MLB Rule Changes: A Universal DH Proposal

Rob Manfred is on a roll with all of his changes to baseball… except are they all good for the game? Don’t even get me started on how much I dislike the “proposed 7-team playoff format”. The 3-batter minimum, being implemented this year, is going to completely change baseball. How many pitchers are going to come in and be off their game? What happens if someone walks three straight batters instead of being pulled after one or two like usual? Can guys typically used as LOOGYs, like Jerry Blevins, get through complete innings or will this end their career? I like the 26th man on the active roster and the decrease to a 28-man September roster, but the next big thing on the list seems to be the DH situation.

As it stands today, the DH rules put AL teams at a significant advantage. When teams meet in interleague play and the World Series, the AL teams usually have the luxury of having signed a regular DH. Most NL teams just pick their best bench bat and call it a day, which also weakens their bench for later in the game. With today’s rules you won’t see an NL team going after guys like Nelson Cruz, Khris Davis or Edwin Encarnacion. This takes away from the players as it cuts their options in half, while also hurting NL teams that could use that big bat but have nowhere to put them on the field.

Most people agree something needs to be done about the DH, but many aren’t willing to give up the strategic gameplay found in the NL by forcing the pitcher to hit. Here are just a few ideas for how the MLB could change the DH to be implemented as soon as next year!

DH Proposal: NL adds the DH

The easiest, but most boring solution. This eliminates watching pitchers like Folty swing a bat, but takes away a big element of the strategic game like double switches, pinch hitting, intentional walks to get a pitcher out of the game, etc. This solution at least gets rid of the disadvantage of the NL not having a regular DH and creates more jobs for the players that can hit, but may not be so great in the field.

Anti-DH Prosposal: AL eliminates the DH

This won’t happen, but it is an option that levels the playing field. It would bring baseball back to a very strategic form and maybe pitchers would focus on hitting a little more; Babe Ruth, anybody?

A DH Proposal only for the starting pitcher

One player is the DH for the starting pitcher, but once that pitcher is removed so is that hitter. They are replaced by the pitcher spot. For most games, this would get you 2-3 at-bats from your DH and it would be interesting to see if you use your best bench bat here or save them for pinch hitting late in the game. This is also a gamble, if your starter has a bad day your DH could be out of the game before they even get to the plate.

DH Proposal: “Innings Limit”

In this DH proposal scenario, the league would set an “innings limit” for how long a DH can be in the game. Say they set it at 6 innings, as soon as the 7th inning rolls around the DH is gone and that spot in the order immediately becomes the pitcher of record. This would create interesting strategic scenarios; do you use your DH as your leadoff hitter to try and get extra at-bats out of them before having to use your bench bats? There would also have to be rules regarding positional switches. It doesn’t seem very ethical to me to be able to swap your DH with a lesser hitting option once the 6th inning rolls around, accepting the worse defense for the rest of the game. I think whichever player you choose has to stay in the DH slot and get removed from the game at the start of the 7th inning.

What if a team uses an opener or long-reliever?

If a team uses an opener, I would implement a rule that a pinch-hitter stays in the lineup as long as the pitcher he is hitting in place of is still in the game. For example, let’s say Folty gives up 10 runs in the first inning and exits the game. Fried replaces him and is expected to pitch 5-6 innings. When his spot in the lineup comes up, Culberson could become his DH until Fried is removed from the game. This would allow Culberson to get 2-3 at-bats rather than the team having to use three separate pinch hitters. This pretty much eliminates pitchers hitting, but doesn’t eliminate pinch hitting and some of the strategic play we see in the MLB today.

My DH Proposal

A league-wide DH where the DH spot in the lineup is burned when the starting pitcher is removed from the game. The manager can then decide between moving the player in the DH slot to the field or to the bench. If they opt to place them on the bench, they will not be allowed to enter the field later in the game. This makes them a one-time pinch hitter for later in the game. This open a whole new world of strategy to the game of baseball. Do you leave your starter in one more inning with the DH due up next? Do you play a poor fielder somewhere because you want to keep their bat in the lineup? Plus, it doesn’t take away from the bench guys being valuable pinch hitters once the starter is out of the game. You basically just trade out the starters at bats with a DH while adding a lot more strategy. In my opinion, this would balance out the leagues and make baseball even more interesting.

In the comments below, let me know what ideas you would implement if you were the commissioner!

If you enjoyed this piece, you might enjoy the deep study into crapshootiness of the playoffs.

