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WHAT IF the American League abandoned the DH?

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?

This entry was posted on Saturday, September 25th, 2010 at 10:44 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

66 Responses to “WHAT IF the American League abandoned the DH?”

  1. You would expect MORE complete games in the AL? What manager is going to let their starting pitcher hit in the 7th/8th/9th inning of a tie/one run game? If you expect scoring to be down, then runs are at a premium.

    We would see teams running out of position players more often, thats for sure.

  2. Here's the complete game data for 2006-2010

    Total starts by NL pitchers: 12,818
    Total starts by AL pitchers: 11,218

    Total CG by NL pitchers: 332 (2.59%)
    Total CG by AL pitchers: 370 (3.30%)

    So, yeah Gonzo, you're right on this. I was thinking that more offense led to pitchers getting knocked out more, but clearly the effect of removing an NL pitcher for a pinch-hitter in a close game is the more dominant factor, so CGs in the AL would go down, not up.

    Thanks.

  3. More Intentional walks (to the 8 hitter); More whiffs (9 hitter); More sacrifice bunts (9 hitter);

  4. I don't think it hurts Pedro at all, since he faced, top to bottom, better lineups due to the DH.

  5. I don't understand #4. Pitchers will do better, but the scoring context will drop for everyone. Greg Maddux, Kevin Brown and even Pedro himself all had ERA+ > 200 seasons in the NL during the 1990s.

  6. I think the point with #4 is that the raw data will make Pedro less impressive. We might see more guys putting up sub-2 ERAs and such. But, when adjusted for context and era, Pedro's status wouldn't change. It would depend on how you look at it.

    As for what else might change, I wonder if there would be more far reaching impacts, such as different views on the offense/defense desired out of certain positions based on the lack of DH.

  7. If the DH was taken away, offense would most certainly fall and there would be a corresponding fall in the casual fan interest of the game. No one watches baseball for double switches and pitchers who haven't swung a bat consistently since high school trying to hit.

    Still can't wait until everyone realizes this and the DH expands to the National League. Then there will be a true level playing field again between the two leagues.

  8. Managers in the AL would actually have to use strategy instead of just setting a lineup and sitting in the dugout the entire game.

  9. If the AL ever got rid of the DH, it would have to be grandfathered out, probably over a three year period or so.

    Remember, the DH is used universally throughout the minor leagues, so not just the AL would be impacted.

    How teams draft. How teams sign free agents. How teams develop player in the Instructional and lower minor leagues would all change.

    These changes can't take place in three or for months.

    So the guys hanging on now wouldn't be effected, but the Prince Fielders of the world would be.

  10. @#7 Pat D

    Are you saying fan interest will fall because the average score will drop from 6-5 to 5-4? I believe casual fans enjoy good pitching, not just good hitting. I disagree with your statement. I believe casual fans get into baseball because they have hardcore fans teaching them why the game is great.

  11. @7
    Pat D, it sounds like you're mixing up cause and effect. The reason most pitchers haven't swung a bat since high school is that the NL is the only U.S. league above HS level that doesn't use the DH. I'm not necessarily for eliminating the DH, but I think that if it were abolished in the AL, the minor leagues and colleges would soon follow, and within a decade the overall level of pitcher hitting would be back where it was before 1973.

    Of course, most pitchers were awful hitters even then, but at least most of them could lay down a decent bunt. I may be alone in this view, but what irks me most about watching pitchers bat is not their lack of hitting prowess, but that most of them are unskilled in the thing that they're *supposed* to be able to do precisely *because* they can't hit well. And it really bugs me when I see one square away while the opposing pitcher is still coming into the set position.

    @8
    Kyle, I'm not sure of all the things you consider to be strategy, but I think most of the things NL managers do because of pitchers hitting are not really decisions; they are reflex actions. Here's one element of real strategy that occurs far more in the AL than the NL: When to remove the starting pitcher. In the NL, that move is often made simply when his turn at bat comes up, or else the decision is postponed because he's due to bat in the next inning. In the AL, those are real choices made by the manager.

  12. ...and the Mariners would score about 12 runs this year.

