Mains: The most improbable argument against the universal DH

From SABR member Rob Mains at Baseball Prospectus on February 12, 2019:

Look, it’s not going to happen, at least not this season. Rob Manfred said so. The National League is not going to adopt the designated hitter in 2019. Everyone can stand down.

We all know the arguments for and against. I know that some people enjoy seeing pitchers hit. I enjoy countering with this graph.


OPS, of course, is on-base percentage plus slugging percentage. OPS+ is the park- and year-adjusted version of it, with 100 equal to the league average. The chart goes back only to 1927 because that’s how far back Baseball-Reference’s Play Index has the data.

Pitchers have always been lousy at the plate. They have become, steadily and almost without interruption, lousier with each passing year. And the descent into lousiness has accelerated recently.

Additionally, as I’ve argued previously, the strategic argument against the DH, predicated on NL managers having to decide whether to pinch-hit for a pitcher who’s performing well in the late innings of a close game, has largely been mooted by modern pitcher usage.

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Originally published: February 12, 2019. Last Updated: February 12, 2019.