Even for a casual fan, softball is an immensely entertaining and exciting game.
Many of the spectators often don’t have a full grasp of intricate and often complicated rules of the sport, but that doesn’t stop them from enjoying and having fun while watching the game.
However, a complete understanding of even the more subtle softball rules definitely takes the enjoyment of the game on another level.
Unsurprisingly, most of these rules come from baseball as softball developed from it. Furthermore, It’s not just the original baseball rules.
A lot of rule changes were added to baseball over the years and also found their place in softball, usually with a little twist.
One of those rules is the use of DH (designated hitter), DP (Designated player ) and EH (extra hitter).
Here, I’ll explain what does DH, DP, and EH mean in softball, and how these positions are used in a game.
So, let’s dive in!
What Does DH Mean In Softball?
The designated hitter rule comes to softball from baseball, or to be more precise, from the American League.
In baseball, simply said, the DH is a player in the lineup that only bats and has no position in the field. Mostly, they bat instead of a pitcher.
Usually, DHs are players who lack the athletic ability to successfully play in the field but are good hitters and have value at the home plate.
The softball designated hitter initially worked the same as in baseball.
The rule, when used, allowed a team to designate a player who only bats in place of the player who only plays in the field.
However, in 2003, World Baseball Softball Confederation replaced the designated hitter with the Designated Player/FLEX rule.
Most of the US softball governing bodies filled and implemented this new rule in their competitions.
What Does DP Mean In Softball?
The designated player or DP in softball is listed on the batting order at the start of the game, but not in the defensive lineup.
However, unlike a DH who can only bat instead of another player, a designated player can also play defense.
The rule allows the softball team to add a tenth player. DP occupies one of the spots in the batting order.
This player links to another player and these players are the starting DP who’s in the batting lineup and the FLEX player whose initial job is only fielding.
The starting FLEX is the one who takes the 10th spot. It’s always a defensive player but can take the spot of the DP in the batting order.
The new rules also introduced the term of an offensive player (OP).
OP stands for any player from the batting order who’s been replaced by a DP on defense.
Why Was Designated Player/FLEX Rule Introduced?
The DP/FLEX rule is mostly in place at higher levels of softball competitions, while plenty of recreational leagues still use the DH rule.
It keeps things easier and simpler for everyone.
However, the DP/FLEX rule allows coaches to have more options when it comes to strategy.
Its purpose is to allow teams to compete with 10 players and have more flexibility when it comes to lineups.
This means that they can select eight players to play both defense and offense, but also two specialists, one who will only play on offense, and one for defense.
However, it also comes with a bit of a risk if a team has only 10 players available. DP/Flex rule means that all players start in the lineup.
So, if any player, who’s not DP or FLEX, is unable to continue to play on offense, the team would have to forfeit.
How To Choose Designated Player And FLEX?
When submitting their starting lineups, coaches list the 9 players to start on offense and defense.
On offense, FLEX is added as the 10th player and is not in the initial batting order. Likewise, a player not initially playing defense is the designated player.
When choosing who will be your DP and FLEX it’s important to create a pairing of two players with complementary and matching skills.
The strength of one of these players should be compensated for the weakness of the other.
Similar to designated hitter, DP should be a good batter matching with a good defender who is poor at hitting.
On the other hand, FLEX should be a good runner who can come in for the hitter for whom running is not a strength.
Still, it’s important that these players are at least competent on both offense and defense.
What Does EH Mean In Softball?
Some softball leagues allow the use of extra hitter or EH.
The rule allows teams, depending on the competition, to have 10 to 12 players on their line-up card to bat.
This way, a coach can use additional players as extra hitters. Every extra hitter must always be reported prior to the game in the line-up card.
Extra hitters usually can occupy any of the positions on the hitting order, but can’t play on defense, unlike the designated players.
In this type of extended line-up, extra hitters are treated like all the other starters when it comes to re-entry rules.
The extra hitter simplifies the implementation of an extra player rule. Also, it allows more players to take part in the game.
This is particularly important in leagues involving kids.
At that age, softball games are more about developing skills and having a chance to play than getting the result.
As you can see, answers to questions about what does DH mean in softball and what does EH mean in softball are seemingly not that simple.
However, once you dig a bit deeper, they’re not too hard to understand.
Learning them will help you understand the logistics of building softball lineups and the process of lineup changes and substitutions.
Knowing these rules will certainly add another dimension to watching or playing softball, as you’ll gain a better understanding of coaching strategies and see more clearly what’s going on the field.
Ultimately, these rules were developed to make the game more interesting and add another layer of excitement to softball.