Last Update: 05 Feb 00

Return to "Designated Hitter" essay


I'd say that this is an undefendable claim. Sure, many good fielders are poor hitters and many poor fielders are good hitters. Yet, they all tend to find their ways onto major league rosters even if they end up as somebody who rides the pine most of the time. However, the best defensive position players are the ones who win the Gold Glove awards and the vast majority of them are also decent to excellent hitters. The genius of baseball is that those who get the most playing time are those who tend to excel both at the plate and in the field.
    To support your claim will require an explanation to account for such players as Ken Griffey, Jr., Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter, Barry Bonds, Matt Williams, Roberto Alomar, Mark McGwire, Ivan Rodriguez, and many others.

(R) Nice players, but you are still ignoring my argument. Since you are either unwilling or unable to counter my argument here, I am going to accept your concession on this issue so that we may focus on other ones.
(MB) What are you talking about? Your point (in Reply #16) was: "Again, the genius of baseball is that the best defensive players tend to be the worst offensive ones." How did I not counter your argument with my response and with the list of refuting examples I provided?

Any change in the basic rules of scoring would be a major change. Field goals are 3 points since they're only designed to be worth half as much as a touchdown.
(R) It is also a major change to replace a traditionally poor hitting player with a better hitter.
(MB) How? You're still putting the same number of hitters at the plate and the value of hits and runs don't change. The only "change" is to acknowledge the purely defensive nature of the pitcher and get rid of the foolishness of making him display his ineptness at the plate. This is hardly comparable to the effect of changing a field goal from 3 to 4 points.

(R) If you want to beef up scoring, why not go with Morton Downey, Jr.'s proposal to make a steal of home worth 2 runs--another change you'd probably like.
(MB) Why would you say that? My primary reason for supporting the DH rule is that it eliminates the laughable spectacle of a pitcher at the plate -- a problem that has been recognized for about 100 years. You also can't argue that the DH is responsible for increased scoring, because scoring is also way up in the DH-less National League.

(R) Personally, I'd prefer to restore the 19th Century rule requiring a player who crosses home plate to shout 'Tally One!' for the run to count.
(MB) What's the point?

While that is true on the surface, the actual difference is barely significant. For the years 1950-1963, the batting average difference between the two leagues averages .0024 in the NL's favor. That's equivalent to about one extra hit for every 500 official at bats.
    But, we can also look at other stats which might influence the perception of which league has traditionally been the "hitter's league". One that sticks out is team slugging percentage -- certainly a better measure of perceived hitting for the average fan. Here we see that American League teams have 21 of the top 30 team single-season slugging percentages in the history of Major League Baseball (through 1990).
    Team walks are another good measure of the perception of hitting prowess. Since most fans would agree that you pitch more carefully to good hitters and, thereby, end up issuing more walks to them, high walk totals for a team should go hand-in-hand with the perception of superior hitting. Here the difference between AL and NL is even more pronounced. There have been 26 teams in baseball history (through 1990) which have drawn 700 or more walks in a season. 23 of these teams were American League teams.
    How about team home runs? Here, once again, we find the records solidly in favor of the American League. Up to 1990, 24 of the top 36 all-time team home run totals belonged to AL clubs. Once again, this contributes to "perception". Whether or not this perception is correct, there is certainly ample support for it.

(R) I would suggest comparing all of the offensive stats.
(MB) What team stats do you want to look at that you think would provide support for the perception of the National League's traditional hitting superiority?

(R) As far as home runs go, Aaron broke Ruth's career record, and Mays challenged it. And, what league do McGwire and Sosa play in?
(MB) If you'll take a look back, we were discussing team and league stats -- not individual accomplishments -- but we can check some of those stats, as well. Prior to the adoption of the DH rule, out of the top 30 single-season individual home run totals, 21 belonged to American League players.

A four-hour game likely has lots of pitching changes and other managerial moves going on. I thought that non-DH folks point to these things as making for a better game of baseball. As I've already said, my criteria for whether or not a game is "interesting" is whether or not it is competitive and well-played on both offense and defense. A sloppy game completed in a brisk 2 hours can easily be far less interesting than a back-and-forth battle which rages over 4 hours.
(R) Sloppy games are never completed in two hours. Length is usually a result of bad play and excessive pitching changes.
(MB) Games get long primarily because more runners get on base. Play does not have to be sloppy for that to happen. Unless, of course, if one thinks that offense is a bad thing. I still haven't received an answer as to why higher-scoring games are bad. What's the difference between a 3-2 game and a 9-8 game? They are both tight one-run contests.

(R) The longer games that are worth watching are normally extra inning deals.
(MB) Wouldn't a extra-inning game qualify as being "close and competitive" (my standard for a good game)? If we really like baseball, why should we complain about the length of a game? Why play the game in the first place if our main concern is how soon it will end?

That still doesn't work. The percentage of the population which falls into those categories is far too low for their inclusion to produce a 250% increase in the available pool of potential players over the past 40 years.
(R) Desegregation means that 20% of the US population can now play. That's 50 million out of 260. Throw in a few hundred million Latin Americans who are now not excluded by the color bar, and the population base has grown in step with expansion. In addition, teams now sign Asian and European players, which they never did before.
(MB) That doesn't even begin to answer my question. Notice that the time frame I gave in my previous argument is didn't start until over a decade *after* the desegregation of baseball. The pool of available players has not increased 250% between then and now. The percentage increase in major league pitching jobs has still grown faster than has the available pool of potential players.

Created with Allaire HomeSite 4.5 .......... Last Update: 05 Feb 00
Go to next reply

Return to "Designated Hitter" essay

Back to Philosophy page