hit without taking a full day off, there are no gimme outs that kill rallies, there is no being a pansy on the bases, there is no taking a pitcher out when he is still effective just to get a pinch hitter in. These are all tangible benefits that really make the game better, and I’m sure i missed others. There just isn’t much on the other side of the ledger for letting pitchers hit.

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      • JohnnyK says:

        But could you honestly imagine someone allowing Ortiz to play the field regularly now? Even at first base there’s a good chance his D cancels out most of his bat, and he’d probably break down fairly quickly. Is that really what the fans want?

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    • Ronin says:

      I totally agree with DH in both leagues, having a pitcher hit once every nine at bats is like saying your punter has to run the ball once every four downs in football.

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  3. AA says:

    1) Pitchers should hit.

    2) I kind of like the now entrenched difference between the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs and the American Beer League of Softball Clubs.

    3) I don’t think it always creates an advantage for the AL. AL teams can and do stock glove-only/glove-primary players in regular roles at defense critical positions and end up forced into tough defense v. offense decisions. Michael Young-types who can at least play passable defense at tougher positions don’t DH that often.

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  4. phoenix2042 says:

    if we ask pitchers to hit, we should ask hitters to pitch. One drafts, signs, and pays pitcher because of their pitching ability without a thought to their hitting. Making them hit is as little fun for the pitcher as it is for the fans to see someone just flail up there, and risks them getting hurt, while doing something so secondary to their actual role on the ballclub.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      if we ask pitchers to hit, we should ask hitters to pitch.

      I’ve used that one before myself.

      There’s 9 innings and 9 fielders. Why not have everyone take a turn pitching and batting? Why not have everyone rotate one position to the right each inning? It’s not fair that one guy has to catch all game in the heat while another gets to stand over at 1B and chat it up with each runner that reaches base, or that another infielder has to cover twice the ground as the player to his right.

      So, baseball has changed and the role of pitcher has become more specialized, and we can make a change to reflect that without destroying the very fabric of the game.

      Baseball changes. It happens. Relievers were probably once thought to be something that destroys the game as well. What, this guy only pitches 1 inning? One inning? Really, one inning? And there’s another pitcher that gets paid 800K to come in and just get one left-handed batter out every 3 games or so? THAT’s a baseball player? And what’s this 5th starter thing I keep hearing about?

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    • filihok says:


      In the AL:
      8 players attempt to produce runs and attempt to prevent runs
      1 player attempts to produce runs and does nothing to attempt to prevent runs
      1 payer attempts to prevent runs and does nothing to attempt to produce runs

      In the NL:
      9 players attempt to produce and attempt to prevent runs.

      The NL makes more sense to me.

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      • Breadbaker says:

        You overstate what the pitchers are doing in most at-bats in the NL. Like bunting with one out and a man on first.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Or trying to not swing very hard and tear an oblique.

        It’d be interesting to see how pitchers hit in the past, or over time as the game has progressed versus the average position player and how they hit now compared to the average position player.

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  5. Ingy says:

    Awwww how nice… we’re all giving our worthless rehashed opinions on whether we agree or disagree with the DH! I haven’t seen this in at least… a day.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Point taken.

      A pretty poor hijack job on my part. My bad.

      I should have said it’s nice to see a guy like Craig get some at bats without having to pull another good hitter out of the lineup or endure an injury, and left it at that.

      I wonder how the DH for NL teams and/or pitcher as batter for AL teams affect how the starting pitchers are handled in the playoffs (historically)?

      Both TEX and StL are using their bullpens about as much as a team can, so perhaps it’s not a significant factor.

      I also wonder how many runs per game a DH contributes over a pitcher as batter (0.5 run?)? I wonder how that’ll contribute to the scoring that could occur in Texas by both lineups that are killing the ball?

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    • Telo says:

      Worthless…I’m glad to hear CCs opnion on it, and I can’t ever recall a full on DH discussion at FG. But I do see worthless post in this thread…

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  6. reillocity says:

    I can’t see any way that the players association would ever consent to abolish the designated hitter (self-preservation for their current members who can envision a day when they might be unable to credibly man a defensive position), so any argument against it is futile even if it is well-reasoned. Just keep arguing against it though, else you might eventually get it in both leagues.

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  7. Gary York says:

    One issue with an 8 man batting order is that it gives each person about 100 more at bats per year. That would lead to all sorts of records being broken. For example, given his rate stats, Ichiro Suzuki would have gotten about 300 hits in 2004. 3,000 hits would be a lot easier to get to.

    I don’t have a huge problem with any of that, but it would eventually change the structure of lifetime and seasonal records. Many fans would have a very difficult time with that and, of course, most professional sportswriters would weep tears of blood.

    I’m fairly sure hell will freeze over before the baseball establishment seriously considers such a change. But if they did all that would be a consideration.

    Interestingly, there might be little impact on lifetime and seasonal pitching records if such a change were made.

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    • Anon says:

      The DH gives more at bats by virtue of less outs. Not as significantly as an 8 man lineup but definitely noticable. Also, the DH extends careers. Thome has played 28 innings in the field from 2006 onward.

      All the arguements you made against the 8 man lineup apply to the DH as well.

      The DH combined with the 162 game season has already changed ‘the structure of lifetime and seasonal records.’

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  8. Thomas says:

    okay, this is a pretty amazing stat, the Cardinals have a starter over 100 wRC+ at every position. And with Craig, they’ll have one at DH too. Their run scoring numbers don’t look as good as the rangers, but if Craig could play year, that’s like 68 runs better, then if Furcal could play the way the he did with the cardinals the whole season, the cardinals would score 875 runs, same as the Red Sox, better than the Yankees and Rangers

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    • cpebbles says:

      Check the road numbers. The Cardinals were the best offensive team in baseball when Busch wasn’t limiting their power, even with their pitchers hitting.

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  9. gnomez says:

    “there’s no guarantee that La Russa won’t La Russa and pull some stunt like having Skip Schumaker…DH”

    And that, in a nutshell, is the St. Louis Cardinals.

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  10. gnomez says:

    because TLR.

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