clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Will the 2015 Indians have a true DH? There wasn't really one in 2014

New, 19 comments

Next in the series we visit a pure power position, at least it is supposed to be a power position, the designated hitter.

Let's hug it out
Let's hug it out
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Previous entries:

Heading into 2014, it was expected that the DH position would be a mix of a number of players, but there were two players that were expected to get the bulk of those at bats, Jason Giambi and Carlos Santana. Santana because he was being edged out of the catching spot and might not play full time at third. And Giambi was expected to play against most righties, provided his health held up.

As to be expected with a 43 year old, Giambi's health was in question all year and he became more of a coach who just happened to be on the DL most of the season. Santana did end up the second most starts at DH, but it was only 22. That is because he supplanted Nick Swisher as the everyday first baseman once the third base experiment was ended. Swisher was moved to DH because of health concerns of his own, but he did manage 34 starts.

That left 96 other games (not 106 as there were 10 games in NL parks) that Terry Francona needed an extra hitter. Ryan Raburn had 19 starts, Giambi 18, Zach Walters 16, Lonnie Chisenhall 14, Yan Gomes and Michael Brantley 8, and five others receiving 5 or fewer starts (Jason Kipnis, Chris Dickerson, Jesus Aguilar, Asdrubal Cabrera and David Murphy). J.B. Shuck, Jose Ramirez and Josh Tomlin (!) all made relief DH appearances.

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

wRC+

Swisher

143

235

268

382

650

84

Santana

89

235

303

469

773

121

Raburn

81

189

247

257

504

38

Walters

66

145

197

403

600

67

Giambi

64

143

250

286

536

45

Chisenhall

59

420

500

560

1060

196

Brantley

37

452

514

742

1255

253

Gomes

35

516

571

903

1475

321

Kipnis

20

158

200

211

411

15

Dickerson

11

111

273

222

495

-16

Aguilar

9

000

222

000

222

44

Cabrera

9

000

000

000

000

-100

Murphy

6

333

333

500

833

137

Shuck

2

000

000

000

000

-100

Ramirez

1

000

000

000

000

-100

Tomlin

-

-

-

-

-

-

Swisher really struggled (as noted in the first base profile), but that was due to those nagging injuries that finally shut down his season. Santana did not accumulate walks very much here, but his power was very evident (234 ISO). Raburn, Walters and Giambi were all awful in their stints. But Chisenhall, Brantley and Gomes all tore the cover off the ball taking a break from the field. Even Murphy did well in his small sample size, but the rest were pathetic.

Here is the rest of the AL Central:

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

wRC+

Tigers

326

396

561

958

163

White Sox

257

339

452

791

120

Twins

261

327

438

765

116

Indians

242

306

415

721

106

Royals

248

307

332

639

82

As with first base, no surprise that the Tigers lead here, as Victor Martinez had one of the best seasons ever by a 36 year old not named Barry Bonds. His 167 wRC+ exceeded Miguel Cabrera's first base number. The Tigers 163 wRC+ was far away the best in the league with the Red Sox finishing a distant second. The White Sox finished fifth, mainly due to Jose Abreu's numbers, not Adam Dunn's. The Twins edged the Tribe because many of their short DH stints did well, while the Tribe's performed poorly. The Royals finished thirteenth overall and it is no surprise that Billy Butler and his 79 wRC+ was not invited back.

As bad as the Tribe fares here, they actually weren't too far off the league average of 744 OPS and 109 wRC+. Detroit, Boston and Houston all hit 35+ home runs while the Tribe hit 23 (the Royals were dead last with 6, ouch).

Fangraphs WAR time ...

Batting

Baserunning

Offense

WAR

Swisher

-2.5

-0.1

-2.5

-0.2

Santana

2.1

0.1

2.2

0.3

Raburn

-5.1

-0.5

-5.6

-0.6

Walters

-2.4

0.0

-2.3

-0.3

Giambi

-3.7

0.1

-3.6

-0.4

Chisenhall

6.0

0.1

6.1

0.7

Brantley

6.2

0.2

6.4

0.7

Gomes

8.5

0.0

8.5

1.0

Kipnis

-1.9

0.5

-1.4

-0.1

Dickerson

-1.2

0.0

-1.1

-0.1

Aguilar

-0.4

-0.1

-0.4

-0.1

Cabrera

-1.9

0.0

-1.9

-0.2

Murphy

0.2

0.0

0.2

0.0

Shuck

-0.2

0.0

-0.2

-0.1

Ramirez

-

-

-

-

Tomlin

-

-

-

-

Nothing too surprising here, as these numbers compare to the first chart pretty well. Gomes, Brantley, Chisenhall and Santana all with positive components, with the est pretty moribund (except Murphy). Gomes graded out as the second best DH by fWAR in the AL Central, with Chisenhall and Brantley tied for fourth (with Kennys Vargas) behind Jose Abreu.

Onto the AL Central totals:

Batting

Baserunning

Offense

WAR

Tigers

45.3

-4.5

40.8

5.0

Twins

11.2

-0.4

10.9

1.6

White Sox

13.6

-5.5

8.1

1.2

Indians

3.9

0.4

4.4

0.6

Royals

-12.6

-5.2

-17.9

-1.7

That 5.0 by the Tigers was almost double the second place number by the Red Sox (2.7) and the Astros were the only other squad to top 2.0. The Tribe finished ninth overall. A special shout out to the Mariners, who wrapped up their 2014 DH season with a nifty -3.2. They tried 16 different players there with horrific results.

The days of the likes Travis Hafner are slowly fading away. Only eight players had more than 250 plate appearances as a DH last year, just over half the league. Martinez and David Ortiz should hold onto their roles until they retire, but with Dunn retiring, the only other players who might be considered full time DHs this year would be Chris Carter, Billy Butler and Kendrys Morales.

I would hope that Swisher comes back healthier than how his 2014 finished. If he does, I think he could approach 2.5 WAR, but I'd be happy with 1.5-2.0. Santana will still get some time at DH and Gomes may get more starts here if Francona manages his days behind the plate more carefully.

The DH position is one that players almost always end up due to poor fielding, not as they come up through the system. But I'll take a stab in the dark and say Jesus Aguilar and Nellie Rodriguez look like the most likely of the current farmhands.