Carleton: How much the DH rule matters in the World Series

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on November 3, 2015:

Every year during the World Series, we’re once again brought face-to-face with the strangest oddity in all of professional sports. The rules for the sport itself change based on where the game is being played. If the game is being played in one of the “American” League parks, the pitcher doesn’t have to bat, but is instead replaced by a player who is his “designated” replacement in the lineup. In one of the “National” League parks, the pitcher has to take his turn like any of his other eight friends. Oh sure, we all have our opinion on the #TeamDH vs. #TeamBadBaseball debate, but take a look back and consider how strange it would seem if the Eastern Conference in the NBA had a three-point line but the Western Conference did not. Can you even imagine #Team3Pointer vs. #AllCountTheSame Twitter wars?

But aside from which rule is better, there’s another question. There are several players on American League teams who are—how to put this?—“DH types.” Great bat. No glove. Seriously, some of them don’t actually own a glove. Take the Royals’ DH Kendrys Morales. Morales actually played nine games at first base in 2015, but he’s mostly there for his bat. He’s the type of player that an American League team can afford to roster (or, perhaps more accurately, is specifically incentivized to roster) because of the DH rule. But this past weekend, when the Royals played at Citi Field, Morales wasn’t in the starting lineup, because the Royals already had Eric Hosmer playing first base. It’s a big deal to take a bat like Morales’s out of the lineup. A lot of AL teams have to pay this penalty in the World Series (and during the regular season during interleague play).

On the other hand, when the National League champion New York Mets came to Kauffman Stadium, they started Kelly Johnson at DH in Game One and they moved Michael Conforto into the DH slot in Game Two, which allowed them to get Juan Legares’s glove into the lineup. In both cases, the “extra” bat that they pulled into the game hit ninth. The Mets didn’t have a classic DH type on their roster, but rather guys like Johnson who are reasonable pinch-hitting options, but who wouldn’t hold a candle to Morales’s production if given four plate appearances a night.

The AL team is hurt significantly in the NL park by the loss of its DH. The NL team just plays its usual lineup. The NL team is hurt by the DH rule in the sense that the AL team has a guy who is a hand-in-glove fit for the role already on their roster, while the NL team can only match it by playing a bench guy. We can see that there’s a penalty to be paid for playing under the other league’s rules, but that those penalties are ever-so-slightly different. Who gets the shorter end of the stick on this one?

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Originally published: November 4, 2015. Last Updated: November 4, 2015.