More recently, ESPN looked at the worst-hitting pitchers as of 2014 with 200 at-bats and another Tiger topped the list: Brian Moehler with a minus-58 adjusted OPS. For his career, Moehler struck out 93 times in 202 at-bats, a career batting average of .045 with an on-base percentage of .098. He was 0-for-12 with the Tigers from 1996 to 2002.
It’s time for these numbers to go away. It’s time for the National League and everyone else to accept the DH. Pitching and batting has been too specialized far too long for even the most ardent baseball purest to cling to some misguided, romantic notion of watching a pitcher at the bottom of the batting order. It’s an antiquated rule that makes a very important part of the game look like an embarrassing relic.
Yes, there are surely some baseball truthers out there who want to argue about all the strategy involved with a pitcher in the batting lineup. But really, what does that strategy come down to? It comes down to dealing with a liability. And don’t @ me with Shohei Ohtani.
At the All-Star Game in Washington on Tuesday, Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark, a former Tigers first baseman and DH, told baseball writers a universal DH “is gaining momentum … players are talking about it more than they have in the past.”
But not every player is on board. In fact, Houston Astros pitcher and former Tigers ace Justin Verlander wants to get rid of the DH altogether.
“I would take the DH out, even though I know the National League is talking about implementing the designated hitter,” Verlander told USA TODAY. “For my pitching purposes, it’s fun to face guys like me who can’t hit. But I do think, for instance when we were in the World Series, the Houston Astros are playing the Dodgers, when we are at Dodger Stadium, we were a little behind. We were not used to hitting, bunting and things like that.”
Um … Justin? In case you forgot, the Astros beat the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Game 7 of the World Series last season. I can send you a DVD with some highlights.
Of course, Verlander is talking like a pitcher who wants every advantage he can get. The real problem is going to be MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who said he’s been hearing — and basically ignoring — the same argument for a universal DH from players since 1987.
“I think the most likely outcome at this point remains status quo,” he told baseball writers Tuesday. “I think one of the things we need to think about, extinction is a bad word, right? It’s a harsh word. It’s a very final word. If you get rid of the DH in the National League, there is a brand of baseball — the non-DH brand — is done. Not played anywhere that’s meaningful any longer. I think there’s going to be hesitation with respect to that.”
It’s going to boil down to a labor issue. The DH in the National League means more jobs at higher salaries. Owners will push back on that. The universal DH is one of several issues baseball faces that includes the pace of games, defensive shifts, declining attendance, this year’s slow free-agent market and a possible work stoppage before the 2021 collective bargaining agreement expires.
There are lots of complicated issues facing baseball. But the DH shouldn’t be one of them. There’s no need for baseball to swing and miss on this issue, or worse, to emulate NL pitchers and intentionally ignore its duty altogether.