Posted by Andy on September 25, 2010
Continuing our discussions of the DH, here's a forward-looking one. What would happen if the American League got rid of the DH and re-adopted the same rules as the National League?
This is not likely to happen, at least not in a sudden way. Hypothetically, if the AL decided this winter to ditch the DH, it would likely mean a swift end to careers of some players such as Jim Thome, Vlad Guerrero, David Ortiz, and Hideki Matsui. These are guys who do not play much in the field and for whom it would be a little late to learn or re-learn.
The players' union would never allow such a decision due to the forcing out of these highly-paid players. Their immediate replacements would likely be bench/utility/PH type guys, who are paid less, and the players' association won't agree to anything that diminishes career length or average player salary.
But let's say they agreed this off-season to abolish the DH starting in the 2020 season. That gives 10 years for teams to adjust, let older existing DH's play out their careers, let younger players focus more on defense, and let AL pitchers learn to hit (or at least bunt.)
What are some of the ramifications if this decision were made?
A few things jump to my mind:
1. I would feel a lot better about interleague play and the World Series with both teams playing by the same set of rules. I have always hated seeing an NL team put a bench guy in the DH slot while up against a hitter like Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield, or Ortiz in his prime. I hated seeing either team have to play in an opposing league's park and adjust to a different set of rules from what their team was designed around.
2. DH's have generally been above-average hitters, with tOPS+ usually in the range of 105-110. This suggests that removing them would decrease overall offensive levels, especially since they would be replaces with hitting pitchers. Most years since the DH was adopting, run-scoring has been higher in the AL. So, we'd expect to see run-scoring drop to be about equal across the two leagues. We can probably also expect pitchers in the AL to throw more fewer complete games, strike out more hitters, and walk fewer.
3. The National League would probably start winning the All-Star game more often.
4. I think Pedro Martinez might get hurt some, in the sense that he put together some incredible seasons while pitching in the AL in the late 1990s that would have a better chance of getting matched by future AL pitchers who don't have to face the DH. I can imagine us stat-heads saying that Pedro's best seasons game "during the DH era" much the same way as we qualify things as being from "the steroids era" or "the dead ball era". I'm using Pedro as an example, but I think there would be lots of seasons that would go into a special historical perspective if the DH became a temporary change.
What else can you add?