The whole idea of pitchers hitting and the added strategy that comes with National League pitchers being forced into the batter’s box is one of the most baseless claims in all of sports.
The Importance of Pitchers
Since 1973, the American League has benefited from not having their pitchers hit, instead, they are granted the benefit of using the designated hitter in their lineup. In the shortened 2020 season, Major League Baseball adopted the same rule for the National League, but went away with it in 2021 for some unknown reasons.
Fans often complain about different things in baseball games. From pace of play to a lack of action in games fans seem to find something to complain about. I don’t complain about much in baseball, I’m what many people call a baseball purist. I don’t like many of the new rules adopted in recent years like the three-batter minimum for pitchers or the absolutely little league rules for extra innings, but putting the designated hitter into the National LEague is long overdue.
The American League has benefited from the DH since 1973 when the owners of the then 24 AL franchises voted to use the DH. Since then, the American League has reaped the benefits, including winning 25-of-the-46 World Series since the rule was instituted.
It’s that I dislike the double switch or the thought process of a pitcher bunting in a certain situation. Game planning and strategy is one of the most fun things about baseball, in my opinion. Instead, it’s about producing more action and keeping the most valuable asset in baseball away from injury.
The St. Louis Cardinals are the latest National League team to fall victim to a starting pitcher suffering an injury while at the plate. On Tuesday, Flaherty appeared to hurt his side after an aggressive swing and miss. On Wednesday, he was placed on the injured list.
“It’s not a minimal situation,” manager Mike Schildt told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. “It’s a real strain, tear, I don’t know which grade [they] want call it. It’s significant that Jack is going to miss some time. And it’s going to be a while. We’re still in the exploratory stage to determine how long.”
Flaherty has been one of the best starters in the National League this season posting a league-leading eight wins in his 11 starts with a 2.90 ERA in 62.0 innings pitched. His loss brings problems to an already thin St. Louis rotation that is now likely to rely on youngsters Johan Oviedo and potentially Jake Woodford. But, alas, even those two will have to hit.
In 2019, the last full 162-game season, National League pitchers had an ugly .131 with an abysmal .329 on-base percentage. Contrast that with the average of NL designated hitters in 2020 batting .235 with a .731 OPS. The difference, unsurprisingly, is the equivalent of adding as many as 80 runs per 600 plate appearances.
Even Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz, who was an above-average hitting pitcher, has come around to the idea that it’s time for Major League Baseball to adopt the universal DH.
“I have come a long way on this discussion,” Smoltz told the Washington Post in April. “I like everything there is about the strategy but once interleague came into play it changed the mindset for me. The competitive balance is not the same. When they (the NL) had the DH last year, I thought it was a great example of how balance could be brought back and have everyone play by the same rules. And for the most part, pitchers are there to bunt. If they hit, it’s a bonus.”
Wrapping Things Up
If MLB wants to create more action in games, which is really their goal with all the new rules, they should have just kept the universal DH in place for 2021. Having the DH creates more runs, of the top-five run-producing teams in MLB four of them are in the American League.
Every league, except the National League, has a full-time designated hitter and until there are more Shohei Ohtani’s in the game MLB needs to make the long-overdue decision to implement the designated hitter into the National League.