  13. Most pitchers are good athletes who hit when they aren't pitching in young leagues. It's only when they reach the pros that you see pitchers typically not playing other positions.

    As a fan, I'd love to see the DH die. I love the extra managerial moves a lack of DH requires - the decisions to let the pitcher hit or pull him to increase your chance of scoring, the double-switches, etc.

    I also think fewer pitchers will be headhunters when they know they'll have to step into the batters box. Baseball players used to police themselves before all this new sensitivity began.

    More than likely, the only way you could get the DH to be phased out would be in tandem with an agreement to expand rosters to, say, 27. I think the MLBPA might be tempted to agree to that.

  14. The much more likely scenario, as John (#11) alluded to, is that the NL would adopt the designated hitter, seeing as how it's the only league above the high school level that doesn't use it already.

    As a National League fan, this would sadden me for a little while. But as someone born after 1980, I would venture to say just about no one in my generation has ever played a game without the DH available. It's here to stay, like it or not. The war is long over.

  15. - Offense would drop somewhat, as teams would be replacing their worst corner player with a pitcher.
    - Defense would also be worse by a similar amount, as most players who now DH would take the spot of a corner bat, and in some cases we'd see a trickle effect of corner OF with adequate speed replacing weaker hitting CF.
    - There would be more managerial moves (I'm reluctant to use the word strategy here - it's not strategy to execute a double switch or to call a bunt when an amateur-level hitter is up.)
    - There would be a handful more injuries per year.
    - In all likelihood, it would lead to a player strike.

    People tend to think of the offensive side of things for the DH, but the defensive side of it is also significant. Ultimately, the removal of the DH would boil down to a decreased overall level of play in exchange for more direct managerial involvement.

    I don't think it would have a huge effect on the competitive balance between the leagues, either in All Star Games or interleague. I see the dominance of the AL as more a product of having the top payroll teams, as well as having better front office management as a whole.

  16. Andy, this is a good discussion topic.

    "...it would likely mean a swift end to careers of some players such as Jim Thome, Vlad Guerrero, David Ortiz, and Hideki Matsui."

    I'm sure there are some regular DHs who would be out of a job if the DH were eliminated. But, as various folks said in the previous thread on this topic, NL teams have always found a place in the field for a terrific hitter who is very weak with the glove. Greg Luzinski comes to mind....

    The group that I think would be most affected are the guys playing 1B and LF who aren't real good hitters (for those positions), are below average defensively, and aren't young -- guys like Juan Pierre, Adam LaRoche, Juan Rivera, Fred Lewis, Jonny Gomes, Carlos Lee, Troy Glaus....

  17. FutureDaydream Says:

    I view the DH as cheating. Plain and simple. If you bat you need to play a position on the field.

  18. On a narrow angle of this topic:

    To those who think "head-hunting" would decline without the DH and cite Pedro Martinez as an example of who would have been most affected, note that Pedro was plenty dominant in the NL, too, before his arm wore out. He won his first Cy Young Award with Montreal in '97, with a 1.90 ERA and 305 Ks in 241 IP. And in 2005, his first year with the Mets, he went 15-8, 2.82, with 205 Ks (he would have won 20+ with any kind of bullpen -- thank you, Braden Looper & Co.). He led the majors in WHIP both seasons.

    As to his head-hunting in the AL -- I won't try to reverse his reputation, but will just point out that the numbers went up and down; some years he hit a lot of batters, some years not so many. Overall, he hit about 9 batters per 200 IP in the NL, 11 in the AL.

    I know that HBP are not a perfect measure of how often a pitcher throw up & in, but they're the only objective measure I know of. And based on this evidence, whatever Pedro's intentions were, I'm not convinced that they were affected by whether he had to bat or not.

    Another thing: In his 2nd NL tour from 2005-09, Pedro came to bat almost 200 times and didn't get hit once. Given his reputation, that doesn't jibe with the notion that NL players "police themselves."

