The DH and the Essence of the Game

DH's like Victor Martinez don't represent a huge departure from the game's essence. (via Keith Allison)

DH’s like Victor Martinez don’t represent a huge departure from the game’s essence. (via Keith Allison)

Nothing attracts the ire of baseball fans—or, if not baseball fans per se, then at least of baseball purists—quite like the designated hitter. It’s an assault on the very essence of the game: everybody fields, everybody hits—no exceptions. It’s not a question of whether the DH is good or bad for baseball—it flat out isn’t baseball.

There are plenty of interesting things you could discuss regarding the DH: the effects on strategy, the effects on pitcher usage patterns, how it shapes the careers of players afflicted with injuries or of poor-fielding sluggers, or even whether the DH is the best option for removing the pitcher from the batting order. I’m not going to discuss any of them. Once you dismiss the DH outright as an affront to the purity of the game, none of those things matters.

Instead, I’m only going to address one issue: is requiring the pitcher to bat essential to the core premise of baseball?

When we get into things like the essentials and the purity of the game, it is important to understand where the game has come from and how it has changed. How did the pitcher fit into the traditional concept of the nine-man lineup in the context of the era that developed that rule, and how does that context differ from today? If the context has changed, does keeping the rule nominally intact preserve the purity or essence of the original game?

To address these questions, let’s go back to 1872 and the fledgling National Association. It’s not quite three decades since the Cartwright rules were formed, and professional teams are first beginning to organize. While the game still has a long way to go to reach its 20th-century form, it already has come a long way from the earlier variations of townball and other bat-and-ball games that preceded Cartwright. The game is now distinctly baseball, and the nine-man lineup is firmly established.

Among the new professional teams are the Brooklyn Eckfords, formerly a successful amateur club in the 1850s and ‘60s (no relation to the later Brooklyn team that would become the Dodgers). Let’s take a look at their pitching staff for the 1872 season:

1872 Brooklyn Eckfords pitching staff
Pitcher GS IP
Martin 9 85
Zettlein 9 75.1
McDermott 7 63
Malone 2 18
O’Rourke 1 9
Clinton 1 9

The abnormally sparse schedule and lack of relief pitchers aside, this looks like it could be a modern pitching staff. It was a major anomaly in 1872. Most teams of the day had one primary pitcher. A team might end up using several pitchers over the course of a season, but not as a planned strategy. It was like changing your shortstop or your first baseman, a move you made when something–say, injury or ineffectiveness–went wrong.

The Brooklyn Eckfords went spectacularly wrong. They started off the season with four straight losses and 77 runs allowed* before changing pitchers. Two more losses and 50 runs allowed later, they changed again, only to allow 36 runs in another loss. They went back to their original pitcher for three more games with similar results. The list above does not represent a regular rotation of pitchers but rather a series of players being moved into the starting role and subsequently being benched.

*Keep in mind that this was when people played defense without gloves and team fielding played a much larger role in run prevention than it does today. The average NA game in 1872 had about 9.3 runs per game per team, with over half of those runs scored as unearned.

Eventually, the Eckfords managed to find some stability and right the ship with George Zettlein and Phonney Martin. The two combined to pitch the final 18 games with a respectable 3-15 record, but it was too late to salvage the season.

I bring up the Eckfords (and I do apologize to any Eckford fans out there) because those pitchers had to come from somewhere. There was no such thing as a bullpen. When the Eckfords needed a new pitcher, it was like needing a new shortstop or a new catcher. They had to dig through their roster for the next ballplayer most suited for the role.

James McDermott, the team’s original pitcher, had played the previous season as a reserve outfielder for another team that already had a pitcher. Martin joined the team as a right fielder. Zettlein played a game in right field. Martin Malone and Jim Clinton were utility men who slid into the pitcher role for a few games.

The point is, this idea that everyone, pitchers included, has to be a complete ballplayer who can hit and play the field comes from a time when pitchers actually did have to be complete ballplayers.

Let’s go back a few more years to 1868. Henry Chadwick has just published The Game of Base Ball, his treatise on what he hoped would become the national pastime. Chadwick addresses the matter of choosing one’s ideal position:

Thus, if he is strong in the arms, can throw a long distance, and can run fast, let him choose a position in the outer field, but, if he is very active in his movements, not afraid to face hot balls from the bat, is a quick and accurate thrower, but cannot throw a ball far, a position in the in–field is the best, and, in fact, the only one suited to him. Having selected the in–field as the locality of his operations as a fielder, the question then arises, ‘what position shall I train for, catcher, pitcher, short–stop, or base player, and if the latter, which base shall I play?’ This question is an important one to answer, for there is as great a difference between some of them as between the out–field and in–field play.”

