Universal designated hitter would eliminate at-bats for pitchers - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Universal designated hitter would eliminate at-bats for pitchers

Photo Credit of Tommy Milone: Joy R. Absalon

When and if the 2020 season begins, it will be played with a universal designated hitter. According to several published reports, it’s part of the proposal that’s been submitted to the Players Association by Major League Baseball.

With each team playing perhaps as many as 30 of its 82 games against the other league, it was obvious something had to give.

It’s a lot more unfair having the pitchers bat in perhaps 15 games, which could be the number of home games for National League teams in interleague play.

In 2020’s original schedule, the Orioles were set to play 10 of their 162 games at National League parks — three at St. Louis in April, two at Chicago’s Wrigley Field in June, two at Nationals Park and three in Cincinnati, both in August.

The games were spread out. In the early years of interleague play, which began in 1997, certain periods were designated for AL-NL play. Back then, the Orioles had interleague games for six straight days from June 13-18 and from August 29-September 3. They also had three interleague games June 30-July 2.

That was fine because everyone had interleague play concurrently. Once the Houston Astros joined the American League in 2013 to even the leagues at 15 teams each, an interleague game was necessitated each day. The designated period for interleague games vanished, and so did much of the excitement.

Interleague play is no longer special, although when the Orioles were contenders, their games against the Nationals, especially in Washington, were intriguing because of the heavy presence of Orioles fans in the D.C. area.

It was a bit strange watching the Los Angeles Dodgers clinch the National League West in Baltimore last September, and it would have been odd for the Orioles, who were scheduled to play in St. Louis for the first time in 17 years, to be the Cardinals’ opening night opponent.

With the Orioles playing only their four American League East opponents and the five National League East teams to cut down on travel, having pitchers bat in nearly 20 percent of games would put AL teams at a competitive disadvantage.

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It’s easier for an NL team to find a position player who could use four additional at-bats each game than for a pitcher, who may not have batted in his professional career, to bat.

Last season, Oriole pitchers went a combined 1-for-12 in games at National League parks.

John Means, who had never batted professionally, singled in his only at-bat on July 24 at Arizona. On May 24, Means went 0-for-2 and drew a walk at Colorado.

In 2018, Oriole pitchers went 2-for-21. One of those hits was costly. After Dylan Bundy singled, he rolled an ankle running the bases and was sent to the 10-day injured list.

Although it might be fun to watch the strategy behind National League double-switches, it isn’t enjoyable to watch pitchers hit.

In recent years, the Orioles did have some pitchers who could hit.

Andrew Cashner is a lifetime .158 batter and hit a home run for San Diego in 2013. Bud Norris, who was 2-for-10 in three seasons with the Orioles, is a lifetime .157 batter with 12 RBIs.

Zack Britton, who began his career as a starter and was 5-for-8 (.625) in 2011, hasn’t batted since. Britton smacked the last home run by an Orioles pitcher.

Mychal Givens, who began his career as an infielder, was converted to a successful reliever after batting just .247 in six minor league seasons. Givens is hitless in his only two big league at-bats.

Two potential starters signed in February could have been productive.

Wade LeBlanc is a lifetime .250 (30-for-120) hitter. In 2010, LeBlanc hit .295 (13-for-43) for the Padres.

Tommy Milone is a lifetime .156 hitter (7-for-54), but Milone has a distinction. He is one of just 30 major leaguers who homered on their fist pitch. That happened on September 3, 2011, and he’s still waiting on his second home run.

With a universal DH, Milone might never get another at-bat.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. CalsPals

    May 14, 2020 at 7:59 am

    B.C.-Before Corona baseball had the DH in The American League, it’s been thrown around having a DH in both leagues, I like the original rules, not the one that extends players careers & makes them HOFers (see Big Pappi), BUT since the union dictates everything, they should have it in both leagues…don’t like it, but it makes sense…go O’s…

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 14, 2020 at 8:16 am

      Ray, the union doesn’t dictate everything. The union would have preferred a universal DH years ago, but the owners have been against it. Now, there’s no choice.

    • CalsPals

      May 14, 2020 at 1:22 pm

      Union has WAY more say on what happens than you think, agree, the union would’ve liked the DH in both leagues yrs ago, because, as I said, it allows hitters to drag out their careers, not having to see the field, they’ll NEVER have a salary cap because the union will never agree to it, pretty interesting to see the greed of players w/Snells recent comments…go O’s…

      • Phil770

        May 14, 2020 at 3:50 pm

        Regrettably, there is still no trust between the owners and the union, apparently with good reason at one time, but it leaves little to no room for cooperation, partnership and common sense to apply.

        Rich, one aspect of MLB having to recast the business model due to reduced revenue opportunities, is with the MiLB season cancelled, will all or part of those players’ salaries be paid by MLB owners? I assume that the 4 additional MLB roster players will get a full year service credit (e.g., Ryan M), as well as pro-rata major league minimums. Who pays the expenses for the 20 man taxi squad? I assume the owners have these added expenses also. Seems the union is getting something out of this.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 14, 2020 at 6:32 pm

      Phil, the minor leagues have not been officially cancelled. MLB teams pay their minor leaguers.