    I think the idea that the DH makes a major difference in brushback pitches is a myth. I've heard it said by a lot of ex-hitters; I've never heard an ex-pitcher say that it affected him. But that's purely anecdotal, so how about this:

    Rates of HBP per 1,000 batters, American League:

    1971 (2 years before DH) -- 5.84
    1972 (1 year before DH) -- 5.68.
    1973 (dawn of the DH) -- 5.33.
    1974 -- 5.60.
    1975 -- 5.34.
    1976 -- 5.08.
    1977 -- 5.32.

    If pitchers batting or not is a significant factor in their approach to pitching inside, the evidence is surprisingly well hidden.

  19. Speaking for myself and for no one else, I have been a "hardcore fan" since the early 1950s, and I grew up in a NL city, Philadelphia. Now I live in the Seattle area and follow the AL. To me, there's nothing dumber than making pitchers hit and all the crap that surrounds it, and I don't find AL games any less rich with strategic decisions because they have the DH. I look forward to the NL joining the rest of baseball in the 21st century and adopting the DH.

  20. Heh heh
    Reading through the comments, you can really tell whose favorite team is in the NL and whose is in the AL.

  21. As for my own feelings on this, being a fan of an NL team, I do lean towards not having the DH, mostly cause I don't see much logic in the arguments for keeping it.

    The common argument is pitchers are mostly awful hitters. While this is true, there are also awful hitting SS, 2B, C, etc.

  22. If the powers that be were to eliminate the DH so that the game is more "pure", then eliminating interleague play needs to go next, followed closely by the wild card. Heck, why do we need divisions even? LOL

    The National League won a slew of All-Star games in the nascent DH years of the 1970s. The game is merely an exhibition, and the side winning it seems to balance out over the long haul. I don't believe the DH affects the All-Star game in any way.

  23. #21

    There's no comparison at all between the hitting of pitchers and bad hitters at other positions.

    You'll occasionally see a pitcher who hits well enough that he could play at a middle infield position if he was an elite fielder (Carlos Zambrano hits about as well as John McDonald or Cesar Izturis) and you'll occasionally see a pitcher have a strong year with the bat or a position player have an awful one, but as a general rule, the same guys you call awful hitting SS, 2B, or C would be viewed as excellent hitting pitchers. The league OPS of SS and C is more than twice that of pitchers, and the gap between the worst hitting everyday position and pitchers is about three times the gap between the best everyday position (1B) and the worst (SS or C).

    All players at other positions except pitcher must be professional hitters if they're going to have any kind of career. There are bad hitters at the defense-first positions, but there's a minimum that a player needs to achieve in order to have a career as more than a backup. Additionally, position players at the low end of the hitting scale must be seen as elite defenders to keep their jobs, and the best hitters at every position are guys who can hit well enough to play everyday regardless of their defense or position. Some players are playing more for their gloves than their bats, of course, but the offense/defense trade-off for those players is an important decision for the teams that employ them, and their offense does play a role in that decision-making process.

    For pitchers, I have never seen offense play a role in a pitcher's employment. A better hitting pitcher will sometimes hit for a weaker one, and it's seen as a nice bonus if a pitcher can hit enough that it's not embarrassing, but I don't think I've ever seen a pitcher's offense taken into account as a factor in assessing a pitcher's contract, or looking at awards or Hall of Fame honors. I've never seen a capable pitcher released because of his bat, nor have I seen an MLB-level pitcher sent down to the minors to work on his hitting. It's nice if a pitcher can handle a bat a little bit, but it's also incidental. And because of this, pitchers are not professional hitters, even the few who hit at a borderline professional level.

    You sometimes hear the question asked, "Well, if you have the DH for pitchers, why not for other positions?" This is why. The offense/defense trade-off is a part of the team building strategy at other positions, whereas teams build their pitching staffs without giving real regard for how well they can hit.

  24. I don't see any reason that pitchers can't be at least replacement level hitters. As many pointed out, the top pitchers are typically the best overall athletes and players growing up. When you see an elite pitcher at a youth level, he also often plays SS or CF and bats in the middle of the lineup. His skill set is usually elite in all areas. Obviously, alot of this has to do with the quality of his teammates and opposition, but most of these guys were able to hit at one time or another. It's only after putting down the bat and not being asked to hit that their skills decline (or fail to mature) and they end up looking like a stooge with the bat. If the DH was eliminated from the AL and subsequently from the Minors and amateur ball, I think there'd be at least a slight natural bump in pitcher hitting. From there, I see no reason that pitchers couldn't take BP on their off days. I'm not a kinisteologist or anything, but I don't see any reason that additional batting practice would have an adverse effect on pitching mechanics or injury rates or anything.

