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In baseball, the designated hitter rule is the common name for Major League Baseball Rule 6.10, an official position adopted by the American League in 1973 that allows teams to designate a player, known as the designated hitter (abbreviated DH), to bat in place of the pitcher each time he would otherwise come to home plate, rather than replace him by pinch-hitting. Since then, most collegiate, amateur, and professional leagues have adopted the rule or some variant; MLB's National League and NPB's Central League are the most prominent professional leagues that have not.

The rule

The designated hitter cannot be used for any other player but the pitcher (however, see below regarding different rules in amateur play). Use of the DH is optional. The manager must designate a DH prior to the start of the game; failure to do so forfeits the right to use the DH, and the pitcher must then take his turn at bat. The designated hitter may not play a field position and he may only be replaced by another player not currently in the lineup. However, the designated hitter may change positions to become a position player at any point during the game; if he does so, his team forfeits the role of the designated hitter and the pitcher, another player, or a pinch hitter must bat in the newly-opened spot in the batting order. The designated hitter could also become the pitcher, in which case the pitcher or a pinch hitter must hit when that spot in the batting order comes up again. Likewise, if a pinch-hitter bats for some other player (such as, hypothetically, the first baseman) and then remains in the game as the pitcher, the team would forfeit the use of the DH for the remainder of the game.

In addition, unlike other positions, the DH is "locked into" the batting order and no multiple substitution may be made to alter the batting rotation of the DH. In other words, a double switch involving the DH and a position player is not possible. For example, if the DH is batting fourth and the catcher is batting eighth, the manager cannot replace both players so as to have the new catcher bat fourth and the new DH bat eighth. Once a team loses its DH under any of the scenarios discussed in the previous paragraph, however, the double switch becomes fully available, and may well be used via necessity, should the former DH be replaced in the lineup.

If a pinch-hitter bats for, or is used as a pinch-runner for the DH, he then becomes the DH.

Interleague play

In games where a team from a league using the DH rule (American League) plays against a team from the National League in their home ballpark, the American League team has to bat their pitcher in the lineup. If it is in an American League ballpark, then there is a DH regardless which league plays there (e.g., interleague play, All Star Game, and the World Series). The rules of the home team's league apply to both teams.

Forfeiting the right to a DH

In practice, it is very rare for a team to forfeit its right to a DH, even by substitution. The following are known instances in regular season games (not counting interleague play) of an American League pitcher coming to bat:

  • On September 5, 1976, New York Yankees starting pitcher Catfish Hunter pinch-hit for second baseman Sandy Alomar, Sr. in top of the 6th inning and stayed in the lineup as the pitcher for the Yankees in the bottom half of the inning. Cesar Tovar, the one-time designated hitter in the game, then took over at second base. (Note: There is now a section of the rule that states that the game pitcher may only pinch-hit for the designated hitter; therefore, this move would have been allowed then, but now it would be prohibited.)

  • In his first of three major league pitching appearances for the Toronto Blue Jays, Bob Bailor, normally a position player, was moved from shortstop to pitcher in the 7th inning in a game on August 4, 1980. Bailor finished out the game at pitcher. The DH position was lost, and pitcher Bailor came to bat in the ninth and popped out.

  • During the month of September, 1980, Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver inserted a pitcher into the DH slot but would use a hitting specialist (such as Benny Ayala or Terry Crowley) to pinch-hit when the designated hitter's first turn came up. There was a game on September 17, 1980, during which the Orioles and the Detroit Tigers both used the short-lived strategy. (Note: Due to the loophole taken advantage of by Earl Weaver, there was a rule change shortly thereafter that states the DH must come to bat at least once, unless the opposing team changes pitchers.)

  • In the bottom of the 8th on July 15, 1993, the Seattle Mariners' Jeff Nelson was moved from the pitcher position to left field. The strategy allowed Nelson to stay in the game while left-handed pitcher Dennis Powell came in to pitch to Mike Greenwell in a game at Boston. By moving the pitcher into a defensive position, Nelson was put into the designated hitter's spot in the batting order while the new pitcher (Powell) was placed into the left fielder's place in the batting order. (It is very uncommon to see this particular move in an American League ballgame due to the DH.) Powell's turn in the batting order came up in the top of the ninth: Pete O'Brien pinch hit for him. Left fielder Nelson was then moved back to pitcher, and pitched in the bottom of the ninth.