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Author: Matt P

Hello, I’m Matt Pocza! I am a 3rd year finance student at the University of Florida and I love the Atlanta Braves. I’ve played baseball my entire life, and I am a submarine pitcher for the club team at Florida. I also enjoy scuba diving, football and business. Follow me on twitter @braves_rumors!

40 thoughts on “MLB Rule Changes: A Universal DH Proposal”

  1. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, the new playoff proposal sucks a whole awful lot, but as long as Manfred’s commish, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

  2. I will always hate the DH with a passion, but if it has to come, I like your proposal more than the others, Matt. At least there’s a little bit of strategy still in play with the 9-hole there.

  3. Also, this got JC’d last thread, but just wanted to see if anyone would be interested in a braves journal fantasy league this year. There was one going a few years back but I’m not sure what happened to it.

  4. the New York Mets
    their new MiL clubhouse as swell as it gets
    no minor leaguers please
    cold showers, out back, hope to appease.

    If you want to know more about this grotesquely financed boondoggle there is a link off to the left side of the #1 link above. It boggles the mind that you could get local taxpayers to cough up almost a hundred per cent of the cost AND THEN SHUT IT DOWN FOR THE REGULAR SEASON.

  5. 4—I would be interested. I finally extricated myself from a much-more-involved league that I’d been in for about a decade, so I should have enough bandwidth!

  6. I got in an argument last night with a Yankee fan, of all people, who was defending the new playoff proposal. I need to start hanging out with a better class of people.

    Your DH rules aren’t bad, Matt, and they’re probably the best we can hope for. I still await a cogent explanation, though, for why a pitcher who can bat, say 60 points higher than his opposing pitcher shouldn’t be allowed to express that advantage in his game. I’ve never understood why people focus on the absolute futility of a pitcher at bat versus the relative futility vis-a-vis their opponent. This is routinely done at shortstop, right? Or maybe shortstop DHs come next, followed shortly by two-platoon baseball, with 46 teams making the playoffs.

  7. @3 I agree, it’s the strategy I don’t want to lose moreso than wanting to watch pitchers hit. I think it’s a good middle ground.

  8. As a relative young’un who knows jacknuts about soccer, I found this episode of the podcast 99% Invisible to be interesting & possibly relevant to JonathanF’s point about pitchers hitting being an opportunity for an advantage: I had no idea that until 1992, esp. if you had a lead, you could just pass the ball back to the goalkeeper, who could pick it up & bleed time off the clock. So they changed the rule so that, if the ball was passed back to them, the keepers couldn’t pick it up:

    “… now if someone on their own team passed them the ball, the goalkeeper would be stripped of their superpowers. They would need to use their feet just like everyone else. This turned out to be a bit of a problem because a lot of them just didn’t know how….

    The rule change rendered lots of goalkeepers obsolete, but over time it proved remarkably successful. It completely did away with time-wasting, and after a few rough years soon goalkeepers just started developing the necessary foot skills… and if you had a goalkeeper who could play with their feet, it was like getting an additional player on the field. This new rule created an opportunity, not a restriction.”

  9. I would be fine if the NL decided to go ahead and adopt the DH. None of the pitchers can really hit anyway and it benefits AL teams.

  10. Actually, some of the other new rules specifically deal with “two-way players” — Brendan McKay and Shohei Ohtani, of course, but there are plenty of crappy position players who try to reinvent themselves as pitchers (including former Braves like Brandon Beachy and Kim Jong-Il) and plenty who go in the other direction (including Adam Loewen and Rick Ankiel and Stetson Allie). And in bygone days there were always a handful of guys whose stick meaningfully increased their value, from Dontrelle Willis, Micah Owings, and Carlos Zambrano, to Tony Cloninger and Warren Spahn.

    I will always and forever stand against the designated hitter.

  11. @13 And Red Ruffing.

    I despise the DH. I think baseball players should be “baseball players” and be required to field and hit. The logical extension of the DH is to be more like football. Expand the rosters to 50 players and have an offense and a defense. Have completely different groups for hitting and for fielding. I don’t like this idea. A baseball player should play baseball – both sides, offense and defense – that’s how the game was intended to be played. A good-hitting pitcher should not be an advantage but more so a bad hitting pitcher should be a disadvantage.

  12. Atlanta hosts the Astros to end the season, please tell me there will be a trash can lid giveaway so fans can bang them in the stands whenever Houston is hitting…

  13. You are ignoring some fundamental realities. Pitchers don’t hit at any level until they reach the high minors, and then only when two NL affiliates are playing. So pitchers reach the MLB NL with virtually no experience facing quality live pitching. As a result, they don’t spend significant time practicing this skill which is obviously very difficult to master. So why should we ask them to perform a task during a game that counts for which they have specifically not trained? Note that most team sports have positions whose responsibilities are fundamentally different from others on the field, and they spend their time practicing those skills that are important for their roles.

