Skip to content

I’m no fan of the DH, but pitchers batting has got to go

Jan 2, 2013, 11:07 AM EDT

Justin Verlander

Anna Hiatt argues for the DH to expand to the NL.  We all know the parameters of this argument by now and have engaged in it many times, so allow me to offer up my opinion on the matter in a way that attempts to eschew the religious war vibe of this time-worn debate.

I am an NL partisan. I have been since I started following the Braves in the mid-1980s. I’m not a fanatic about it, and it matters far less now than it did back before interleague play, realignment and new ballpark construction blurred the distinctions between the leagues, but I still remain an NL guy. And part of that is, yes, I like pitchers batting.

I like pitchers hitting for the same reasons I like medium-rare steaks, pale-skinned brunettes, Batman, bourbon and a lot of regrettable 1980s synth pop: personal taste. These things just strike me the right way and make me feel just so. It’s not an objective thing. Many people are vegetarians, many gentlemen prefer blondes, like Superman, hate hard liquor and would rather die than be subjected to Human League’s “Don’t you want me.” They have their tastes and I have mine, and there is nothing more obnoxious than someone telling you that your subjective tastes are somehow, objectively, wrong, so I live and let live when this kind of stuff comes up and I hope they feel the same way.

With that in mind, it’s worth noting that, though I prefer pitchers batting, I don’t believe the National League’s rules in this regard are objectively better. Indeed, when I take my personal preferences out of the equation and look at the matter rationally, I cannot escape the logic of the DH in today’s game and the futility of pitchers batting.

The game is not played by all-around ballplayers anymore. Pitchers are just dreadful at hitting and, increasingly, are unable to even bunt particularly well. The strategy and gamesmanship my NL friends like to talk up is rather contrived when one thinks about it. Really, these machinations are more about the avoidance of pitchers batting than taking advantage of it. The whole dance in which managers spend so much energy to optimize minor matchups, often costing them their best pitchers and best hitters runs counter to the idea of my best nine playing your best nine and let’s see who wins.

And it’s not like this will get better. If anything, it will only get worse. In the absence of any expectation for pitchers to hit before reaching the NL combined with the absence of any financial pressures that might make adding a specialist to the roster problematic, there is nothing that will incentivize teams to make their pitchers better hitters. It makes no real sense to have pitchers batting now.  We certainly wouldn’t set it up that way if we were starting from scratch today.

I think baseball will, eventually, expand the DH to the National League. It probably won’t be because one side of the great DH debate concedes defeat and the change is made for the greater good of the sport itself. Actually, I figure it will come as a result of some collective bargaining thing, in which the players give up something to the owners in exchange for 15 more high-paying roster spots. But it will happen. Probably within the next decade on the outside.

And when it happens I will be a little sad. But ultimately I must conclude that pitchers hitting is a lot like player-managers, automats, ornate bank lobbies, milkmen, drive-ins and any other number of 19th/20th century things which tickled my fancy. They were cool. I kinda miss them. But they are an artifact of history and today there is no logical reason to have them, even if it seemed natural and logical to have them once upon a time.

Latest Posts
  1. Rangers’ retirement gifts for Derek Jeter: Yankees cowboy boots, signed George W. Bush photo

    Jul 30, 2014, 8:22 PM EDT

    jeter getty Getty Images

    Derek Jeter’s farewell tour continued Wednesday night at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas with another set of retirement gifts.

  2. Blue Jays considering Asdrubal Cabrera for second base

    Jul 30, 2014, 7:37 PM EDT

    asdrubal cabrera getty Getty Images

    CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Blue Jays are targeting Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera — who is known to be available — and would ask him to play second base.

  3. Cardinals GM John Mozeliak says he was never close to trading outfielder Oscar Taveras

    Jul 30, 2014, 6:49 PM EDT

    oscar taveras getty Getty Images

    Oscar Taveras has been mentioned as a possible centerpiece in trade talks this week for top-tier starting pitchers like David Price and Jon Lester, but if Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak is to be believed that was all speculation from the outside.

  4. Astros “looking to move” slugger Chris Carter

    Jul 30, 2014, 6:13 PM EDT

    chris carter getty Getty Images

    The 44-64 Astros could jump into this seller-friendly market before Thursday’s 4 p.m. ET trade deadline. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that Houston is “looking to move” first baseman and designated hitter Chris Carter.