  • An unusual instance of an American League team forfeiting its right to the DH happened on July 22, 1999 to the Cleveland Indians in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Manny Ramirez, the designated hitter, accidentally went into right field instead of Alex Ramirez causing some confusion. The Indians lost their DH, and Charles Nagy was forced to hit in Alex Ramirez's place going 0 for 2. John McDonald later pinch-hit for Nagy in the 6th inning.

  • On August 10, 1999, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays brought in third baseman Wade Boggs to pitch against the Baltimore Orioles in a blowout in favor of Baltimore. Boggs, peculiarly, was put into the DH's place in the lineup at the same time he was being brought into the game to pitch. Pitcher Boggs grounded out in his only at bat.

  • In the second game of a doubleheader between the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox on July 6, 2007, the Twins initially used their starting catcher, Joe Mauer, as the DH because Mauer had started the first game at catcher. The starting catcher for the second game, Mike Redmond, however, was forced to leave the game in the first inning due to injury after accidentally being struck in the head by the bat of Jim Thome, and Mauer had to take the field as the replacement catcher. Twins starting pitcher Matt Garza thus was forced into the batting order and became the first American League pitcher to bat in a regular-season American League game since Hipolito Pichardo on July 31, 2000.

  • On May 19, 2008, the Minnesota Twins surrendered their DH position in a game vs. the Texas Rangers in Minneapolis. Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire had to use rookie pitcher Bobby Korecky as a hitter in the 11th inning of the game; Korecky had only pitched in five major league games prior to this and had never had a major league at-bat. Nevertheless, Korecky hit the first pitch he saw into right field for a single, becoming the first Twins pitcher to get a hit in an American League game since the implementation of the DH rule. The inning ended with Korecky stranded at 3rd base with the bases loaded. Korecky ended up getting his first major league win in this game as the Twins won 7-6 in 12 innings.

  • On May 17, 2009, Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon incorrectly listed both Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria as third basemen in the starting lineup against the Cleveland Indians. Maddon's intent was for Zobrist to play at third and Longoria to be the DH. In the middle of the first inning, Cleveland manager Eric Wedge brought Maddon's error to the umpire' attention, and the Rays were forced to forfeit their DH, remove Longoria from the lineup since Zobrist played the top half of the first inning at third base (Longoria was available as a substitute since he never appeared in the game before that point), and bat starting pitcher Andy Sonnanstine at Longoria's place in the order—third. This was the first time a pitcher was in the initial batting order in a game between two American League teams since the aforementioned Ken Brett. Sonnanstine went 1 for 3 with an RBI double.

  • On May 28, 2009, Minnesota Twins catcher Mike Redmond was ejected from a game in Minneapolis against the Boston Red Sox after disputing umpire Todd Tichenor's call on a close play at home plate. Because Minnesota's normal starting catcher Joe Mauer was in the game as the DH and no other catcher was available, Minnesota was forced to forfeit the DH position for the remainder of the game. The pitcher was replaced with a pinch hitter both times it came up in Boston's 3-1 victory.

  • On October 19, 2009, in the ALCS Game 3 New York Yankees designated hitter Jerry Hairston replaced left fielder Johnny Damon in the outfield in the 10th inning. This move forfeited their designated hitter and made the pitcher spot come up third in the 11th inning.

Other DH oddities

There have been times when a manager may willingly surrender the DH position late in a game.
  • During the 2005 American League Division Series between the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, New York had Bernie Williams slated as the designated hitter. Late in the game, manager Joe Torre took Williams out of the DH and put him in center field because of Williams' superior defensive play. Since the Yankees already had the lead, not giving up any more runs was more important to Torre than having a better hitter hit for the pitcher in the game at the time, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. Because a double switch was used, it was not necessarily a negative situation to have Rivera bat. Rivera's place in the order would have only come up if the Yankees batted around, which would have inherently meant their lead would have been further increased at that late point in the game anyway, giving more cushion for the Yankees' best relief pitcher to close out the game.

  • Pitcher Mark Langston pinch-ran for designated hitter Hubie Brooks in the top of the 9th inning, scored on a single, and then was in the remainder of the extra-inning game as the DH finishing with two strikeouts in a game at the Chicago White Sox on June 10, 1992.