  25. Also, as a little kid, I always assumed that pitchers had an advantage as hitters, since they best knew the mentality of pitchers and such. I was shocked to learn this wasn't the case. If pitchers took batting seriously, they may actually hold an advantage here. Maybe not. But there is still no reason why they HAVE to be terrible.

  26. I don't think that eliminating the DH is something that would be done overnight because many minor league pitchers have never batted professionally. I would expect a 2-3 year period in the minors with the DH removed from the game before it was extended to the majors.

    Many years ago, I did a study on batting by Red Sox pitchers. They have had some good hitting pitchers, and in the case of Ruth I only used his batting stats from when he was pitching. The cumulative batting average for their pitcher was around .186 and the only season when the cumulative average was above .200 was in 1904.

    In the 1800s, pitchers might get 200 AB in a season. By the early 1900s, that dropped to around 130-150 at bats. The last Red Sox pitcher to have as many as 100 AB in on season was Mel Parnell in 1949. Roy Halladay, who pitched 241.2 innings last year, only had 88 at bats. Pitchers who do bat just aren't getting the chances they once did.

    Also, pitchers' roles have changed. Where it once was common to see pitchers used as pinch-runners to save the bench, you don't see that as often, particularly in the AL because pitchers don't know how to runs bases, slide. Why risk injury? Pitchers were also used as pinch-hitters more frequently in the past. Again, why risk injury unless circumstances force you to use pitchers as runners or batters?

    Someone remarked earlier in this thread that there are poor hitting shortstops, etc. Well, NL pitchers are averaging .145/.179/.179/.358 this year. I don't imagine that many position players with any kind of playing time are hitting that poorly. And the pinch-hitters you get for pitchers aren't doing that great, either--.226/.295/.353/.648 (NL 2010).

    Keep the DH.

  27. @20
    Richard, I agree with you about the polarized opinions in here. Better keep our heads down or we'll get hit by flying bullets. (lol)

    I would like to see the leagues come to a common ground on DH, but I don't think its going to happen. But as an AL student of the game, I don't feel strongly that the DH has to be kept. There are more meaningful mangerial decisions to be made per game in the NL than the AL and the extra strategy makes for good second guessing.

  28. #24

    I think it's easy to underestimate just how hard it is to hit at the MLB level. Look at guys like Travis Snider, Matt LaPorta, Alex Gordon, and Matt Wieters in recent years. These are guys who were among the best hitters in the minors, playing everyday, and who have still had a significant adjustment period to translate their skills at the MLB level. What's more is that Matt Wieters has already had more plate appearances in two years at the MLB level as Roy Oswalt has in ten NL years. Even guys who are the top high school or college hitters on their teams and dedicate themselves to mastering their art often fall short of where they need to be to have an MLB career.

    I suspect there's a fair number of pitchers who could become capable hitters if they went that development route, but it would be extremely difficult to do both, mostly due to the number of repetitions. Think about how long the apprenticeship is in baseball compared to other sports - even after college, it typically takes a few more years before someone becomes an MLB-level hitter. The talent and work required even to hold your own is tremendous. More batting practice is nice, but if it's hard for an elite hitting talent to transition from hitting AAA pitching, how much harder would it be for a pitcher to develop his hitting skills while facing BP pitching? You could probably leave him in the minors patrolling LF on off days until he developed his hitting skills more, but would it be worth sacrificing some prime pitching years on the possibility of serviceable hitting? Maybe yes, maybe no, depending on the pitcher.

    One of the barriers to a pitcher developing and retaining his hitting skills, though, is that unless he's a good enough player at another position to play regularly in the field, there's severe barriers to how much he can improve at the MLB level. If a guy has the stuff to get hitters out at the MLB level, team's aren't likely to use his arm for a batting practice pitcher, so there's a limit to how much high-level practice he can get. I would think that the opposite approach - having position players learn how to double as RP - would have a much greater chance of success.

