History can be written on Sunday night in Game 5 of the World Series. Primarily Atlanta brave has a leading 3-1 league lead, so they are one win away from their first World Series title since 1995. The Braves could be the first time to celebrate a World Series championship at their home ground since 2013 Red Sox. How to watch Game 5.
Second, Game 5 may well be the last game without the designated batsman in baseball history. The collective agreement expires on 1 December and the next agreement is generally expected to implement the universal DH. MLB used the universal DH during the shortened pandemic season in 2020. The wheels are now moving to make it permanent.
“If we eliminate DH in the National League, it’s a baseball mark (which) will be eradicated, right?” Commissioner Rob Manfred told Jon Heyman and Tony Gwynn Jr. on the Big Time Baseball podcast in September last year. “Because no one plays without a DH other than the National League. So that worries me.”
Of course, Manfred spoke as a representative of MLB’s 30 owners, and the owners see the universal DH as a bargaining chip. They should have offered to implement the universal DH in exchange for an extended post-season this season, you may remember. It was not a fair exchange for MLBPA, so it did not happen, and the pitchers beat this season.
Or rather, the pitchers “hit” this season because they were really terrible at it. Pitchers combined to hit .110 / .150 / .142 with a 44.2 percent breakthrough rate after just under 5,000 record appearances in 2021. Not only are pitchers bad at hitting, they’re getting worse at it. This graph is a few years old now, although the trend has continued. Pitchers straight up stinks to hit and gets worse.
Although Manfred and MLB hope to use the universal DH as a bargaining chip, the fact is that almost everyone wants it. MLB wants it, MLBPA wants it, front offices want it, and the majority of fans want it too. There will always be a certain segment of fans against a rule change, but they get over it. I know that the universal DH last year changed the opinion of at least one person:
“Before I experienced it last year, I was a bit like the old guard. I was not for it. I am for it now,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said of the Universal DH on Saturday. “Because I look for each Max Fried and Adam wainwright and Madison Bumgarner“There are 15 guys who can not beat … I did not know if I wanted to, but I ended up liking it.”
If game 5 is the last game without the universal DH, then there’s a good chance Zack Greinkes single in the middle of the second half of Game 4 will go as the last hit of a pitcher in World Series history. It would be appropriate to see how Greinke is without a doubt the best hitting pitcher in the last 10 years or so (he is a .239 / .280 / .345 hitter since 2013).
The reservation to the universal DH is that the teams can voluntarily give up DH and let the pitchers hit anyway. Tea Angels did it several times this year (19 times, in fact) to get Shohei Ohtani’s bat in the lineup the days he pitched. Prior to Ohtani, a team had not given up DH to let a pitcher strike since June 30, 2016, when Bumgarner beat himself during an interleague game in Oakland.
That said, Ohtani is a special case and you are not going to see teams or managers voluntarily give up DH to let a pitcher strike for themselves because they are not stupid. It actively damages their chances of winning. The Bumgarner match in 2016 was the first time in 40 years a team gave up DH. With non-Ohtani pitchers hitting worse than ever, nothing is going to happen to give up DH.
Remember that MLB and the owners want to protect their investments – yes, they see players as investments – and letting pitchers hit is an unnecessary risk of injury. Jacob deGrom injured his shoulder on a turn this year. Zac Gallen injured his forearm by swinging. Do something you do not train to do and you risk being injured, and losing pitchers to injury is bad for baseball, full stop.
I’m not sure if MLB will give in and include the universal DH in the upcoming CBA, or if MLBPA will have to give up something to get it (extended post-season would be too much to trade), but the universal DH is likely to become permanent next year. We got our first taste of it last season and it was really the only rule change we saw that was popular. Most people loved it.
I sympathize with traditionalists who want pitchers to strike – I’m a beginner at school and I hate openers and bullpen games, I hope MLB finds a way to restore the prominence of starting pitchers – but they are in the minority these days, and universal DH is an inevitable. With the new CBA coming next year, Game 5 may very well be the last DH-loose game in baseball history.