  • During the 2003 season, Brooks Kieschnick of the Milwaukee Brewers became the first player in major league history to hit home runs as a pitcher, designated hitter, and pinch hitter in the same season.

Background and history

The rationale for the designated hitter rule is that, with a few exceptions — most notably Babe Ruth, who began his career as a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox — pitchers are usually weak hitters who ordinarily perform once every four or five games. The designated hitter idea was first floated by Philadelphia Athletics manager Connie Mack in 1906. The rumors were that he grew weary of watching Eddie Plank and Charles Bender flail away at pitches and call it batting. Mack's innovative proposal received little support and was even lambasted by the press as "wrong theoretically." The notion did not die. In the late 1920s, National League president John Heydler made a number of attempts to introduce a 10th man designated hitter as a way to speed up the game, and almost convinced National League clubs to agree to try it during spring training in 1929. However, momentum to implement the DH did not pick up until the pitching dominance of the late 1960s. In 1968, Denny McLain won 31 games and Bob Gibson had a 1.12 ERA, while Carl Yastrzemski led the American League in hitting with a .301 average. After the season, the rules were changed to lower the mound from 15 to 10 inches and change the upper limit of the strike zone from the top of a batter's shoulders to his armpits. In addition, in 1969 spring training, both the American League and National League agreed to try the designated pinch hitter (DPH), but they did not agree on the implementation. Most NL teams chose not to participate. On March 6, 1969, two games utilized the new DPH rule for the very first time. Two newly formed expansion teams, the Montreal Expos and the Kansas City Royals would participate in one such game, and the New York Yankees and Washington Senators in the other. On March 26, 1969, Major League Baseball nixed the idea for the time being. Like other experimental baseball rule changes of the 1960s and '70s, the DH was embraced by Oakland A's owner Charlie O. Finley. On January 11, 1973, Finley and the other American League owners voted 8-4 to approve the designated hitter for a three-year trial run.

On April 6, 1973, Ron Blomberg of the New York Yankees became the first designated hitter in Major League Baseball history, facing Boston Red Sox right-handed pitcher Luis Tiant in his first plate appearance. "Boomer" Blomberg was walked.

Naturally, the result of the first season of the DH was that the American League posted a higher batting average than the National League, something which has remained consistent to this day.

The designated hitter offers American League managers two options in setting their teams' lineups: they can either rotate the role among players (for example, using a left-handed hitting DH against a right-handed pitcher and vice-versa) or they can employ a full-time designated hitter. It also allows them to give a player a partial day off. The adoption of the designated hitter rule has virtually eliminated the use of the double switch in the American League.

At first, the DH rule was not applied to the World Series. In 1976, it was decided the rule would apply to all games, regardless of venue, but only in even-numbered years. This practice lasted until 1985. The next year, the rule was adapted to its current format of only applying in games played in the American League team's stadium.

Similarly, there was initially no DH in the All-Star Game. Beginning in 1989, the rule was applied only to games played in American League stadiums. When this occurs, fans are allowed to select an American League player to start at that position, while the NL's manager decides that league's starting DH. When regular season interleague play was introduced in , the rule was, and continues to be, applied in the same fashion. On June 12, 1997, San Francisco Giants outfielder Glenallen Hill became the first National League player to be the DH in a regular-season game against the American League's Texas Rangers at The Ballpark in Arlingtonmarker, when they met in interleague play. When the Milwaukee Brewers moved from the American League to the NL in 1998, the Brewers no longer used the DH on a regular basis; thus, as also usually happens when a minor-league pitcher joins an NL team, their pitchers needed to take batting practice.

Occasionally National League teams utilize the designated hitter during spring training games, usually when a player is recovering from an injury.

In recent years, full-time DHs have become less common, and the position has been used to give players a partial off-day, allowing them to bat but rest while the other team is batting. Only a handful of players compile over 400 at-bats as a DH each year.

Major League Baseball present an annual award to the most outstanding designated hitter of the season, called the Edgar Martinez Award. Renamed for the former Seattlemarker Mariners DH after his retirement in 2004, the Outstanding DH Award was introduced in 1973 and has been handed out every season since, except 1994 due to a player's strike. Notable winners include Martinez (5 times) and David Ortiz (5 times consecutively).


