Sports: The DH

Another acronym DH, where everybody who follows sports knows what it means. We are not talking about defensive huddles in football, dunk hoops in basketball, or defensive hits in hockey.  No, DH stands for designated hitter in baseball.  It has been around for a long time, since 1973.  As usual, baseball really did not know how to handle, having leagues with different rules, but to their defense, who would.  Can you imagine that in pro football, the NFC gave teams, 4 downs to make a first down, and the AFC, just allowed 3, like they do in the Canadian Football  League. Or in the NBA, the Western Conference had the three point shot, and the Eastern Conference did not. Of course the NHL doesn’t have any rules, so no problem there. The purpose of the DH was to more more offense into baseball.   Who wants to see the pitcher bat.  He can not hit and it will keep him from getting hurt. When the DH first came out they did not use it the 73, 74, and 75 World Series.  Then for the next 10 World Series, they used the DH on the even numbered years and did not use it on the odd number years. Then beginning in 1986 they adopted the present system, where the games would be played with the home team rules.

Many people feel, that the DH gives the American League the advantage, in inter league play and the World Series. Many people argue that the American League team can groom, or acquire a player that is the perfect DH. A  player who can hit but can’t field.   The stats do not really reflect this.  Going back to 1943 and looking at the World Series played until 1972 where everybody played by the same rules, the American League won 17 World Series and the National League won 13.  In the years where the DH was going back and forth, from 73 to 85, The American League won 5 World Series when there was no DH to the National Leagues 3.  When there was a DH, the National League won 3 World Series to the American Leagues 2. Under the present rules since 1986 the A.L. has won 18 titles to the N.L.’s 15.  The other notion is, that the DH creates a lot more offense in the game. Well it does create more but not by much.  Looking at the last three years in baseball, the average runs scored per American League team per year is 763.  For the National League the number is 742.  That is 21 runs per season more in the American League.  That computes out to be about one more run every 8 games.  For whatever reason, the average National League team walks more than the American League, although not by much in 2019, so maybe the National League is learning. What I mean by that, is maybe it is not such a good idea to pitch around the number 8 hitter to get to the pitcher. But all those extra walks in 2017 and 18 may be one reason the run differential is so small despite having 9 position players bat in the American League.  It doesn’t say much for the ninth hitter in the American League.   He is really not a great deal better than the pitcher hitting. The DH has extended some careers that have retained their batting skills, when fielding skills have become a liability. However, when you add it all up, something that was  suppose to be a big deal, really has had very little impact on the game.

This makes it even more asinine, that the leagues play by two different sets of rules.   I have no feelings one way, or the other, when it comes to having the DH in baseball or not.  I don’t ever see the American League giving it up, so it just seems logical that, the National League adopt it.  Yes, having a DH does take a certain amount of strategy out of the game. Will it be strategy, that will be missed?  I doubt it.  Managers today, seem to have enough on their plate with stealing signs, and so forth. The three batter rule will keep them busy this year,too.  It is nice in the American League to see that the only way a pitcher gets removed, is if he is ineffective, or tired.  This may be why there is not much offensive difference between the two leagues.  If a National League pitcher is on a roll and is two runs down in the 7th or 8th, he will be lifted for a pinch hitter.  I can only hope that the leagues will play by the same rules soon and the stats we see in both leagues can be judged equally after 47 years.

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