Major League Baseball Rule 6.10(b):
The Designated Hitter

© 1997 by the Cosmic Baseball Research Alliance

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Major League Rule 6.10(b):


Major League Baseball is again discussing the value of the Designated Hitter Rule used in the American League. The Rule allows another player to bat for the pitcher. In the American League, a pitcher almost never stands up at the plate to bat.

Some team owners want to rid the game of the Designated Hitter; the players want to keep it; and fans appear to be ambivalent. The most recent testimony about fan reaction to the Designated Hitter comes from the Chicago Cubs president Andy MacPhail. "I don't think our fans are the least bit interested in seeing the DH be part of the National League landscape." MacPhail, like other baseball "traditionalists", thinks that when pitchers don't have to bat, the overall strategy available to managers is minimized. Of course the rule was implemented because the baseball powers-that-be believed that fans cared more about offense than strategy.

Bowie Kuhn was commissioner of Major League Baseball when the rule was implemented. He liked the concept, especially in light of the declining offense of the sport at the time. In 1968, the American League batting title went to Red Sox outfielder Carl Yastrezemski who compiled a batting average of .301, the lowest average for a title winner in the modern era.

The International League (Class AAA Minor) first experimented with a variation of the DH during the 1969 season. The American League experimented with the Designated Hitter starting in 1973. Manager and fan reaction was mostly positive. In 1976, Rule 6.10(b) was made official and permanent. But it only applies to baseball's American League. However, the National League is virtually the only organized baseball league that does not use the Designated Hitter in its games. Colleges, minor leagues, international baseball associations have all adopted the rule.

The Cosmic Baseball Association discontinued use of the Designated Hitter starting with the 1997 season. The decision to stop use of the DH was based on a membership referendum. 67% of the CBA's members voted to get rid of the DH in cosmic games.

Is the Designated Hitter rule good for baseball? It depends on what is meant by the expression, "good for baseball." If you are a team owner what's good for baseball is what gets fans to spend money. If you are a player, it's good for baseball if your salary goes up and your career gets extended. If you are a baseball "traditionalist" it's good for baseball if things don't change. Traditionalists desire to preserve the sanctity and integrity of the game.

One of the chief arguments against the Designated Hitter is that it reduces overall game strategy. However, Bill James, a well-respected scholar of baseball has questioned this assumption. James analyzed sacrifice hits and the use of pinch hitters between 1968 and 1983 and concluded that the rule actually increases managerial strategy. It is true, according to James' research, that the overall number of bunts and use of pinch hitters decreased once the DH Rule was imposed. But, James believes the decision to use these strategies became more complex. James writes:

I'm not an advocate of the Designated Hitter Rule; I'm only an advocate of seeing the truth and telling the truth. What the truth comes down to here is a question of in what does strategy reside? Does strategy exist in the act of bunting? If so the Designated Hitter Rule has reduced strategy. But if strategy exists in the decision about when a bunt should be used, then the DH rule has increased the differences of opinion which exist about that question, and thus increased strategy...[the research shows] that there is more of a difference of opinion, not less, in the American League. (The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. Villard Books, New York. 1986. Page 260.)

Our opinion about the DH rule is based on an argument of fairness. We believe that it is only fair that the individual who gets to hurl a small orb at speeds nearing 90 or 100 miles per hour at someone, get an opportunity to see what that sensation is like. The pitcher, in the interest of fair play, should also stand at the plate and take the heat. On this basis we advocate the removal of the Designated Hitter from all baseball games, including Major League Baseball's American League.

We urge owners, players and fans of the sport to support the abolishment of Rule 6.10(b).

Bob Costas
"Baseball is simply a better game without the DH. "
Mark L. Bakke
"The pitcher's job is purely defensive in nature - as opposed to the rest of his team, who must contribute both in the field and at the plate. Why not let the pitcher do his job and have a real hitter substitute for him in the offensive role?"
Pat Gillick
"I like the DH. It provides a certain amount of offense. I think the fans want to see offense and entertainment."
Marge Schott
"I don't like the Designated Hitter. A guy who plays should be able to catch and hit,"

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The Designated Hitter
Published in JCBA Vol. 16: November 25, 1997
Copyright © 1997 by the Cosmic Baseball Association