Save the game’s strategy, delete the DH


brandonhopper.jpgWith the World Series upon us and the designated hitter sure to play a major role, it is time for MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and team owners to realize the DH compromises the game’s strategy.

It is time they ban it from the game.

The DH allows a team to permanently replace a typically weak-hitting pitcher with a specialized, muscle-bound hitter. Notice how I said hitter, not baseball player.

The DH has been adopted only by the American League. In the National League, where pitchers hit for themselves, strategy is much more of a necessity in every game.

In every game, when an NL team gets toward the bottom of their lineup, the manager is forced to make a number of complex decisions.

With one out, a runner on first and the pitcher on deck, a ground-ball double-play would kill the rally. The last thing you want is the usually paltry pitcher leading off the next inning with an easy-out.

So the NL manager has a number of choices to sift through. Does he let the hitter swing away and risk hitting into a double-play? Does he let the runner try to steal a base, and hope the hitter can extend the inning? Or does he call for a hit-and-run in hopes of staying out of a double-play?

Ahh, the possibilities are endless!

The AL manager wouldn’t dream of being put into this situation. He never has to worry about it.

His pitcher has been replaced in the lineup with a defensive liability whose only strength is swinging the bat. He just tells his hitters to “swing away.”

A different strategy opportunity in the NL is when the pitcher is up to bat. With a runner on first and/or second and less than two outs, the usual call is to have the pitcher sacrifice an out, to move the runners over by bunting the ball down a certain baseline. This advances the runners up a base and eliminates the chance of grounding into a double play.

The sacrifice bunt is almost extinct in the AL since the pitcher has been removed from the lineup.

Since 2000, NL teams have averaged .43 sacrifices per game. In the same time frame, the AL averaged only .22 sacrifices per game.

I’ll save you the math. That means it is twice as likely to see this form of strategy while watching an NL game rather than an AL game.

That is not to say there is no strategy in the AL, but the DH limits the amount of strategy needed to be successful. Strategy is what the game of baseball is all about!

Baseball purists have always recognized the DH as compromising to the game. Now it’s time for Selig and owners to realize the same, and rid baseball of this vice.