Wednesday December 28, 2011
Doug Booth- Guest Baseball Writer:
Watching the 2011 season, something really resonated with me while watching the American League: ‘Where have all the great designated hitters in MLB gone?’ It seemed only a few years ago that every team had a bopper capable of hitting .300 with 30 HR’S and 100 RBI’s. Upon further investigation, I found out some interesting facts. First, let us look at the top-3 DH’s this past 2011 season. Michael Young of the Rangers hit .338, 11 HR’S and 106 RBI, which was the best performance by any DH, in helping to win the Rangers a 2nd straight ALCS Pennant. A close second would go to Victor Martinez, who spent 112 games at DH and hit .330 with 12 HR’S and 103 RBI. The 3rd best DH was David Ortiz, who hit .309 with 29 HR’s and 96 RBI. The rest of the DH’s were average to below average.
The Yankees struggled with Posada and a rotation of Andruw Jones/Jesus Montero, although they hit about 30 HR’s combined. The Blue Jays never had a set DH, but received decent production from Encarnacion and Lind. The Baltimore Orioles had Vlad Guerrero, who had his worst year ever, as did the Angels’ Bobby Abreu and the Rays’ Johnny Damon. The Seattle Mariners had washed up Jack Cust and the likes of Willy Mo Pena by the end of the year. Oakland has steady Hideki Matsui, but not even a decent second half had him anywhere near his career average totals. Kansas City has been placing Billy Butler back onto the field, so his DH role was limited this season. Adam Dunn soon became a four letter word in Chicago’s South side. Aging and injury prone players Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner saw the most amount of work for the Cleveland Indians at DH, so yet again these players were far from being in their most productive years.
So what is the underlying theme here? If you have a great DH, you may just make the playoffs and win it all. Young, Martinez, Ortiz had their teams in contention all year for the playoffs. The Tampa Bay Rays were the 4th team in the playoff chase and managed to overcome the position thanks to superior pitching. One could definitely say that Michael Young vs. Bobby Abreu is worth a definite amount of wins at that position, considering what they each produced in the AL West.
I am going to go through the last 20 years of ALCS Pennant Winners as part of my study. 80% of the time (the team with a great DH) was in the World Series:
1992 TORONTO-Dave Winfield .290 26 HR’S 108 RBI
1993 TORONTO-Paul Molitor .332 22 HR’S 111 RBI
1994 WORLD SERIES CANCELLED
1995 CLEVELAND-Eddie Murray .323 21 HR’S 82 RBI
1996 NEW YORK-Cecil Fielder 39 HR’S 117 RBI (Acquired at deadline by NYY)
1997 CLEVELAND-David Justice .329 33 HR’S 101 RBI
1998 NEW YORK-Darryl Strawberry 24 HR’S 57 RBI (295 AB IN 101 GAMES)
1999 NEW YORK-Chili Davis/Darryl Strawberry (not the greatest year-but in middle of NYY dynasty of 6 ALCS IN 7 YRS)
2000 NEW YORK-David Justice .286 41 HR’S 118 RBI
2001 NEW YORK-David Justice (not the greatest year but it was a solid NYY team. Edgar Martinez led SEA to a 116-46 record and were prohibitive favorites but lost to the Yankees-Martinez year was .306 23 HR’s AND 106 RBI
2002 ANAHEIM-Brad Fullmer (hit .289 with 60 XBH in 130 games and a slugging % of .531)
2003 NEW YORK-Jason Giambi 41 HR’S 107 RBI
2004 BOSTON-David Ortiz .301 41 HR’S 139 RBI
2005 CHICAGO-Carl Everett 23 HR’S 87 RBI in 135 games
2006 Detroit Tigers-Dmitri Young (They did not have a definite DH after Young’s injury so this year so was the worst out of the 20 years.)
2007 BOSTON-David Ortiz-.305 35 HR’S 117 RBI
2008 TAMPA BAY-Cliff Floyd/Wille Aybar 22 HR’S 72 RBI combined (Again great pitching carried TB.)
2009 NEW YORK-Hideki Matsui .274 28 HR 90 RBI IN 456 AB
2010 TEXAS-Vlad Guerrero .300 29 HR’S 115 RBI
2011 TEXAS-Michael Young .338 11 HR’S 106 RBI
In 2006, half of the league possessed great DH’s: Ortiz .287 54 HR 137 RBI, Hafner .308 42 HR’S 117 RBI, Giambi 37 HR’S 113 RBI, Thome .288 42 HR’S 109 RBI, and Thomas hit 39 HR’S 114 RBI. This group is far more productive than the 2011 bunch. Given this Information, why wouldn’t more teams elect for permanent DH slots just to gain an edge over their competition? The Seattle Mariners had an incredible run from 1994-2004 with Edgar Martinez as a permanent DH. The Boston Red Sox have won 2 World Series titles and are perennial playoff contenders with David Ortiz as their DH. The Yankees have not been the same since Hideki Matsui has left the club as their DH. This leads me to the Toronto Blue Jays pitching an offer to Prince Fielder and making Adam Lind a permanent DH.
With a signing of Fielder, the Jays could move Adam Lind to just a DH. Could you dare envision a lineup of: Escobar SS, Rasmus CF, Bautista RF, Fielder 1B, Lawrie 3B, Lind DH, Arencibia C, Johnson 2B, and your pick of Thames or Snyder? This would free up your club to make a trade as well. If you are the Jays, and offered Yu Darvish the posting bid of over $50 million and another $60-75 million in salary, why wouldn’t you offer Fielder a 7 year deal in the $140-150 Million range? With Fielder signed, I think his presence would potentially alter the attendance by 8,000-10,000 fans per game to justify his salary (not to mention merchandise and television ratings). With a 3-4-5 lineup of Bautista, Fielder and Lawrie, I could see 120 HR’S and 350 RBI combined each year. The best aspect of these guys is that they are patient. If you add Adam Lind as the #6 hitter with 30 HR 100 RBI capability, then it will become lookout time for the rest of the league.
The Angels signing of Albert Pujols should not cause concern about his production. Even into his early 40’s, Pujols should be able to hit well given his dedication to personal fitness. The question is: why wait to move him to DH right now with the amount of 1st baseman they already possess with Trumbo and maybe a return from Morales? It is my belief that aging players should be shipped off to the National League when they can’t post impressive offensive numbers. A good example of this are recent NL pinch hitters Jason Giambi and Matt Stairs making a living off pinch such roles after failing as DH’s late into their careers. If the AL teams persist in signing aging players past their prime for the DH role, then I believe they will struggle. Vlad Guerrero and Johnny Damon would be perfect for an NL team at this stage of their respective careers considering this rationale.
So whatever players are ultimately signed by each team from this point forward or already have signed, whichever AL teams have the best Designated Hitters in the league for the 2012 season will likely have the best shot at winning the AL Pennant.
*** Thank you to our Guest Baseball Writer- Doug Booth for joining us today on MLB reports. To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Doug Booth, you can follow Doug on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and click here for Doug’s website, fastestthirtyballgames.com***
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