It’s time for the National League to implement the designated hitter
The discussion of a universal designated hitter in Major League Baseball has been made prevalent over these past couple of days. Many still feel strongly about keeping the traditional ways within the National League, but the list goes on as to why there should be a designated hitter in both leagues.
For starters, these pitchers are paid millions of dollars to pitch, not hit; therefore, injuries occurring at the plate are just unfortunate. Some would suggest that there is a lack of injuries for pitchers while taking at-bats; but if a $30 million-dollar pitcher (Clayton Kershaw), steps into the box while a major league pitcher chucks 97-MPH towards his direction, there should be a concern. Lets also not forget the scary scene back in the early 2018 season, when Jacob deGrom seemed to have injured his arm while taking a hack during an at-bat. Luckily, he ended up being fine, and went on to win a Cy Young; but it shouldn’t be the quantity of how often a pitcher is injured while hitting, it should be based on the simple fact that careers could be ruined doing something they don’t train to do.
These injury risks for pitchers don’t only come from having to hit, they also form in the bullpen. Relievers are constantly being brought up and down to warm up, which is one of the worst practices a coach can have a pitcher do. By not having a designated hitter, this issue is presented to the game and its pitchers. This problem is created by the constant act of pinch hitting. The excessive amount of pinch hitting requires these relief pitchers to partake in many pointless warm ups.
This complication is less seen in the American League, where relief pitchers are usually called upon once to warm up, and then brought into the game. It’s rare to have a guy constantly warming up, due to the fact pinch hitting isn’t often necessary. It’s much easier for a manager in the American League to have a game plan and stick with it.
Which leads to the argument that these managerial decisions are part of the game and helps make it more interesting. Now, that could be a valid point, but is it really that interesting to have a pitcher cruising through a game, just be taken out simply because he needed to be pinch hit for? It’s very common for a manager to pull his pitcher in a tight ballgame because he needs offensive support; regardless of how well that pitcher may be doing. Taking the pitcher out prematurely is unfair for not only the pitcher, but also for the team; as you now rely on a cold arm in the bullpen to come into relief. There is something to be said for a pitcher that is in the zone and has the momentum on their side; it’s a huge advantage. That advantage is now taken away as managers are forced to pull them from the game because of the lack of a designated hitter.
Major League Baseball is constantly attempting to grow viewership and the brand in general. While constantly competing with the NFL and NBA, Commissioner Rob Manfred, has worked hard on creating more excitement for the game. Several pace of play rules have been implemented throughout the past few years to try to appeal to younger generations. Except it’s not the pace of play that seems to be the only issue. The other issue is the lack of productivity being distributed by the players within the league. Strike out rates are through the roof due to pitchers throwing 97-mph on a consistent basis, and this isn’t helped by having a pitcher in the lineup every day.
According to Jared Diamond from the Wall Street Journal, “Pitchers can’t hit. At all. They entered this week’s All-Star break with a combined batting average of .113, the lowest on record and down from .139 a decade ago. They strike out in nearly 42% of their plate appearances, the most ever, and walk just 3% of the time, compared to about 4% in 2008.” Having a .113 batting average enter a lineup on an everyday basis isn’t exactly going to help grow the brand of baseball. Adding a designated hitter helps enhance excitement; instead of an automatic out, 15 more professional hitters will be added into lineups to increase the likelihood of offensive production.
Overall, having two separate rules, for two separate leagues, within the same sport, is just nonsense, and leads to disadvantages. Some of the best teams in the American League are offensively powered by their designated hitter. For example, the 2018 Boston Red Sox had the best offense in baseball due to their designated hitter, J.D. Martinez. The team ended up winning the World Series but with no help from the confusion of separate rules in each league. When the team got to the World Series, they were forced to have their pitcher hit when playing in LA. This forced manager Alex Cora to change the way he has managed for the entire year. J.D. was placed in right field where he does not fare well. The J.D. issue also made Alex sit one of his best hitters, Andrew Benintendi, to make room for both J.D. and his pitcher. J.D. ended up making errors in right field, and with no surprise their offense struggled tremendously; forcing them to lose the game.
Baseball is a beautiful game that has been a part of our nations culture for decades. Just because it’s America’s pastime doesn’t mean it can’t evolve and adapt. The traditional ways of having the pitcher bat is a rule that needs to be terminated in order to preserve health, enhance excitement, and overall, make the game more fair. This act will allow pitchers to focus on what they’re getting paid millions of dollars to do. Which will provide the fans with what they are searching for, more home runs, hits, and overall runs. It’s time to make the change and improve Major League Baseball.
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