Yankee designated hitter production of recent vintage, and a look at 2012


One of the bitterest pills to swallow in the aftermath of the Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero trade was the fact that the Yankees were removing what many expected to be a substantial cog in the offensive machine, not only in 2012 but for years to come. Prior to being traded, Montero’s average projected wOBA for 2012 was .360 (his revised projections as a Mariner average out to a .347 wOBA, or .272/.334/.461), which was the fifth-best projected wOBA of the projected starting Yankee nine.

Interestingly, for all of Brian Cashman‘s skill at building an incredibly talented roster on the offensive side of the equation, getting robust production out of the DH slot in the lineup has never really seemed to be a primary interest. To wit (as always, click to embiggen):

Of the 14 Yankee teams Cash has presided over, they have received below-league average production (sOPS+) out of the DH slot five times. That may not seem like a lot, but it is a tad eyebrow-raising given how robust the Yankee offense has been with Cash at the helm. Only four times has the team received DH production 10% better than league average in the last 14 seasons, which seems like a fairly large waste of resources when considering we’re talking about a lineup slot solely extant to produce offense.

Cashman’s high-water mark DH season was 2009, the year in which Hideki Matsui had primary designated hitter duties and responded with a DH campaign 19% better than the league. The Yankees also got a surprising amount of production out of the 2008 DH, which was mostly filled by Jason Giambi, along with Matsui and Johnny Damon. The only other really standout year for DH production above was 1998, which saw Darryl Strawberry, Rock Raines and Chili Davis collaborate on a .276/.378/.493 line.

That .360 projected wOBA for a Montero as a Yankee worked out to roughly a .270/.360/.470 triple slash, mighty fine production out of a 21-year-old, not to mention a line that would’ve been among the better performances the Yankees received from the DH during the last 14 seasons. However, for all the hullabaloo about the Yankees wanting to fill Montero’s vacated production, it appears they’ll have a pretty good shot at doing just that with the platoon of Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez.

In 2011, Andruw Jones put up the following slash against LHP  in 146 PAs: .286/.384/.540, .400 wOBA.
In 2011, Raul Ibanez put up the following slash against RHP in 437 PAs: .256/.307/.440, .322 wOBA.

If you average those lines (and obviously this is exceptionally rough math, as the PAs are not even close to comparable), you get a .271/.346/.490, .361 wOBA hitter. Docking for the fact that PAs against RHP are roughly double those against LHP and you’re probably close to a .340 wOBA hitter, which is right around the average of SG’s 2012 CAIRO-projected platoon splits for Jones (.337 vs. LHP) and Ibanez (.349 vs. RHP).

While Jones probably won’t produce a .400 wOBA against LHP again, on the flip side Ibanez seems like a fairly reasonable bet to outdo a .322 wOBA against RHP with 81 games at Yankee Stadium, and taken together I don’t think it’s terribly unrealistic to expect the duo to combine for somewhere in the neighborhood of a .350 wOBA. While that may not quite be Jesus Montero territory, it should be enough for the Yankee offense to not miss much of a beat, especially when considering the ~.309 wOBA received from Jorge Posada in the majority of DH plate appearances in 2011.

Categories : Analysis
  • Stephen

    Although the DH position seems to beg for an uber-hitter with minimal fielding potential, guys like David Ortiz just don’t show up very often. I for one am very comfortable the way the Yankees have used the DH spot, cushioning the ageing process for many of their stars (Giambi/Matsui/Posada). Better than spending $16m+ for guys with only one dimension to their playing, regardless of how good they are.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Exactly. We can nitpick as to which aging veteran was brought in for the part-time at-bats but, in the end, I can’t argue with what they’ve done. We’re also, hopefully, going to really get used to having this Pineda guy around.

    • Ted Nelson

      I find it odd to say the Yankees haven’t been paying big money for one dimensional DHs. They were still regularly paying $13m+ for those aging DHs who only had one dimension to their games at that point.

      • jsbrendog

        except they weren’t. they didnt sing aging players to dh. they put aging players at the end of their contracts whose skills had deteriorated and had devolved into the skillless dh. completely different. ortiz is a dh. the aging veterans the yankees paid to play dh were still udner contract and they had nowhere else ot put them. nice try though.

        • Ted Nelson

          Except… they were.

          My point is that however that player ended up in that position, they were in reality paying $13m+ per for one dimensional DHs (not sure how much they paid Berkman to combine that with Johnson and Thames for 2010).

          • Ted Nelson

            You’re ignoring my comment and just making an inaccurate smartass remark. Nice try, though.

            • Stephen

              I suppose my original point was that the Yankees are able to extend contracts (probably beyond reason) knowing that the DH position can always be used to fill gaps in performance. Yes, you’re often stuck paying exorbitant amounts for a diminished player, but I can sleep better knowing they aren’t putting a glove on.

              Ideal? No. But better than paying A-Rod $20m in 2017 to warm the bench while some other guy clogs the DH. Larry’s post seems to promote the idea that you can score a lot of runs without a huge performance from the DH spot.