This is a fascinating contrast to today’s game, where the first distinction made is between pitcher and non-pitcher. Chadwick instead considers the distinction between outfield and infield the obvious first step. And while he acknowledges that the differences between infield positions can be as great as the more obvious difference between infield and outfield, he is talking as much about distinguishing catcher from first base from shortstop as he is pitcher from anything else. Nowhere does he indicate that pitcher is in any way the unique position it since has become.

Later, Chadwick addresses the issue of changing positions and notes that pitchers routinely come from other positions:

The short-stop and a base man can change positions better than any other player, but never outfielders with base men or in–fielders, except a change pitcher, and, if possible, your change pitcher should occupy the position of short–stop.”

Clearly, Chadwick is not writing about the modern pitcher. The pitchers of Chadwick’s day tossed the ball underhand*, not from a mound but from a box chalked off 45 feet from home plate. For a time in the 1860s, pitchers were not allowed to stride during their delivery. Hitters were allowed to choose whether they wanted the ball delivered around the knees or the waist, and the pitcher was required to acquiesce.

*The word “pitch” actually means to toss underhand, as in pitching horseshoes—the rules specified the ball must be pitched rather than thrown, hence the term “pitcher.”

Pitchers had relatively little opportunity to distinguish themselves on the mound…err–flat, boxed-off area…under these conditions. As a result, they had to excel in other areas, as well. They had to be good fielders. They had to be able to hit. If they couldn’t do those things passably, it didn’t matter how good they were at pitching. They simply could not make up that value with their arms alone.

Over the course of the 1880s, the restrictions on pitchers were relaxed, and the pitcher’s plate was moved back. Overhand pitching opened up the position to dominant throwing specialists. As a result, two things happened over the remainder of the 19th century that distinguished pitchers from other positions.

One, pitchers could not physically pitch every game anymore. The added strain of the new delivery (along with a more regular schedule) meant pitchers needed recovery time between games, and teams went from a single starter to a rotation.

Two, your typical outfielder or shortstop was no longer capable of filling the role. Pitchers didn’t just have to know what they were doing and be able to place the ball anymore. They had to know what they were doing and be able to place the ball at high speeds while controlling its spin and velocity in a variety of ways no other player would ever need to learn how to do.

Pitchers simultaneously began taking significantly fewer at-bats than any other starter and making a significantly bigger impact on the game in the field. The balance between the offensive and defensive requirements of the position fell way out of line with the other eight positions, and the overall level of offense pitchers provided quickly started to drop off. Take a look at how pitchers compared offensively to the other positions in the first decade of professional baseball and how that had changed by the turn of the century (each dot represents one batting-season):

1871-18801901-1910

Pitchers originally hit in line with the other positions—the first graph looks remarkably similar to the graph below for shortstops in the decade before the DH was instituted. By the first decade of the 20th century, however, the gap between pitchers and the next-worst-hitting position had grown larger than the gap between the best- and worst-hitting non-pitching positions, and pitchers were consistently hitting at levels that no regular at another position could survive.

It was this growing futility that prompted the conception of the DH. Connie Mack lent his support to the idea in 1906. In 1928, the National League, led by president John Heydler, pushed for the proposal, but failed to win the support of the American League owners.

The chasm between pitchers and other hitters continued to grow. By 1973, the difference between pitchers and the next-worst-hitting position was double the same gap at the turn of the century:

1963-1972
1963-1972ss

Simply put, the once legitimate requirement that pitchers be able to hit had long since become merely procedural. You could continue to force pitchers to take at-bats, but as long as they could pitch, it didn’t really matter whether they could hit or not.

We see ample evidence of this over the years. For example:

  • Bob Buhl went the entire 1962 season (70 at-bats) without recording a single hit, with no effect whatsoever on his status as a full-time starter.
  • Teams will occasionally send a pitcher to the plate and explicitly tell him not to swing the bat.
  • When the Brewers signed Jim Abbott in 1999, Abbott had not taken a single at-bat in a competitive game in his professional career. And he was born without a right hand. Despite probably having the worst hitting projection imaginable, he was signed as a starter and given 24 plate appearances before being released due to disappointing pitching performance.

