Joel Sherman, from his Hardball blog at the New York Post, wrote a piece stating that schedule issues dictate that the National League should adopt the DH. He makes a few great points which would indicate that the same set of rules will eventually be adopted by both leagues and let’s face it -- the DH isn’t going anywhere at this point.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the designated hitter. But hold the celebrations.
Because having the two leagues playing under different rules never has been more problematic than now. It is to such a degree that one veteran general manager said, “It is just a matter of time until the leagues are forced to play under one set of rules and, let’s face it, the DH is not going away, so that is going to be what everyone uses.”
The first point he makes is about the money spent on superstars such as Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols, who each switched leagues, and how NL teams don’t have that "soft-DH landing spot" when sluggers like that begin to age in the final few years of their contracts and are no longer able to play the field. American League teams are able to more comfortably give players in that mold a few extra years and a few extra million because they know they can stick those players at DH towards the end of their careers.
Another point that Joel makes is now that the Houston Astros have moved to the AL West, all of the divisions have the same number of teams. Because of that balance within the divisions, there's a more balanced schedule, thus there will be an interleague game played somewhere every day of the season.
What that means is that it will be more difficult for managers to figure out what to do with their starting pitchers in terms of them doing something they’re not used to doing, which is hitting and running the bases. Likewise, albeit to a lesser effect, the NL teams will have to figure out who to plug into the DH spot in the lineup even though they typically won’t have a guy just sitting on the bench who would fit that DH mold all that well. However, they do have a bit more of an advantage playing by AL rules, as they can move regulars into the DH spot to give them some form of rest throughout the season.
The one thing that we could expect from the NL adopting the DH rule (finally) is that we would see an uptick in scoring overall. The AL has outscored the NL every season going back to 2000 and the only time it was even close was when the NL was within 20 runs of the AL for the 2010 season. For the 2012 season, AL teams scored an average of 4.45 runs per game while their NL counterparts scored an average of 4.22 runs per game.
Could the argument be made that the pitching is better in the NL? Sure, it could but it would be somewhat of a misleading statement. The NL scores fewer runs than the AL does, and it stands to reason that pitchers are at less risk of giving up home runs and runs in the NL as a result. The gap isn’t as huge as you would think between the leagues though, as the AL average ERA was 4.08 with a .255 BAA last season and the NL’s was 3.95 and .254.
The real question is do the fans enjoy the different set of rules between the two leagues. Or would the majority of people prefer the DH to be adopted across all of baseball?