There is considerable debate over whether or not the designated hitter rule should be removed. Some have argued that the National League should adopt it full time. There are also fans who enjoy the fact that the American and National Leagues use different rules. Two generations of fans of American League teams have grown up with the Designated Hitter rule being in place, and for many of them the designated hitter is as much a traditional part of baseball as the pitcher taking his turn at bat is for fans of National League teams.

Critics often argue that use of the designated hitter introduces an asymmetry to the game by separating players into classes, creating offensive and defensive specialization more akin to American football. Opponents of the rule believe it effectively separates pitchers, other fielders, and designated hitters into separate roles that never cross, possibly causing issues with promoting 'batting cage' players whose scope of experience is extremely limited. However, when the pitcher bats alongside everyone else, all nine players must take turns at the plate and in the field, and the hybridization of roles requires that everyone knows other roles in addition to their own.

While the designated hitter is batting in what would be the lineup spot for the pitcher, the pitcher may be inserted into another spot in the lineup when the designated hitter's role is terminated, inconsistent with the principle that a player's position in the lineup is fixed for the entire game.The designated hitter rule also changes manager strategy in late innings. Traditionally, a manager must decide when to let a pitcher bat or remove him, as well as who to pinch-hit with and where or if that player should take the field afterward. When the decision to remove a pitcher is made, the manager may also elect to double switch, delaying the new pitcher's turn at bat.

Advocates of the designated hitter point to the fact that it has extended many careers, and, in a few cases, created long, productive careers for players who are weak fielders or have a history of injuries, such as Edgar Martínez. Hall of Famemarker members George Brett, Carl Yastrzemski, and Paul Molitor continued their careers longer than they ordinarily would have without the rule. Some believe that extending careers of older players is less of an advantage and more of a disadvantage, filling spots that otherwise may have been taken by younger players who end up not finding a place in the major leagues.

With the rule, the quality of play may suffer because the home team of a inter-league game automatically receives a significant unnatural advantage no matter which league's rules are in effect. To combat this, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has proposed that the road team's rules would be followed for interleague games.

The designated hitter outside Major League Baseball

Amateur baseball

The use of the designated hitter rule in amateur baseball is nearly universal. The primary difference between the DH in the professional and amateur games is that the DH may bat in place of one player in any position in most amateur baseball leagues such as those that use National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) rules. Most high school coaches use a designated hitter in place of the weakest hitter in the lineup, if they use one at all. In amateur baseball, many pitchers are also good hitters and will often play another position (or even DH) when not pitching. Professional pitchers usually focus exclusively on improving their pitching, thus their batting skills often deteriorate compared to their teammates. However, in Canada, the DH must bat for the pitcher still.

One notable exception to the NFHS designated hitter rule in youth baseball is American Legion baseball. Legion rules exactly follow those prescribed in the Official Baseball Rules, which allow the DH only to bat for the pitcher. Prior to 1995, the use of the DH was not allowed in Legion baseball.

In college baseball, NCAA rules state that the designated hitter must hit for the pitcher, but in many instances the pitcher is also a good hitter, and the coach may elect to let the pitcher bat in the lineup. If the pitcher opts to bat for himself, he is treated as two separate positions — a pitcher and a designated hitter (abbreviated P/DH on the lineup card) — and may be substituted for as such (i.e. if he is removed as the pitcher, he may remain as the designated hitter and vice versa). However, if a player who starts a game as a P/DH is relieved as the starting pitcher, he may not return to the mound even if he remains in the game as the DH, and he may not play any other defensive position after being relieved as the pitcher. Conversely, a player who begins the game as the DH, but not as the pitcher, may come into the game as a reliever and remain as the DH (in effect becoming a P/DH), be relieved on the mound later in the game but continue to bat as the DH.

The High School baseball in Japan is one of the few amateur baseball in the world which never uses a DH format, the pitcher must bat for themselves in their games.

International baseball leagues

The DH is used in most professional baseball leagues around the world. One notable exception is the Central League of Japan, where pitchers bat as they do in the National League. Japan's Pacific League adopted the designated hitter in 1975. However, when teams from different leagues play against each other in Japan Series or interleague games, the DH rule is adopted if the Pacific League's team hosts the game. Unlike the AAA in America, minor team games in NPB adopted DH rule regardless of teams.

