So why not a designated free-throw shooter?

If you’re in favor of the designated hitter in baseball, are you also in favor of a designated free-throw shooter in basketball?

At ESPN.com, the estimable Christina Kahrl revived the arguments for placing the DH in the National League, arguments that have as little effect on me as I’m sure mine against the DH would have on her.

Concidentally, there was a front-page story in the Times sports section today on the free-throw woes of Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, indicating that – like Lakers center Dwight Howard and many other big men before them – Jordan is so poor at shooting free throws that it is limiting his playing time and generally causing headaches.

My first thought was wondering how, with so many years in which you’re paid to do nothing but play basketball, players can still be so poor at free-throw shooting. But I realized, look, some skills are just never going to materialize for some players.

And then it hit me: I’ve just described hitting for many major-league pitchers.

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers (April 1)

Some pitchers can learn to hit, but most won’t. Because of that, many people think that no pitchers should hit at all. That has never made sense to me, because I don’t think the pitchers who can hit should lose that advantage. And I still think it’s a worthwhile goal to strive for. Look at our friends old and new, from Rick Rhoden and Terry Forster to Clayton Kershaw, who over the years has improved at the plate while still developing on the mound.

Having the pitcher’s spot in the lineup enhances baseball strategy, and stories of pitchers getting hurt while playing offense are overblown. Pitchers deliver far more memorable moments at the plate than injure themselves.

But let’s put all that aside and ask yourself this – if you’re pro-DH, shouldn’t you also be pro-DFTS?

Bad free-throw shooters are almost never going to get better. They are painful to watch. They are otherwise key players who aren’t able to play as often.

Most of all, unlike in baseball, where so many of us enjoy trying to think ahead like a manager, bad free-throw shooting brings out the worst in basketball strategy. No one fantasizes about instructing their imaginary team to foul other players; no one salivates over the last two minutes of an NBA game taking 20.

Other than the exceedingly rare injury for pitchers while on offense, there’s little argument for the DH that doesn’t make more sense for the DFTS. The DFTS would discourage fouling, keep the best players on the floor and make the end of a basketball game more entertaining.

I’m against the DH and the DFTS. But whether you’re pro or con, they go together — and yet the world is silent on the latter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/flomidmajdi Omid Majdi

    I agree with everything in this article except for one line:

    “But I realized, look, some skills are just never going to materialize for some players.
    And then it hit me: I’ve just described hitting for many major-league pitchers.”

    The classic NBA big men that can’t shoot free-throws tout that they practice their free-throw shooting relentlessly. When was the last time that you heard about a pitcher’s work ethic at the plate? Not to say that some pitchers don’t, but I think there is a discrepancy between the two. The thing that sticks out like a sore thumb to me is that hitting is the hardest thing to do in all of sports, whereas free-throw shooting is among the simplest.

    Dwight Howard, DeAndre Jordan, and all other poor free-throw shooters need to suck it up and shoot granny-style.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      Well, the amount of time spent trying to learn might be different, but I’m not sure the effort vs. the constraints of the game is that much different. In any case, the result is the same.

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    I say leave it as it is. It’s too late to change the AL back and I like the idea of pitchers batting in the NL

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1172439252 Michael Green

    Amen, Brother Jon! And while we’re at it, I remember Don Sutton saying years ago that pitchers who like to get in the cage and swing for the fences should be practicing their bunting, because they can really help their team that way.

  • Adam Luther

    With a DH we don’t have Kershaw’s rarified x10 opening day round-tripper. Instead of the DFTS, I’d just change the rule and allow your best free shooter (on the floor at the time of the call) shoot the free throws. Handle it like a technical – put your best player on the line. In the last two minutes, bring in a 80-90% DFTS off of the bench – and put ‘em on the line.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      I think essentially that’s what a DFTS is.

      • Adam Luther

        Concur.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think free throw shooting and pitchers’ hitting are totally analogous. A poor free throw shooter is not distinctly different from his teammates and opponents, other than in his inability to shoot free throws well. The pitcher, on the other hand, plays a highly specialized and differentiated position from his non-pitcher teammates. The role of the pitcher has evolved over baseball’s history and now the pitcher is a different class of baseball player with different expectations.

    • Jack Dawkins

      A catcher is a highly specialized player, playing a highly differentiated postion. They are usually below average hitters in generalized terms. Why not a DH for them under this logic?

      • Anonymous

        I wasn’t make an argument in favor of the DH rule. I was just suggesting that free throw shooting and pitchers’ hitting aren’t a perfect analogy. I do see your point though.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    NPUT

  • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

    I suspect both leagues will have a DH after Selig retires. With at least one interleague game every day the disparity in offense is too obvious.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t forget Orel. Didn’t he get a bases loaded hit in the 88 post season?

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.lefever John LeFever

    I will be very disappointed if the NL implements the DH. It’s a gimmick. I have looked closely at inter-league scores since it was implemented. Games played with the DH score do about 10% more runs. But does higher scoring make for a “better” game? I think we could come up with lots of ways to increase scoring. T-Ball? Such a rule change could easily make the game really boring.

    I thought that the original idea was to make the game more interesting and sell more tickets. IMHO, it makes the game less interesting. Someone should look at attendance figures before and after for both the NL and AL. I would guess that it made little difference.