Saturday, October 22, 2005

DH Rule Gives AL Team Series Advantage

You read it right. The Designated Hitter Rule gives the advantage to the American League team in the World Series. And in interleague play for that matter. This runs contrary to conventional wisdom, which is wrong, and I'll prove it. Read on...

Conventional wisdom says the NL team has the advantage, but this is only so because it doesn't look at the DH rule from an objective point of view, but from a subjective point of view. Here's how it goes: When a game is played in the NL park, the AL team, which is used to having a DH in the lineup, is penalized by not being allowed to use the DH. This is an AL disadvantage. In the AL park the NL team, which is used to not having the DH, gets to add a bat to its lineup, which is an advantage for them. Some people even carry the argument further by pointing out that in the NL park, where both teams have to bat their pitchers, the NL pitchers have had the benefit of both hitting and taking batting practice during the year, giving the NL team the advantage. Some go even further and suggest that to rid this "unfair" NL advantage the DH rule should be changed to allow each team to use "what it used go get to the World Series." That is, the AL team should be allowed use the DH in all 7 games while the NL team shouldn't.

This view is prevalent throughout baseball. I've heard commentators, broadcasters, fans and even life long baseball people hold this view. But it's wrong. Why is it wrong? Because it looks at the argument in terms of hitting, which is a subjective thing as opposed to looking at it in terms of the designated hitter rule itself, which is an objective thing. It's easy for us Americans to look at things through the rose colored glasses of hitting, because we love offense, and especially the home run. This is so even though we know that pitching is 70% of the game. To show just how skewed the conventional wisdom is, let's now look at the DH rule from a different subjective point of view. The point of view of pitching. The resulting conclusion will be the exact opposite. Here it is:

When a game is played in the NL park, the AL team, which is used to facing a tough lineup with a DH in it, now has an advantage because it gets to face an easier lineup with a pitcher instead of a DH. This is an AL advantage. And in the AL park, the NL team which is used to facing a lineup of 8 position players and one pitcher is now facing a much tougher lineup. This is an NL disadvantage. Plus, in the AL park when both teams can use the DH, the AL team gets to use a specialized player who has spent all year hitting, and who is usually one of its best hitters, while the NL team has to scrape a utility player off the bench to use as a DH. This utility player has spent most of the year on the bench and isn't as good a hitter as any other of the players in its lineup. That's why he's on the bench to begin with! And to carry the argument the same further step as the conventional wisdom argument, maybe each team could have "what it had to get to the World Series." That is, the NL team should get to face a lineup with 8 players and a pitcher, while the AL team should get to face a lineup with a DH. Even with this the AL team would still have the advantage because the hitter an NL team could put in its lineup wouldn't be as good as the quality DH hitters the AL team is used to facing. Maybe to rid us of this "unfair" AL advantage, the NL team could have the option of drafting a player from another team. To be fair, this player could be limited to free agents who have just completed their contract with a non-contending team.

If this last view seems like nonsense to you, it's because it is. But, it's the same argument, point by point, as the argument from the hitting view. It's no more absurd as the conventional view. Now I'll look at the DH rule from an objective point of view and use actual history to prove my point. This view will look at the rule from the view of the DH itself.

In the AL park, both teams get to use the DH. Both of their lineups are made up of the same components. Eight position players plus a DH. In the NL park, both teams again have the same lineup. Eight position players plus a pitcher. Even though it's true that NL pitchers have batting practice and hitting experience during the year which would give them a slight advantage in games played in the NL park, this advantage is nowhere near the advantage the AL team has in using its own DH, while the NL team is limited to choosing bench players to use as a DH. If we look at history, AL teams that make it to the World Series usually have a very good to awesome DH in their lineup. This hitter is usually a huge part of its winning. He bats in the heart of the order. But in the NL, no team ever makes it to the Series because it has good hitting pitchers. They simply don't have the influence. They bat at the bottom of the order, and there's a different pitcher everyday. Collectively they don't hit very well at all. Consider also that in the NL park the AL team can insert their DH into the field to gain his bat or use him as a great pinch hitter off the bench. This is a liberty the NL team doesn't have. And if the NL team uses it's bench player as DH, if the player is a good late inning defensive replacement, the NL team can't use him in the field without losing the DH slot in the lineup.

The easiest way to make my point is to list the DH's that have been used by both leagues in the World Series. The AL teams have had used heavy sluggers, including four current and possibly two future hall of famers. Most of the hitters were at the tops of their careers when they made it to the Series. The NL teams have used nobodies that nobody remembers. Bench jockies that had a hard time even making a starting lineup. Most of the AL DH's are the likes of Lou Piniella, Reggie Jackson (Hall of Fame), Hal McRae, Don Baylor (twice), Dave Parker (twice), Harold Baines, Chili Davis (three times), Dave Winfield (HOF), Paul Molitor (HOF), Eddie Murray (HOF), Cecil Fielder, David Justice (twice), Darryl Strawberry, Jason Giambi and David Ortiz. Wow! These guys are awesome! And what about the NL pine riders? Dan Driessen, Lee Lacy, Vic Davalillo, Lonnie Smith (four times!), Keith Moreland, Garth Iorg, Kurt Bevacqua, Danny Heep, Terry Pendleton (twice), Mike Davis, Ernie Riles, Hal Morris, Brian Jordan, Jim Eisenreich, Jim Leyritz, Jose Hernandez, Keith Lockhart, Lenny Harris, Erubiel Durazo, Tsuyoshi Shinjo, Shawon Dunston, Jeff Conine and Marlon Anderson. Who?

I think you get my point. How could anybody after looking at those lists even consider the NL to have an advantage? If you do you would have to take Lee Lacy over Reggie Jackson, Marlon Anderson over David Ortiz, Jeff Conine over Jason Giambi, Danny Heep over Don Baylor, Ernie Riles over Dave Parker, Lonnie Smith over Dave Winfield, and on and on. If you still think the DH rule gives the advantage to the NL, then I have a bridge I'd like to sell you. And if you act now, I'll throw in Ebbetts Field.


  1. You should be throwing in Candlestick, even though you subconsciously wish to get rid of a dodger asset. Perhaps i can divy in the polo ground.
    Great post and right on. If you'ld like a co-conspirator, I wouldn't mind joining you on your baseball blog. Very impressive resume.
    (BTW - how did you make the last three letters of the word verification mlb?)

  2. Thanks, dr. lenny, for the compliment and your interest in being my partner in crime. I think I'll let my vanity reign and keep it a monologue, but you're welcome to comment ad nauseum. Last 3 letters mlb? Must be your lucky day.

  3. The AL has players who are designed to be a DH. on their 25 man active roster. The NL don't have players like that so the batter they put into the DH role is not nearly as good and powerfull as the AL designed DH.

    Basically AL pitchers practice bunting whenever the need to bat in NL parks. I call it even steven.