  14. I think it’s worth saying a few more words about Martin Prado.

    Classic sportswriter shorthand has often led to a lazy dichotomy between admirable, gritty, less-talented hard workers and frustrating, lazy, ultratalented stars who try to coast on their genes. It’s usually incorrect — Andruw Jones, who came in for a lot of criticism along the latter lines, worked incredibly hard in the video room, constantly trying to change his stance or his swing to try to address the one insuperable hole in his game, sliders low and away. There’s often a racial dimension to the dichotomy — gritty undersized Craig Counsells and David Ecksteins on the one side, the highest-paid stars in the game on the other.

    I come to praise Martin Prado, not to bury him. The thing is, as talented as he was — and he’s an All-Star who made $89 million dollars in his career; he was enormously talented — he embodied the kind of perseverance and work ethic that makes baseball such a joy to watch as a kid. Martin Prado is the exact player that your coach points to when he tells you that you can’t control anything else on the field other than how much you hustle. Martin Prado always, always hustled. He was a leader in every clubhouse he set foot in because he led by example. He was the captain on some truly wretched Marlins teams, and I have no doubt that he could spend the rest of his life coaching, managing, or scouting if he wants. No one ever expected he would become the success he was, and he earned every bit of it.

    He was a tremendously talented ballplayer, of course, but many of his skills are softer. He didn’t have light-tower power, but he had advanced contact and plate discipline skills. Between 2015 and 2019, he had the third-lowest Z-Swing%, the percentage of pitches outside the strike zone he swung at. Joe Mauer was second, Brett Gardner was fourth, and Mookie Betts was tenth. He also had the third-highest Z-Contact%, behind only Ben Revere and Michael Brantley; Mookie Betts was 12th. His swinging-strike rate was sixth-lowest in baseball. Prado knew his swing, and he knew what to swing at.

    He had a high baseball IQ and excellent defensive versatility. In his major league career, he played more than 2000 innings at second base, more than 6000 innings at third base, and 2000 innings in left field, and in 2012, the Braves asked him to spend two weeks at shortstop, despite having spent almost no time there in the majors or minors prior to that. The Braves never asked him to play center field, but he would have done it without complaint if they had.

    He signed out of Venezuela at the age of 17, which immediately tells you that he was not a top-tier prospect — those guys all sign at the age of 16 (and frequently have informal agreements in place long beforehand, from Wilson Betemit to Kevin Maitan). He was signed by one of the Braves’ most legendary scouts, Rolando Petit, the man who signed Ronald Acuña, Jr. As Jeff Schultz recounts:

    Petit was hired as a Braves scout in 1991 and worked for the next 27 years. He not only signed Acuña, he was either directly responsible or part of a Latin American scouting group responsible for the Braves’ signings of Ozzie Albies, Elvis Andrus, Martin Prado, Julio Teheran, Gregor Blanco, Jose Peraza and others.

    Petit was fired in the post-Coppolella purge of Latin American scouting.

    Martin Prado was far from the prospect radar when he made his debut. In February 2006, John Sickels ranked him at the 15th-best prospect of a very weak system and gave him an overall C+ ranking; Prado got a cup of coffee that year, hit .262/.340/.405 in 49 PA. He still had his rookie eligibility, but Sickels still left him off the 2007 prospect ranking. Prado hit an empty .288/.323/.339 in 62 PA, and it was hard to believe he could be more than a Quad-A backup infielder.

    Then came 2008, which felt so unlikely as to seem like a fluke: he played five positions and got 254 plate appearances, and hit .320/.377/.461. He didn’t really have a position because Kelly Johnson was still seen as the second baseman of the future and Chipper was still Chipper, but they can’t bench you when you hit .320. Prado was here to stay. He hit .307 in each of the next two years, made his first and only All-Star team in 2010, and established himself as a first-division starting player.

    Not bad for a guy who didn’t even get signed when he was 16, and didn’t even get ranked on the prospect list.

    If for whatever reason he gets tired of South Florida, it’d sure be nice to see him come back to Atlanta. I don’t think there’s a player on the roster who wouldn’t benefit from having him around.

  15. @17 this is a great point, how can we expect pitchers to have to hit when they have spent years not doing so?

