The DH sucks

John Granato: Dierker has plan to clean up baseball's messy DH problem

John Granato: Dierker has plan to clean up baseball's messy DH problem
Should Dallas Keuchel be forced to hit? Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

There are very few things in sports that can’t be explained. One thing that is really difficult to understand though is the DH rule in baseball. Name another league that has two sets of rules within their own league.

Imagine the Western Conference of the NBA with a 3-point line extending from the free throw line while the Eastern Conference has the normal 3-point line.

Imagine the AFC with 12 men on the field while the NFC has 11. When you go to AFC stadiums you play with 12. In the NFC stadiums 11.

It’s crazy. You won’t find another league with rules so different within its league. In one you have the pitcher batting, an almost automatic out every ninth at-bat. In the other you might have a team’s best hitter in that spot.

You would think that would make for a huge differential in offense for the American League. Not so much. There is more offense in The A.L. but it’s not crazy. Last year the A.L. only hit 4 points higher than the N.L. and scored on average 20 more runs per team. That’s not much over 162 games.

So why have rules so different if the results don’t warrant a big difference? Again, it doesn’t make sense. The DH was adopted by the American League in 1973 as a three-year trial and it’s still there while the National League has continued to resist.

The arguments for are compelling. Who wants to see a pitcher hit? They’re not good at it. Why not have a professional hitter at the plate instead of someone who doesn’t care about it? More offense means more excitement especially in a sport that is played at a glacial pace.

The arguments against are just as good. Tradition for one. PItchers are part of the team. If they’re on the field they should hit and if my pitcher can hit better than yours I can take advantage of that. Plus it makes the game much more strategic. If a pitcher is throwing well but comes up with men on in a close game late then you have tough decisions to make.

Ask any manager which league is tougher to manage in and every one will tell you the National League. It’s not  brain surgery but you do have to make double switches, warm up relievers when the pitcher’s spot is due up even though he might not come in and take good pitchers out of games when you would rather not.

None of that happens in American League games but you don’t have to watch pitchers hit in the A.L. which is a big plus. Or is it?

Former Astro player, manager and broadcaster Larry Dierker has a new website 49sfastball.com. It could have been his slider or changeup but his fastball was better.

In it he has great podcasts and articles that cover all things baseball. If you love baseball stories from the days of yore you need to visit 49sfastball.com.

If you hate the designated hitter you need to visit it as well. Larry managed and played in the N.L. where pitchers hit. He’s the youngest Astro to ever hit a home run and he hit one off Nolan Ryan. He’s a traditionalist but he’s got a new idea for a compromise that I think is pretty cool. Will MLB adopt it? Probably not. It takes an act of congress to get anything done in baseball.

It’s simply this: You can pinch hit for the pitcher at any time but the pitcher can stay in the game. The pinch hitter however is done for the day.

The pros:

The pitcher doesn’t have to hit but he can still pitch which is why the DH was adopted in the first place. If your pitcher is a good hitter or it’s not a critical game situation you let the pitcher hit. Let’s say it’s the third inning, two outs nobody on. Let the pitcher hit. Maybe he’ll come through and if not, no big deal. It’s not like there are a bunch of two out rallies with noone on.

If it’s second and third with two out that’s another story. Bring in a pinch hitter and see if he can get the guys home. Either way you didn’t burn your starter.

Let’s say it’s first and second and no outs. If your pitcher can bunt he can lay one down and you don’t burn a pinch hitter so teams with pitchers who can handle the bat will have an advantage.

I think the compromise would appease both leagues. The pitcher can still hit but doesn’t have to. You would still have the chance to score more runs yet not lose your starting pitcher early.

The cons:

The toughest thing in all this might be to get the owners and players’ association to agree on it. It’s tough to get them to agree on anything let alone something that changes the game so drastically. Baseball is played at a slow pace. Changes to the game come even slower.

The players won’t like it because DH’s make a lot of money, pinch hitters don’t and the players aren’t about to agree to anything that lowers their pay scale. So Dierker suggests to even that out some and to help offset the need for more hitters that they add a 26th player to the roster. You’ll definitely need at least one more hitter.

Instead of one DH a manager might need four pinch hitters. Probably not but maybe. If they adopt this rule I’m thinking on average the pitcher would probably hit once a game, maybe a little more. That spot doesn’t have RBI opportunities every at bat. No spot in the order does. Plus you can still double switch when you bring in a reliever and avoid the pitcher’s spot when possible. So you would need on average probably two to three pinch hitters per game.

The owners will like paying a pinch hitter instead of a DH but they won’t like a paying an extra player on the active roster. So you have that hurdle to overcome.

I think it’s a pretty good compromise for both sides. You still have strategic moves to make which the National League covets yet you can keep the pitcher in the game without having him hit which the American League likes.

It’s silly that there are two sets of rules in one league. You won’t find that anywhere else. You shouldn’t find that anywhere period.

While it may not be perfect it’s at least worth a place at the table to talk about. Will they talk about it? Probably not. It’s baseball. Sometimes baseball doesn’t make any sense.

To learn more check out Larry Dierker’s website at 49sfastball.com.




 

 


 

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