As I have been having this argument with advocates of the DH for over a decade, one constant is that having the pitchers bat impacts the game in many more ways than one might think. Allow me to briefly illustrate one of those nuances.
As we watch the continued pussification of pitchers via pitch counts, innings limits, specialized relief, and the designated hitter at nearly every level of the game, one disappearing treat is the complete game.
Once commonplace in the game, a complete game is nearly as rare as an inside the park home run or a steal of home plate. I can think of many a time in recent years that I screamed at (insert manager here) to “leave ’em in!” only to have a relief pitcher appear after 8 innings and 110 or so pitches thrown.
It is well documented that one of the primary differences between the AL (that stands for “Arena League”, right?) and the NL is having to make pitching decisions while you are batting. I can remember a caller on ESPN radio when discussing manager of the year in each league saying, “In the NL: Bobby Cox. In the AL: no one. Because there is no managing in the American League.”
In the NL, once in awhile a home team’s starter is both dominant (or staked to a big lead) and low in pitch count, and comes to bat in the bottom of the 8th. This is one of the best opportunities in all of baseball for fans to salute an individual effort. When a pitcher is allowed to bat for himself in the bottom of the 8th inning, his name is announced, and the home crowd (hopefully) unleashes one of the best rounds of applause that can be dished out at a ballgame. When a pitcher is pinch hit for, or removed in between innings, there is never an opportunity to salute him individually. But this unique opportunity to applaud complete games by your home pitcher is completely lost in the American League. I once attended an interleague game at Shea Stadium between the Mets and Yankees. The Yankees won convincingly, and their young starter (Brandon Claussen perhaps?) was allowed to bat in the top of the 9th. There was no shortage of Yankee fans that day at old Shea. The only problem was, as AL fans, they squandered this opportunity to salute a commendable effort by a kid recently called up from the minors. Don’t worry purists, reluctantly this Mets fan stood up and cheered him.