  5. Matt Harvey cleared to throw from a mound

    Jul 30, 2014, 5:06 PM EDT

    matt harvey getty Getty Images

    Now that it’s clear he can’t ramp up for 2014, the Mets have cleared Matt Harvey to throw.

  6. Nate Jones undergoes Tommy John surgery

    Jul 30, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT

    nate jones getty Getty Images

    White Sox reliever Nate Jones has been on the disabled list with a back injury since the first week of the season, but now he’s got an even bigger problem.

  7. The Mariners are out on Marlon Byrd

    Jul 30, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

    Marlon Byrd Marlon Byrd

    It’s been a rumor for a good while, but now it’s going where rumors go when they die.

  8. There are reports that Jon Lester is going to the Orioles. And reports that that’s utter baloney

    Jul 30, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    Jon Lester

    The very essence of the trade deadline just played out on Twitter

  9. Eric Chavez announces retirement

    Jul 30, 2014, 3:51 PM EDT

    Eric Chavez

    Injuries derailed what was a very promising career for Chavez while with the A’s, but he bounced back and got healthy enough to thrive in part-time roles for the Yankees and Diamondbacks.

  10. Cubs acquire Felix Doubront from Red Sox

    Jul 30, 2014, 3:32 PM EDT

    Los Angeles Dodgers v Boston Red Sox Getty Images

    Felix Doubront made it clear that he wanted the Red Sox to either put him back into the starting rotation or trade him, and then he went out and had a terrible relief appearance that many took to mean he was trying to push a trade.

  11. UPDATE: OK, maybe the Marlins aren’t going to trade for John Lackey.

    Jul 30, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT

    lackey getty Getty Images

    A few minutes ago we thought this man could soon be a Fish. Now it seems unlikely. HAPPY TRADE DEADLINE!

  12. Josh Zeid needs season-ending foot surgery

    Jul 30, 2014, 2:44 PM EDT

    Josh Zeid Astros AP

    Zeid pitched well for the Astros as a 26-year-old rookie last season, but struggled mightily this season with a 6.97 ERA in 23 appearances.

  13. The Dodgers are out on Lester, Price and Hamels

    Jul 30, 2014, 2:32 PM EDT

    dodgers logo

    They’ve been rumored to be in on all the big names, but now it sounds as if they’re out.

  14. Cardinals acquire Justin Masterson from Indians

    Jul 30, 2014, 2:25 PM EDT

    justin masterson getty Getty Images

    Cleveland turned down Justin Masterson’s attempted contract extension offer back in spring training–balking at what seemed to be reasonable terms at the time–and now the Indians are trading the impending free agent to the Cardinals, according to Peter Gammons of MLB.com.

  15. HBT Daily: Trade Rumor Roundup: Kemp! Hamels! Price!

    Jul 30, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    HBT Daily Logo

    And no mention of Lester because I legit thought he’d get traded in between the time we taped this and the time it went live.

  16. Dylan Bundy is struggling in his comeback from Tommy John surgery

    Jul 30, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT

    Toronto Blue Jays v Baltimore Orioles Getty Images

    Orioles prospect Dylan Bundy would probably already be in the majors to stay if not for blowing out his elbow last season, but now the former No. 1 pitching prospect in baseball is struggling while rehabbing in the minors.

  17. The Dodgers are interested in Joaquin Benoit

    Jul 30, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

    Joaquin Benoit

    But the Padres may be playing hard to get.

  18. Pedro Alvarez is a healthy scratch as the Pirates try to fix his throwing problems

    Jul 30, 2014, 1:13 PM EDT

    Pedro Alvarez AP

    Earlier this week Pirates manager Clint Hurdle talked about looking into the “mental component” of Pedro Alvarez’s throwing problems in an effort to get the third baseman back on track defensively. And now Alvarez is out of the lineup for a second straight day despite being healthy.

  19. There’s a “very good chance” the Red Sox trade Lackey and Lester

    Jul 30, 2014, 12:27 PM EDT

    red sox logo

    A major reshaping of the Red Sox rotation could be afoot.

Featured video

All the trade deadline news to know
Top 10 MLB Player Searches