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American And National League DH Rule 2023

By Roshan Khatiwada / 13 August 2023 05:21 PM

Shohei Ohtani often plays as a designated hitter when he is not pitching for the Angels
Source : instagram

National League DH rule 2023 allows clubs to use another player to bat in place of the pitcher. The rule was implemented from the start of the 2022 MLB season.

In baseball, a designated hitter or DH is a player who bats in the place of a position player. Most commonly a DH bats in place of the starting pitcher and the subsequent relievers.

The position of DH is authorized by Rule 5.11 of MLB. However, according to the rule, a designated hitter in the major league can be used only in place of the pitcher and not any other position player.

Most of the amateur, collegiate, and professional baseball leagues around the world have adopted the position or a variant of the position, except for the Central League of Nippon Baseball in Japan.

The rule became universal in Major League Baseball before the start of the 2022 campaign. Before that, the rule was implemented only in the American League of MLB.

DH Rule In National League

DH rule in National League was implemented at the start of the 2022 season. The rule allows teams to use another player instead of the pitcher while batting.

New DH rule in MLB implemented the position in the NL after the MLB lockout. This was one of the few notable rule changes to be put into play for the 2022 season.

After the implementation of the rule, the National League pitchers no longer need to bat. This resulted in the change of roster construction, as teams needed to consider the DH position.

Before the 2022 season, NL teams could use a designated hitter only in interleague games that were held at the home ballpark of American League clubs. The rule also helps to restore some competitive balance between the leagues by leveling the playing field.

Andrew McCutchen was the first National League player to play as a DH after the rule became universal
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Here are some of the facts mentioned in MLB Rule 5.11 that explain the position of a DH:

  1. A hitter can be designated to bat in place of the pitcher. However, the hitter must be selected before the start of the game and included in the lineup presented to the umpire-in-chief.
  2. The designated hitter named in the lineup must bat at least one time unless the opposition changes pitchers.
  3. Designating a hitter is not mandatory but failure to do so before the game prevents the team from using a DH in that game.
  4. A pinch hitter for a DH can be used but once replaced the previous hitter can not re-enter the game.
  5. The DH can be used to field while continuing to bat in their position, but the pitcher must then bat in the place of the substituted defensive athlete. This condition does not hold if more than one substitution is made as in that case the manager has to designate the batting order.

On June 12, 1997, Glenallen Hill of the San Francisco Giants became the first player  from the National League to play as a DH in a regular season. It happened during the interleague play between the Giants and AL side Texas Rangers at The Ballpark in Arlington.

Further, Andrew McCutchen of the Milwaukee Brewers was the first NL player to play the position after the rule became universal. Brewers faced another NL team Chicago Cubs during the 2022 season opener.

DH Rule In American League

American League DH rule was first implemented during the 1973 major league season. The hitter must be selected before the game and should bat at least one time.

Unlike other positions in the game, the designated hitter is locked in the batting order. The batting position of a DH can not be altered not even by multiple substitution or a double switch.

For example, if the designated hitter is batting third in the order and the catcher in sixth, the manager can not substitute both players and have the new replaced catcher bat at the position of the DH.

However, there is one exception to the substitution rule which is a starting pitcher who started as a DH will remain as the designated hitter to bat for the relief pitchers after being replaced as a pitcher. This exception was added during the 2022 MLB season.

David Ortiz holds the record for most home runs in a season as a designated hitter with 47
Source : instagram

It is also known as the Shohei Ohtani rule, a nod to the Los Angeles Angels star who is a two-way player. He used to bat for himself in the past but when relieved had to leave the game as a hitter or move to another position on the field due to the previous rule.

Ron Blomberg of the New York Yankees in 1973 became the first-ever player to play as a designated hitter in the major league. The outfielder was injured and recovering from a hamstring injury so he was placed as a DH in the lineup.

The player was batting sixth but got to the plate at the top of the first inning with the bases loaded. He drew a walk off the Red Sox pitcher Luis Tiant, putting the first run of the game on the board.

The position can be used in several ways, with some teams using a full-time DH while others use it to provide rest to one of their star players. It can be beneficial to injury-prone and aging players or players recovering from injury who are fit enough to fat but not to field.

