Unforeseen effect of the Designated Hitter

As part of the new collective bargaining agreement, the National League received, at long last, the coup de grace. After hanging onto the ideal that baseball players should be capable of doing more than one thing for forty years longer than its younger counterpart, the designated hitter became a universal thing.

However, people are generally ignorant of the designated hitter rules. Many media stories touted this as the end of the pitcher hitting; that, however, is not true. By rule, the designated hitter is not allowed to play the field, and if the designated hitter does enter the field, the DH is forfeited and the pitcher then bats in the spot in the order previously occupied by the player the DH replaced. This means that, while pitchers will rarely bat in this "brave new world," they do still bat some.

And they have batted this year. In fact, the highest OPS of any position so far this season belongs to the pitcher. Pitchers are slashing .286/.355/.464, which equates to an .819 OPS, more than 100 points higher than the DH. Pitchers have two doubles and a home run so far this season. (Baseball Reference also credits pitchers with a stolen base, but this is a mistake; the base was stolen while a pitcher was batting, but not by the pitcher.) Surely, no one saw this coming. Furthermore, this has nothing to do with Shohei Ohtani, who is counted as a DH by Baseball Reference even when he is on the mound. If his plate appearances from games where he pitched are included, the pitcher line changes to .271/.340/.406, which, as you can see, is quite a bit lower than pitchers.

Okay, to be fair, actual pitchers have just five plate appearances this season, with one walk and three strikeouts. The home run belongs to Luis Gonzalez, a position player pitching for the Giants and the doubles to Nick Gordon and Matt Reynolds, for the Twins and Reds, respectively. Still, it is almost certain that no one would have predicted that, in the second week of August, the highest positional OPS would belong to a position that we were all assured would no longer appearing at the plate.