Well, baseball traditionalists. It’s time for a new normal. Starting with the 2020 season, the designated hitter is coming to National League baseball. And the assumption amongst many is that it essentially is here to stay.
Why? Well, the union views it as another well-paying job on every NL roster, most pitchers are likely happy to give up their .150 batting averages and increased injury risk from standing in the box and running the bases.
If you’ve listened on DodgerHeads, you know this is viewed as a positive. A universal DH means more offense, it means more good hitters in games and more drama — even when innings revolve around the seven, eight, nine hitters.
Of course, the flip side is it will mean far less late-inning substitutions and pinch-hitting (although the Dodgers may still buck this trend). Not to mention there is the loss of tradition.
But let’s get to the most important piece of this: what does it mean for the Dodgers?
On the whole, it’s hard to argue against the idea that a universal DH is very good news for the Dodgers.
For starters, NL teams had absolutely no time to prepare for this significant shift. Meaning rosters will be left to try and figure this out on the fly. Of course, the Dodgers are already prepared with an abundance of bats.
So much so that it’s hard to imagine this announcement would have changed anything, even if it was forewarned a couple of years ago.
Which leads to the meat of the argument.
The Dodgers are absolutely loaded offensively, to the point that arguably the biggest question was how manager Dave Roberts would get everyone enough at-bats to stay happy. In the outfield they’ve got Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger penciled in everyday.
That leaves Joc Pederson and AJ Pollock to split time in left field, not to mention Chris Taylor, Kiké Hernandez and Matt Beaty.
In the infield it’s more of the same. Max Muncy, Corey Seager and Justin Turner should be in the lineup every day, while Gavin Lux should see the bulk of time at second base. But again, Taylor and Hernandez could rotate in here as well.
This doesn’t even include the likes of Edwin Rios, Austin Barnes and prospects Zack McKinstry, DJ Peters and Luke Raley (all of whom are on the 40-man roster).
On a normal day pre-DH, the Dodgers would have to tell all but one of Pederson, Pollock, Taylor, Hernandez, Beaty and Rios they aren’t starting. Now? At least that number increases to two.
What might the Dodgers’ lineup look like with universal DH?
Against lefties it might look something like this:
Mookie Betts (RF), AJ Pollock (DH), Justin Turner (3B), Cody Bellinger (CF), Max Muncy (1B), Corey Seager (SS), Kiké Hernandez (LF), Chris Taylor (2B), Will Smith (C)
It may be a bit odd to see Betts hitting leadoff, but he took about 75% of his at-bats from that spot in Boston, and the Dodgers could use a steady man at the top of their lineup.
Pollock is a career .281 hitter against lefties, and we know Pederson isn’t seeing the field against southpaws; so Pollock slots into the DH spot to protect his fragile body a bit. The last major decision was Hernandez, but he’s another guy who historically (even if not last season) has mashed lefties.
Against a right-handed starter you may see a lineup along the lines of:
Mookie Betts (RF), Joc Pederson (DH), Justin Turner (3B), Cody Bellinger (CF), Max Muncy (1B), Corey Seager (SS), Chris Taylor (LF), Gavin Lux (2B), Will Smith (C)
The only two changes here are putting Pederson in as the DH and Taylor in left field. While Taylor was pretty consistent against both righties and lefties last season, he tends to hit better against same-side pitching and is someone who deserves the consistent playing time.
One thing to monitor with both of these lineups will be how many days off players are getting. In a 60-game sprint, the sense is they’re going to want the bulk of regulars out there every single day.
Universal DH a boon for Pollock
One last note about the change is who it benefits the most on the Dodgers, and the answer is Pollock. For his career he has been pretty consistent against both lefties (.281 career average, 36 home runs) and righties (.279 career average, 53 homers).
If the Dodgers can keep him healthy, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Pollock playing just about every day.
So yes, it’ll be different, but it’ll also be good. The Dodgers are the NL favorites in 2020 — even in a shortened season, and if anything, this change only makes that more true.
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