All Star Game DH Rule

MLB All Star Game DH rule was first implemented during the 1989 Fall Classic. Pedro Guerrero of the National League was the first DH in an All-Star game.

However, pitchers were allowed to pinch hit anyway during the All-Star Game. But using a designated hitter allowed more players to get in the game to pinch hit in place of the pitcher.

From 1973 to 1988, pitchers who pinch hit from both leagues in the All-Star game went 0-16 with eleven strikeouts. Beginning from the 1989 Fall Classic, games played at American League ballparks were allowed to use a DH.

Yandy Diaz covering the bases after opening the scoring at the 2023 All-Star game with a dinger
Source : instagram

During that phase, if the games were scheduled at the stadium of AL teams, fans got the chance to vote for the designated hitter in the AL starting lineup. In the case of a DH for the National League, the league's manager decided the player.

The rule was also referred to as When in Rome rule, as a nod to the famous saying When In Rome, Do As The Romans Do. Harold Baines was the first player from the American League to play as a DH during the All-Star Game.

During the When in Rome era, designated hitters batted at an average of .266. The players from AL had an average of .297, whereas the National League players batted .238.

Beginning with the 2010 edition of the MLB Fall Classic, regardless of whether the match is played in the ballpark of a National or American league team, a designated hitter is used.

Elias Diaz after winning the 2023 All-Star Game MVP trophy
Source : instagram

From the 2010 to 2016 All-Star Game, the National League designated hitters had a higher average than AL athletes. The players from NL had an average of .222 and American League players batted with an average of .125.

For the 2021 edition of the Fall Classic, MLB granted an exception to the normal DH rule as Los Angeles Angels player Shohei Ohtani was selected as both the starting pitcher and designated hitter. Ohtani began the match as both a pitcher and the DH and was replaced as a pitcher after one inning.

The two-way player continued to play the match but only as a DH. The American League would have lost the DH position if Ohtani or a player replacing him played in a position other than a pitcher.

What Is The DH Rule For World Series?

DH rule in World Series was implemented for the first time during the 1976 edition. The rule has been universal in the World Series since the 2022 season.

The DH rule was first implemented in the major league during the 1973 season when American League adopted the rule. However, from 1973 to 1975, the World Series games were played under the National League rules i.e. with no DH.

During that period and the prior era, pitchers were required to bat during the event. In 1976, a new rule was implemented which decided that the designated rule would apply to all World Series games in even years, regardless of the venue.

Bryce Harper was the first player to play as a DH in World Series after the rule became universal
Source : instagram

Dan Driessen of the Cincinnati Reds became the first National League player to play in the position of DH. He played as the designated hitter in all four games of the 1976 World Series.

Beginning in the 1986 season, the DH rule was changed, with the team allowed to use a player in that position for games played at the stadium of American League teams. The practice had an exception during the 2020 season, as the games were played at a neutral venue Globe Life Field, the ballpark of an AL team because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As the DH rule became universal in the major league in the 2022 season, the World Series has also implemented the same rule. Bryce Harper was the first player to play the role at a World Series game after the rule became universal.

Do Pitchers Bat In MLB 2023?

No, the pitchers do not bat in MLB 2023. After both the leagues adopted the DH rule, pitchers no longer bat in the major league.

Most of the pitchers are not that good at hitting the ball and require rest as well. Because of that, the major league teams utilize the designated hitter position, allowing a better hitter to play instead of the pitcher.

Zack Greinke was the last true pitcher to bat in the major league
Source : instagram

Houston Astros player Zack Greinke was the last pitcher not named Shohei Ohtani to bat in the major league. The at-bat came during Game 5 of the 2021 World Series between the Astros and the Braves.

Ohtani is not only a pitcher but one of the greatest two-way players in the history of baseball. So, he is not regarded as a true pitcher only thus excluding him.

Some FAQs

Do Pitchers Bat In The National League?

No, pitchers no longer bat in the National League after the implementation of the DH rule from the start of the 2022 MLB season.

Do Pitchers Bat In The American League?

No, pitchers do not bat in the American League since the implementation of the DH rule at the start of the 1973 MLB season.

What Position Does Ohtani Play When Not Pitching?

Shohei Ohtani plays as a designated hitter when he is not pitching in the game.

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