Why The Designated Hitter Should Be Part Of The AL And NL Lineups

Lily Belcher, Editor In Chief

During the 2020 season, MLB had the opportunity to implement new protocols in a major league setting, one of which was a universal designated hitter. The debate between the National and American leagues is ages old, but the National League got a taste of what it would be like if the designated hitter was used. In the 2021 offseason, MLB and the MLBPA debated the use of the universal DH for the second consecutive year, but ultimately decided against it.

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The National League objects to the DH, claiming it is what separates the National League from the American League and that it is a tradition that does not need to change. However, MLB’s recent push to make the games more offensively controlled in order to make the games “more exciting,” should reinforce the need for a DH. With the pitcher batting, usually in the nine spot, it is almost always a guaranteed out for the defensive side. Pitchers hold batting averages well below the Mendoza line and hardly ever get hits. On the off chance the pitcher does make it to first, usually on an unintentional walk, the pitcher is forced to run the bases, increasing their chance of injuries.

Teams and managers take extra care to keep their fragile pitchers out of harms way, pulling them at the slightest indication of a sore muscle. By putting the pitcher on the base path, they have a greater risk at pulling a muscle and missing a start. If pitchers can just sit on the bench for the offensive half of the inning, they will not have to risk their throwing arm getting cold while they stand on first base.

Furthermore, American League teams playing on National League turfs have to find a way to teach their pitchers how to bat, taking time out of bullpen sessions.  In many cases, coaches are forced to make an unnecessary and sometimes annoying number of substitutions, putting in pinch hitters for their pitcher and bringing in relief pitchers, just to get the extra real shot at making contact with the ball. Teams quickly blow through their bullpen, tiring out more guys than they should in a nine inning game.

It is also just as hard to find pitchers who can bat, which is why position players man the field and pitchers control the mound. Those two do not mix and should not have to. The Rays are lucky to have Brendan McKay, who plays first as well as being a starting pitcher. The Rays have used him as a baseman in the past, but only in desperate situations. He does have the batting experience, but he is only good for one start out of a three or four game series.

The DH also gives older players, who no longer have the agility and speed needed to effectively cover a base or the outfield, the opportunity to continue playing as long as they can make contact with the ball. At some point, the National League has to let go of their tradition and allow batters to bat and pitchers to pitch.