These aren’t exceptions made for unique pitching talents. Buhl was a good pitcher, but not particularly noteworthy. Abbott was really good at his best, but when Milwaukee signed him, he was a back-of-the-rotation flyer who had been released and out of baseball for most of the previous two years.

“The designated hitter rule is like letting someone else take Wilt Chamberlain’s free throws.” –Rick Wise, 1974

“[pinch hitter] BATTED FOR [pitcher]” -Retrosheet.org, a few thousand times every year

Baseball has long since accepted the idea that one player can bat for another—if Wilt Chamberlain can’t hit, you can simply pinch hit for him. The difference from the DH, of course, is that pinch-hitting comes with a cost. The substituted player is out of the game, and if the pinch hitter doesn’t take over his spot in the field, you’ll need to use another sub for that. So it’s not exactly the same thing.

Still, it’s a difference of degree more than a fundamental difference. Both the PH and the DH are corruptions of the original spirit of the game, where a player was expected to fulfill his role for the entire game. In fact, for a time the rules of organized baseball prohibited substitutions after the third inning except in case of injury. The idea that you could bring in a specialist off the bench to cover for a starter’s weaknesses is something that evolved into the game as that restriction was found to be non-essential. The DH just pushes that concept further than pinch-hitting does.

Pinch-hitting patterns further illustrate the fundamental difference between pitchers and other positions. Over three-quarters of all pinch-hit appearances in the NL are for the pitcher. Less than two percent of NL games are completed without at least one pitcher being removed for a pinch hitter. The DH phenomenon is being imitated, albeit to a lesser degree, even without an actual DH by having pinch hitters severely limit the at-bats taken by pitchers compared to any other position.

Now, what if instead of just pinch hitting for someone a lot, you started pinch-hitting every single time his spot in the order came up? Obviously, you would still have the same costs associated with pinch-hitting, but you would now be violating the premise that everyone who plays the field has to hit, same as the DH does.

This is exactly what happens with relief pitchers.

Even without the DH, that means there are seven roster spots, give or take, that a typical team devotes to players it never intends to send to the plate. Last year, 126 pitchers appeared in at least one game for an NL team without ever coming to the plate. Eighty-nine of those appeared in at least 10 games. Thirty-seven appeared in at least 50.

This is the NL, where there is no DH, and still there is a huge class of pitchers that plays the field but doesn’t hit. With the emergence of the bullpen, even the procedural requirement that pitchers have to stand at the plate whether they can hit or not has eroded.

Furthermore, the allotment of pitchers into either a starting role, where they will bat, or a relief role, where they won’t, is determined almost entirely by their capabilities as pitchers and not as hitters.

Take Micah Owings, for example, the best-hitting pitcher in recent memory. While he was in college, the same scouting report that said his power rivaled any bat in the college ranks also speculated that his role in the majors would be as a reliever if he went pro as a pitcher. When Owings struggled as a starter for Cincinnati in 2009, they did move him to the bullpen, even though it meant effectively losing his bat (he took all of 14 plate appearances in 2010, half of them as a PH, and batted in fewer than half his pitching appearances). Even for by far the best-hitting pitcher in the league, his usage was dictated by how he pitched and not how he hit.

None of this is to say the DH is necessarily the right thing for the game. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. What the DH isn’t, though, is a radical departure from the game’s essence. It is simply a response to the natural evolution of the role of the pitcher within the game. As that role moved further and further away from the original spirit of the game, teams began treating pitchers far differently from any other hitter. With or without the DH, the game’s essence had already radically shifted.

Does the DH take that too far? That’s a question of the relative merits and faults of the DH. It’s a question of what aspects of the game you most value and how the DH impacts them. If you don’t like the DH, I won’t try to change your mind.

Even if you don’t like it, though, it’s important to understand where the DH comes from and how it fits into the changes in the game’s essence over the years. It didn’t materialize out of nowhere. And, as different as it might seem from the game of the 1960s, or even of the NL today, that difference is nothing compared to how much the game has evolved from its roots in the 19th century. The DH itself is a fairly minor departure compared to the changes that led up to it.

So, by all means, prefer the NL for strategic reasons, or because you, in fact, enjoy watching pitchers hit, or for whatever reason—but enjoy the AL game as well, because it is, after all, still baseball.