  16. Agree with so many of you. I too despise the DH and think all baseball players should at least be competent enough to field and hit. The dh is a travesty that has materially altered the fundamental nature of a sport that as part of it’s appeal was it’s timelessness, between the lines at least. It’s watered down the strategy of the game, a key aspect of the sport. It’s given an unfair advantage to the AL.
    cph @ 9 above brings out a very good point. The reason there’s so much futility to most pitchers hitting is directly due to the dh. Eliminate it and the overall quality of play goes up. The hitting ability of pitchers should be encouraged and a reward to those players and teams that develop it.

  17. You don’t get good at something unless you practice it. Aside from conditioning work, when pitchers aren’t practicing fielding, they are working on their pitching skill. When other players aren’t practicing fielding, they are working on their hitting skill. Do we ask these others to spend their time developing a pitching skill? Of course not. Unless you are going to abolish the DH everywhere (which isn’t happening), it’s better for the NL to not be the outlier.

  18. So I’m trying to decide just how cheap I am. I just got my MLB.TV subscription offer: $93.99 for the Braves or $121.99 for EVERY game. (Note: I already get the Mets and Yankees separately on YouTubeTV, so it’s really only an additional $28 for an additional approximately 2,000 games. They’re charging me under a penny a half for each incremental game.)

    So it’s cheap, but I don’t want to give Manfred a penny more than I have to.

  19. Yeah, I got the single-team plan last year. No regrets. If I want to see another team, I’ll go to a bar.

  20. Seems like the wrong way to look at it. You couldn’t possibly watch all those games even if you wanted to. So you have to look at how many of the games you will most likely watch outside of Braves/Yankees/Mets and decide if the extra spend is worth it for those games.

  21. @18. Well said Alex. It’s made me think about when Prado came up thru the system and broke into the bigs. I see Martin Prado as a very interesting topic of discussion in the “analytics vs scouting” debate. His minor league numbers weren’t that impressive and that, along with his lack of pedigree as a 17 yr old signed for a small bonus, definitely held down his propect evaluation. But I distinctly remember Bobby Cox talking about how he was a ballplayer and how he wanted him on the team. Old school Bobby saw something in Prado and Bobby was right. Prado wouldn’t have gotten the same chance if left up to some ‘experts’ and in some organizations that lean heavily toward the sabermetric side. I think you have to have both approaches.

  22. @24: That’s easy enough to factor in: the equation is Pr(watch)x (Value/game|caring enough to watch it) > $0.015. [Probability of watching an incremental game times the average value of such a game subject to it being a game I cared enough to watch.] Of course, if you wanted to calculate the full equation, you’d have to factor in the cost of the divorce if I started watching, say, Detroit games.

    Oh, and Alex is right about Martin as well as hanging out in bars for random games.

  23. Hey Alex, let’s turn that into a post. It deserves our attention.

    Also, let it be known that Chipper Jones said Prado outworks everyone and that he was Chipper’s favorite teammate of all time.

  24. How about this alternative: just eliminate the pitcher’s spot in the batting order. Gets around the objection to having a non-pitcher in the lineup who never plays defense.

  25. @26 Nerd. :)

    I’m going to do the single team option. I get the Rays, the only team I would watch regularly, on YouTube TV, so same as JonathanF. And to Alex’s point, always could just go to a bar to watch some obscure game, if you ever did. Whoever made the decision to offer that, I like it.

    @28

    That’s actually a pretty good idea, and the first I’ve heard it.

  26. Hard to turn down a penny and a half for a baseball game of some relevance to us. Last year it was Washington, this year Philly. I enjoy them and more, baseball without the ultimate stress level, fun.

  27. Well said about Martin Prado, Alex. As Prado’s first internet defender (I don’t know if this is literally true, but hey — spring of 2006!), I’ve always been in the tank for Martin. While it might be foolish to judge someone’s character from how they appear on television, I was struck early on by how the game on the field always seemed to have Prado’s full attention. He was conspicuously alert, as though he suspected his ticket was never well and truly punched. I suspect his playing days are done, but I’ll bet he’s going to make a fine manager for some team in the not-too-distant future, and I would rejoice if it turns out to be for the Braves.

  28. @32, doesn’t really cut jobs, but it does not allow for a role for older or less athletic players who can’t cut it in the field (which the DH does).

    Those arguing against the DH are doing so on aesthetic grounds, which is largely a matter of preference. As a practical matter, the DH isn’t going anywhere, and it’s ludicrous for the NL to cling to the “pitcher hits” rule given that reality.

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