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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Posnanski: To DH or Not To DH

Since 1986, the DH World Series rule has been tied to home park. When the game is in an American League park, they use the DH. When it is in a National League park, pitchers hit for themselves.

Brilliant Tweeter CashMoneyMark asked an interesting question: From what we can see in the limited number of games which league has had the advantage?... There is no definitive answer to this, I think, because of the small sample size mentioned above. But it seems to me—and this is surprising to me—that it plays any role at all, it actually hurts the National League more to play WITH a DH, than it hurts that American League to play WITHOUT one.

First: Start with the World Series records since 1986:

American League home record: 44-21 (.677 winning percentage)

National League home record: 37-29 (.561 winning percentage)

... But here’s the interesting part, at least to me. American League teams have unquestionably been better offensively with the DH. On the road, with the pitcher hitting for himself, AL teams have averaged about 3.77 runs a game. With the DH, they average about a half run more per game… The National League, though, offers the shocker. At home, with pitchers hitting, they average 4.15 runs per game, which is pretty close to what American League teams score at home. But on the road, using the DH, National League teams have scored only 3.4 runs per game, meaning they score seven-tenths of a run LESS per game with the DH than they do with pitcher’s hitting…

What this probably says is that the DH is not that big a factor one way or another … certainly not as big a factor as home field advantage. But I would love it if Tony La Russa, citing this history of NL teams score more with the pitcher hitting, just had his pitcher hit in the American League park. He’s the only guy who would try something like that, and I have to say it could be his crowning tactical moment, beating hitting the pitcher eighth, beating the triple switch, beating everything. If he had his pitcher hit in Texas, and the Cardinals won the Series, Tony L would become even more of a folk hero than he already is.

Obligatory “don’t give him any ideas.”  (Well, that and St. Louis has 11 runs with a DH as I write this.  But I still thought it was an interesting finding.)

The District Attorney Posted: October 23, 2011 at 02:52 AM | 4 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: baseball geeks

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: October 23, 2011 at 06:50 AM (#3972203)
It makes sense the DH would help the AL more -- they have a top hitter, the NL puts in a 4th OF -- but, yeah, that average runs scored thing is a bit wacky. Of course you do worse on the road ... and the AL had a long run of winning the AS game and getting HFA so perhaps the NL is more likely to be facing their best pitcher in AL parks (though this might be just as true of the AL teams).

Could it be the DH penalty? The NL will often/usually put a regular 1B/OF in the DH slot and put the extra guy in the field. But if that good hitter can't perform in the DH slot, you've lost one of your best bats. Still not gonna account for a drop of .75 runs.

In 65 games we're talking just 275-300 PA for the NL DH. Grrr ... Poz doesn't give us the slash lines.
   2. Dan Posted: October 23, 2011 at 07:30 AM (#3972213)
What this probably says is that the DH is not that big a factor one way or another … certainly not as big a factor as home field advantage. But I would love it if Tony La Russa, citing this history of NL teams score more with the pitcher hitting, just had his pitcher hit in the American League park. He’s the only guy who would try something like that, and I have to say it could be his crowning tactical moment, beating hitting the pitcher eighth, beating the triple switch, beating everything. If he had his pitcher hit in Texas, and the Cardinals won the Series, Tony L would become even more of a folk hero than he already is.


Of course unlike the typical NL team, the Cardinals DO have a perfect guy to DH in Craig (or shifting Berkman or Holliday to DH), so this would be pure insanity. It's not like the Cardinals are using the DH to put the likes of Nick Punto or Corey Patterson in the lineup, unlike what we see in some years from the NL team in the World Series.
   3. Group Captain Mandrake Posted: October 23, 2011 at 01:35 PM (#3972240)
Could it be the DH penalty? The NL will often/usually put a regular 1B/OF in the DH slot and put the extra guy in the field. But if that good hitter can't perform in the DH slot, you've lost one of your best bats. Still not gonna account for a drop of .75 runs.


By my count, there have been 63 WS games in AL parks (including last night) going back to 1986. Thus, the 16 runs scored by the Cards last night raised the NL R/G average by .25.
   4. Swedish Chef Posted: October 23, 2011 at 01:43 PM (#3972245)
Thus, the 16 runs scored by the Cards last night raised the NL R/G average by .25.

A quibble, only the 12.6 above average runs contributed to raising it, so it is 0.2 R/G.

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