June 23, 2011

In Fewer Than 25 Words: How MLB Can Fix The AL's No-DH Problem For Games In NL Parks

This should be very simple: The Red Sox -- and every other American League team -- should be able to use their best hitters in all 162 of their regular season games (without having any of them play wildly out of position).

That the Red Sox front office is discussing playing Adrian Gonzalez in the outfield during the team's nine-game road trip to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Houston is completely bizarre and utterly fucked up. This situation -- which is magnified for Boston because of the talented players involved -- should be a colossal embarrassment for MLB.

To solve this problem, all Bud Selig has to do is say something like this:
Because the American League uses the DH, in any game featuring an American League team, both teams have the option of using a DH.
Ta-da! Problem solved! And it doesn't even involve creating a new rule. This is already what happens in inter-league games in AL parks.

But because Selig remains allergic to common sense, Francona will leave one of his best two hitters on the bench or concoct some risky fielding alignment. Tito will likely (a) have Evil Bert and Flo split the nine games at first, depending on the opposing starter (thus keeping both non-outfielders out of the outfield) and have the other guy pinch-hit or (b) figure out which Red Sox starter(s) is least likely to give up hits and fly balls to right field and start Gonzalez out there on those nights, and pray everything goes okay.

But why should one of these guys have to suddenly ride the bench for a week and a half (5.5% of the regular season)?
           AVG   OBP   SLG    OPS  OPS+  RC  RC/9   XBH%
Gonzalez  .359  .410  .609  1.019   175  70   8.9   12.9
Ortiz     .313  .391  .586   .977   164  59   8.1   12.5
  
AL Ranking
            Gonzalez    Ortiz
AVG            #1         #7
OBP            #3         #8
SLG            #2         #4
OPS/OPS+       #3         #5
Runs           #3         #9
Hits           #1         #8
Singles        #3
Doubles        #1         #8
Home Runs      #8         #5
X-Base Hits    #1         #2
Times On Base  #3         #9
Total Bases    #1         #4
RBI            #1         #8
Runs Created   #2         #5
WPA            #1
WAR            #1
Francona:
If we don't play David for 11 days, that's going to kill him. I don't want to do that. ...

Gonzi has been taking some balls out in the outfield. He's very willing to do it. ... If you put Gonzi in right — that's the one place he says he can play — you're potentially taking J.D. out of the lineup or moving him to left. We've got guys all over the place. And then the other thing is, Gonzi, if something ever happened to him, I'd catch a lot of [grief]. ... I actually have some anxiety over this one. I want to do what's right, and I've got to try to figure out in my own head what is right. ...

Gonzi, I have no doubt, just from watching him out there, that if it's hit to him, he'll catch it and he'll throw the ball to the right base. I don't think he's going to run something down like [Carl Crawford] or [Jacoby Ellsbury]. But I don't doubt he'll make the plays he's supposed to.
Francona's comment about not wanting Ortiz to sit on the bench for 11 days is odd. It's not an all-or-nothing proposition. Even if Gonzalez played every game at first base, Ortiz would likely pinch-hit every single night (or vice versa).

Six of the nine games are against the Pirates - 25th in both Team OPS (.633) and R/G (3.77) - and the Astros - 20th in Team OPS (.694) and 19th in R/G (3.99) - two teams the Red Sox should be able to win two out of three or sweep without too much trouble, no matter who is in the outfield. (The Red Sox are #1 in both Team OPS (.803) and R/G (5.41).)
Example
WEEI, post-game show, June 20:
Dave O'Brien: So you're on pace to walk 100 times this season. Now, in the past you've been content to walk 70 times, in that area. What gives this season? Why all the walks?

Dustin Pedroia: No protection. No protection. We gave Adrian 154 million dollars and I can't get protection, this is unbelievable. I don't care how hot he's hitting, he's hitting .360, I need somebody back there protecting me. I don't want to walk, are you kiddin' me?!

26 comments:

9casey said...

That the Red Sox front office is discussing playing Adrian Gonzalez in the outfield during the team's nine-game road trip to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Houston is completely bizarre and utterly fucked up.



I feel the same way about a pitcher having to hit every 5th day.
If Adrian playing the outfiled is bizzare why don't you find a pitcher hitting bizzare?

FenFan said...

Selig remains allergic to common sense

Also see instant replay and giving home field advantage in the World Series to the team with the better record versus an arbitrary mid-season content between two All-Star teams

allan said...

If Adrian playing the outfiled is bizzare why don't you find a pitcher hitting bizzare?

Because pitchers were batting for the first 127 years that baseball was played - using 1846 as the year of the first recorded game.

The AL had pitchers batting for 70+ years, while the NL has had pitchers batting for all 135 years of its existence.

As far as the major leagues go, the DH remains an anomaly.

laura k said...

If Adrian playing the outfiled is bizzare why don't you find a pitcher hitting bizzare?