  29. If the DH had been phased out for this year, we could debate if C.C. Sabathia's batting skills (he's a lifetime .258 hitter) should be a factor for the Cy Young Award.

  30. OK, how about a similar thread, Andy. In the previous discussion about DHs, someone mentioned, and you commented on the idea of no DH AND no pitchers batting. WOW, what a gamechanger. And, it would preserve the difference between the leagues that the DH provided. Any chance you could bring your magical calculator to bear on that one?

  31. The DH was put in because the AL batting averages for most of the previous decade had been below most seasons in the "Dead Ball Era."
    The AL executives thought they needed more offense for the game to prosper and I think they were right. The game has prospered, and the DH has been around for nearly 40 years. And its been adopted in some form at just about every other level.
    Personally, I like the National League rules better, but I have no problem, after close to 40 years, with the leagues being different. It helps create contrasting styles of play, which I find compelling in all sports.

  32. WilsonC-

    Great points. I don't think pitchers would be great hitters. Only competent. I think with a few adjustments in approach, we could see pitchers at least approach replacement level for batting. There is no reason they should be so woeful.

  33. The rule change I'd like to see would be one to help neutralize some of bullpens that allow teams to "shorten" the game. Each time a reliever is used in the sixth inning or later, the other team has the option to drop a batter from its order. You could limit the drop to two times (I think that would keep you form having a situation where a batter was supposed to be a the plate while he was also occupying third.)
    Pro football and pro basketball have rules that make late comebacks more likely. Baseball strategy has evolved in a way that eliminates a lot of late comebacks.
    It would kick in before the sixth because usually when a pitcher is replaced earlier he's getting pounded.

  34. Maybe the title should be the other way around? What if the NL adopted the DH?

    I find NL games boring as hell. My grammy beating a rug has better swings than most pitchers.

    I've seen and watched NL games where you knew no one was scoring that inning. Just knew that no way, no how someone was going to score, not only because you had a pitcher ruining things that inning, but also because the #7 and #8 hitters in the NL lineup would be batting #9 in an AL lineup.

    ...and as far as interleague, I absolutely hate it when pitchers who haven't hit all year have to hit for nine games out of 162. Ridiculous. Ask Chien Ming Wang how he feels about that.

  35. I should add, that it doesn't take an Einstein to do a double-switch, and I don't go to games to see umpires umpire or managers manage (or overmanage). The argument about double-switching as it relates to the DH? Overrated and overblown.

  36. Here are some side-effects to eliminating DH:

    > Restoration of integrity to the game.
    > Uniformity of statistics across both leagues.
    > An end to circus baseball.
    > The AL being taken seriously for the first time since 1972, long overdue.
    > No more having to explain to puzzled foreigners why one league plays one way, and the other another way.
    > Restoration of conservative principles: if it is not NECESSARY to change, it is necessary NOT to change.
    > Demonstrates to the world that major league baseball is able to recognize and correct errors in doctrine without government intervention, before it is too late.

    Next thing to abolish: aluminum bats, at all levels. If a league can't afford wooden bats they can't afford to play, period. Let foreigners play with aluminum bats. We're Americans, we do things our way.

    Then: go back to 1968 pitching mounds. 15 inches high. Between this and eliminating the DH you might knock two runs a game off of the AL's games. This might bring back bunts and prodigious base-stealing as marketable skills.

  37. @36
    Nelson, tongue in cheek for your post, I hope!? You can't seriously want to go back to pitcher-dominated 1968 baseball.

    In this sound-bite, multi-media age, games with that little offense would not sell. The results would resemble soccer scores.... and we know how much you Americans all love soccer. {foreigner puts away his Canadian flag}

  38. @37. Neil, I am a San Francisco Giants fan. Look at that club's fine balance between dominating pitching and mediocre offense: admirable, isn't it? It is the epitome of old fashioned baseball.

    Of course, the ultimate goal is to play like the 1910 Chicago White Sox. Team ERA: 2.03. Team batting average: .211. Their ace pitcher had an ERA of 1.27 with 18 wins and 20 losses.

