The universal DH enters play in 2020. The Nationals will benefit for two reasons.
First, they will be able to use their roster depth which was meant to spread things out across 162 games. They previously loaded their infield with veteran parts in order to increase matchup advantages and lower physical erosion. The roster was built for the long run, with a platoon at first base, spots for Howie Kendrick to pop in and out, and pinch-hitting windows for whomever was not on the field to start the game.
Ryan Zimmerman’s self-removal from the roster adds more chances for everyone else. The addition of the designated hitter in the National League bumps the increase. So, what was a glut for the Nationals turns into everyday opportunities.
At spring training, Mike Rizzo and Davey Martinez looked at the roster as a puzzle. They filled it with multiple veteran players. Maneuvering it would be up to Martinez. Second in strategic importance to handling the bullpen would be his offensive substitutions. Last year, he didn’t pinch-hit often. This year, he was expected to do much more with the push-and-pull of the roster.
“I think the roster that we built, the manager is going to be as important or more important [than in the past],” Rizzo said then. “We have a lot of moving parts.”
Less so now. But, the premise used to build the original roster will benefit them during these alterations.
There is another aspect of this which should benefit the Nationals.
They are built on starting pitching. A small part of not having a designated hitter was the debate for a manager about when to pull a pitcher in regard to the batting order. Leave him in longer because his spot is coming up? Double-switch afterward?
That’s no longer an issue. The Nationals’ starting pitchers will be able to go until they can’t or Martinez deems it is time for them to come out. Pitch counts as they relate to the batting order are no longer relevant. It also enables Martinez to manage his pinch-hitters accordingly. And, this applies in good or bad situations. When a starter struggled, and there was consideration to take him out early because runners were on base, the manager had to weigh the offense versus the pitcher (and what his bullpen had that day). Now, Martinez can decide strictly on performance if he should stay in.
One final factor exists, too: the chances of Max Scherzer breaking his face go way down.
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