In a professional baseball development that should surprise no one, the National League has not imploded by using the designated hitter during the 2020 regular season.
Reality is that since the early 1990s, almost all amateur, collegiate, and professional leagues have adopted the DH rule, and baseball has thrived more than ever on all those levels.
So why was the NL holding back? Stubborn tradition? Intellectual ego? Purity of principle? Doesn’t matter, either way. What we have seen in 2020 is a drop in the league’s collective batting average—from approximately .251 last year to approximately .248 this year—which says more about the small sample size than anything.
Meanwhile, average team ERAs have risen from 4.39 in 2019 to 4.56 this season: There have been fewer hits, perhaps, so far, but a lot more walks, contributing to the higher ERA. That is borne out by the increase in on-base percentages around the league: .323 last season and .327 this year.
So, the DH has not ruined the NL, and it won’t. It will provide longer job security for many MLB hitters, and pitchers won’t risk injury, either, hitting and/or running the bases. It’s a win-win situation for everyone, as the fans like “more” offense, anyway—and we have still seen two no-hit games this year, too.
As for the idea that strategy is out the window due to a lack of “double switches” by NL managers … well, only the managers themselves seem to care, really. While it’s “their” game more than “ours” in the end, you can’t stop progress, and it’s silly to make pitchers hit after they haven’t done so in a very, very long time.
You can’t stop progress, and no one wants to see these guys hit, anyway. So maybe COVID was good for one thing in the annals of MLB history. Only time will tell!