How MLB Adding Universal DH in 2020 Would Benefit Yankees
Baseball's return, amid unprecedented times, will potentially feature several wrinkles the sport has never seen before.
In addition to a truncated season and divisional realignment – among the many components of MLB's latest proposal – there will be a universal designated hitter.
At first glance, this may seem insignificant to Yankees fans. After all, New York already has a designated hitter. But in this new format – where the Bombers will share a division with the clubs in the NL East – pitchers would need to hit when the Yankees play on the road in National League ballparks, as is the case in traditional interleague play.
This decision to place a designated hitter in both leagues has the potential to benefit the Bombers in a huge way as all 30 big-league teams prepare for a season unlike any other.
It's important to note, this plan isn't set in stone just yet. The players' union could decline the proposal for a myriad of reasons, from concerns regarding the novel coronavirus pandemic to financial disputes regarding revenue and salaries.
As of Monday evening, we know MLB's owners have approved the proposal and that a meeting between the league and MLBPA is expected to take place on Tuesday, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports.
If this plan does come to fruition, here are some of the reasons why the Yankees will benefit from the universal DH.
Ensuring a designated hitter spot is available in the Yankees' lineup each and every day would, in theory, help the Bombers stay healthy.
Sure, injuries are often hard to prevent and could happen at any turn. One awkward step while running the bases, or getting hit by a pitch in a bad spot, all too often can result in months on the injured list.
But think about how Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge both recently got hurt.
Judge is still recovering from the fracture in his first right rib after diving for a ball in right field last fall. He even suffered a pneumothorax – collapsed lung – on that same play. Stanton sustained a Grade 1 right calf strain while taking outfield drills during Spring Training.
Limiting the amount of time those two sluggers are in the field will simultaneously minimize their risk of getting hurt.
Not to mention the fact that both sluggers will be coming back from injury. Designated hitter is often the best way to ease a player back into the daily routine of a long 162-game season. That option will be available to Aaron Boone night in and night out.
Opens door for playing time
Of course Judge and Stanton both can't be penciled in the DH spot every game – odds are Stanton would get the nod more often as Judge is a solid defender when healthy – but a platoon of sorts can be utilized as well.
Playing only approximately 80 games means less margin for error. When Boone is making the lineup each game in a shortened campaign, he'll have nine available slots for the players that he believes will give the Yankees their best chance to win in that given matchup.
If Clint Frazier and Miguel Andújar are swinging a hot bat, while Brett Gardner and Mike Tauchman are consistently producing, the DH adds a fourth spot for a club with a surplus of talented outfielders.
Plus, piggybacking onto the injury conversation, spreading designated hitter opportunities throughout the order will keep key contributors rested on defense while maintaining their focus on offense – all the while keeping them in the lineup.
This is what New York does on a daily basis during the season. In 2019, 18 different players made at least one appearance in the DH spot – from offensive specialist Edwin Encarnacion to utilityman Tyler Wade.
Now, if this proposal is approved, over half of the Yankees' divisional opponents are NL teams (five NL East clubs and four from AL East). With no designated hitter, that would have meant plenty of at-bats for the Bombers' starting staff and less for a deep bench.
No need to pinch hit for the starter
That brings us to this hypothetical situation.
It's the top of the fifth inning in, let's say, Washington. New York has two runners in scoring position with one out and Gerrit Cole is due to step in against Max Scherzer. Cole has been magnificent on the mound, undoubtedly with multiple frames left in the tank, but this is the Yankees' best shot to score against an ace on the other side.
What does Boone do?
Baseball traditionalists love those type of moments – it's what makes interleague matchups and games in the World Series a chess match with crucial decisions looming large late in games.
Rather than leaving Cole in to potentially strike out, end the threat and halt the Bombers' offensive momentum – or get hurt swinging and running the bases – think of all the possibilities of who could be due up instead.
It's commendable that the best starters in the National League can transition out of a quality start to step into the batter's box. Here, that won't be necessary for Yankees' hurlers.
Tradition for AL, while NL teams adjust
Finally, while the Yankees are used to a designated hitter in the vast majority of their contests, NL teams will be forced to adjust.
Yes, of course, adding another offensive weapon to the order of any NL East team makes them more dangerous on offense than a lineup with a pitcher. You can certainly argue this is more beneficial for those clubs. But not every NL team has a player that has a prototypical DH.
National League teams are built to play the majority of their games with no designated hitter – you won't find a player like David Ortiz sitting around on an NL team's bench because everyone needs to play defense.
While the Yankees can slot anyone in – Luke Voit, Mike Ford, even Gary Sánchez – some NL teams will be forced to go with a player better known for his defense.
With every game mattering twofold, that could be the difference in a game that decides a playoff spot, or playoff seeding.
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