The Padres and their fans should welcome the DH

Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: AP Photo

Rumors are going around that the designated hitter will soon be implemented into the National League, and it could benefit the Padres.

The designated hitter (DH) is one of the most hotly debated subjects in baseball today. It has been part of Major League Baseball since the American League adopted it in 1973. There are rumors that the DH will be coming to the National League as early as next season, in 2021.

For nearly 50 years, the DH has helped talented, yet limited or aging hitters prolong their careers and bless fans with their wondrous abilities with the bat longer than they would have had the DH not been introduced.

What would baseball be without hitters like Edgar Martinez, David Ortiz, Frank Thomas or Jim Thome? All of whom extended their careers by at least four seasons by being able to hang up the glove and be a DH. Most, if not all, of these players, are likely not in the Hall of Fame without their years as a DH.

Thome began DHing primarily in 2006 after 15 seasons and 430 home runs. Thome was able to hit an extra 182 home runs in his seasons as a DH, thus pushing him up to over 600 and a sure-fire Hall of Famer.

“The Big Hurt” himself, Frank Thomas, played the first seven years of his career at first base, hitting 257 home runs with a total WAR of 47.0. From 1998 to his retirement after 2008, as mainly a DH, he hit another 264 bombs with 16.9 WAR and a 134 OPS+. He was able to continue to have 25-plus home run, 125-plus OPS+ seasons well into his late 30s thanks to the DH.

The Padres, and their fans, should welcome the DH.

First off, there are several players either on the projected Opening Day roster or high up in the minor leagues that are basically designated hitters trying to play defense because they have to. Josh Naylor is a prime example. The former first-round pick posted  -3 Defensive Runs Saved in 62 games in the outfield last season. With Eric Hosmer entrenched at first base for the foreseeable future, Naylor’s only path to a roster spot in San Diego is as an outfielder. His bat skills are worth keeping, with a .853 OPS and 117 OPS+ in August and also hit 27 home runs with an OPS near .900 in his last two seasons in the minor leagues.

With the DH, Naylor could be a menace in the lineup, at least against right-handed pitching. He has not put up sexy numbers in the big leagues yet, but the 22-year-old Canadian has less than 300 plate appearances to his name. By all indications, Naylor should at least be a respectable lefty bat, which is needed in San Diego’s righty-heavy lineup.

The DH would solve the Padres’ outfield logjam, especially if Wil Myers is still a Friar by then. Perhaps the former Rookie of the Year will be a better hitter without the pressures of playing in the field. He has been a “fish out of water” since Hosmer came to town and took over first base.

Franchy Cordero is still very much a question mark due to constant injuries but continues to show elite tools in flashes. The 25-year-old Dominican’s fielding has been suspect at times, but having him as an option to mash against right-handed pitching is a plus, as he has a .782 OPS and 113 OPS+ against righties.

The DH could also be a way for the Padres to have Austin Hedges’ elite defensive skills behind the plate while also still putting Francisco Mejia’s developing bat in the lineup. Hedges’ offensive struggles are as well documented as his defensive prowess while Mejia’s glove is still a work-in-progress, his bat is looking to be above-average. He hit .348 with a 1.000 OPS in 22 games in August last season. Giving Mejia more plate appearances should produce more positive results, and the DH would allow the Friars to have the best of both worlds with their catchers.

Hudson Potts is turning into a solid power prospect at third base. Of course, he is blocked by Manny Machado on the big league roster, and the four-time All-Star is not going anywhere. There would be a place for Potts, and his 57 home runs in four minor league seasons, with a DH in the NL.

A DH, in addition to the new 26-man roster, would allow the Padres to experiment and allow prospects to bloom at their own pace.

How many more free agents and trades would the Padres have available if they could acquire a true slugger at DH? How many times have the Padres passed on a free agent or vice versa because they did not have that option?

The supporters of the “Pitchers Who Rake” campaign, as well as those who want to stick to tradition and strategy, will oppose the DH coming to the National League. It’s not a stretch to say that a pitcher who rakes is undoubtedly the exception, not the norm.

Most agree that the worst hitting position in the game is at catcher. This is due to their demanding duties of handling a pitching staff and leading the defense. Here is a look at the position by position breakdown of all the hitters in the league in 2019. Also, a look at just how much worse a pitcher is at hitting than even catchers.

