Batflips are OK. The DH is not. So says SF Giants manager Gabe Kapler.
While doing an interview with the “Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks” show recently, Gabe Kapler says he doesn’t mind batflips. Those are fun. The designated hitter, on the other hand — that is not fun. Especially if you now manage the San Francisco Giants.
"“What I will say is I’m a baseball traditionalist in the sense that I like the strategy that comes along from having to pinch-hit for the pitcher,” Kapler said (via NBC Sports Bay Area) “When that high-leverage moment is in the game when everything is at stake early on, but your pitcher is running a low pitch count and you need him to eat up innings — I think there is something really raw and traditional about that.”"
Kapler has not yet managed the Giants in a game that counts since joining the organization last fall. He does, however, have a couple of seasons of National League ball under his belt managing the Philadelphia Phillies.
The DH did not go well for him during that time, with the Phillies DH being good for a .543 OPS in 2018 and improving to .730 in 2019. Neither is great for someone whose position has “hitter” in the title.
Why this matters now is that MLB seems ready to present a plan to players for getting back on the field with the expectation that several weeks of spring training would be held in June, followed by the season opening in early July.
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Rather than traditional divisions, MLB would be divided into East, Central, and West divisions by geography, to limit travel and exposure. As that would mix AL and NL teams, the idea of a universal DH for only this season has arisen.
For the Giants, seeing a universal DH in 2020 could be disastrous, according to a recent FanGraphs article. Craig Edwards looked at which teams and players would benefit from it.
Outfielder Hunter Pence would likely land the primarily DH role, Edwards expects. (How a rumored signing of Yasiel Puig would affect things is up in the air, though it seems likely it can only help the Giants from an offensive standpoint.)
Pence would be worth approximately -0.2 WAR, with the other changes around him in the lineup creating a net effect of about -0.3 WAR.
Only the Mets would see a worse overall effect on their lineup by being forced to use the DH. The Cardinals would benefit the most with a net gain of 1 WAR.
So regardless of whether you think baseball needs the designated hitter in both leagues (it doesn’t, that’s just one of baseball’s fun quirks) from Kapler’s point of view it makes good sense why he wouldn’t like to see the universal DH in 2020.