Baseball Designated Hitter
In baseball, a designated hitter is a non-fielding player that focuses on generating offense. Originally, only half of MLB teams used a designated hitter, but in 2022, Major League Baseball standardized the role across the entire league. This new rule has allowed for more offensive production for all teams. Keep reading to learn more about designated hitters and how they can impact a game.
Designated Hitter Definition
A designated hitter is a player that replaces a pitcher in the batting lineup. In a baseball game, each team sends up nine individual players to bat. These players are usually the nine fielding players, but one player (usually the starting pitcher) can be replaced by the designated hitter to help provide more offense.
The designated hitter rule allows great batters with poor defense to play on a daily basis, altogether increasing the team’s offensive potential. Additionally, a manager may assign a player as a designated hitter to rest them and reduce risks associated with fielding. Designated hitters are also commonly referred to by the abbreviation “DH.”
Designated Hitter Roles and Responsibilities
A designated hitter’s main responsibility is to boost their team’s offense by reaching base and batting in runs. A designated hitter should often produce hits, walks, and home runs in addition to seldom striking out. They also must have a high on-base percentage, or OBS, meaning they reach base through hits, walks, or hit-by-pitches to help set up runs for the team. Designated hitters should also be able to bat in runs when there are runners on base.
Designated hitters are not only expected to have great offensive skills, but they also must produce offensively in high-stakes situations. This skill is typically referred to as “clutch hitting.” The mental pressure of batting during tense situations, such as a tie game in the 9th inning, can cause some players to underperform. Therefore, it is important for a designated hitter to have a strong mental fortitude to remain consistent throughout every situation.
Designated Hitter Skills
- Pitch recognition
- Plate discipline
- Mental fortitude
A designated hitter’s job is to boost their team's offense, so versatility, adaptability, and consistency are the best qualities to go along with a powerful offense. A designated hitter must be able to hit this versatile pool of pitches from both right-handed and left-handed pitchers. Even though the designated hitter knows the main types of pitches, each pitcher’s handiness, speed, and style are all different, meaning that a designated hitter will have to constantly adapt their approach to successfully get on base.
In addition to versatility, a designated hitter should reach base often through hits, walks, and hit-by-pitches. A good designated hitter should not chase pitches that are out of the strike zone and should also be able to decipher a good pitch to hit. This can be achieved by refining a player’s plate discipline and pitch recognition, which should overall result in more hits and walks while also reducing strikeouts.
Since a designated hitter may only come up to bat three or four times per game, they experience a different game rhythm than the other fielding players. Most of their time is spent in the dugout while their team is fielding, which can potentially take a designated hitter out of the game mentally. To prevent this, a designated hitter must have strong mental fortitude to stay locked in and focused during each inning, even when they are not playing.
Best MLB Designated Hitters
- Edgar Martínez
- David Ortiz
- Frank Thomas
- Paul Molitor
- Harold Baines
What is a designated hitter in baseball?
A designated hitter is a player that bats in place of a position player, most often the pitcher, in the batting lineup. The designated hitter will not play a defensive position when their team is fielding, which makes it a prime role for bad defensive players or players that need rest from fielding.
What does a designated hitter do in baseball?
The designated hitter’s main responsibility is to provide more offensive power to their team. They should excel at hitting, reaching base, and batting runners in. Additionally, designated hitters must be consistent and should not allow high-pressure situations to affect their performance.