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FBB: Impact of the Universal DH

In a previous post, we touched on the fantasy impact of the new universal DH, but let’s take some time to go into more detail here about the immediate impact on this season and beyond:

Impact on Hitters

In total, National League teams will assign over 300 at-bats to designated hitters that previously went to pitchers, which will provide about a 5% increase in playing time for the aforementioned hitters. These ABs will significantly benefit bench players, players who are subpar defenders, and fatigued players that need rest (like high-end catchers). Notably, what we are calling “significant” truly amounts to about half the ABs of a normal everyday starter, so do not go too crazy with the bumps in your rankings, but the bump should result in moving a few spots up.

Certain NL players stand out to us as benefitting the most from this change: Robinson Cano, Gavin Lux, J.T. Realmuto, Nick Senzel, among others.

Impact on Pitchers

On the other side of things, with 300+ fewer pitcher ABs, National League pitchers will no longer have an inherent edge in ERA over their American League counterparts. Historically, NL teams typically played about 86% of their games without a DH.

Looking back, the universal DH rule was in effect during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season then removed for the full-length 2021 season. In 2020, the league averaged 4.65 runs per game. In 2020, the league averaged 4.53 runs per game. This 0.13 differential may not seem like much. In fact, it results in approximately three earned runs over 200 innings pitched. However, what we don’t see in these numbers are the extra walks, hits, and extra-base hits which can drop a pitcher significantly down the rankings. Moreover, with this change impacting NL pitchers the most, it should cause some added hesitation when drafting such pitchers.

While the data on this next point is not soundly proven, we would be most hesitant to draft NL pitchers from teams who play in what would be considered “hitter’s parks”: Colorado Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, among others.

Impact on Fantasy Leagues

Something that does not get mentioned enough is the longstanding impact on fantasy leagues and fantasy managers. For 2022, we have about five relevant hitters that are only DH eligible. Most fantasy leagues force managers to use these hitters in the Utility spot. Over time, and we are talking years here, more hitters will naturally only be eligible for the DH position. Fantasy commissioners will need to decide whether to include a DH spot or even an extra Utility spot in fantasy lineups and the savviest commissioners will do so sooner rather than later. We advocate for the extra utility spot, because, as we mentioned, it will most likely be a few years before we have enough DH-only eligible hitters that are fantasy relevant. Instead of creating an extremely top-heavy DH spot, the extra Utility makes the most sense to account for this shift in league rules.

If you’re worried about this shift in eligibility, like we are, it would be best to reach out to your commissioners as soon as possible!

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