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Abolish the Designated Hitter in the American League

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There has been a lot of discussion for the past couple of years about implementing the Designated Hitter role in National League lineups. The argument in favor of an NL DH its potential to increase run production and make the game more entertaining.

When considering this an argument, though, it's important to consider both sides, and there has not been much literature produced on the opposite: removing DH from American League.

At first glance, it may sound like a crazy idea. No team in the AL would support this, unless they have pitchers like Zack Greinke or a Madison Bumgarner, who can actually hit the ball.

By analyzing the production of players who regularly play DH for AL teams, the Rays would be among teams that might want to argue in favor of removing the DH from AL lineups.

The Rays would benefit if the DH were removed

Comparing the Average wRC+ since 2013, the Rays are in the middle of the pack in the AL, and the production of their DH batters is just above league average.

wRC+ produced by DH

DH Teams

Paying closer attention to AL East teams, Rays are second last regarding both wRC+ and cumulative WAR.

Team
DH wRC+
since 2013
Cumulative WAR
since 2013
Red Sox
139
8.9
Blue Jays
138
14.5
Orioles
111
5.4
Rays
109
3.6
Yankees
101
1.1

If we look over the years, the Rays never had a "true DH". The Yankees have had Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran, the Red Sox have David Ortiz, Blue Jays have Edwin Encarnacion and the Orioles had Nelson Cruz. This year, the Rays can argue that they have a potential "true DH" in Corey Dickerson, but comparing him against other DH's in AL East, he does not rank very well. The graph below shows this year's current statistics for each AL team's more relevant DH.

DH 2016 wRC+ and WAR

Leveling the playing field

Ken Rosenthal states in his article that adopting the DH in the National League will benefit baseball equality among NL and AL teams. The opposite argument - dropping the DH in the American League - can also be made. But what about leveling the playing field within a league?

Ideally, teams would have different levels of offensive production throughout the years, and while some teams are good in year "x", other teams are good in year "y". This is not the case, and this inequality can easily be seen by looking at the American League wRC+ since 2005:

DH since 2005

We can clearly see that the Red Soxs, Blue Jays and the Tigers have been at the realm in the DH world since 2005. Also, the same teams have struggled over the years (Rangers, Athletics and Indians).

It is possible that this effect duplicates in the National League if the DH is implemented; Some teams will get great amount of constant production over the years, and others will just struggle to fill the DH spot and get significant production from this position, without the rankings shifting within the AL teams.

Implementing the DH in the National League may overall "give equality" between American and National League, but within a League, the purpose of leveling the playing field may fall short, as data from the American League suggests.

Concluding Thoughts

Overall, by analyzing recent (since 2013) and since 2005 wRC+ and WAR performance data, removing the DH position would affect the Rays less than it would affect other divisional rivals. This is a clear indication that by abolishing the DH position in the American League, the Rays would level the playing field among their division and league rivals.

Additionally, it seems that only a handful of teams have figured out how to get significant and constant production from their DH, while most of the teams have not.

Take the Yankees and Athletics as examples of teams with great financial and intelligent resources (respectively), that are at the bottom among AL teams in wRC+.

The Red Sox, a team that has had top production from their DH for the past decade, struggle when they visit NL teams. They have to place David Ortiz and his defensive liability in 1B to keep him in the game, or remove his great offensive production from the line-up.

Then again, Big Papi is retiring after this season, who will step up to fill-in in the line up? Hanley Ramirez might be the obvious replacement, but that would mean that Pablo Sandoval will have to step up to cover 1B/3B... It seems that only a certain number of AL teams actually benefit from the DH slot (Blue Jays and Tigers).

Everyone thinks that implementing the DH in NL will make life easier, but as many NL teams will likely note, having an everyday DH may come come back to bite you.

*Data and DH player selection provided by Fangraphs