Everybody’s got one. It’s the oldest and newest fad. A big bopper DH. When the Designated Hitter was invented and put into place in 1974, teams grabbed their best-available hitter who couldn’t field well and put him at DH. In many cases this was an older hitter (think Orlando Cepeda, Rico Carty, and Carl Yastrzemski). Before long, young studs who couldn’t field well were being put at DH (think Oscar Gamble, Don Baylor, Jim Rice — although he eventually became a decent left fielder).
The Yankees had the first DH — they played the first game of 1974, on the road, making Ron Blomberg the first DH to ever come up.
As time passed, the DH became taken for granted. “Oh yea we have one of those.” Some teams (including the Yankees) platooned several players at DH, and also used it as a spot to rest everyday ballplayers.
Recently this has changed. If you look at the American League this year, almost all the teams that made or challenged for the playoffs had a monster DH, playing every game at that spot:
- David Ortiz w Boston; 38-127-.315, .401 OBP, 1.021 OPS
- Carlos Santana w Cleveland; 34-87-.259, .366 OBP, .865 OPS
- Edwin Encarnacion w Toronto: 42-127-.263, .357 OBP, .886 OPS
- Carlos Beltran w Texas: 29-93-.295, .337 OBP, .850 OPS totals (& before trade Prince Fielder)
- Mark Trumbo w Baltimore: 47-108-.256, .316 OBP, .850 OPS (59 games as DH; Pedro Alvarez 22-49-.249, .322 OBP, .826 OPS their other DH)
- Nelson Cruz w Seattle: 43-105-.287, .360 OBP, .915 OPS
- Victor Martinez w Detroit: 27-86-.289, .351 OBP, .826 OPS
- Kendrys Morales w KC: 30-93-.263, .327 OBP, .795 OPS
- Evan Gattis w Houston: 32-72-.251, .319 OBP, .826 OPS
Those are some big boppers there. Most were 30-homer, .350 or higher OBP (On Base Percentage), and .850 or higher OPS (On-base+Slugging Pct) guys. PS: only 27 guys in the AL had OBP of .350 or higher, and only 18 had OPS of .850 or higher.
- Brian McCann: 20-58-.242, .335 OBP, .748 OPS
McCann’s value is obviously as a decent-hitting catcher; he’s not the big bopper the other guys are.
- Brett Gardner
- Jacoby Ellsbury
- Gary Sanchez
- The DH — if it stays McCann, then move back to #6
- Greg Bird
- Aaron Judge/Tyler Austin
- Didi Gregorius
- Starlin Castro
- Chase Headley
Available Free Agent DH’s
- Yoenis Cespedes (31 yrs old next year) has the bat — 31-86-.280, .354 OBP, .884 OPS — playing half his games in pitcher-friendly Citi Field — and the ‘clutch gene’ — but he is not a DH. He’s a good outfielder; can even play centerfield. So Yanks will be paying premium for his bat and wasting his fielding capabilities.
- Do Yanks go after him anyway and trade Gardner (.351 OBP), making Cespedes their left fielder? They still wouldn’t have a DH.
- Do they sign Cespedes and platoon him and Ellsbury at DH/Centerfield?
- Do they sign Cespedes and make him their right fielder and put Aaron Judge/Tyler Austin at DH? Both those young guys can field well so that would be a waste.
- Mike Napoli (35 yrs old next yr): 34-101-.239, .335, .800
- Edwin Encarnacion ( 34 yrs old next yr)
- Carlos Beltran (40 yrs old next yr)
- Mark Trumbo (31 yrs old next yr)
- Carlos Santana (31 yrs old next yr) — $12MM club option with a $1.2MM buyout — will probably be kept by Cleveland
- Kendrys Morales (34 yrs old next yr) — $11MM mutual option with a $1.5MM buyout — may be kept by KC
Others? Other ideas? Please post.
In the next piece, we’ll take a look at the Yankees all-time best DH’s.
Note: Featured cartoon for this article by Karl Hubenthal, with adjustment made to replace “The Homerun” with “The Big Bopper DH” on uniform.