There has been a significant amount of talk regarding increasing offense in Major League Baseball. Whether it is banter regarding banning the shift to give pull-hitters an added advantage, or shrinking the strike zone to force pitchers to work more in the zone, Major League Baseball's mouthpieces can't seem to get out of their own way and let the natural progression of the game take its course.
One simple solution (or perhaps, more candidly, the simplest solution) to increase offense would be to bring the designated hitter to the ‘senior circuit' National League. ‘Blasphemer!' some will say, but in an era where interleague play is a nightly necessity due to the odd number of teams in each league, it is becoming increasingly silly to play the game with two distinct sets of rules.
Imagine for a moment the DH is enacted in the National effective immediately. Some teams like the Braves might be kicking themselves for getting rid of Evan Gattis, and some teams like the Nationals probably could make the adjustment rather well (seriously, are there any holes on this team as currently constructed?). Here's a glimpse as to how the National League East teams might adjust their rosters if the designated hitter was adopted in the National League.
National League East
|Team||Most Games as DH in 2014 (Games Started||Projected 2015 DH|
|Atlanta||Ryan Doumit (5)||Johnny Gomes|
|Miami||Justin Bour (3)||Michael Morse|
|New York||Lucas Duda & Bobby Abreu (3)||Curtis Granderson|
|Philadelphia||Ryan Howard (5)||Ryan Howard|
|Washington||Jayson Werth (5)||Ryan Zimmerman / Jayson Werth|
Atlanta Braves - First and foremost, if the DH were enacted in the National League today, the Braves likely would regret trading Evan Gattis for help on the farm. Gattis cracked 22 home runs in 2014 with a .263/.317/.493 slash line and a 125 wRC+. Gattis is truly a man without a position—he is a poor catcher and did not adjust well to the outfield. Despite his defensive woes, he still amassed 2.3 fWAR last year contributing all his value with his bat.
As currently constructed, the Braves would be spared putting Johnny Gomes in the outfield every day (or at all for that matter). Gomes would be replaced in the outfield by Eric Young or Joey Terdoslavich. Though fast, Eric Young has a career zero Defensive Runs Saved (coincidentally, that is close to Gattis' defensive metrics). On the plus side, the opportunity to put Gomes in as the DH would give 25 year old Terdoslavich time to prove whether he is a major leaguer or a Quad-A player.
Miami Marlins - The DH scenario would not be the worst thing in the world for Miami, as Michael Morse is a better fit as a DH than he is out of position at first base. Granted, he can be serviceable at first if necessary, and he's certainly better off there than in the outfield, but Morse would benefit from an offensive-only role. The Marlins' acquisition of Ichiro Suzuki would appear to be a pretty nice designated hitter platoon partner, but despite batting left handed, Suzuki has always hit southpaws better than righties.
With Morse moving to the DH spot, 26 year old Justin Bour would likely start at first base, so Miami would be relying on an untested player as a full time solution at one of the most important power positions. In 39 games in 2014, Bour maintained a .361 on-base percentage, but managed only one home run. While Morse would benefit from the rule change, the lack of another bat would be quite apparent, and Miami would likely be scrambling for a (likely cheap) first base stopgap. One thing is clear, the Marlins would be happy to not pay an additional hitter if they could help it.
New York Mets - The Mets' offense is already is a question mark, and having to come up with another bat will be difficult for New York. With solid arms coming up from the minors and Matt Harvey returning from Tommy John surgery, the biggest deficiency for this team will be finding offense in its current state. Curtis Granderson could potentially fill in the DH spot, meaning he would not have to roam the large (though shrinking) Citi Field outfield. Granderson got off to an awful start in 2014, hitting just .136 with a .252 on-base percentage, and garnering only one home run in all of March/April. He did show some signs of life at the plate, hitting .300/.411/.522 in June and eventually putting together a 108 wRC+ for the season. These numbers are not what you want out of your designated hitter, though on the plus side, his -19 DRS would be hidden from view.
In his stead, John Mayberry would probably be an everyday outfielder under this scenario. Having Mayberry in the outfield every day puts another below-average bat in the Mets' lineup. Despite a strong 132 wRC+ in 2011, Mayberry generated only 88 and 86 wRC+ in the following two seasons. His 2014 was not awful; he put up 107 wRC+ in 78 Major League games, good but not what you want to see from a corner outfielder.
Philadelphia Phillies - The Phillies are a mess, this isn't news. The Ryan Howard situation is also a mess, this isn't news either. Despite his disastrous contract, Howard would probably be the Phillies' full time DH if the position came to the National League. I don't need to rehash how far Philadelphia is from contention, but moving Howard into a full time offensive role may actually ease the pain ever so slightly. In 2014, Howard wasn't "Yuniesky Betancourt bad," but considering his bloated contract, it looks far worse. Howard finished the season with 23 home runs, but a .223/.310/.380 slash line only mustered a 93 wRC+. That's not what a team wants out of their designated hitter, but on the plus side, at least he wouldn't hemorrhage runs via shoddy fielding.
Replacing Howard at first base would likely be Darin Ruf. Ruf is a replacement level player who brings little by way of offensive prowess. He rarely hits home runs (three in 117 plate appearances in 2014, to be exact), and doesn't get on base often (he finished 2014 with a .310 OBP). Bringing the DH to the National League will definitely not help the Phillies.
Washington Nationals - The Nationals actually have two players who would qualify for an immediate designated hitter spot. Ryan Zimmerman is the first player who comes to mind, as he has been trying to fit in all over the diamond, to no avail. Zim had a 120 wRC+ in 2014, but had a negative DRS at third, first, and in the outfield. Replacing him at first base would likely be Kevin Frandsen or youngster Tyler Moore. Neither option in the infield is a long-term solution, as Frandsen is a 32 year old journeyman who amassed a negative fWAR and a 72 wRC+ in 2014. In only 42 games last season, Moore had an anemic 94 wRC+.
Alternatively, Washington could use Jayson Werth in the DH slot. Werth raked at the plate in 2014, hitting .292/.394/.455 and mashing 18 home runs on route to a 140 wRC+. Not surprisingly, as he has gotten older, Werth's defensive range has suffered, costing the Nats runs with a negative DRS in 2014. If Werth was moved to the designated hitter spot, the outfield would still be in good shape in two of the three posts with Bryce Harper and Denard Span, but it would be likely Nate McLouth and Kevin Frandsen splitting time at one of the corners. McLouth is recovering from a season-ending injury, and Frandsen does not bring much value, so neither would be ideal. The Nats potentially may be looking for help under either of the aforementioned scenarios, but probably have enough firepower without making a move.
Later this week I'll be looking at the National League Central and West, to see how those teams would be affected if National League adopted the designated hitter.
Steven Martano is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano.