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Here’s a designated hitter proposal that just might please everyone

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One national writer splits the difference, and it just might work.

A perfect candidate for DH for the Cubs
Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

We’ve gone back and forth on this site many times regarding the designated hitter.

I wouldn’t bring it up again — I know how contentious this topic can be — but there’s a proposal written up by national baseball writer Jayson Stark in The Athletic that’s worth considering. It would accomplish two things:

  • It would leave some strategy in the game, and
  • It still would accomplish the goal of not having pitchers bat.

Stark wrote about this idea that’s apparently being “brainstormed” right now in an article talking about what changes we might see in Major League Baseball by 2030. If you haven’t read the whole thing you should, but here’s the DH idea:

How about a rule that would allow teams to use their DH only as long as their starting pitcher remained in the game? Then, once the starting pitcher exited, that game would revert to old-school rules.

The more we think about this idea, the more we like it. Starting pitchers would no longer hit, which would eliminate some teams’ injury paranoia. It would create incentives to keep starters in the game longer, which could lead to more offense. And it would preserve some elements of late-inning managerial strategy that fans of “NL rules” still love.

This is an idea I can get behind. It’s very unlikely that any team would let a relief pitcher bat in a game, especially if this rule incentivizes teams to figure out ways to keep starters in games longer. Pinch-hitters would be used in the later innings.

The only modification I’d make to this proposal is that the DH remains as long as the team’s starting pitcher remains in the game, but have it at least through the fifth inning. That would remove the possibility of a team losing the DH just because a starter gets pounded and has to be taken out, say, in the second or third inning, or because they are using an “opener.”

As noted above, this would still make managers strategize — who’s going to be the pinch-hitter and when? Would you have to save a PH for an extra-inning game? (With the 26th man, this might be easier.) But in the end, pitchers would still never bat, or almost never, anyway. If you lose the DH, you could always keep his bat by putting him in the field. There’s your strategy!

The question was asked on Twitter: Would this apply to both leagues?

Now that’s a whole article in itself, regarding realignment and league switches. I’ve gone on record here multiple times that I would NOT want to see (for example) the Cubs and White Sox in the same division.

But sure: Put this rule in both “leagues” (which aren’t really “leagues,” more like NFL-style conferences), standardize the rules across all of Major League Baseball.

And stop the scourge of watching pitchers strike out in 45 percent of their plate appearances.

Poll

The designated hitter...

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Bring it to both leagues the same way it is in the A.L. today
    (183 votes)
  • 43%
    Bring it to both leagues as per the proposal in the Athletic article
    (348 votes)
  • 9%
    Keep it the way it is — DH in the AL, no DH in the NL
    (75 votes)
  • 23%
    Eliminate the DH completely
    (185 votes)
  • 0%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (6 votes)
797 votes total Vote Now