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Why The NL Should Add The DH

When was the last time you watched an NFL game, saw the kicker come out for the point after attempt, and said to yourself "boy, I'd like to see that guy try to play left tackle"?

When was the last time you watched an NBA game, and saw 5'5, 135 lb Earl Boykins and said, "boy, I'd sure love to see him try to guard Lebron James"?

If you've ever said either of these things, then I can't give you a hard time if you enjoy watching National League pitchers walk up to the plate and flail helplessly at the opposing pitcher's offerings.  But if you haven't, and I suspect most of you haven't, then I really can't buy your argument against the DH.

You heard the other side of this argument yesterday, but as much as I like Travis, I have to disagree wholeheartedly.  The DH is a wonderful thing, and after universal instant replay, it's the one thing that Major League Baseball needs to institute immediately.


My rebuttal to Travis's points:

Baseball was doing fine before the DH - if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  You could use this to argue against every major innovation that's happened in the game over the past century.  MLB was doing fine before interleague play.  MLB was doing fine before the Wild Card.   MLB was doing fine before night games.  MLB was doing fine before they started allowing pitchers to throw overhand in 1884.  You get my point.  Just because baseball was doing well doesn't mean it was perfect, so this argument doesn't really stand out in my book.

NL baseball requires strategy thanks to the pitchers hitting.  While this statement is accurate, I'll qualify it with two words - Tony LaRussa.

It discourages versatility in players (why learn how to field?).  The reality is that, rightly or wrongly, hitting has almost always trumped fielding in the eyes of most teams, and there have always been good hit/no field players in MLB, DH or no DH.  Manny Ramirez and Gary Sheffield are the two worst defensive players I can think of who've played recently, and they both spent significant time in the NL.  Heck, there's a 50/50 chance that some NL team is going to give themselves the chance this offseason to let Prince Fielder play the field when he's a 350 lb 36-year old.  If defensive versatility really mattered to teams, the landscape of baseball would look much, much different, DH or no DH.

Pre-1973, pitchers could add value through their hitting.  It's true that pitchers only OPSed .357 in 2011, but in the 20 years before the DH, they only managed to OPS above .500 once.  .500 is better than .357, but they both stink.  In some isolated cases, a good hitting pitcher could approach league-average at the plate and add value, but this is rare.  Since 1973, only 10 NL starting pitchers have managed to post an OPS+ of 100 in a season, making this event just slightly less rare than a perfect game.

Hit batters have increased since pitchers don't fear retribution.  Perhaps this is true, but maybe the increase has been mitigated by skittish umpires who warn both teams after a breaking ball clearly gets away from the pitcher accidentally and hits the batter.  In any event, hitters now wear body armor, so the likelihood of sustaining real, bodily pain from a pitch is pretty slim anyway. 

The argument for uniformity.  Chien-Ming Wang got hurt running the bases in an interleague game.  With more interleague games on the schedule, I suppose you could argue that pitchers need more practice at the plate and on the bases; I'd argue the opposite, and say that we should eliminate the possibility of this type of injury ever happening to any pitcher.  Uniformity is uniformity.

The lowest drawing teams are in the AL - coincidence?  Do the A's and Rays draw small crowds because they have a DH, or is it because they play in awful stadiums?  Do the Orioles draw small crowds because of the DH, or is it because they haven't had a winning season in 14 years?  Did the Phillies lead the majors in attendance last season because their fans enjoyed watching Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay bunt?

I'll leave you with this point.  Ivan Nova had to bat in two interleague games this past season, and prior to that, his last in-game at bats came in...well, your guess is as good as mine.  The Yankees signed Nova out of the Dominican Republic in 2004, and since the instructional leagues and the minors (and college, for that matter) use a DH, most pitchers who make the majors go several seasons between real at-bats, especially Latin American players who get signed while most American-born players are still in high school.    Asking MLB pitchers to be good hitters under these circumstances is kind of like asking top hitting prospects to suddenly start pitching once they reach the majors.  It just doesn't make sense.