References & Resources


Adam Dorhauer grew up a third-generation Cardinals fan in Missouri, and now lives in Ohio. His writing on baseball focuses on the history of the game, as well as statistical concepts as they apply to baseball. Visit his website, 3-D Baseball.
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Chester Hrobet
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Chester Hrobet

Wow. Nicely done. That actually changed my mind a bit. This morning, I don’t see the DH as the abomination I did yesterday.

It’s probably this very piece that will hasten the NL’s adoption of the DH, and I will be sad. But not as sad.

Paul N.
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Paul N.

Great piece. Despite the rhetoric and impassioned debates we have on the subject, I think your arguments are fairly sound and largely the reason the DH has lasted 40 years or, dare I say it, stood the test of time.

As an aside, if you ever want the pro and anti DH camps to agree on something, suggest an 8-man batting order. Everyone I have talked to universally seems to reject it. I don’t think I would mind it myself.

Footroo
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Footroo

I’ve been advocating the same thing for years myself and haven’t been able to persuade many either. Apparently compromise is not an option with this topic!

tz
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tz

Ditto on the eight man lineup – I’ve always felt it made the most sense. You could introduce the eight man lineup right away in the NL, and then schedule its introduction into the AL 2-3 years later so the players union doesn’t object too strongly about unemployed DHs.

MikeY
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MikeY

Nice article.

You say “enjoy the AL game as well, because it is, after all, still baseball.” I disagree, that game the AL plays is NOT baseball. Baseball is a game played with 9 players. The AL plays with 10. It says it right in the official MLB rules, in section 1.00-Objectives of the Game:

“Baseball is a game between two teams of nine players each…”

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2014/official_baseball_rules.pdf

I would like to see the AL do away with the DL. I know the players union would complain, but perhaps going to 26 man rosters would appease them.

T
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T

clearly you did not read the article

America F Yeah
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America F Yeah

I think there would be more than complaints by the players union if they got rid of the DL.

lol

Aaron
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Aaron

So I take it you’re against all relief pitchers, too?

BMarkham
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BMarkham

@ Bobby,

Smart AL GMs and field managers know how to get more out of their bench than just spelling the starter once a week.

Bobby
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Bobby

Nine players in the game at one time. You know what he means.

I think the article does a great job of demonstrating the evolution of the role of the pitcher but I just think that it’s cool having teams use more of their depth on a daily basis. I like the idea of teams making multiple moves to utilize each of their position players instead of having guys on the bench whose only role is to give starters a spell once a week.

Brian R
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Brian R

there are 9 players each: 9 players on defense, and 9 players on offense. You essentially just have someone pinch hitting for your pitcher on offense, as the article eludes to.

MikeY
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MikeY

The total is still 10, not 9. Not baseball.

Brian R
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Brian R
Good read. I’ve been an anti-DH guy for years (as a Cubs/NL fan), but over the last year or two have been starting to think seriously about this. Pitchers have become so bad at hitting that it is hard watching them try to hit. Pitching has evolved so much over the years, and become so dominant lately, that it’s difficult for full time hitters to put the ball in play, let alone guys who only take a few AB’s a week and don’t have daily BP (i.e. SP’s). While I do like the strategic decisions that come into play with… Read more »
Rock
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Rock
Nicely done, and came here to post the same thing that Chester did. I like the NL strategy of having to balance your starting pitcher with taking the opportunity to pinch hit, which is lost with the DH. However, this piece has softened my stance on the DH as a whole. I think one other thing that often causes people to have DH anxiety is that it doesn’t seem to have actually been enacted as a natural evolution of the game, but rather by AL owners deciding they could sell more tickets if they had more hitters in the lineup.… Read more »
kevin
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kevin

Actually, if American League teams were smart, they could use pinch-hitters for struggling hitters and pinch-runners for slow runners.

American League does have strategy.