      There is so much to be negotiated, and I’ll be writing about the taxi squad tomorrow.

      While there’s lots of yelling and screaming, in the end, if conditions allow, there’s too much at stake not to play.

      • Phil770

        May 14, 2020 at 7:03 pm

        Thanks, Rich. Will look forward to your insights on minor league players’ comp and the taxi squad inner workings. Some MLB players may choose not to play (e.g. Snell) for less pay and higher risk, which is fine, Unpaid LOA. The owners are taking a haircut, too…albeit at less risk. Some owners may conclude that they would lose much less money in the short-term, if they don’t play, if the players like Snell hold firm and the Union supports. There will be many other players who would take the risk. Nothing is easy in this COVID-19 world. Stay safe!

  2. BirdsCaps

    May 14, 2020 at 1:01 pm

    Hey Rich,
    A streamlined set of rules and a different playoff system are probably the correct thing to do this year. However, since Manfred is hellbent on radically transforming the old ball game, I wonder if he will use this season as precedent for a shorter schedule, universal dh, and a different playoff system. I am cynical, but I really don’t like commissioner Manchild and believe he will do whatever it takes to make mlb like the nfl and give it an ever changing rulebook that sways with the poll-tested whims of what kids or non-fans like. Of course this is coming from someone who wishes that the AL would have a DH. It would allow a little strategy in the era of 3 true outcomes.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 14, 2020 at 1:22 pm

      Stephen, Manfred would like expanded playoffs, but it’s the players who would push for a universal DH. National League owners have traditionally opposed it, but we may see a DH everywhere after this season.

  3. Bancells Moustache

    May 14, 2020 at 3:31 pm

    Universal DH, if rolled out this year, is the proverbial genie out of the bottle. Once its out I doubt it goes back in. Too much money on the line extending careers and protecting the health of 300 mil a year pitchers. You can argue the merits of pitchers hitting but money talks, and the DH has been around nearly half a century, so this isn’t exactly “radical”.

    Blake Snell is saying he’d be “risking his life” to pitch this season and that its not worth it to play for reduced salaries. These guys better get this figured out, or this will be an extinction-level event for Major League Baseball. The 94 strike was a PR punch to it’s gut. Failing here would be a .357 slug to the head.

    • CalsPals

      May 14, 2020 at 4:54 pm

      Snell is ridiculous, but it would be worth it if he was getting full pay…go O’s…

      • BirdsCaps

        May 14, 2020 at 10:06 pm

        Even though I am fine with some saber rattling between mlb and mlbpa, snell rubbed me the wrong way. We’re all likely going to work with the same or lower pay. Also, we all will have a higher risk (whether it is reasonable for segments of the populations is a political question I won’t go into on a sports page) and aren’t really complaining about it. I hate to beat a dead horse, but the nhl players seem fairly eager to get back to hockey.

    • ClayDal

      May 14, 2020 at 10:34 pm

      Couple thoughts on Blake Snell. While his comments were obviously tone deaf, I’m sure a lot of players agree with him. Also , none of us know if Snell has any medical issues that put him at a higher risk. Looking at Snell’s contract history he made 558 thousand in 2018 winning the Cy Young and 1 million last year. Signed a 5 year 50 mil contract after last year. So this would have been his first year making serious money. May explain some of his anger

    • CalsPals

      May 15, 2020 at 7:10 am

      Wow, as an educator/coach for 40 yrs I’d take his ONLY $558,000 contract…go O’s…

    • CalsPals

      May 15, 2020 at 7:11 am

      & not bitch about it…good God…go O’s…

    • ClayDal

      May 15, 2020 at 4:28 pm

      As an educator, you also realize the school’s are closed. And for good reason-it’s too risky for the schools to remain open. Re-starting MLB increases the health risk to everyone involved-not just the players. Coaches,trainers, anyone who travels with the team. Whether or not Snell himself has any medical issues that put him at risk, there are people associated with the game that have weaker immune systems. Snell’s comments were tone-deaf, but I doubt he is alone in his concerns. I’m pretty confident that both sides will reach some sort of agreement to resume baseball, but neither side will get all they want. That’s how negotiations usually work. Hopefully, schools will reopen in the fall so educators can go back to school

    • CalsPals

      May 15, 2020 at 4:53 pm

      We haven’t stopped teaching, going in twice a week for 4 hrs giving out breakfasts, lunches, finished teacher observations & classified staff, working on next yrs schedules, we’re having a new 7/8 pod built, mting once a week w/builders, giving out computers to the students/families who can’t afford them, 74% of our school on free & reduced meals, our schools are not closed, the buildings are, remote education & all that goes w/it more involved than a normal time…go educators…go O’s…

  4. ClayDal

    May 14, 2020 at 3:33 pm

    One possible benefit for the Orioles with a universal DH is it increases the possibility of trading Renato Nunez. Nunez to put it kindly, a below average fielder. Right now, he is somewhat blocking Mountcastle. Unless Mountcastle can find a position he can field, he will be the DH when they bring him up, and yes eventually they will bring him up. Makes Nunez expendable. Just something to consider, who knows how everything will break down

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