The Value of the Rays' DH Hole

SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 03: Pat Burrell of the San Francisco Giants rides a cable car during the San Francisco Giants victory parade on November 3 2010 in San Francisco California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Designated Hitter should hit, right? I mean, that's all they're supposed to do. They sit in the dugout watching the game, chewing gum, spitting, whatever they want until they're called upon 4 or so times a game to do what they're generally paid millions of dollars. It seems, however, that lately DHs around th league have struggled.

Year

wOBA

bRAA

2001

0.344

3.934

2002

0.345

6.269

2003

0.345

5.488

2004

0.346

2.811

2005

0.341

4.327

2006

0.354

6.655

2007

0.351

8.069

2008

0.340

3.486

2009

0.343

2.694

2010

0.332

3.265

 

A few notes about the statistics:

-wOBA here is the basic wOBA formula that does not include stolen bases or caught stealing.
-wOBA* here is the wOBA I came up with adjusted for the home park the DH played in using the wOBA factor from statcorner.com.

Especially the last three years, the DH hasn't been much better than the average hitter. The high-point from 2006-2007 was somewhat a mirage due to a few outstanding seasons by a couple of outstanding DHs.

Team/year

wOBA*

bRAA

2010 MIN

.370

24.834

2010 BAL

.364

21.112

2010 TEX

.358

18.704

2010 TOR

.311

-8.943

2010 LAA

.309

-9.851

2010 SEA

.276

-28.390

2009 NYY

.375

21.354

2009 TOR

.368

17.332

2009 LAA

.363

15.015

2009 BAL

.330

-4.669

2009 DET

.318

-11.774

2009 KCR

.291

-26.238

2008 TEX

.387

31.984

2008 NYY

.374

22.828

2008 BOS

.359

15.086

2008 DET

.315

-11.341

2008 CLE

.313

-12.687

2008 SEA

.283

-28.636

2007 BOS

.419

50.528

2007 TOR

.380

24.844

2007 CHW

.376

22.702

2007 BAL

.314

-12.358

2007 KCR

.312

-13.952

2007 LAA

.309

-15.542

2006 CLE

.416

43.394

2006 CHW

.397

32.658

2006 BOS

.394

32.074

2006 TEX

.310

-18.394

2006 SEA

.302

-22.434

2006 MIN

.294

-26.316

As you can see the 2006 and 2007 seasons were both anchored by a few big years by big-name DHs. In 2007 David Ortiz destroyed the ball, and he helped Pronk put up huge numbers in 2006 as well. The bottom 3 each year generally hovers around the same ineptitude. It's somewhat surprising (to me at least) just how hard it is to hit without playing the field. We've all seen it here with Pat Burrell or Wily Aybar or whomever the Rays have asked to JUST HIT. While we can see the Rays haven't been in the bottom or top 3, how have they fared in the last 5 years?

Year

wOBA*

bRAA

2010

.324

-1.528

2009

.331

-3.677

2008

.343

4.671

2007

.321

-8.720

2006

.332

-5.349

The Rays' DH position has been bad. Only one year (the Magical 2008) have the Rays even been above average (thanks Cliff!), so any gains we could get from the position would be a huge plus. This makes finding production there quite a bit easier, and it's a position where we can easily make gains lost from CC or potential bullpen depletion. We'll be free of Burrell's ineptitude and price tag; and with the potential Pena departure (coupled with the loss of CC's LH-bat), a right-handed platoon DH/1B with Johnson could work or another lefty would be fine. Looking over the potential FA bats that shouldn't use a glove, there seem to be more options than teams. Thome, Dunn, Ramirez, Damon, Giambi, Matsui, etc., etc. could all work because of our openings. I'd imagine one or two of these guys could sign somewhere for relatively cheaply. Here's a rough projection of the bRAA we might expect from some FA names that jumped out at me:

Player

Projection

Adam Dunn

28.8

Manny Ramirez

25.7

Paul Konerko

24.5

Lance Berkman

22.8

Jim Thome

20.8

Derrek Lee

20.6

Johnny Damon

16.1

Magglio Ordonez

14.6

Vladimir Guerrero

13.9

Hideki Matsui

13.7

Adam LaRoche

10.8

Russell Branyan

10.2

Nick Johnson

7.8

Jason Giambi

6.5

Marcus Thames

3.9

*The projection is a 5-4-3 weighted average of the last 3 years discounted 10% as most of these guys are on the tail end of their careers.

As you can see there are 15 names here ranging from All-Star caliber bats to complimentary role player bats that will come in for much cheaper and could provide an upgrade. If we can squeeze 10 more offensive runs than we did last year (pretty much any of these projections adds that), then that will put us that much closer to replacing CC. If we can get 5 bRAA from the DH next year, that would place the production from our DH in the top half of the league every one of the last three years. If we can get more than 10 bRAA from the DH position, then we'd be in the top 5 of the league every year. In my opinion, we could see quite an upgrade without much of a cost outlay. We might even be able to add two of these bats with the hole at 1B that also could open with Pena's impending free agency. Since 2008 the Rays have gotten about 4.7, 2.7, and 1.1 wins combined from DH and 1B. If we can get just one win from the DH and 2 from 1B, then we'd see a 2 win upgrade from last year. That's a big start to replacing what we lose from Crawford leaving.

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