In the comments to yesterday’s post about catchers good enough to DH, someone suggested a related idea. How about DHs who hit like catchers? The idea would have been a bit more robust earlier in the year, when a number of DHs were hitting like sissies. In that post, I noted three DHs who weren’t producing, but since then two, David Ortiz and Travis Hafner, have turned it around, while Eric Chavez hit the DL with bulging discs in his neck and gave way to Jack Cust…who is hitting like a sissy.
Cust isn’t the worst of the lot, of course. He’s picked up just 52 PA since being recalled in late May, so we’ll forgive him for the tepid start. We can’t say the same for Adam Lind and Hideki Matsui, each of whom has a below average wOBA. If that sounds unacceptable coming from a player whose sole job is to hit the baseball, well, it is. Some players might have a hard time adjusting to playing just half a game. Some might find themselves penciled in as DH because of a nagging injury. Lind and Matsui, however, are full-time DHs, and have been for the past two years. Lind started 92 of his 147 games at DH last season, while Matsui played a half game every time.
Matsui’s hot start to the season has kept him afloat through the first two months. In his first 55 PA he hit .327/.400/.612 and generally made Yankees fans hate the front office for letting him leave in favor of Nick Johnson. Since then he’s hit .200/.374/.323. That brings his wOBA down to .313, which just doesn’t fit the profile of a DH. He ranks between Russell Martin (.315 wOBA) and Jason Kendall (.309 wOBA). That’s just not a good place for a DH. Angels fans can rest assured that Matsui will come around. Last year he hit .194/.234/.361 from April 30 through May 24. For the rest of the season he hit .288/.384/.542.
Adam Lind has crashed this year after breaking out last season. His .296 wOBA ranks last among DHs with at least 150 PA, and is right near the bottom of the list of DHs with 100 PA. Just about everything has gone wrong for Lind this season. His ISO has gone from .257 to .171; his BB% has dropped by nearly a full percentage point; his K% has risen from 18.7 to 26.3; he’s hitting line drives 18.2 percent of the time, compared to two percentage points higher last year; his BABIP is more than 60 points lower; his HR/FB ratio is 8 percentage points lower; he’s swinging at more pitches, especially pitches outside the zone, and making less contact. His wOBA puts him right below Matt Wieters, though more than 10 points above the next lowest, Bengie Molina.
Jason Kubel currently has a .332 wOBA, though that’s rising. After a painfully slow start, which hit a low point on May 23 when his OPS hit .645, Kubel has rebounded. He’s 8 for his last 34 with three homers, three doubles, and four walks. Still, many a catcher ranks above him in wOBA. In fact, 20 catchers with more than 100 PA have a better wOBA, out of 32 total. Kubel might rank ahead of Kurt Suzuki, but he’s behind Yorvit Torrealba and Ivan Rodriguez. Chances are that won’t last.
Finally, it would be tough to assemble a post of limp-hitting DHs and leave off Ken Griffey Jr.. There’s no reason to spend time chronicling his poor season, since others have spilled many words on the topic. Still, if I’m doing a post about DHs who don’t deserve the spot, it would be downright irresponsible to leave off Griffey. Every single catcher with more than 100 PA has a higher wOBA than Griffey’s .216. He has said that he’ll know when it’s time to retire. Isn’t hitting worse than every catcher in the league a sign?
This post would have been much longer had it come a month earlier. It seemed like most AL teams were employing sub-optimal solutions at DH. There were Ortiz and Hafner, former sluggers struggling to hit in April. There was Nick Johnson, whose only value came via the walk. There was Chavez, trying to come back from years of injuries. Pat Burrell was hitting even worse than last season. Most of the teams gave their DHs time to turn it around. Some did. Others have been set aside in favor of better options. How long, then, will the Angels stick with Matsui and the Blue Jays with Lind?