    1968 wasn't so bad. Did you watch Denny McLain win his 30th game? I did. What's wrong with Bob Gibson's 1.12 ERA? 1968 was a GREAT baseball year. Pre-expansion! Pre-divisional play!

  39. Why would eliminating the DH affect the All-Star Game? Since the DH, the NL is 17-20-1. The NL would have a better chance of winning the All-Star Game if they gave Milwaukee back to the AL. The Team that has Milwaukee is 11-30-1. But mainly because it would even up the leagues because the most likely reason the AL dominates is the fact that they have less teams and thus can pick better players. The "1 player per team rule" handicaps the league with the most teams and the larger league has played to a 8-22-1 record over the 31 years of unbalanced leagues.

  40. To follow up on my earlier point, I seem to remember fan interest being pretty low following the strike and the HR chases as what "brought it back." I'm not saying that's necessarily true, but I think a lot of people, who would have to considered casual fans, came back to the game. Then of course all the PED revelations ruined that in hindsight.

    I really don't think casual baseball fans care for low-scoring, well-pitched games all that much. There are too many other sports that are either much more physical (football), athletic (basketball, and talk about a sport that clearly benefits from there being more scoring) or just plain weird (auto racing, UFC) that people would rather watch instead.

    I also don't think that there's really all that much strategy going along in the NL. How often does those double switches and when to pinch hit or pinch run really have an impact on the game? Probably not very often.

    Obviously there are weak hitting everyday position players, but they're still better hitters than probably 98% of all current pitchers.

    You just can't remove the DH and expect good results.

  41. David in Toledo Says:

    Bob Hulsey (#13) touches on the size of rosters. Instituting the DH and dragging out the schedule makes pitching a long season tougher, so managers add more pitchers, which means a shorter bench. And the bench was already one player short in the AL, because a "reserve" is acting as DH.

    The team that wins the 2010 World Series might play 180 more innings than the Pirates in 1960. 180 innings is at least one pitcher, more likely two, since they would have been in AAA during 1960.

    The shorter benches create absurd situations where, at midseason at least, an All-Star infield of Teixeira, Cano, Jeter, and A-Rod has one sub available named Betamit or Pena. The level of play deteriorates as managers fail to rest their regulars when the bench is so short. The quality of bench players drops, too, since instead of one fast infielder who can field and one slow slugger who can fill in at first and third you have to compromise on a single player who can play everywhere and do nothing well.

    We'd get better baseball with shorter seasons and with either no DH or 26 players on a roster.

  42. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    I always looked at the DH as an officially sanctioned version of the travesty the Bees put Ruth through in 1935. I don't remember it {I wasn't born until December of that year}, but I have heard that it was almost criminal how the Babe was exploited.

  43. How about an 8-man batting order without the pitcher... imagine Barry Bonds with an extra 150 walk-er, I mean at bats- per season...

  44. @43
    Perhaps that is the next "What If..?" What if the Major Leagues went to an 8-man pitcherless batting order? The offensive record book would get re-written pretty quickly.

  45. By my math, it wouldn't be 150 PA per batting order slot, it would be around 90 or so.

    The average 2009 AL team had 6252 PA. That's 694 per 9 players or 782 per 8 players. A difference of 88 for this particular case. Its a 13% increase.

    I don't see it ever happening, there's just too much symmetry in the way things currently are. 3 outs for 3 innings is once through the lineup. Times 3 is a perfect game.

  46. Anyone who favors the DH really doesn't like total baseball. They think baseball should be like church-league softball where most hitters bat over .500. Strategy? Tactics? The DH-lover doesn't know what these are, he only wants to see balls leaving the stadium. But that being said, the DH-lover may be the majority opinion among baseball fans. Witness the coverage of the Steroid boys Sosa and McGwire in '98, while the Yankees winning the most games in history was ignored.

  47. The harder it is to score, the greater the game.

  48. @Nelson: I agree with all your proposals! Make the batters become baseball players again. They've been church-league softball players for much too long.