Position AVG OPS K% wRC+
DH 0.252 0.805 25 110
1B 0.251 0.789 23.4 105
3B 0.263 0.789 20.6 105
OF 0.257 0.777 23.2 102
SS 0.264 0.762 20.9 98
2B 0.259 0.745 20.4 94
C 0.236 0.713 24.1 85
P 0.128 0.322 43.5 -18

Interestingly, the collective DH hitters were the best group, while the pitchers were far and away the worst. Is a pitcher striking out over 40 percent of the time really that exciting? How many rallies does that kill? How many exciting plays have been prevented because the next hitter up to bat is the pitcher, struggling to hit above .150?

Eliminating the pitchers hitting while increasing the number of designated hitters will increase the amount of exciting offensive plays in baseball, which is a better way to grow the game than having a pitch clock.

Plus, the DH in the National League means at least 15 more players will have everyday jobs, thus making more money and extending their careers. Is that such a bad thing?

Some people will shake their fists and say, “Everyone hits and everyone fields! That’s baseball!” Do pitchers really “field,” though? When they try to field, it usually isn’t pretty.

For those who like “tradition,” the designated hitter has been part of baseball since the early 70s. This is not unique to American baseball, nor is it a new concept. It’s about as old as the Watergate scandal. In fact, not having the designated hitter is outside the norm of international baseball. Most Asian and Latin American baseball leagues also have a designated hitter. High schools and colleges also have the option. Minor League Baseball has the designated hitter as well; this is nothing new. In some leagues, it is the designated hitter that is the “tradition.”

It’s time for the National League to get out of the Stone Age, get with the times and let the DH in. The Padres will benefit from it.

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Nick Lee
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.

14 thoughts on “The Padres and their fans should welcome the DH

  1. I hate the DH. Yes, things evolve… doesn’t mean all evolution is good. Is it better we have all these water bottles to contaminate the planet when 40 years ago we didn’t?

    Baseball has evolved to hit home runs and you win. Not many players understand situational hitting, hitting behind the runner. Bunting well to advance runners. So much skill has disappeared from baseball over the decades. Players are stronger so more homeruns. Players are stronger so less than mid 90s is now looked down upon rather than what was normal not so many years ago.

    I’m a native San Diegan and was here when we got our Padres. $1 left field tickets, $1 hotdogs, $1 soda equaled a game for $3! The fans pay for new stadiums, pay high salaries, pay to be shut out from watching many games unless you mortgage your house. I hated the DH when it was introduced. Let’s the old millionaires retire. No DH!

  2. Watching a pitcher hit is boring. Baseball is boring enough for long stretches as it is. If you old people want to drive 55, get over in the right hand lane. The rest of the world is driving 75.

  3. Stone ager here. I know the DH is inevitable but would rather see it abandoned in the AL. Old geezers can stick around as pinch hitters at greatly reduced salaries. Or better yet retire to the rocking chair and let younger/more complete players get their chance.

    1. You must all be Neandethall, they didn’t have the DH then. They also did not have cars, planes and computers. Ban those also!
      You all missed the point of the article ( blind?). NL is the ONLY league that does NOT have the DH. Yet the comments ” it’s not part of baseball”. Or no strategy. Really? All these other leagues only have pets as managers? Or maybe they should since there is no though process involves at all.
      Strategy, pitcher comes to bat. What should we do? Strikeout, bunt or pinch hit. WOW they choices! better call Mensa an this one.

      1. Hey Icebolt……or Neandethall guy (not sure what that is). <— You must be a MENSA candidate yourself. A new species has been discovered!!

        Also, your analogies seem a bit of a stretch. To put it mildly. Get rid of cars? Huh??

        Maybe a feature on a car shouldn't be there, like a car driving itself. Instead of the occupant knowing how to actually drive the car. We know the feature is gonna take over the industry. Doesn't mean it should. Because???? It eliminates thinking. See?

        That's a decent analogy to the DH my friend.

        By the way…..you ever actually watch a NL baseball game before?

        You familiar with the double switch? Or the fact the pitcher coming up in the batting order and its a close game a decision is made to remove or keep them in. It impacts the game completely.

        It's not all about bunts. And, last time I checked there are more than a couple pitchers that can hit (probably better than several dudes in the lineup). By the way…..isn't that coming back into vogue, pitchers that can hit?

