The universal designated hitter is here. A style of baseball that has been a near constant in this nation since 1876 is about to ease into near-extinction, save for a few Shohei Ohtani starts on the mound and, perhaps, a smattering of pinch-hit appearances (Madison Bumgarner, Zack Greinke) or pinch-running maneuvers.
It’s a done deal. That became true when the new CBA was mercifully ratified, and it became real when free-agent DH Nelson Cruz signed with the Washington Nationals, the first National League team he’ll toil for since he broke in with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005.
So, with the DH coming to the NL, pitcher hitting is dead. Love it or lump it, the game is going to be different. Goal how much different? There have been many assumptions made about how this will play out — some of it is spot on, but a lot of it is really much more complicated. The reality might surprise you.
Let’s put some of those assumptions to the test.
Assumption: Designated hitters will out-hit pitchers
Is it true? Well, duh.
Proponents of the universal DH — which we’ll now start referring to as just « the DH » because now that it’s been adopted, the « universal » part becomes redundant — like to point to the increased offense it will bring.
More on that in a bit, but what we can say with certainty is that as a group, designated hitters will out-produce whatever numbers pitchers would have put up had they continued to hit. This is blindingly obvious, but we have to begin there because that is kind of what this is all about.