Although it has taken some time to adjust, the DH isn’t pure evil like I was led to believe back when the Astros played in the NL.
Back on November 17th, 2011, Major League Baseball announced that the Astros would move to the AL from the NL before the 2013 season. As a fan of a club that only knew NL baseball, with the occasional interleague series, this development was utterly disappointing. For one, I actually enjoyed the rivalries in the Astros’ previous league, especially with the Braves and Cardinals in the late 1990’s to early 2000’s. Secondly, I was not particularly fond of the DH situation in the AL as I thought it took away from the strategy of baseball. The double switch, in my mind, was a prime example of this so-called “strategy”.
Basically, I viewed the DH rule as a scourge in baseball.
Oh, mercy, how was I mistaken.
Last season, major league pitchers who also batted recorded a .115/.144/.148 slash line with a -25 wRC+. Yes, negative twenty-five wRC+! On the whole, pitchers who recorded a plate appearance cost their teams slightly more than one win (-1.3) in 2018. Sure, there were 23 home runs by pitchers, which happen to be overly glorified in today’s baseball culture.
On the other hand, designated hitters slashed .254/.329/.457 with a 112 wRC+ — 12 percent above league-average — and 548 home runs last season. Tangotiger of MLBAM tweeted here a telling contrast between pitcher wOBA as a hitter compared to the eight-position player wOBA.
Based on pure numbers alone, it is clear to see why baseball is (slowly) moving to a universal DH reality. With the current CBA scheduled to expire in the next few years, I have a feeling this topic will be an important item of discussion between owners and players.
However, there are instances when a pitcher home run is truly memorable. Brandon Woodruff‘s home run off of Clayton Kershaw in last year’s NLCS was fun to watch, especially with the postseason implications. People for some reason can’t get enough of Bartolo Colon‘s first career home run back in 2016. I do understand the human element involved with these moments, but a home run is still an exciting event for the average fan. Honestly, it doesn’t make a difference who hits the home run that ultimately changes the tide of a game or postseason series as long as the event still takes place. Less newsworthy, sure, but I doubt teams care much about that as long as they still win.
Double-switches are also more-or-less automatic decisions, which are usually obvious for managers. But there are times though when a double-switch makes for interesting baseball. For example, I am very interested to see Reds’ right-hander Michael Lorenzen used in a double-switch opportunity this upcoming season, especially when one can easily see how good he is at hitting a baseball. But pitchers who can hit like Lorenzen are usually the exception to the rule. I also like to believe that teams are able to identify talented hitters without seeing them in game action first, even if they are pitchers.
The overall contribution for pitchers continuing to hit, or lack thereof, is painfully obvious heading into 2019. On top of the numbers, there is also incentive to a universal DH as it would 15 jobs a year in Major League Baseball. I’m not sure about you, but I do miss seeing Chris Carter hitting home runs. It was also fun to see Evan Gattis hit eleven triples back in 2015, mostly as a DH. We probably won’t see any changes in the NL until 2022 at the earliest, though.