How are these the same?

In 16 major league baseball teams, the pitcher bats, 162 games per year, in the DS, in the NLCS, and in some WS games.

Adrian Gonzalez is one individual player, and he is not an outfielder.

I understand you like the DH, but there is no equivalence between these two situations.

9casey said...

The fact they batted from the start of baseball is true but the game has evolved so much since then .

Roy Halladay led the NL in complete games last year he had 92 at bats in 162 game schedule. He hit .141 his career batting average is .108

Cy Young in 1893 had a 187 at bats in a 128 schedule, he hit. 235 ended his career with a .210 average.

I understand all the rhetoric about how that was they wanted the game played.

It is not so much about me liking the DH ,I just hate watching pitchers hit.

Things change, imagine if football players still didn't wear helmets or basketball was played with peach baskets.

9casey said...

Adrian Gonzalez is one individual player, and he is not an outfielder.



Yes and Josh Beckett is not a hitter .... Josh has more chance of injury hitting then Adrian does playing rightfield.

tim said...

I will be horrified if Gonzalez ends up in the OF for any of these games. Tito can't be THAT stupid.

I don't see what's wrong with alternating Gonzo and Ortiz at 1B, and allowing each of them to PH for catcher/pitcher/each other/etc each night!!!!!

Grant said...

I disagree. If you make the NL teams use a designated hitter, you put them at a disadvantage.

The AL teams have a guy who is on the team to DH. He is typically a good hitter. The NL teams don't, and would be replacing the pitcher in these games with a guy who is typically a bench player.

It's not fair to either league to have to play the other league's rules. With the given circumstances, the current rules are really quite fair. Have half of the games where you get the advantage, have half the games where you have the disadvantage.

It sucks, but it's the best way to do it.

The only way to fix the DH problem altogether is to have both teams play under the same rule, whatever the rule may be.

allan said...

If you make the NL teams use a designated hitter, you put them at a disadvantage.

I would think it would be the opposite. The AL gets to play the way it usually does, but the NL gets the bonus of having a stronger bat in the lineup. Even a bench player has got to hit better than a pitcher, right?

Grant said...

Yes, but playing the way the AL "usually does" has the AL as a better hitting team.

Take this for example: Imagine the best AL team and the best NL team in leagues with similar talent playing each other, but both with their own respective rules.

The AL team playing with the DH will have a better hitting team than the NL team playing with a pitcher hitting, agreed?

Look at these two hypothetical lineups. We'll use some hypothetical OPS's to measure how "good" a player is, just for argument's sake:

AL:

1) .600
2) .700
3) .800
4) .850
5) .700 (DH - for argument's sake)
6) .700
7) .600
8) .500
9) .500

NL:

1) .600
2) .700
3) .800
4) .850
5) .700
6) .600
7) .500
8) .500
9) .300 (P)

Essentially, you're taking out an above average hitter and replacing him with a well below average hitter.

What I would argue is that if you replace the AL lineup's DH with a pitcher, you would get exactly the same lineup as the fictional NL team:

1) .600
2) .700
3) .800
4) .850
5) .700
6) .600
7) .500
8) .500
9) .300 (P)

Now, because the NL is not built to have an extra positional player, if you replace the pitcher with a DH, I would argue that the resulting team is NOT as good as the AL's team:

1) .600
2) .700
3) .800
4) .850
5) .700
6) .600 (DH - for argument's sake)
7) .600
8) .500
9) .500

Now, it's certainly up for debate whether the NL's pitchers are going to be better hitters than the AL's pitchers (I would argue that that's the case), but I think that the difference in talent between an AL pitcher and an NL pitcher is bigger than the difference in talent between an AL DH and an NL DH... and that is the cornerstone of my argument...

...Which means that my opinion on this can be totally be turned by looking up the difference in talent (by however measure makes sense) between the AL/NL pitchers and AL/NL DH's. I'm just not really sure of an efficient way to do it (those with more experience with Baseball-Reference.com could probably do it easily).

Having said alllllll of that... it's a fun argument either way. <3 Baseball.

Grant said...

PS... sorry about the length of that ungodly post. haha

Grant said...

Maybe a more simple way to put it, in retrospect, is that the NL's DH has to "play against" the AL's DH, which isn't a fair deal. The AL's DH is going to be far better.

9casey said...

Grant said...
Maybe a more simple way to put it, in retrospect, is that the NL's DH has to "play against" the AL's DH, which isn't a fair deal. The AL's DH is going to be far better.


That should be true but it always isnt. I belive the Rockies and Braves keep guys like Hinske and Giambi on the team for interleague games.

laura k said...

Things change, for sure. Sometimes we like the changes, sometimes we don't. 9Casey, I asked this in an earlier thread, hoping you would answer it, but you didn't. I'll try again.

