The Designated Hitter DH: Making Life Tough for AL
In 1973 Major League Baseball instituted three rules designed to lessen
the power of pitchers and create more offense. One theory at work was
that the game needed to be energized and that more hitting would create
additional runs and excitement.
Both the National and American Leagues lowered the pitcherís mound and
made the strike zone smaller. The American League, as is well known,
also created a new offensive position - the designated hitter (DH). The
DH specialized in one thing and one thing only - hitting.
Usually third in the batting order, the DH was more often than not a
power hitter who also swatted the ball for average. Sometimes he was an
older, less mobile player trying to extend his career or he could be a
younger guy ill-equipped to be a position player.
decried the DH; baseball equal rights activists have bemoaned the
lack of parity between the leagues; and strategists have claimed
that managing in the American League is simply a lot easier than in
the National. Some even focus on how A.L. pitchers are at a
disadvantage when playing in an N.L. venue, due to the fact that
normally they donít hit and must when in Senior Circuit parks.
One area that has been discussed sparingly is the effect the DH has on
American League pitchers. Unlike their N.L. counterparts, hurlers in
the American League face a tougher challenge due to the fact that the
lineups they face include a professional, full-time hitter and not a
sometime-hitter, also known as a pitcher.
Statistical evidence certainly reveals that N.L. pitchers have better
ERAís and A.L. batters higher averages. At first glance the evidence
seems negligible. National League pitchers notched a 4.23 ERA, while
A.L. mound dwellers were 0.13 higher with a 4.36 ERA. American League
pitchers gave up an average of 76 more runs per season per team last
year. Those on N.L. mounds had a minimally higher average of strikeouts
per game and held teams to 0.21 few hits per contest.
Do these stats in any way make the case for American League pitchers
having a tougher time of it? Not taken as a whole, but when one looks at
how individual A.L. and N.L. teams fallout in terms of batting average
(BA) and ERA, the case becomes clearer.
There are thirty major league teams, with 14 in the A.L. and 16 in the
N.L. Of the top fifteen hitting teams, 10 are in the American League,
while the bottom15 include 11 National League clubs, with the last nine
out of 10 being from the Senior Circuit. As far as pitching is
concerned, the tables are reversed, with 11 of the top 15 teams in Kís
and 10 of the top 15 in ERA coming from the National League.
Perhaps the most important stat to consider comes under the category of
batting average. Traditionally pitchers are ninth in the batting
order. A.L. clubs, in which pitchers do not hit, occupy 13 of the top
15 positions for BA by players hitting ninth. The rest of the batting
order, even third place, which is usually the DH, is just about evenly
split with neither league holding much of an advantage.
But do the DH and the lack of pitchers coming up to bat really put A.L.
hurlers in a weaker position than their N.L. counterparts? Consider this
situation - there are two out and the eighth batter comes up with the
ninth hitter on deck. No one is on base. In the A.L., if that eighth
batter gets on base you have to make a very tough out - the ninth
batter. That means you canít pitch around that number eight batter to
get to the ninth. For an N.L. pitcher, itís not as dangerous to put that
eighth man on base because the ninth batter - a pitcher - is usually not
very dangerous at the plate.
In many situations in the National League, pitchers only face a
seven-man line-up due to the fact that the last batter often neutralizes
the eighth man up, along with himself. Thereís no such relief in the
American League for pitchers.
So, along with everything else the DH does, he also makes the ninth
batter much more potent and dangerous and often forces A.L. pitchers to
make quality pitches to those in the lower third of the order. This is
something National Leaguers can work around.
The result is higher ERAís, more hits, and more runs scored per team in
the A.L. Strangely enough the DH unto himself is no more dangerous than
the third batter in the N.L.; the true power of the DH comes from the
fact that he has created more opportunity for those players who bat
By Paul Mrocza
This article was written by Paul Mrocza sponsored by
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