Major League Baseball will hopefully never have another season like the one it did in 2020, but at least it offered an exciting glimpse of what baseball will look like when the designated hitter is universal.
Sans pitchers hitting for themselves, last year saw National League clubs outscore their American League counterparts—by 110 runs, no less—for the first time since since the DH's second year of existence in the AL in 1974. Accordingly, it turned a few skeptics into believers along the way.
But while such things seemed to all but guarantee the return of the universal DH for 2021, the MLB Players Association didn't see it as a fair trade for a second straight year of expanded playoffs. Because that proved to be an insurmountable hurdle, pitchers are once again hitting for themselves at NL parks.
It's, uh, not going so well.
Seriously, It's Bad
To be sure, offense is down all around MLB as hitters (as in, actual hitters) are working on an all-time-low .238 batting average. There's no one reason for this, but the new, less lively ball seems to be a big one.
And yet, it's hard to blame the ball for how pitchers are also trafficking in all-time awful numbers.
Excepting last year, in which there were only 14 occasions of pitchers hitting for themselves, the .103 average that pitchers have in 2021 is the worst such mark in history. The same also goes for their collective .135 on-base percentage, .141 slugging percentage and 48.0 strikeout percentage.
Because pitchers took a year off hitting in 2020, rust is surely a factor here. But this is also a case of the wind continuing to blow in the same direction it's been blowing for a long, long time.