It is not so much about me liking the DH ,I just hate watching pitchers hit.

Could you tell me why you you hate watching pitchers hit?

As I said elsewhere, I hear/read this a lot, but no one ever explains it. Can you please?

laura k said...

If you make the NL teams use a designated hitter, you put them at a disadvantage.

I don't see how this can be true. NL teams bat for the pitcher all the time in double-switches.

Jim said...

Maybe Bud is just a true believer in the "no publicity is bad publicity" crowd. Every season since its inception, the same arguments. It used to boil only during the run-up to the World Series. Now inter-league puts it on the front burner every June. Every June.
The fundamentally different rule for each league is bad enough and the pros and cons have not changed in 40 years.

Zenslinger said...

I find Grant's logic compelling -- sure, an NL team doesn't mind the luxury of being about to use a DH, but their DH isn't going to be as good as the regular DH from the AL.

9casey said...

laura k said...


Could you tell me why you you hate watching pitchers hit


I would say 8 out of 10 times they don't go to get a hit, They either sacrifice or make an out .
Watch tonight, I believe the Red Sox brass tell the pitchers swing easy ,if you have to bunt, take 3 strikes, whatever you do don't get hurt.
The pitchers dont work on it like they used to...

Like I have said repeatedly to hit a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports , and to try and do it every fifth day is ridicouls .

And besides the catcher who on the field works the hardest on defense? The Pitcher.

So Lester goes out there has a 30 pitch inning and we expect him to get a hit, no we expect him to make an out.

I have coached many little league teams, and do not even instruct the bunt.
These kids are here to get hits have fun , bunts were invented by some coach who thought he was smart by making an out. By making an out!!!!!! Outs are precious they should not be wasted on pitchers who do not care or have to depend on their salary if they hit .300


Watching pitchers hit is like watching me fold clothes , yeah I can do it put it usually ends all fucked up..

Tim said...

Pirates fan here: I love the fact that the Sox are facing the quandry they are re: Ortiz & Gonzalez. Baseball players should be able to field a position -- it's as simple as that. NL baseball is true baseball & has been since the moment the DH was invented. The AL can keep all the Old/Fat/One-Dimensional players as far as I'm concerned.

laura k said...

That should be true but it always isnt. I belive the Rockies and Braves keep guys like Hinske and Giambi on the team for interleague games.

This is what I meant. Playing with the DH theoretically should be a disadvantage to the NL, but is it in reality? Someone else would have to figure that out, maybe Grant already did.

laura k said...

Watching pitchers hit is like watching me fold clothes , yeah I can do it put it usually ends all fucked up..

Thanks, 9C. :)

laura k said...

NL baseball is true baseball & has been since the moment the DH was invented.

I couldn't agree more. But the AL does not have a DH because players are unable to field a position, and clearly, DH's are not all fat or old. I assume you know that's nonsense.

It's not like a bunch of old, fat (no idea where that comes from - Tony Gwynn was in the NL, right? among others) players got together and decided they wouldn't field, or pitchers got together and decided not to bat.

Many AL fans don't like the DH rule, but the rule exists, the AL uses it. That's the reality of it. So putting AL teams that are in serious contention for the playoffs at a disadvantage for 9 or however many games a year is an unfair playing field.

I can appreciate that you like it because it gives your team an advantage, but surely you can see there is a larger issue here.

Tim said...

laura k --
I was just being snarky about DHs being old and fat.

You say: "So putting AL teams that are in serious contention for the playoffs at a disadvantage for 9 or however many games a year is an unfair playing field."

Flip it around, and the same is true of any NL team in contention having to play IL games in AL stadiums. It goes both ways.

My support for NO designated hitter in the NL has nothing to do with my team (the Pirates) getting an advantage, because let's face it, it wouldn't have made much difference for the Pirates one way or the other these past 18 years!

I am opposed to the rule in general because I think it lessens the game on the field (and starts it down the path toward being a HR Derby). The game as it was created - all 9 batters play a position in the field - seems to me to be the best.

Tom DePlonty said...

Just to throw this out - I understand the arguments about different ways to level the playing field for interleague play - but when you set this against the inequities that exist because of unequal market sizes/payrolls across the teams, how much does this issue really matter?

allan said...

The game as it was created - all 9 batters play a position in the field - seems to me to be the best.

I agree.

Baseball will likely never have a "batting" nine and a "fielding nine, but the DH is a very tiny step in that footballesque direction, and I don't like it.

If the DH was going to be done away with, they would have to give AL teams five years notice (at least) to plan their rosters and begin the change in the minor leagues.

Tom DePlonty said...

Another question - over the history of interleague play, AL teams have won more of the games than the NL teams have (1874-1712, says Wikipedia, including at least some of the available 2011 results). Wouldn't that suggest that the current system of playing the home team's rules is, if anything, slightly unfair to the NL?