  49. I wouldn't call either rule set more strategic. Rather, there's a difference between the fundamentals of the strategies between the league.

    In the NL, the strategy is about minimizing or hiding your own weaknesses. The tactics sometimes involve a bit of flourish, but ultimately, you're managing around trying not to let the worst hitter on the team embarrass himself in key situations. That sometimes means bunting, or calling for a pinch hitter later in the game or a double switch, but in most cases, the tactic is obvious based on the situation.

    In the AL, the strategy is more about neutralizing the opponents strengths and maximizing your own. You don't have the batting order to dictate your pitching changes for you, so there's more responsibility on the manager for picking the right moments for pitching changes. You're not pinch hitting for someone who's an amateur-level hitter, you're evaluating the matchup to see if the upgrade is worth the defensive tradeoff.

    Most of the real strategy - baserunning decisions, situational bunting (as opposed to bunting because the hitter stinks), defensive shifts, pitch sequences, and so forth has absolutely nothing to do with the particular rule set, but rather has to do with the particular teams involved. There's an illusion about the AL that it's a league where everyone just sits back and hits HR, but in reality, the average AL team has stolen more bases, and the top four teams in that category are all AL teams.

  50. @33

    Basketball and football are timed. They need something like that. A comeback is ALWAYS possible in baseball. Always.

    Also for the incorrect claims of posters here claiming NL games are boring, the team with the worst offense in 40 YEARS is in the American League this year.

  51. @Edwin,

    "...while the Yankees winning the most games in history was ignored" -- maybe because the DIDN'T win the most games in history in the regular season. The 1906 Cubs won 116 regular seasons games, and did it in only 152 games. Now, if you count the postseason that's something else, but you can't compare then against now.

    Speaking of which, I don't understand the bellyaching of Cubs fans--at least they had a World Series winner, however long ago! San Francisco, if it doesn't win this year (and I have no illusions that they will), will have gone 53 winless seasons in the City by the Bay without a Series win, eclipsing the all-time record of 52 set by the St. Louis Browns (1902-1953). Chicago and Cleveland have gone longer without being champs, but they had winners once upon a time! The Giants are gunning for immortality!

    Glad you agree with my proposals, though! We can talk about going back to 154 games too. And dismantling about 14 expansion teams, and doing away with divisions. Imagine the quality baseball you'd get. Why, AAA baseball would be almost as good as major league baseball is today.

  52. @Edwin,

    You are correct about both of your generalizations: (1) the harder it is to score, the greater the game; and (2) anyone who disagrees doesn't like "total baseball". That's why anyone who thinks soccer isn't greater than baseball isn't a true baseball fan.

  53. masternachos Says:

    To me, it hasn't been 'real' baseball since they started using a ball with cork in it instead of rubber. And wearing helmets, shinguards and gloves- back in MY day, players weren't afraid of the ball. And it takes a REAL MAN to catch a ball bare-handed.

  54. Detroit Michael Says:

    I also don't see a significant connection between eliminating the DH rule and which league is likely to win the all-star game.

  55. For one thing, we'd have to watch the pitchers "attempt" to hit and have the bonus of knowing that with a man on first and less than two outs, that he'd be bunting. Really creates excitement and keeps the fan in the game.....

    Before getting rid of the DH, the first priority should be to rid us once and for all of those interleague exhibition games in the middle of the season.

  56. -Attendance would decrease slightly in the A.L. as a generation of fans that have grown up watching the DH will now be forced to watch pitchers hit. There will be some annoyance at this move, leading to a certain percentage of fans drifting away, believing this is further evidence that MLB doesn't care about its fans.

    -Defense will decrease slightly, as very good hitters will still be in the line-up, but instead will now take the field more reguarly. A place in the line-up will always be found for the David Ortiz's, Frank Thomas' and Edgar Martinez's of the world, leading to a decrease in defense. Other regular players will also lose the DH slot as a place to rest, which will have a further impact on both the defense the offense.

    -Pitching will appear on the surface to get better, but in reality the quality of pitchers will decrease as the hyper-hitting enviornment of the AL that in essence elevates AL pitchers to a higher level will slowly fade away. From the fans point of view, however, this will be offset by few hits, lower scoring, lower ERAs and higher strike-out rates.

