One of the recurring topics that the talking heads like to talk about during the Hot Stove season is why the NL needs to get with the times and adopt the Designated Hitter. And with the recent announcement of David Ortiz’s retirement, I am sure that it will come up again. Well, let me say that his impending retirement is exactly why the time is now right to get rid of the DH.
There are two arguments for why the NL needs to adopt the DH that drive me crazy.
- The argument that it adds more offense. Well, it turns out if you look at the data, it simply does not add that much offense. As you can see in the table at right, in AL parks both teams combined score .4 more runs a game. Or 1 run per team every 5 games.
- That it creates more jobs for players. No, not really. The 25 man roster applies in both leagues. What it does is create jobs for guys who can no longer (or never could) play well enough in the field.
And before you say to hold on because there is more to offense than simply counting runs, you would be absolutely correct. So lets look at all the values of the event field in AtBat data as recorded in the MLB Game Day data. The table at right represents the per game stats from the 2015 Game Day data.
Personally I don’t see much difference between the values in the two columns beyond the bunt related ones. Or at least the differences aren’t big enough to matter.
And the fact that the bunt related numbers are slightly bigger for the NL makes sense. Pitchers bunt more often. There are more intentional walks in the NL – again probably due to wanting to pitch to the pitcher who is on deck.
There is a whopping difference (yes, sarcasm) of .2 more home runs per game in the AL. In other words, in AL parks teams average one more home run every 10 games.
I admit that no one likes to see pitchers hit regularly. Except, of course, when they surprise you and get a hit. See Mad Bum for example.
I am sure that when the DH was first introduced that it created more offense. But the game has changed. Far fewer complete games; relievers come in earlier. And as a result pitchers simply don’t hit as much. In NL parks the average is about 2.5 PAs for pitchers.
It has been often said that managing in the AL is much simpler than in the NL. No late game decisions about when to PH or double switch in the AL. Personally I think those strategic and tactical issue make the NL game far more interesting.
I also have to admit that I am surprised the owners have not pushed to get rid of the DH in the AL. A nice side-effect would be less justification for big long-term contracts for players into their late 30s. Those are often defended by saying well, he can be the DH.
And to get the players union to agree to it, how about changing the MLB roster to 26 (or even 27) instead of 25. That does mean more MLB jobs for players.
Bottom line: time for the DH to go away.
Disclaimer: the numbers above were based on the MLB GameDay data I downloaded for 2015. So the numbers are only as accurate as that data is.