The American League and the National League aren’t all that different in terms of style of play except for one glaring aspect: the designated hitter. The Junior Circuit has adopted the DH rule since 1973 allowing aging veterans or players that could be a defensive liability to simply bat for the team and not play in the field. This is also used to allow some of their stars to take a day off in the field without having to take out their powerful presence from the lineup altogether. The NL has instead decided to continue to allow their pitchers to take at-bats for the team. Besides the comic relief that fans get while watching Bartolo Colon bat or rare situations where the pitcher actually does well at the plate (like Zack Greinke or Madison Bumgarner), the pitcher’s at-bat is nearly always an out. Often they simply try to bunt if there’s someone on base. But could the DH rule be adopted in the National League in the near future?
UPDATE: Recent reports have stated that bringing the DH to the NL will be discussed in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement between the MLBPA and the MLB this winter. So, we could be seeing the NL adopt the designated hitter as soon as 2017
Because of the DH, AL ball clubs try to acquire powerful sluggers that can change the game with a single smash. The players in front are encouraged to not steal so that their best hitter can do what he does best. Players like David Ortiz and Edgar Martinez are recent examples where the DH can help a baseball team immensely. There are exceptions, like the current Kansas City Royals where their team is structured more like an NL team–with lots of contact hitters and base-stealers–but their DH, Kendrys Morales, led the team with dingers and helped the team win the World Series.
The NL, on the other hand, tries to acquire contact hitters and base-stealers that can change the game with their legs rather than with their power. Proponents of the NL style of play argue that the presence of the pitcher batting requires more strategy for managers and makes it more interesting than seeing a home run. More and more pitchers have been known to publicly vocalize their preference for the National League style of play. Simply put, the pitchers like getting at-bats, but would you rather see a pitcher bunting someone over or seeing Big Papi swinging for the fences is the question.
Just last year, two pitchers injured themselves while batting. Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals suffered an injury during an at-bat that required season-ending surgery. The Cardinals would’ve much rather preferred a seasoned hitter batting in that nine-hole than losing their ace for the season. Other teams like the Cubs have lots of young sluggers, like Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber. Schwarber is a bigger fella and he’s tried catching and left field so the Cubs can use his bat in the lineup. But if the Cubs were allowed a DH, they wouldn’t have to risk an error on the field and they could get more punch out of their lineup. Cardinals GM Mozeliak recently expressed that there is more movement towards the NL implementing the DH than ever before. This isn’t to say we could see the DH in the NL in the next two years or so, but there is definitely progress.
It’ll all come down to how the league see’s the MLB’s diminishing offense issue. If adding 15 jobs to the MLB and it can add offense to the league’s games, the league might decide it’d be in everyone’s best interest to add the DH.
So what do you think? Should the NL adopt the DH? Would you rather see Jake Arrieta strike out or Kyle Schwarber hitting a grand slam in a lineup?