Anon
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Anon
“If you don’t like the DH, I won’t try to change your mind.” Please do. I have not seen a good baseball focused support of the DH, and you seem to have an excellent knowledge of the sport. DH has business arguments from an MLB or MLBPA viewpoint. DH has aesthetics arguments from a subset of fans. However, the only baseball argument I have seen for the DH is that pitchers are bad hitters, which as you seem aware, does not address the issue of DH at all. “Still, it’s a difference of degree more than a fundamental difference. Both… Read more »
BMarkham
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BMarkham
“However, the only baseball argument I have seen for the DH is that pitchers are bad hitters, which as you seem aware, does not address the issue of DH at all.” Sure it does. We watch professional sports to see the best at what they do. Pitchers are so bad at hitting that it violates that. Now you might object and compare that to defense-first positions like SS and C and say they should be DH’d. But even the worst hitting regulars in the league are nowhere close to the average pitcher at hitting. The gulf of difference between Pete… Read more »
Anon
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Anon
“We watch professional sports to see the best at what they do.” “No, this is the MLB and we want to see the best at throwing, hitting, and catching projectiles.” If I am reading correctly, you don’t see the difference (or at least care about it) between the best at throwing, hitting, and catching vs. the best at throwing, the best at hitting, and the best at catching. The former is baseball. The later is a skills exhibition. If I want a skills exhibition, I can find better options than MLB. The more MLB changes the rules it uses to… Read more »
Bone
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Bone
There remains a penalty with the use of a DH – one additional roster spot is expended from the very beginning of the game. In the pinch-hitter scenario used by the author two roster spots are used – thus the author’s idea that the DH is just evolutionary and still within the spirit of the game. On this same premise, it would be interesting to study the changes to the game brought about every September with expanded rosters. On the surface this may be as ‘destructive’ (or influential) a change to the game’s flow and strategy as the DH role,… Read more »
cass
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cass

I have heard numerous complains about September roster rules, often on this very site. Well, on FanGraphs anyway.

cass
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cass
Yeah, I found the support lacking for this leap of logic as well. It’s a fundamental difference to me. I do applaud the author for addressing the core issue, though. Most people argue points that are irrelevant to me. The core issue is still that all players should play both offense and defense and if they are replaced in one aspect, they are replaced in both. You can’t have your cake and eat it too,. It’s true that I do enjoy watching NL baseball more aesthetically because you feel the lineup turn more and there’s more pressure on guys knowing… Read more »
Brian K
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Brian K
Nice article. I have felt that there is plenty of strategy (albeit different) in the AL regarding the DH. Some of that is in lineup optimization and more of that is in game tactics. There are more non-pitcher bunts and probably more pinch hitters in the AL. If I became commissioner of baseball, I would put the option of the DH in both leagues with the home team getting to choose if the game would have a DH. I think it would add strategy as it would be announced 2 hours before the game. A team might choose to eschew… Read more »
Lucas
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Lucas

Along the lines of the 8 man lineup suggested above, how about a compromise of 10 man lineups with a DH and the Pitcher?

Lee Trocinski
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Lee Trocinski

I’ve always liked the idea of having the pitcher in the lineup, but you can pinch-hit for him without having to remove him from the game. The pinch-hitter would then be done for the day. It would hopefully remove the 7th man from the bullpen, helping optimize reliever usage. It would call for nearly as much strategy and limit the amount of pitcher PAs in RISP situations.

Marc Schneider
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Marc Schneider
I’m sort of agnostic on the DH but I can’t understand the rather casuistic arguments that “it’s not baseball.” Baseball is a game that has evolved enormously over the last 150 years. Baseball is what it is. If you don’t like the DH and prefer the pitcher hitting, that’s fine but to argue over semantic distinctions as to whether it is or is not baseball doesn’t make much sense to me. I mean, if it’s not baseball, what is it? To me, some of the arguments against the DH have lost force over the years, specifically the strategy argument, ie,… Read more »
87 Cards
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87 Cards
I don’t have the discipline to stay to the main topic…. of Jim Abbott: “…And he was born without a right hand. Despite probably having the worst hitting projection imaginable, he was signed as a starter and given 24 plate appearances before being released due to disappointing pitching performance.”…Yes, but what a hot stick work in June 1999 he did for the Brewers… he wore out the Cubs..two singles, three RBIs during a month of overall 2 for 9 plate work. The video, first hit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nt9QuC_tuGM ..the video , two-run RBI single http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYsnDpLagIA …Abbott hung tough in his 20 NL… Read more »
Jason Richards
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Jason Richards

Here’s why the National League should adopt the DH: There’s been an increase in pitchers’ injuries suffered in the batters box, such as oblique muscle strains. I’d hate to lose a $10-million starter for 2-3 months because of something that happened while he was striking out. Like the author said, the DH isn’t a departure from the essence of baseball. It’s a response to the changing role of pitchers.
Just like pinch hitters and double switches.

pc
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pc

my only comment is that, their should be one set of rules. The DH should be used in both leagues or totally done away with. Since the union would never agree to eliminating the DH, then the only solution is to insist that the NL use it.

