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.