Well, if you don’t feel identified by the header we have used for this article, I guess you should have voted (differently) in the poll we had on our website last week. But after a couple of days of open polling and seeing the results, we can officially announce: the Diamondbacks fans have accepted the Designated Hitter and that might have come sooner than anyone could have expected.
Half of the people who voted, and I thank everyone for bringing in their ballot (even if you voted more than once with the incognito tab of your browser), gave a “like” to the DH and less than a third of the voters indicated they are far from happy about it.
I have never been a big fan of the DH. Until not that long ago I more than anything followed just the three divisions in the National League. Although others were probably more vocal about the doom that would bring the DH to baseball, to me it was a remembrance of how things seem to work nowadays. Like when my wife, a teacher, tells me she needs to “up the grades” of kids at school because the director wants more students to graduate. In baseball we do the same: since we want more hits and pitchers don’t seem to know how to hit anymore, we take away the pitcher out of the batting lineup. The next thing is we will ban the shift since it takes away hits, we make bases bigger so there are more stolen bases, etc.: we make the game easier.
Maybe, if you allow me to paraphrase it a bit and transmit my own opinion, it is more a matter of “I don’t dislike it” or “meh...I don’t really care no more”. However it may be, and after all the discussions we have had on here about this topic the last couple of years, now that the DH has arrived, it is really not that bad (and we will probably have the same opinion about banning the shift, bigger bases, pitch clock, bla bla bla).
Is there much to like?
Obviously, if you prevent a lifetime .040 hitter like Merrill Kelly from appearing in the batting lineup, the odds are almost 100% that the introduction of the DH improves the overall offensive numbers in the league.
But is the DH the offensive power boost for baseball as most AL fans would have us believe? I say a big “No” to that, ladies and gentleman.
Take a look at today’s (05/25) “2022 MLB Team Position Performance by Offensive WAR” according to baseball reference and you see that the DH is amongst the hitting positions that provides worse value in baseball with 0.4, the same as the catcher and left field. And to be honest, that does not differ from previous seasons, when looking at data from 2021, 2019 and 2018.
If we look at the players who got at bats at the DH position in 2022, we could say that only 2 teams have reserved a spot for a player that otherwise in no way could or would make the batting lineup: Shohei Ohtani with the Los Angeles Angels and, the worst DH in the entire MLB, Nelson Cruz with the Washington Nationals.
Seven other teams have given the DH mainly to a sole player as well: JD Martinez on the Red Sox, Bryce Harper for the Phillies (he’s been DH-ing because of a lingering arm injury), Trey Mancini for the Orioles, Andrew McCutchen on the Brewers, Daniel Vogelbach on the Pirates, Miguel Cabrera with the Detroit Tigers and Franmil Reyes for the Guardians. Funny that of those 9 teams and players, the only ones that have provided negative offensive WAR in the MLB are amongst them: Nationals and Guardians.
All other 21 teams basically use the DH as a rotation spot, to give guys at bats and/or some rest from playing in the field.
We can see why for the owners the DH has always been somewhat of a pacifier for MLBPA demands: it really doesn’t add that much value to baseball. Each teams uses it to their own liking: to dump an expensive contract on that position, to use it for rotation to give guys at bats at the highest level, or to offset the batting of that outfielder that provides great defence but no offence.
The introduction in the NL of the DH isn’t the outburst of offence one could have expected. It has taken away somewhat of game tactics in the National League and robbed us of the excitement of seeing a pitcher hitting a homerun or getting an unexpected base hit.
However it may be, though, we like it.