        You know actual……thinking in the game. Its awesome and very rewarding to do!!!! Fun for the also/…if your into thinking.

        Still…..I understand, the DH coming. Thinking will be minimized….just like we do with most things in life these days. Doesn't mean we should.

  4. I understand (and accept) that the DH is on its way to the NL.

    But……where on the field does a DH actually “play” baseball? Might as well have a designated runner for those folks that can’t run anymore too (plug them in every inning while were at it). Sure Edgar Martinez could hit…..what position did he play exactly? Hitter??? That’s a position? So while he is grabbing pine, trying to keep from getting splinters between at bats, his only job is to hit. Sounds like a half a player.

    It was a band-aid in the 70’s, to generate more offense, that has stuck like permanent glue (why was that……MLBPA). I get it, more offense means more interesting to the average / casual fan.

    Still…..removing any remaining thinking / strategy from the sport is pretty depressing to consider.

    Don’t get me wrong…I like to see the HR as much as anyone…..however, is it logical to have all 9 guys swinging for the fences each at bat? Rally’s happen when folks keep getting on base.

    Want more offense??? Improve player development and fundamentals instead of the new norm which is freestyle…everyone for themselves.
    You know…..we could start…. striking out less, hit and run more…..run the bases like you know who the fielders are and if you can take that extra base….also, situational hitting anyone?
    The erosion of fundamental baseball has got to stop at some point and get back to the basics…..doesn’t it?

    1. I find it odd that people think old school hitting has been “forgotten”. That players don’t know “how to bunt” or that a sac fly is a helpful tool.

      Every team out there is doing everything they can to win games. If they knew how to improve development further, they’d do it in a heartbeat (And they are, but on the pitching side too). The issue is, that stats say winning comes easier with hitting the ball hard and in the air, that strikeouts are better than double plays, that bunts are inefficient in most situations.

      No players are attempting to get a homerun or strikeout (Ok, maybe hedges is the one exception), what Padres rob is saying is flat false. Hitting a 98MPH 2 seem is just really freaking hard and defenders are so good nowadays, that if you hit it on the ground it’s expected to be an out. Baseball isn’t eroding, it’s getting smarter. The basics are changing, not coming back.

      1. Hey BK……no offense, but the only false thing here is your comments (with the exception of Hedges).

        You think an adjustment can’t be made when a shift is on???? A Major League hitter that can’t make any adjustments??

        It would be an interesting study to see how many guys pull the ball into a shift when there is a free base hit sitting out there on the other side of the diamond.
        No man, that is not smart baseball, that’s called selfish baseball.

        If your into that kind of thing, all the power to you.

        Also, you ever wonder why the Padres are drafting and acquiring more guys that strikeout less, walk more, higher OBP (i.e. Pham, X Edwards, Campusano, CJ Abrams, Grisham, Cronenworth just to name a few)???
        And jettisoning (or attempting to) all the pull happy guys?

        Could it be getting on base improves your chances of scoring runs?! Hmmmm…..very interesting.

        Look it up…it’s all true.

  5. DH baseball involves no in-game strategy. The DH was invented for old position players who could not play the field any longer. Could you imagine basketball where the old players just played the offensive half-court because they could not run down the court to play defense? Interestingly the most exciting ballplayers in the game are Tatis, Acuna and Soto – players who play both sides of the ball. I agree with Jeff’s post about the DH “Ridiculous. Baseball with a DH is NOT baseball”.

    1. Could you imagine if every team had a Shaq-like player sit under the hoop and only play defense? But, every 5th shot was a halfcourt shot by them? That’s essentially pitchers trying to hit. Imagine if players in the 7th and 8th spot actually had a chance to score instead of being in front of an Auto out.

      Do you also want to do away with relief pitching? Those are incomplete players. Maybe all starting pitchers should be forced to go 8 innings and bat cleanup….

  6. Plus you would think guys like ohtani would become more valuable, because it would save an extra roster spot and allow him to hit more regularly. Think if someone like cronenworth is good, his value would be even higher as a dh. They would be more likely to go for someone like Oscar colas, the Cuban pitcher /dh. That was probably one of the main things that kept ohtani away because if I’m remembering correctly they were one of the finalists to get him.

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