DavidKB
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DavidKB

I think I have a pretty abnormal view on this controversy. One of my favorite things about baseball is all the little weird rules that only apply to specific situations, the variety of ballparks, etc. The quirkiness of it. The fact that the two leagues play with different rules, and that they have to adapt to the other ruleset when they visit the other league, is just great. I hope they never change it.

Jonathan Sher
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Jonathan Sher
I applaud you for trying to tackle a tired debate – should we have a DH – with a contrarian tack. But I also think your reasoning and use of data have major holes: (1) You look to the 19th century to understand the “essence of the game” even though no purist would contend the game or what they expect of it remotely resembles the earlier days of baseball. Many things changed from the 1870 to the first decades of the 20th-century. Rosters were expanded and pinch hitters were used, and those practices had been around about 70 years when… Read more »
BobDD
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BobDD

Jonathan Sher,

Major changes since 1920 that were not gradual: Integration, live baseball/HR explosions, night games, WWII baseball, moving to west coast.

Gradual changes that have been major: Expansion, relief pitching, TV, competition from other sports and colleges, steroids/HGH etc., players union/free agency.

DH seems about an average change to me.

Jonathan Sher
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Jonathan Sher
Integration: It took more than 12 years for all MLB teams to have at least one black player: 1947 – 1 (1 NL) 1948 – 3 (1 NL, 2 AL) 1949 – 3 (1 NL, 2 AL) 1950 – 5 (3 NL, 2 AL) 1951 – 5 (3 NL, 2 AL) 1952- 6 (3 NL, 3 AL) 1953 – 6 (3 NL, 3 AL) 1954 – 11 (7 NL, 4 AL) 1955 – 13 (7 NL, 6 AL) 1956 – 13 (7 NL, 6 AL) 1957 – 14 (8 NL, 6 AL) (1st year NL was completely integrated) 1958 –… Read more »
Jonathan Sher
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Jonathan Sher

Sorry for the inadvertent double post — editors: Can you remove this one and keep the other?

Jonathan Sher
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Jonathan Sher
I applaud you for trying to tackle a tired debate – should we have a DH – with a contrarian tack. But I also think your reasoning and use of data have major holes: (1) You look to the 19th century to understand the “essence of the game” even though no purist would contend the game or what they expect of it remotely resembles the earlier days of baseball. Many things changed from the 1870 to the first decades of the 20th-century. Rosters were expanded and pinch hitters were used, and those practices had been around about 70 years when… Read more »
bucdaddy
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bucdaddy
That the N.L. has more strateegery seems to be a given in some circles, but I have yet to see anyone actually prove that. The current driving force behind removing a pitcher from the game, for a pinch-hitter or a reliever, seems to be pitch count (once you get past the actually score of the game). Once a starter gets to 100 (+/- 10), you know he’s gone. If his turn at bat happens to come up in the inning, he’ll be hit for. If it doesn’t, he’ll be replaced with a reliever(s), who will, eventually, be hit for. It… Read more »
Adam Dorhauer
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Thank you everyone for the comments.

John Thorn posted on Twitter a fascinating bit of history on the origin of the DH as a proposal by Pittsburgh team president WC Temple in 1891. It also mentions the 8-man lineup a couple commenters here have brought up, which was an alternate proposal by J Walter Spalding (brother of Albert Spalding): https://twitter.com/thorn_john/status/523250171564412928

Steve Sherman
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Steve Sherman
I would like to see the DH eliminated in favor of a 28-man roster, of whom 25 are eligible for any given game (the NHL does this: the ineligible players are called ‘healthy scratches’). Typically, two of the ineligible players would be yesterday’s and tomorrow’s starting pitchers; the third might be a starter as well. The increase in the number of position players on the bench would increase the opportunities for tactical changes during a game. The larger roster would compensate the union for the loss of the DH. I have no hope whatsoever that this proposal might actually be… Read more »
John C
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John C

This ship sailed a long time ago. The DH is used pretty much everywhere but in the NL these days. In amateur baseball, you can even use the DH for someone other than a pitcher.

