The Universal Designated Hitter (DH) is a Win For All The Universal Designated Hitter (DH) is a Win For All

The Universal Designated Hitter (DH) is a Win For All

As we head into what should have been spring training for the players and coaches, MLB’s lockout continues without an agreement between the players’ union and MLB owners.

One issue that has been addressed, at least semi-officially by Commissioner Rob Manfred, is that the universal DH will be in place during the 2022 season. Both sides are in favor and having the designated hitter (DH) in both leagues would actually be good for the on-field product.

The DH rule allows teams to use another player to bat instead of the pitcher in the line-up. Due to the pitcher still being part of the team’s nine defensive players, the designated hitter does not take the field on defense. Only in the batting line-up.

Last season pitchers posted a line of .110/.150/.142 in 4,829 plate appearances, with 17 home runs. That is the definition of below replacement level. Replacing that limited level of production with competent hitters will do wonders to creating a more skilful on-field product. More offense, more runs, more fun!

History of the Designated Hitter (DH)

On January 11 1973, at a joint meeting between the two major leagues (American League and National League) voted to allow the AL to put the designated hitter rule into practice. What was intended as a three year experiment would be permanently adopted by the AL and later by most amateur and minor leagues.

On April 6 1973, Ron Bloomberg of the New York Yankees became the league’s first designated hitter. In his first plate appearance, he was walked on a full count.

Benefits

  • Every hitter benefits from the universal DH. More than just going to one player an increase in at-bats can be utilized throughout every team’s roster.
  • The extra roster spot that doesn’t need to take the field can extend a players’ career, keeping them healthier and productive for longer.
  • It allows teams to hide poor fielders yet excellent hitters. The extra roster spot would allow pure hitters to be valued correctly. The focus can be on what offense they do provide and not just any defensive limitations.

 

Top 5 players to benefit from the DH rule

1. Nelson Cruz - FA

At 41 years old, Cruz is still (still!) one of the premier hitters in baseball. Splitting time between the Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays, he hit over 30 home runs for the eighth time in his career, posting a line of .265/.334/.497 with 32 home runs and 86 RBI’s. Even in his heyday with the Texas Rangers, Cruz was never known for his fielding despite having a cannon for an arm. Ever since leaving the Rangers in 2014 his playing time as a fielder has shrunk as injuries and age caught up to him. Cruz has been limited to signing for teams in the AL the past couple of years, however if the DH does get added to the NL, that would immediately make 15 other teams a fit. This change would be monumental for Cruz and his next contract (he is currently a free agent), instantly adding a lot more suitors for a productive bat.

2. Nick Castellanos - FA

Another veteran who benefits from the extra at-bats available, is Nick Castellanos. Formerly of the Cincinnati Reds, he opted out from the final two-years of his deal to become a free agent, worth in the region of $34 million. Castellanos was always a good hitter, but this year he became a great hitter. Posting a slash line of .309/.362/.576 in addition to 34 HR’s and 100 RBIs he was a first-time All-Star and Silver Slugger winner. Castellanos has received his fair share of criticism for his defense over the years and the advanced stats do not lie. He has been bad. However, Castellanos had a career batting year at the perfect time, and the offseason bet he has made on himself could pay off big-time thanks to the universal DH.

3. Kyle Schwarber - FA

Not known for his defensive ability, Kyle Schwarber is a free agent coming into his prime at 28 years old. Last year he split time between the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox, finishing the year with a batting line of .266/.374/.554 in addition to 32 HR’s and 71 RBI’s. He also had a significant impact on the Red Sox playoff run. His free agency couldn’t have come at a better time, as suitors for Schwarber’s bat will no doubt increase with confirmation of the universal DH. Prior to the MLB lockout, he was being pursued by the Boston Red Sox of the AL and the Philadelphia Phillies of the NL.

4. Albert Pujols - FA

Ever since future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols stated his desire to play in 2022 at the age of 42, the stars are aligned for a return to the St. Louis Cardinals. The Machine is still beloved in the city having led the Cardinals to two World Series titles during his 11 years with the club. The universal DH is exactly what Pujols needs to continue his career as he has struggled with plantar fasciitis since joining the Los Angeles Angels in 2012. A possible return to the club that drafted him would be the storybook ending to an outstanding career.

5. Seth Beer - Arizona Diamondbacks

The Arizona Diamondbacks seemed reluctant to turn over first base duties to Beer last September, instead letting him linger in the minor leagues where he finished with an impressive .292/.392/.509 and 54 homers in 289 games over his career. In the five games he played before dislocating his shoulder, he went 4-9 with a home run and a double. Dating back to his days at Clemson University, Seth Beer has always projected as a bat-only player. The addition of the DH will allow the Diamondbacks to comfortably find a place for him on the team in 2022 and beyond.

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