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Modernizing Baseball

Yesterday, Jeff Passan of ESPN posted MLB rule change proposals that the league and player’s union are discussing. They are as follows:

· A three-batter minimum for pitchers

· A universal designated hitter

· A single trade deadline before the All-Star break

· A 20-second pitch clock

· The expansion of rosters to 26 men with a 12-pitcher maximum

· Draft advantages for winning teams and penalties for losing teams

· A study to lower the mound and rule that would allow two-sport amateurs to sign major league contracts.

Look, rule changes are always hard to digest, especially for us diehard baseball fans. I actually like a few of these, but I am going to harp on one of them. Baseball fans and the league have been talking about this since they instituted the rule in the 1973 season. I’m talkin’ ‘bout the designated hitter rule, people. Obviously, being a fan of an American League team, I have grown accustomed to watching a designated hitter. Maybe I was spoiled growing up with one of the all-time greats in Frank Thomas on my favorite team. Maybe that skewed my brain into thinking more hits are better for baseball.

I got an idea. Let me shoot down some common fallacies that advocates of pitchers hitting have been spewing since this rule came into effect.

· The National League is more fun because strategy is involved:

You mean to tell me you would rather watch your obese 65-year-old manager waddle to the mound, like Homer Simpson did when he intentionally gained enough weight to be over 300 pounds and qualify for a disability? Get out of here. Seriously, managers overuse “strategy”, and people buy into it. I am one of those guys who thinks managers are more a detriment to the game than they are a positive. Just because Joe Maddon brings the 7th lefty out of the bullpen and double switches 14 times per game for the Cubs doesn’t constitute being a genius baseball mind. It shows the manager knows how to use a pen and a lineup card. I had to get my Cubs dig in. Seriously, most managers still think bunting is a good idea, so let’s stop with this.

· Designated hitters are bad because a couple pitchers can hit:

This isn’t even true. No pitchers can hit. Out of every pitcher that had more than 40 at bats last season (not counting Ohtani), one had an OBP of .300 or higher: German Marquez. That’s right, and his OBP was .300 on the nose with 0 walks. That’s…not good. But what about the pitchers who rake, D.J.? Oh, you mean Jake Arrieta? He slashed a whooping .133/.188/.200 with 1 HR in 45 at bats. Alright, well what about Madison Bumgarner, who was injured in 2018? Alright, let’s look at his stats from 2016, when he led the National League in at bats by pitchers. The dude hit 3 homers in 86 at bats. Not bad…for a pitcher. Let’s say he had a full season of hitting. This would equate to about 17-18 homers. He still slashed .186/.268/.360. RELAX! So, no, the “pitchers who rake” is a total farce.

· Not that many teams would benefit from this rule change:

False. Let’s use the NL Central just to keep it simple with their current roster using 2018 stats. For example, the DH for the Pirates would probably be Corey Dickerson, who slashed .300/.330/.474. The best Pirates starter slashed .161/161/.194. The DH for the Reds would probably be Matt Kemp, who slashed .290/.338/.481. The best slash line by a starter for the Reds was .290/.333/.710. This is what we call a small sample size and an outlier in statistics. The DH for the Cubs would be Kyle Schwarber, who slashed .238/.356/.467. The best slash line for any Cubs starting pitcher was .160/.192/.160. The DH for the Cardinals would be Jose Martinez. The best starter for the Cardinals slashed .242/.235/.394. The DH for the Brewers would be Eric Thames, who slashed .219/.306/.478. The best slash line for a Brewers starter was .192/.323/.346. With this example, one starting pitcher slashed better than that prospective DH with a smaller sample size of at bats. I’d bet my 401k that in the same amount of at bats, Kemp would have hit better than that starting pitcher. In the words of the great “Hawk” Harrelson, “That’s enough of that B.S.” All of these NL Central teams would benefit from a DH.

So, yes, the MLB should adopt the DH for the National League. You want to get more fans in the seats? Add about 30 homers to each season. That will do more than any of the proposed rule changes already listed above. Seriously, the casual baseball fan is interested in the fireworks. The self-proclaimed baseball expert over the age of 50 who wants to keep pitchers batting in the NL and still thinks bunting is a good strategy will learn to adapt. Any person with common sense will notice this rule change is a good idea once it eventually happens. Let’s modernize baseball!

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