MLB worked out its legal troubles and is getting ready to start the season in mid-April, a little later than originally scheduled but destined for a full season of games.
The labor negotiations resulted in some rules changes this year, which could have an impact on MLB futures prop bettors. Here’s what you need to know about one of those changes—the universal DH.
Universal DH: No More Pitchers Batting
For just the second time ever, there will be no pitchers batting this season.
The American League added the DH in 1973, and, for nearly the next half-century, the American and National League had different rules. For the shortened COVID season in 2020, the NL went to the DH as well. After going back to separate rules for the leagues in 2021, MLB agreed to give every team the DH this season.
One of the biggest impacts of the universal DH will be a potential uptick in offense. Lineups no longer have a free out every nine batters. NL pitchers hit .108 last season and struck out 45 percent of the time, their worst performance in history, and pitchers have hit progressively worse as time has gone on.
When the AL first added the DH, we saw the league have an offensive boost, and we can expect the same for National League teams this year, as teams now have nine legit bats in their lineups. It also means that NL pitchers could see their numbers slip this season. Strikeouts could dip slightly, with runs allowed spiking.
Universal DH: No More Pinch Hitters
We also saw American League pitchers go deeper into games, hitting highs in complete games and shutouts, as there was no longer reason to pull them for a pinch hitter late in a game.
While complete games are now a thing of the past and shutouts are a unicorn, uncoupling pitching changes from any impact on the lineup could have an impact in opposite directions. While starters could go slightly deeper in games, the change also allows National League managers to make pitching changes without having to worry about double-switches and when the reliever will come to bat.
MLB considered tying the DH spot to the starting pitcher, in an effort to control the multiple pitching changes the game has seen as specialization has increased, but that hasn’t happened, meaning we could actually see more relievers go for shorter stints.
Universal DH: No Defense Necessary
The DH has allowed veteran players to extend their careers by still batting after their defensive skills have eroded. It also benefits players who may not be able to hold a job with their shaky defensive skills, and it allows teams to carry multiple sluggers and rotate them through the spot to give them a semi-day off by not having to play the field.
National League teams adding the DH has double the number of job opportunities for veterans, and two of them have taken advantage, as Nelson Cruz signed with the Nationals and Albert Pujols is poised to return to the Cardinals.
Nick Castellanos (Phillies), Jorge Soler (Marlins), and Joc Pederson (Giants) are some shaky defensive players who found new homes with National League teams as the DH spot gave them more options.
Some of the big-ticket free-agent signings, including Freddie Freeman (Dodgers) and Kyle Schwarber (Phillies) will be joining loaded lineups and could see their former off days turned into DH days, giving them a few more at-bats in a long season.