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Would The DH Rule Drive The Marlins Rebuild Into Overdrive?

Commissioner Rob Manfred has acknowledged that the “designated hitter to the National League” movement has gained momentum. Marlins fans: embrace it.

Miami Marlins v Baltimore Orioles
Derek Dietrich was born to DH and got the opportunity to do so this weekend in Baltimore.
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

One of the most tried and true debates for decades in MLB amongst fans and people within the game has been the removal or addition of the designated hitter. Being a purist, I have always been an advocate of not having the DH in the NL. Now, the honest truth is I had no logical reason for this stance.

Other than stubbornly fighting to “preserve tradition,” there is no longer a strong argument against it. Furthermore, being partial to the Fish, I have recently pondered how this would impact the Marlins rebuild. With our talent pool ever increasing through the draft, international amateur signings and previous/future trades, this could be a timely rule change that accelerates the team into contention sooner than otherwise projected.

More Offense = Greater Attendance?

Top Offensive MLB Teams, 2018

# Team HR R RBI
# Team HR R RBI
1 Astros 89 366 352
2 Yankees 110 354 345
3 Red Sox 101 362 342
4 Braves 81 339 323
5 Cubs 70 331 316
6 Indians 97 327 315
7 Dodgers 88 330 309
8 Pirates 69 318 306
9 Angels 95 319 304
10 Mariners 87 311 301
11 Rockies 83 311 299
12 Blue Jays 88 310 294
13 Diamondbacks 82 308 293
14 Athletics 87 304 291
15 Brewers 87 304 285

Stats updated entering June 16 games

Top MLB Home Attendance, 2018

1 LA Dodgers 38 46,193
2 NY Yankees 36 41,845
3 St. Louis 38 41,643
4 San Francisco 30 38,835
5 Chicago Cubs 32 37,866
6 LA Angels 35 37,073
7 Colorado 30 35,378
8 Houston 33 35,333
9 Boston 34 34,524
10 Milwaukee 34 34,137
11 Atlanta 33 31,383
12 NY Mets 34 30,723
13 Washington 32 30,168
14 Toronto 36 28,336
15 Texas 38 27,815

Stats updated entering June 17 games

Take notice: 6 of the top 10 teams in offense also happen to be 6 of the top 10 teams in attendance. That representation increases to 11 when looking at the top 15. Fans apparently prefer to see more offense in their baseball (although it helps that higher scoring teams also tend to win more often). Anybody who wants America’s cherished pastime to thrive should be open to a playing style that’s already bringing people to the ballpark.

Another interesting thing is the correlation between designated hitter eligibility and higher home run totals. Oftentimes, the players who earn those DH at-bats have above-average power potential. The top 5 teams in HR this season are all AL teams and 8 of top 10 are as well.

Pitcher Performance at the Plate

Once upon a time, hitting was a priority for pitchers. In 1983, for example, none of the NL teams had their pitchers collectively bat lower than a .115 average. The highest team batting average among them was .186. In 1993, averages went as high as .217 (Reds). In 2003, the Cardinals staff led the league at .206.

By the 2013 season, however, standards noticeably dropped. Today, they’ve plunged lower than ever, as Ben Lindbergh recently explored for The Ringer.

Pitcher Batting Averages by Team and MLB Overall

Year MLB Average Top NL Team Worst NL Team
Year MLB Average Top NL Team Worst NL Team
1983 .147 Cubs (.186) Astros (.115)
1993 .151 Reds (.217) Padres (.107)
2003 .143 Cardinals (.206) Mets (.107)
2013 .132 Dodgers (.176) Giants (.096)
2018 .112 Phillies (.161) Giants (.067)

Stats updated entering June 16 games

Pitchers either don’t care to be better hitters anymore, fail to develop the necessary skills due to increasingly specialized youth development practices, or because all-time-high pitch velocities are too much to handle on a part-time basis. Whatever the case, it’s hard to blame the pitchers themselves when the world has changed around them. And it’s also hard to support the stance that old rules should remain in place when they no longer seems suited to the current athletes.

The Marlins, in particular, would be poised to take advantage of a universal DH. Their pitchers are again among the worst at hitting with an average of .085, much like in 2017 (.091 BA) and 2016 (.126 BA). They are truly the bottom of the barrel with the bat. Allocating playing time to even the most ordinary offensive-minded players would be a massive step up from rooting for seeing-eye singles.

Fish Stripes original GIF

Marlins Park average attendance is dead last among major league stadiums. The club’s offensive futility compounds the other challenges of the Miami market. It’s no surprise that support has waned with the departures of sluggers like Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna last winter.

The DH clearly would have significant rewards for the Marlins, provided that they first bring legitimate hitters into the farm system. It gives us a platform to feature more productive/marketable offensive talent and provides our everyday players occasional breaks from the field. It limits the duties on our pitching staff, allowing them to focus entirely on their craft, just like they were already doing at the amateur level and throughout the low minors.

More offense generally means more revenue, which means more spending power. From there, it would be up to the new management group to translate that into more success and bring an end to one of the longest playoff droughts in the sports world.