Minor leagues

All of the non-independent minor leagues have adopted the designated-hitter rule for use in their games. At the double-A and triple-A level, when both teams are National League affiliates, they have their pitchers bat; otherwise the DH is used. (In the Pacific Coast League, pitchers only hit when both clubs are NL affiliates and both clubs agree to have their pitchers hit.) The reason for this is as players move up and get closer to reaching the majors, teams prefer to have the rules mimic (as closely as possible) those of the major leagues. Single-A and Rookie leagues use the DH in all games.

Quotes about Designated Hitter

"The average fan comes to the park to see action, home runs. He doesn't come to see a one-, two-, three- or four-hit game. I can't think of anything more boring than to see a pitcher come up, when the average pitcher can't hit my grandmother. Let's have a permanent pinch-hitter for the pitcher." - A's Owner Charlie O. Finley

"I'm not an advocate of the Designated Hitter Rule; I'm only an advocate of seeing the truth and telling the truth. What the truth comes down to here is a question of in what does strategy reside? Does strategy exist in the act of bunting? If so the Designated Hitter Rule has reduced strategy. But if strategy exists in the decision about when a bunt should be used, then the DH rule has increased the differences of opinion which exist about that question, and thus increased strategy...[the research shows] that there is more of a difference of opinion, not less, in the American League." - Bill James in The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract (1986)

"Everyone in the world disagrees with me, including some managers, but I think managing in the American League is much more difficult for that very reason (having the designated hitter). In the National League, my situation is dictated for me. If I'm behind in the game, I've got to pinch hit. I've got to take my pitcher out. In the American League, you have to zero in. You have to know exactly when to take them out of there. In the National League, that's done for you." - Jim Leyland

"I've got my pitchers running the bases, and one of them gets hurt. He's going to be out. I don't like that, and it's about time they address it. That was a rule from the 1800s." - Hank Steinbrenner

"There's not enough showmanship in baseball. It is show business, isn't it? I don't think baseball is dead by any means. But it needs things. In the theatre we're always thinking of the audience. But in baseball they're unmindful of the audience.... I like the idea of having a pinch hitter for the pitcher, one of the things they were trying this spring." - Broadway producer David Merrick in the New York Times on 27 July, 1969

"The best case for the DH is this: It represents that rarest of things, the triumph of evidence over ideology. The anti-DH ideology is that there should be no specialization in baseball, no division of labor: Everyone should play "the whole game." That theory is obliterated by this fact: Specialization is a fact with or without the DH. Most pitchers only go through the motions at bat." - George F. Will in his book, Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball

"The DH debate we stirred up in 1969 was altogether healthy. I think the public was beginning to believe that we were finally awake. Executives like Lee MacPhail of the Yankees believed in the DH and were beginning to make some progress in the American League. Certainly, if change in any area was coming, the more venturesome American League would be the place for me to seek allies. They had precipitated expansion in 1961 and 1969, forcing the reluctant National Leaguers to follow suit both times." - Former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn on the DH experiment in 1969

"Our job is to pitch, to get hitters out, not to hit. I love to hit and swing the bat; I think all players do. But it tires you out to run the bases. In the late innings, if I'm pitching a good game, I don't want to hit and have to run." - Pitcher Jackie Brown, who pitched four years in the American League before going to Montreal, claiming that the DH rule made him a better pitcher

"There's no doubt in my mind that the game of baseball in all its beauty and entirety is the National League game. I would kick the D.H. out so quick it would make your head spin." -Manager Tony La Russa

"The designated hitter rule is like having someone else take Wilt Chamberlain's free throws." - Pitcher Rick Wise in 1974. One of the better hitting pitchers, Wise batted .195 with 15 home runs (all prior being traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Boston Red Sox prior to that 1974 season) in only 668 at bats.

See also



  1. Divisions Of The Code
  12. Sonnanstine delivers RBI double, win for Rays after lineup error forces him to hit,, 2009-05-17.
  13. Varitek blasts Red Sox to victory; Catcher contributions aid Beckett before ejection in wild one,, 2009-05-28.
  33. - Renewing the DH debate
  34. MLB - Designated place in history
  35. General Minor League information at "6. Do pitchers hit in the Minor Leagues?"). Minor League Baseball. Retrieved 2009-09-26.
  36. Designated Hitter Quotes
  37. ESPN - Foot injury expected to sideline Wang until at least September - MLB

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