Designated hitter or let the pitchers bat?


The new popular debate among fans and baseball experts seems to be which way is better – the Designated hitter or letting the Pitchers bat for himself? Usually the fans opinion falls on where their allegiance lies. Some like the idea of more power and more runs for their team.  A lot of baseball purists still feel that the pitcher is a part of the team and should bat like everyone else. So which one is better?

Without the designated hitter, it can be said that a lot of really good hitters would be just be used as pinch hitters. This would mean guys like Edgar Martinez, David Ortiz, Adam Dunn, and Victor Martinez would be forced to either accept the role of being a pinch hitter with an occasional day off giving the regular first baseman or outfielder a day off.  Managers would be forced to sacrifice their defense to save their offense.

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Not having a designated hitter would also mean a lot of money would be spent else where. The makeup of a lot of teams would be different – maybe more pitching depth for the higher market teams or more star power in the field. Guys like David Ortiz who is making roughly $15 million dollars a season would be making a fraction of what he does now.

Players like Paul Molitor, Harold Baines, Eddie Murray, and Frank Thomas spent their fair share on the field at their position. They also saw a considerable amount of time as the teams designated hitter especially in the final years, prolonging their careers with the designated hitting option.

There is also strategy behind the designated hitter.  A lot of managers use their designated hitters spot as a way to keep everyday players bats in the line up. This gives players a much needed day off from playing the field or to help nurse some nagging injuries but not lose the pop they provide at the plate.

Strategy also is used on the other side of the conversation – letting the pitcher hit is a game of chess for National League managers. With a lot of managers see a struggling pitcher out there trying his best to get through an inning -the manager will work his bullpen accordingly.  If that said pitcher is facing the eighth batter, most managers will let the pitcher try to work his way through the eighth hitter to get to the pitcher spot.  The odds are now on their side to get what is considered an easy out, thus allowing his bullpen to get another half inning to prepare.

Another strategy that is used to the advantage of the manager is to use the double switch.  This allows for not only getting the better glove in the field, but also allows the lineup to be tweaked some.  With the double switch, the new fielder will now take the pitchers spot in the batting order and the pitcher then takes the place of the fielder who is departing the field. So now where the number nine hitter was looked at as an easy out, now has a more experienced hitter in the spot.

While some will say that my opinion is biased by being a Chicago Cubs fan, I do prefer the traditional way of playing the game by letting the pitcher take his swings at the plate.  It’s not just a case of wanting to keep the tradition of the game in place but it also keeps the importance of some fundamentals of the game in play.  The hit and run, the squeeze play, laying down the bunt to move the runner over into scoring position, all fundamentals that have been lost in recent years with the desire to see more power and the popularity of the long ball.

I will agree that both cases can be made and both cases are valid.  Without the designated hitter, we would have not seen some great hitters show their talents.  Players like Edgar Martinez and David Ortiz would have been regulated to either being journeymen pinch hitters or having to play the field with a poor glove and costing their teams runs and wins.

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It would have also cost us some very memorable moments in the history of baseball.  David Ortiz alone has made a career with his bat and clutch hitting, maybe going down as the best post season hitter of all time.

With the Chicago Cubs having some interesting decisions to make soon with their abundance of infielders at their disposal. There is going to be an odd man out. With that, we will be losing a talented player and a good bat.  If the designated hitter was available to the Cubs, Starlin Castro could be the teams primary designated hitter while filling in for Javier Baez, Addison Russell, or Kris Bryant from time to time to give them a day off on the field. But with that, we would also lose the potential of seeing guys like Travis Wood getting to the plate and helping his cause by putting one over the bricks and ivy in Wrigley.  We all love seeing the pitcher come up with big hits.

So which side are you on? Let your opinion be heard in the comments section below.  It’s a fun debate and one that may have a conclusion sooner rather than later.