There is no official word yet, but it is likely MLB will be returning to its old ways and will get rid of the designated hitter (DH) in the National League. And that is not necessarily a good thing if you’re the New York Mets.
Now I’ll be the first to say I was initially against there being a DH in the NL. I always liked watching pitchers who rake. How else would we have been able to see this?
Historically, though, the Mets have always had a rather strong core of pitchers who could also perform well at the plate.
Alas, last year for the shortened season, Rob Manfred and company decided to stray away from tradition and instill the DH position in the NL. This proved to be essential for the Mets despite a rather abysmal season.
Having a DH allowed Pete Alonso, who is not the strongest first basemen, to stay in the lineup alongside Dominic Smith. Sometimes they switched who would DH, but it worked. Sometimes guys like J.D. Davis stayed in the lineup as the DH. For the 2020 season, nine players were seen in the DH role: Yoenis Céspedes, Smith, Alonso, Robinson Canó, Davis, Wilson Ramos, Brian Dozier, Jeff McNeil, and Michael Conforto, while Alonso spent the most time in the position with 17 games under his belt.
As a team, designated hitters hit .248 with an .827 OPS. That batting average ranked 11th in baseball and sixth in the NL. The Mets’ DH .517 slugging percentage was third in the majors and second in the NL.
Getting rid of the universal DH could mean sacrificing defense for offense. Alonso would start at first and Smith would potentially replace Davis in left field. Still, Smith isn’t the strongest outfielder. And if the Mets want to keep Smith in the lineup, and if New York does land free agent George Springer, Brandon Nimmo would likely be benched, which would hurt the lineup offensively, since Nimmo has an .838 OPS and is a strong lead-off batter.
While it looks like 2021 will not see a universal DH, it is still likely there will be a designated hitter in the NL in the future.
“Players want it, sources said, but owners want the players to agree to expanded playoffs for the 2021 season in exchange. Understandably, the players don’t find that to be a particularly equitable trade. The complicating factor is that most front offices would love it. Going back to pitchers hitting after a full season in which they didn’t doesn’t register right, particularly when the issue is going to be adjudicated for good in a new collective-bargaining agreement after the 2021 season,” Jeff Passan of ESPN, wrote in a November post.
(Photo: Yahoo! Sports)