Undoubtedly, one of the most controversial rules in all of sports is the designated hitter rule in professional baseball.  This rule allows a batter to hit for the pitcher, but it is only used in the American League of Major League Baseball. 

What’s the Big Deal about the Designated Hitter Rule?

While some people would like to see the rule adopted into the National League, there are just as many who would like to see the rule abolished altogether.  While the rule has always been criticized since it started being used 41 years ago, the greater frequency of interleague play since 1997 has seen criticism of the rule grow.  Historically, the American and National Leagues only met during the World Series each year, but now an interleague game is played every day of the baseball season.  Some who criticize the DH rule believe it gives the American League an unfair advantage in home runs and statistics do show that the American League seems to have more power at the plate.  AL teams have more home runs and higher batting averages than their NL rivals. However, National League teams may be better at strategizing because they’re used to having to replace a pitcher, and sometimes a position player, during a game.

Critics also point out that AL pitchers throw more aggressively than many of the NL colleagues because they don’t have to worry about retaliation at the plate.  An AL pitcher may throw at a batter to brush them back off the plate more often than a NL pitcher because they don’t bat and get a taste of their own medicine.  Also, having a DH on the bench allows players to stay in the game much longer than position players who are on the field when the team is playing defense instead of sitting on the bench.  An AL player who was a good hitter may be assigned to the DH role after playing a few years, allowing the team to replace him out in the field with a younger position player.  In the NL, the older player might be sent down to the minor leagues or traded to another team.

While it may give the AL an advantage in many ways, the DH rule also penalizes them according to some critics of the rule.  It isn’t in the day-to-day interleague games where the AL teams are hurt by the DH rule, but during the World Series.  When the Series moves to the National League team’s ballpark, the American League team cannot use the DH.  It either takes a power hitter out of their line-up or, if they choose to use him in the line-up, it can weaken their defense.  Many fans and sports writers believe it is fundamentally wrong to have baseball played under two different set of rules, especially during an event like the World Series.  However, for now, AL teams seem content with the DH rule and fans are becoming more accepting of it and think the NL should adopt it as well.  However, that is unlikely to happen.