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REPLY #1 TO
"DESIGNATED HITTER"



Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

(R) Oh dear, just when I thought I was agreeing with most of what you have to say on your web site, you try to defend the DH.
(MB) Hey, if everybody agreed with everything I had to say, there wouldn't be much point in writing these essays. :-)


(R) I can only assume you are a fan of an American League team who feels he must defend this poorly designed joke to maintain his self-respect!
(MB) While "my team" happens to play in the American League, I consider myself to be a "baseball fan" rather than a fan of either league. My support for the DH rule is from the standpoint of being a baseball fan. Indeed, since the National League is the only place where the DH is *not* employed, one could just as easily label (or attempt to denigrate) all opponents of the DH as "National League fans". But, I won't do that.
    The DH rule must stand or fall on its own merits (or lack of them) and that is how I approach it. Again, seeing that the NL is the only American professional baseball league that does *not* use it would seem to suggest that the rule must have considerable merit for the majority.



(R) You denigrate the supposed "strategy" of handling a pitching staff, then use a straw man example which is very cut and dried. This is like using Frank Thomas as the example in a discussion of the sacrifice bunt.
(MB) Not at all. If one is to discuss the strategic aspects of any rule or decision, one must discuss specific situations. Obviously, there are numerous possible situations. However, I can't think of any where any real "strategy" is lost due to employment of the DH rule.


(R) The difficult decisions by a manager aren't in the 8th inning, but in the 5th or 6th. Whether it is simply a decision to pinch-hit or the additional dimension of the double switch, you are making a choice that will impact almost half of the game.
(MB) The difficult decisions are the ones made with the game on the line in the late innings, since there will be little or no opportunity to salvage the results of a bad choice. Decisions made in the middle of the game will contribute to the situation at the end of the game, to be sure, but you will always have 3 or more innings left to try to rectify the situation.


(R) Let us replace the example you gave with another one. Down 1 run in the bottom of the 6th, runner on 2nd, 2 out. Both pitchers are going well and you hate to lose the pitcher, but you have a chance to tie the game. This is a decision that will have fans arguing about it the next day, not merely another rbi chance that will be forgotten an inning later.
(MB) This may be an important point in the game, but it is certainly not the critical point. Whether or not a run is scored here, your team will still have three more innings to attempt to score additional runs. If your team is one run behind, and you go through your entire lineup once (to include your big power hitters and RBI guys) and still fail to tie the game, fans should not get on the manager for whatever decision he made concerning the pitcher. They should properly place the blame on the failure of the lineup as a whole. A good case in point would be the recent close games played and lost by the Atlanta Braves. Manager Bobby Cox should get no blame for not pinch-hitting for his starting pitchers in the middle of the game. Any blame for losing 2-1 to the Pirates rests solely on the failure of Lofton, Tucker, Jones, McGriff, Klesko, etc. for failing to produce more than one run in support of the pitching staff.


(R) You denigrate the fact that strategy means putting in less than your best players. That is what "team" is all about. Yes, you have to make a choice of weakening your team in the remaining innings for the opportunity to take advantage of an immediate situation. That is the essence of a decision. That is what makes it interesting.
(MB) Again, there is no real decision to be made here. If you pinch-hit for the pitcher in the middle of the game, you still have a few innings for your regular hitters to produce. If you bat for him in the late innings, it is highly unlikely that the substitute will get up again. If it's not the bottom of the ninth, a pinch-hitter who is a defensive liability will himself be replaced by a good glove man (who is unlikely to make an appearance at the plate). It doesn't exactly take Einstein to make these decisions. The "team" concept is not lost by using the DH rule, either. The other eight players are rarely affected. The infamous "double switch" rarely replaces any regular player who might not otherwise be a candidate for defensive replacement in the late innings. I really can't fathom what "strategy" is being lost.


(R) In addition to the decisions required, it adds an extra dimension to the players on your team. Your non-starting players become a much more important part of the team. Not only are they needed to fill in for an injury or to platoon in a special situation, they are often called upon to play 3 or 4 innings in the field, or to pinch hit in an important situation. On a National League team, the entire depth of a team is much more important, than it is on an Americal League team.
(MB) I think you are giving too much emphasis to the difference between the relative importance of the bench players in the two leagues. Platoon situations are going to happen whether the DH is being used or not. Likewise, late-inning defensive replacements are also going to happen. Double switches in the middle of a game are foolish, since the pitcher's spot in the lineup must come back up later on and there are almost no relievers who would be left in to pitch multiple innings that would include the critical situations of the 8th and 9th. In fact, one could reasonably argue that this gives the American League manager more opportunities for real strategy, since his decisions wouldn't be forced upon him due to having to pinch-hit for the pitcher. He would be free to make his moves as he best sees fit.


