The idea of adding the DH to the National League has been gathering steam around the league, and many voices from around the league are making their opinions known on the topic. St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright is one of those voices, and he believes in keeping the DH out. Here’s why I disagree.
The difference between the American and National Leagues has been a trademark of the MLB for many years, but is it something that is necessary in today’s game? Other leagues and organizations have made rule changes in order to keep up with times, but adding the DH to the lineup seems drastic, right? But maybe not to the St. Louis Cardinals… Here’s why.
NCAA Basketball made huge changes to the structure of the game in recent years by changing both the shot clock and the distance of the three point line. While these don’t pertain to personnel like the DH rule does, they are significant changes that can drastically alter players’ and teams’ style and effectiveness.
Since it has already been demonstrated to work in the American League, adding it to the National League would be quite easy, and may not even take a full off-season to fully integrate. There is no debate or experimentation necessary in terms of specific numbers as you would determining the length of the shot clock or the distance of the three-point line. The process is simply mirroring the American League. That being said, here is why the NL should incorporate the DH.
1. Inconsistent worth
This first point can apply to both hitters and pitchers, but it is mostly a pitcher issue. A pitcher for the New York Yankees has to pitch to nine batters, each whose value is largely dependent on their ability to hit the ball.
However, a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals gets a reprieve with the pitcher in the batting order including the pitcher. While they aren’t entirely inept hitters, it’s hard to argue that pitchers aren’t getting a break most of the time when facing their counterparts at the plate.
This makes attempts at objective comparison between pitchers in different leagues difficult because the effect of pitching against a DH versus a pitcher cannot be quantified. This means that there is no way to avoid subjective influences in evaluating pitchers.
On the surface, this might not seem like anything that affects the modern game. In fact, the dynamic makes contract negotiations more complex and volatile. However, comparing stats across leagues and eras and arguing the all-time greatness of a player can be significantly skewed by this inconsistency, and the subjectivity it brings.
While it is to a much lesser degree, this can happen to hitters as well. The St. Louis Cardinals are bearing witness to it first-hand in the form of Jose Martinez, who was recently moved to a bench role following the appointment of interim manager Mike Schildt.
Another argument is that the DH will diminish the fielding quality of the game, as players will be encouraged to focus on their batting skills, and use batting as a DH as a fail safe. This would mean that fielding has wildly inconsistent value not only depending on position, but on what league the team is in. However, this is something that is already happening.
There are many names we remember solely for their batting prowess, while few become greats with just fielding ability. Not having a DH doesn’t keep bad fielders off of the field, it just confines them to first base in most cases. From Ryan Howard to Prince Fielder, being a poor fielder hasn’t been a hindrance to many big names in the league.
At this point, it just isn’t worth it to try and keep these extra hitters out of the spotlight to keep things unique. Leveling the playing field will do more to help future generations appreciate many players.
2. Pitchers are paid to pitch, not hit
Unless your name is Shohei Ohtani or Babe Ruth, you are not paid to hit the ball if you are a pitcher, whether you are in the NL or the AL. Even the best hitting pitchers like Madison Bumgarner aren’t adding to their value by raking. Pitchers don’t come into the league or receive certain salaries because of the extra spark they can add to the lineup. They aren’t even paid to field. They are paid to be successful pitchers.
So why put pitchers in a position where they have to work without much benefit to them? While it is exciting to see the occasional pitcher rake, the fact is that pitchers don’t train and aren’t paid to hit the ball, while employing the DH will replace the pitcher with someone who is. This will provide more consistent and overall intensity, instead of some of the more passive situations that teams will set up to force the pitcher to produce on offense.
With the DH, pitchers can’t work around people who aren’t paid to hit. Instead, they will have to find fielders whose salary is far more dependent on their batting ability. There may not be many players who are remembered for their defense alone, but there are even fewer who are paid for it.
While some people argue the DH takes some strategy out of the game by essentially eliminating pinch hitters, this makes the poor batters at the end of the lineup look like sore thumbs instead of stowaways surrounding the pitcher. Suddenly, each hitter’s ability to bat becomes more scrutinized because of the expectation that you have a full lineup of capable hitters.
While the idea of “9 players batting, 9 players fielding” is nice in the traditional sense, allowing nine batters to bat will help elevate both pitchers and hitters by opening lineups up while putting pitchers in a position where they can and need to use more intense and consistent pitching focus. Simply put, it will allow pitchers to pitch,and hitters to hit.
3. Protecting the Goods
St. Louis Cardinals fans know first hand the risks that can come with bringing a pitcher up to bat with Adam Wainwright’s Achilles injury, so I don’t have to elaborate on this too much. If pitchers aren’t paid to hit, why put them in that position and make them vulnerable to injury?
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And don’t tell me that Waino’s injury was an isolated incident, because plenty of pitchers have been hurt as a result of stepping up to the plate. Former Yankees pitcher Chien-Ming Wang injured his foot running the bases as well, and could never recover from it. Other less severe injuries have occured to names both big and small. Randy Johnson, Mark Prior, Carlos Zambrano, Todd Stottlemyre, Max Scherzer. All names from different eras. All hurt because they were batting.
The pinch hitter is a problem in this regard as well. Steven Wright hurt his shoulder sliding into second base in August 2016 after he was brought in to pinch run. The only reason he was forced to be the pinch runner was because the Red Sox needed players on the bench to pinch hit. There’s no reason a pitcher should be forced into that type of situation.
Some people may argue that the non-contact injuries only happen to the older pitchers, while contact injuries only happen during base running. Wainwright wasn’t particularly old at age 33, and there are examples of other pitchers like Josh Beckett hurting themselves while swinging the bat, even if it was just during warm-ups.
While some pitchers enjoy hitting, most aren’t used to it and would rather simply focus on what they are paid to do. With the injury risks that come into play, the pros of the DH outweigh the cons on this front too.
Now, I’m saying that letting pitchers hit is detrimental to the baseball experience in the National League, nor am I saying it needs to go anytime soon. What I am saying is that the baseball fans everywhere would see benefits from the addition of the DH to the National League, and it is something that people shouldn’t be so hard set against.