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The only real solution to the DH-pitcher hitting debate

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Isn’t it a shame when Shohei Ohtani has to sit on the bench?

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball is fun, and baseball is weird. And sometimes that weirdness gets the best of itself, as if baseball opens up its mouth and swallows itself whole. Because half of baseball plays under one set of rules, and the other half plays under a totally different set of rules. I am, of course, talking about the designated hitter hitting in the American League and the pitcher hitting in the National League.

Following the Angels, I admittedly don’t have time to watch a lot of National League games, so it came as a jarring shock when the pitcher had to hit three games straight in St. Louis. On Sunday, Tyler Skaggs was cruising along, throwing five scoreless innings, when he was pulled due to the need to insert a pinch hitter. That’s something you never see in American League baseball, and once again, it was very shocking.

There needs to be consistency. Teams pony up a lot of money for the Nelson Cruzes of the world because they are allowed to play him, but only some of the time. A team is built for a certain set of rules, and playing some games under a different set of rules, including half of the World Series, is absolutely absurd.

On the other hand, pitchers like Madison Bumgarner and Zack Greinke are very good at hitting, and Bumgarner has been quoted as questioning a universal DH. Their bat in the lineup gives their team an advantage over the game. But not having Shohei Ohtani in the lineup, as the Angels did Friday through Sunday, seems like a bad way to market baseball superstars. Furthermore, there are a lot of DH-types around the majors nowadays, guys who just hit and don’t field. To compound matters, managers like to use the DH to give a position player a “quasi” day off, allowing them to hit but remain off their feet in the field.

There is no perfect solution. Allowing the pitcher to hit and allowing a DH both have merit.

So why not both?

The Designated Fielder

Under this proposal, each team would have one “designated fielder” who wouldn’t be in the lineup or hit at all. Say you had a shortstop defensive whiz. You could play him all you wanted, and he wouldn’t have to hit. Doing this would allow the eight remaining fielders to hit, including the pitcher, and the DH as the ninth man. The Jeff Mathises of the world would get to do what they loved and what they were good at (calling a game and playing catcher defensively) while not hearing vitriol from fans for being terrible offensively. Or maybe you have JT Realmuto behind the plate but a Jackie Bradley Jr. type in center. Wherever your pro defensive player is, you get a reprieve. The DH takes care of that spot.

Under these rules, the Angels could line up without the catcher hitting, and at full strength would look something like La Stella-Trout-Ohtani-Upton-Pujols-Calhoun-Simmons-Fletcher-Pitcher. At any point in time, if the DH needed to leave the game, a team could replace him with the designated fielder or substitute another DH.

A team with strong hitters could also choose to forgo the designated fielder, just as an American League team could choose to go without the DH today.

Getting Wackier

With the home run ball becoming more prevalent in the game, a lot of fans don’t enjoy watching players sell out for power. But what if there was a higher likelihood that a player could get a lousy single? Would players stop swinging for the fences?

Instead of having a designated fielder, a team would just have eight men on the field and a DH. The defensive side would have to choose how to position their players. Would you go with two outfielders? Or would you run with three infielders? The hits would increase drastically, and maybe players would stop swinging for the fences if they could just bloop one into right field and get two bases out of it.

Poll

On initial glance, do you like the "designated fielder"?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    Yes, it sounds intriguing.
    (111 votes)
  • 61%
    No, it sounds terrible.
    (181 votes)
292 votes total Vote Now