    -Since offense sells more seats by creating more fan interest, the loss of the DH will result in lower scoring, which will lead to an overall decline in attendance in both leagues.

  57. Pitchers have enough to worry about already. They need to focus on pitching.

    I find NL games quite boring and it's always a bummer when the pitcher comes up to bat. Way too predictable. It's either a bunt or an out.

    It's pointless. Half of the pitchers who hit give up. They just wave the bat as if they're really trying hard. They just want to get back to the dugout and get focused on pitching. I don't blame them!

    I agree with someone above. If you take the DH out you have to take the pitchers out.

  58. One fo the most striking differences between today's game and that I remember from the early 1970s (before the DH) and mid-70s (before the style of play had fully adjusted) is how much faster the slowest outfielder on the fi9eld is. That's because many of the people with strong bats who were poor defensive players played left (or occasionally right) field.

    So if the DH were to justly go the way of the wooly mamoth, I'd expect to see an increas in triples in the gap that today are cut off for singles. That would affect both leagues, as currently aging NLers finish their career in the AL if they can't run anynmore.

  59. Hey, who wants to have a round table discussion with Nelson and Edwin...we can talk about the Church League Softball and the Roaring 20's all day long.

    By then end of the discussion, maybe gloves will be outlawed for players, the spit-ball will be legal, and they will figure out a way to have a team score 1/2 of a run, so the final scores of the games could be 0.5-0 instead of the much-too-high-scoring games of 1-0.

  60. You're ridiculous, Tmckelv. I just don't believe in distorting the game and putting things in it that weren't there before--like the DH, for instance. I am in favor of turning back the clock to a purer form of the game. I would even be for bringing back the spitball if there weren't health risks.

    This reminds me of an anti-tobacco campaign my club was broadcasting at the ballpark several years ago. On the Jumbotron the moron making the announcement said, "remember! chewing tobacco is NOT a part of baseball!" The guy in front of me was as outraged as I was and shouted out, "chewing tobacco isn't a part of baseball!? chewing tobacco *IS* baseball!!" Righteous words! I wish I had said that! Let's bring back chewing tobacco!

  61. While we're at it, let's get rid of gloves, return to under-hand pitching, abolish stadium lights (and by extension night games) and re-segregate the sport. Now that's pure baseball!

  62. Nelson said: "I just don't believe in distorting the game and putting things in it that weren't there before--like the DH, for instance."

    The DH is not a new concept. Connie Mack floated the idea in 1906 when he was disgusted with watching his pitchers try to bat. The NL president revived the idea in the late 1920s. Both leagues experimented with the DH in spring training 1969.

    If we're going to retro-baseball, why not go way back to the time when pitchers threw underhand and the battrers could ask for a high pitch or a low pitch.

  63. Bryan Mueller Says:

    Although I am not a fan of the DH, I don't feel too strongly about it. I kind of like the fact that it differentiates the leagues. However, if there is a DH, why not have the option of a designated fielder?

  64. @63
    I'm thick-headed tonight! How would a designated fielder work? Not that I would favour a radical change.

    So does the whole DH debate boil down to traditionalists vs. innovators? I'm confused.

  65. Johnny Twisto Says:

    hewing tobacco *IS* baseball!!" Righteous words! I wish I had said that! Let's bring back chewing tobacco!

    Great idea! http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/7/4/443/F2.large.jpg

  66. I love the DH, I'd rather see Posada bat than Sabbathia anyday.
    Pitchers can't hit, don't get paid more to hit, don't practice it, and don't care about it.
    You can't hit Major League pitching when you bat just 2-3 times a week.
    It rarely gets mentioned how often they pitch around the #8 batter to get to the pitcher
    if there is any threat - so it really wrecks two spots in the order.

    The other thing I never see mentioned is the AL ERA's adjusted for the DH.
    It has to up a pitcher's ERA a half a run, that's why top AL pitchers are in the low 3's
    while the top NL pitchers are in the high 2's. So an ERA of 3.30 in the AL is equivalent
    to 2.70 in the NL - roughly speaking.