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Point/Counterpoint - Should the DH Be Abolished?

Jonathan and Wes look at abolishing the designated hitter in baseball

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The designated hitter. A position that only has one purpose. Offense. This player doesn't have to be able to catch, make a spectacular throw on a double play, or gun down a runner at the plate. So is this position really needed?

Wes' Point

The age old debate of DH vs no DH..... I fall into the purist way of thinking on this one and wish college baseball would abolish the DH. I won't dive into the effects the DH has on the MLB game since we are a college site, but I will at least say that with interleague play now ongoing throughout the season the DH rule makes much less since than it once did in MLB. However, I will use some MLB numbers, since that is the only way to compare the DH's impact on the game. Having said that I don't care about numbers as much when it comes to this debate, because the offensive numbers will always favor the DH rule though not as much as one might think. I think this is just more of a preference debate.

There are two reasons I want the DH to be a thing of the past. First of all, I enjoy watching the manager have to strategize in crucial situations. The mental side of the game has always fascinated me because it makes champions of some and runner-ups of others. With the DH in the lineup, very few lineups changes are made throughout the game that are based on anything other than righty vs lefty match ups or defensive subs late in games. Those aren't real strategic in nature. I like to see a pitcher come up in a big spot and the manager manipulate multiple positions and multiple players to work the pitcher out of the lineup and set the team up for success with the current at bat as well as the next inning and the next. This also makes it more of a team game. Don't get me wrong, baseball in and of itself is a team game, but more players are used and the bench players are much more important on a daily basis to the non-DH team. A kid who is a utility player but may lack pop in his bat is much more valuable without the DH. I have always admired that type of player because they are a dinosaur in today's game.

Secondly, the rule was originally implemented at the MLB level to increase scoring which had the unintended effect of letting older players who could hit well extend their career by a few games. In college baseball, neither of those have ever been an issue. Obviously once players exhaust their eligibility they are done at the collegiate level no matter how much they may want to stay and extend their collegiate career. As far as scoring goes, this season Toronto is the highest scoring MLB team at 5.1 runs per game. Morehead State, the #1 offense in D1 baseball, scored an average of 8.4 runs per game. In fact there are 4 D1 teams averaging 8 runs or more a game. Toronto is the only MLB team averaging more than 5. This is mostly due to having less pitching depth at the collegiate level, but regardless lack of scoring isn't an issue at the collegiate level. Even at the MLB level, 4 of the top 10 scoring teams this season are NL teams and 4 of the 5 lowest scoring teams are AL teams. Point being that it doesn't have that much of an impact on scoring, but does have a huge impact on the strategy of the game. I will make that trade any day.

The NCAA will not even consider the change unless the MLB makes the move which seems unlikely at this point. Regardless I would like to see the DH done away with so we can enjoy baseball the way it was  meant to be played.

Jonathan's Counterpoint

The DH is fun, entertaining, and gives the older players who still have some pop left in their bat a chance to contribute to the team and their love of the game. It allows regular players to rest from playing in the field and gives a rookie the chance to jump in. A team with 4 regular outfielders can rotate as a DH in and out during the season. It allows a player to return to the lineup after recovering from an injury, slowly working their way back into the game fully. However, the most important function of the DH is to maintain the cohesion of the game. Baseball is all about the numbers 3 and 9. 3 strikes to an out, 3 outs to an inning. 9 players on the field, 9 innings in the game. A full lineup goes up to the plate at least 3times a game. 9 players just works right. 8 would not work.

Wait, there's the pitcher. He doesn't bat, let's just make the pitcher come up to the plate. He should be great at the plate. This past week Jon Lester just set a historic number at the plate, just not in the way you want to be in the history books. In the 10 years he has been in the league, he has come up to the plate 59 times, and is yet to hit successfully. Pitchers are bad at hitting, and are getting worse. In 2013, pitchers OPS was .333, and since the end of World War 2, no pitcher has topped .462, and the lowest batter in 2013 was .559. Pitcher's aren't paid to hit, and nobody signs a pitcher to hit. Even Lester, with his 59 plate appearances, has pitched over 1600 innings. Coming up to the plate is the least of Jon's worries. After little league, when position specialization starts to develop, players who turn into pitchers focus less on batting, and more on pitching. In the offseason, they go to pitching camps and schools and spend less time in the batting cages.

So in the end, if we want to keep the cohesion of the 9 players at the plate, and not worry about how laughable certain pitchers are at the plate (see, Bartolo Colon, circa April 2014), then the DH is the way to go. It allows pitchers to focus on their pitching, and not something that they do every once in a very blue moon. In the majors, it is easy to compare how the DH affects the game by looking at historical stats, but in college baseball, it is something that has not been experimented with. However, with all the rule changes and tweaks in recent years, it may be something that we see in the future.