              • Ted Nelson

                Yeah, I was just pointing out that in effect you’re still paying a one dimensional guy a whole lot of money.

                Ideally you just don’t commit to paying A-Rod $20mm in 2017. Sometimes you either sign the guy or lose him (say a marquee FA in his prime like Giambi or Tex), but in some of these cases the Yankees were bidding against themselves to keep their own players (A-Rod, Posada, certainly Jeter).

                I just think it’s situational. Try to maximize the production of your roster + available acquisitions. That’s going to vary depending on who you have on your roster and who is available. If you have old, expensive guys who can still hit… by all means DH them. If you have a one or two strong bench player(s) (cover the IF and OF), I have no problem with a rotating DH. If you’ve got a David Ortiz capable of .400 wOBA season after .400 wOBA season, though, I think you pay the man (till a reasonable age… he’s getting up there at this point). Personally I’d rather see the Ortiz post the .400 wOBA than some old guy limp to a, say, >.350 wOBA, and just eat the contract… in part because it’s not my money, but also because it’s a sunk cost and winning WS makes a team a lot of money.

                • Stephen

                  Oh, no doubt there are better and more efficient ways to build a team. Can’t argue with you or Hal Steinbrenner there. But at least this way you don’t have the $20m guy on top of the well-paid-yet-superfluous free agent DH. A-Rod on an NL team in 2017 would be a nightmare. Unless he found and drank the entire Fountain of Youth, which he may just be in a position to do after $400m+ in career earnings.

          • CJ

            Doesn’t matter, moving forward they have a $27-30 million DH. No point in discussing allocation of DH funds philosophy.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          That’s an insane amount of nitpicking. You’re both right, but the point in even having the argument? Yup…..RAB dick-waving.

          • Havok9120


    • Lawrence

      The Yankees have failed at dh for a long time. They should have kept montero and developed him into a piazza type superstar. Ibaneaz give me a break. They are stuck with a-rod and will suffer for a long time.

    • http://none Lawrence

      The Yankees have failed at dh for a long time. They should have kemontero and developed him into a piazza type superstar. Ibaneaz give me a break. They are stuck with a-rod and will suffer for a long time.

    • http://none Lawrence

      The Yankees have failed at dh for a long time. They should have kept montero and developed him into a piazza type superstar. Ibaneaz give me a break. They are stuck with a-rod and will suffer for a long time.

  • Jebediah

    A noble spirit embiggens the smallest graph

    • Thomas

      It’s not the size of the graph, but the info it gives to you.

    • Havok9120


  • Johnny O

    .309 wOBA – damn i almost forgot how bad jorge was last year. thanks for reminding us larry.

  • CJ

    1998 2009 best DH production and best teams.

    • Robinson Tilapia


  • Monterowasdinero

    Montero Montero Montero….get over it dudes. The guy has no position and regressed at AAA and has attitude problems. He is an overrated 500K a year 22 year old who gets easily bored.

    We have Raul Ibanez now and that is SO EXCITING!

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I’d also say “CJ-simplified,” but I’m pretty sure you realize you’re half-kidding here.

      • Havok9120

        God I hope so.

  • LiterallyFigurative

    DH hasn’t been a position of dire need for the Yanks because they’ve gotten high caliber offense from just about every other position on the team.

    DH to me is a position that you should never fill long-term, particularly when you’ve got aging, long-term players who can still play at a high level, but need some half-days. The Red Sox could sign David Ortiz year after year, because their other stars are relatively young.

    • Rich in NJ

      DH is a position, like any other. As such, you should try to get maximum production out of it, and not use it as a rest stop for aging, declining players, especially now that the Yankees are unlikely to get high caliber offense from every other position over the next few seasons.

      • Ted Nelson

        Totally agree that DH is a position (not quite like any other… but a valuable line-up spot nonetheless). A great offense can get by with a zero at any one position, and DH certainly isn’t unique there. If the Yankees had Ortiz at DH the last 5 years and poor production from, say, 2B… would be the same story: a team can win with below average 2B. Yes.

        I would say, though, that putting declining players there might be the best way to maximize your roster. Just depends on you resources in terms of players, $, prospects to trade…

        And why are the Yankees unlikely to get high quality offense from their other positions the next few seasons?

  • Rich in NJ

    “…on the flip side Ibanez seems like a fairly reasonable bet to outdo a .322 wOBA against RHP with 81 games at Yankee Stadium”

    I’ll take the under.

  • Blorg

    Apples to oranges.

    I am sure you could pull up numbers to show that LaRussa managed NL teams mysteriously perform well below the average in batting numbers at the 8 spot…if you ignore the kind of glaring fact that he often batted the pitcher there.

    The Yankees have not, in recent years, used the DH as it historically has been used. They used it as a place to rest older and injured players and this year will be no different. That’s a big difference vs. having a David Ortiz on the team who is paid just to be a hitter.

    • Ted Nelson

      DH has historically been used for older players who can no longer field…;players=0

      Some of those guys could never actually field well, but most of them fielded in their 20s and early 30s.

    • Havok9120

      Show me how many David Ortiz type players are in the league right now and productive.