If MLB wanted to reverse some trend in modern-day baseball, I can think of much better places to start than the DH, like limiting the number of pitching changes a manager can make in a game. I’d rather see lefty one-out specialists disappear from baseball than designated hitters.

casey piotrowski
Guest
The people who don’t favor the DH often say that it takes away from the strategy of the game. Sorry, there is no ‘strategy’ there any more. Close game early, the pitcher hits. Close game late, the pitcher gets hit for. No strategy…absolutely predictable. What Managers in the AL have never done is use their bench to hit for weak hitting players or to use for matchups late…Or, maybe they do that, but nobody ever says that, because they don’t have to save their bench to hit for the pitcher, they can employ MORE strategy in using their roster. The… Read more »
BobDD
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BobDD
I’m with Marc. I’m not as opposed to the DH as I used to be, but the argument that some use that the DH isn’t really baseball (10 players) is so obtuse that if anything it pushes me towards favoring the DH. Also, in my computer baseball games (APBA, Strat, DM) I now use the DH regularly even in legends seasons just because I like more offense. So I guess I should stop saying I am a NL traditionalist. It sure seems to me that changing to the DH is less of a change than we have already made in:… Read more »
bucdaddy
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bucdaddy

Couple more:

Grass/Astroturf/grass

Indoor stadiums

Spitball/no spitball

No helmets/helmets

Whiskey and cigar for breakfast/kale smoothie for breakfast

Compromise Solution
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Compromise Solution
I’ve been toying with some ideas about this since this article was published. I think what I’d like to see is to require that the hitter for the pitcher assignment be rotated through all the reserve position players who have not yet played a defensive position or been a pinch hitter or pinch runner. The manager shouldn’t be required to declare the DH rotation in advance. The likely outcome would be to put the DH either 4th or 7th-8th in the batting order; the flexibility of putting Sammy Slaphitter in to jump start an inning or Larry Longball to try… Read more »
Joe Ruth
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Joe Ruth

The DH isn’t an abomination, it just makes the game more boring. Because the steroid era is over, the impact on runs is probably not as great.

Still, it takes some nuance out of when to remove the pitcher. You can’t Chadwick your way out of that. Sorry.

bucdaddy
Guest
bucdaddy
“Still, it takes some nuance out of when to remove the pitcher.” Hmmm. Let’s see: NL: Seventh inning, pitcher’s turn to bat, team trails by a run. Manager hits for pitcher. AL: Seventh inning, pitcher doesn’t have to bat, team trails by a run. Manager has to decide if pitcher is good for another inning, or two. Although, admittedly, increasingly managers don’t even want to make this decision. It usually falls this way: Pitch count 90, pitcher comes out. Regardless of the game or inning situation. Unless you have Kershaw. Talk about a loss of strategy: Managers are happy to… Read more »
bucdaddy
Guest
bucdaddy

Part of that comment disappeared, apparently because I used the “greater than” and “lesser than” symbols. It should read: “Pitch count less than 90, pitcher stays in; pitch count greater than 90, pitcher comes out.”

freddy
Guest
freddy

The “added strategy” argument misses that AL teams have more roster spots to do things like pinch hit for a poor offensive player at the cost of future defense. When it’s the top of the 9th and a SS comes up with runners on 2nd and 3rd and 1 out in a one run game, you may want to pinch hit and move the 2B over the SS or just stick with it. Now that’s strategy.

Stu
Guest
Stu
Kill it. Kill the DH. Kill it now. Your piece didn’t change my mind one iota. None of the comments did, either. Bad is bad. Pitchers can/did/do hit. If you let them, that is. Coming up, specializing in just pitching, through the minor league ranks does ensure a vast majority of pitchers are flailing away in the box at the major league level. Let them be a regular player (you know, one of those nine required… again, with no such thing as a DH, and there might actually be an upward trend in their batting averages. Might be. But if… Read more »
BMarkham
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BMarkham
Did you even read the article? Pitchers hitting collapsed before the DH was instituted. It happened because pitching is so specialized that they don’t have time to also work on hitting. That’s how every team has operated. If what you were saying is true, some savvy NL team would find it advantageous for pitchers to work on hitting in Spring Training and throughout the year. That hasn’t happened, because it doesn’t make sense. The 18-27 PA a starting pitcher is pitching in are just way more important than the 2-3 PA in which he is being pitched to. Or is… Read more »
Marc Schneider
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Marc Schneider

Stu, I don’t think the article was designed to change your mind. The point of the discussion was whether the DH is a fundamental change to the game. As I said, I’m rather agnostic about it, other than the fact that it makes games longer. Even before the DH, most pitchers were lousy hitters. If you don’t like it, you don’t like, but please stop with the evangelizing as if the DH is one of the great moral issues of the age.