(R) The DH makes 2 of the starting 10 players on the field one-dimensional players.
(MB) In reality, there are few teams who can field an entire starting lineup who are strong both offensively and defensively. In most cases, however, this doesn't make much difference. Only in the extreme cases of the pitcher's inability to hit and certain lumbering hitters' inability to play defense are there any real concerns.
    Since baseball is a game of scoring runs, offensive considerations almost always take precedence. Shortstops and catchers may have places in the lineup due more to their skills with the leather than with the lumber, but hitters reign supreme everywhere else. One needs only look at all of the great hitters who can't field a lick who would still have solid spots in the starting lineup on any team in baseball to see where the real emphasis lies.



(R) When Greg Luzinski played for the Phillies, in order to get his potent bat into the lineup, they had to put up with his terrible fielding. In the AL he becomes a lump, who stands up 4 times a game to bat.
(MB) Even if he has to play in the field, he's simply not going to get enough chances to screw up to the point where his offensive production won't overshadow his defensive ineptitude. If that wasn't the case, Luzinski and other similar players simply would not have a job at the major league level.
    Great defensive teams do not automatically become winning teams. A great case in point would be the Minnesota Twins. Year after year, they are among the league leaders in fielding, yet they continue to struggle for wins. Given the opportunity, do you think they would think twice about putting a Luzinski-style player in their lineup?



(R) While batting ability is unimportant to a Greg maddux or a Roger Clemons, for a 3rd or 4th starter, being a good bunter or a .200 hitter can mean an extra run a game and can add several wins a year (take a look at the difference between when a team scores 3 runs and when a team scores 4 runs in a game, about a 25% increase in chances to win) for himself *and* for his team.
(MB) This is another of the great fallacies of baseball "common wisdom". For example, people used to think that Rickey Henderson was worth an extra 20 wins a year when he was stealing 130 bases. In reality, Bill James showed that he was worth *4* wins at best, and might actually have been detrimental due to his caught stealings and hitters having to protect him at the plate. The offensive contributions made by a pitcher fall into the same category. Being a "good bunter" merely means that you are an automatic out. It is the rare situation where a run would score because of a runner moving up on a bunt where that same runner would not have scored anyway. Consider that at least one base hit will still be required to score that baserunner. It shouldn't be too much of a stretch to see that getting the same hit, but saving the automatic out is a much better situation for the team. Giving up outs means you're going to settle for one run. Putting real hitters at the plate will still get you the same run, but also gives you a far better chance for a big inning. Bill James once showed that, in something like 30% of games, the winning team scores more runs in one inning than their opponents do for the entire game.


(R) An American League manager often becomes a passive observer of the game whose only decision in a game is whether or not the pitcher has lost his effectiveness, and he has a pitching coach for that.
(MB) Managers do far more than that during a game. Hopefully, we all know about decisions concerning stealing, hit-and-run, "swing" or "take" on 3-0 counts, pitchouts, intentional walks, defensive positioning, platooning, etc. Any manager in either league who does nothing more than "observe" will likely not be a manager for long.


(R) Watch the dugouts and you will see NL managers more animated during a game, because he has more to think about.
(MB) The only additional decision a NL manager must make concerns whether or not he'll bat for the pitcher -- and that decision, as I've been saying, is most often an automatic one. Other than that, managers in both leagues do the same things.


(R) An American League manager has become little more than a babysitter for overblown egos and blown out arms on his starters, who consistently throw more pitches than their NL counterparts.
(MB) This is simply not true. In fact, the current leader in pitches thrown is Curt Schilling of the Phillies and the current leader in complete games is Pedro Martinez of the Expos -- both National Leaguers.


(R) While I cannot prove it, I think this is also a factor in why AL teams are more willing to sit back and wait for a home run than to manufacture a run.
(MB) The AL has always been a league where offense has predominated -- even before the advent of the DH. This is simply due to the natural evolution of playing styles in each league. If the dominant team(s) in a league get to that position because of hitting, their competitors will also attempt to beef up their hitting. Same goes for pitching or speed. You can see similar things in any professional sport where the teams are divided into separate divisions, conferences, or leagues.


(R) The passivity affects the fans as well as the managers. Watching a NL game is an active thing, watching an AL game is much more passive. You have a lot to discuss during a NL game, while an AL game consists largely of waiting to see what will happen.
(MB) In both leagues, one of the major decision points comes when the manager decides whether or not to go to the bullpen. In most cases, the decision is automatic. Only when the manager goes "against the book" will the fans have anything of any real consequence to debate.
    As a baseball fan, I can't tell you how often I've been disappointed by the prospect of seeing yet another potential early-inning rally killed by the pathetic efforts of a pitcher coming up to the plate for yet another strikeout. Only a fool of a manager would replace the pitcher at that point. With the DH, that disappointment doesn't happen. Any time a runner gets on base, the inning becomes exciting. As a fan, that's what you want, right?




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