There have been some great Designated Hitters in the history of baseball. David Ortiz is the first to come to mind in the here and now. Others have included Edgar Martinez, Don Baylor, Jim Thome and Frank Thomas. When the DH was first introduced, it appeared it would be the domain of aging sluggers whose best defensive years were behind them or young sluggers whose defense was shoddy at best.
As a fan, I used to want one of those sluggers in my team’s line-up, that team being the Texas Rangers. Even today, there’s a clamor among Rangers fans for Prince Fielder to transition to DH so we don’t have to put up with his lack of range as a first baseman. I no longer subscribe to that theory. The Rangers first foray into the World Series in 2010 put an end to my thinking that way.
In 2010, the Rangers had future Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero as their Designated Hitter. It was a match made in heaven. Here was a quality power hitter whose knees could no longer take the regular pounding of playing in right field every day. Vlad’s one year with Texas was superb: a .300/.345/.496 slash line with 29 home runs and 115 RBI. Guerrero slumped in September but rebounded a little in the playoffs with a .267 average, 3 doubles and 4 RBI in 11 games. Then came the World Series.
The problem with having your everyday DH being one of your main RBI guys is something’s got to give in the World Series when you visit the National League park and can’t use a DH. Either you sit a major part of your offense on the bench or you put his less than stellar defense on the field. Ron Washington felt he had no choice. Guerrero got penciled in as the Rangers’ right fielder, where he’d played all of 16 games in the regular season.
The problems surfaced immediately. Vlad committed two errors in what turned into a 3-run 8th inning that helped propel the Giants to an 11-7 Game 1 victory. So poor was his performance, Washington decided it was better for his slugger to ride the pine in Game 2.
Lesson learned, right? To a certain extent. In 2011, Wash went with a carousel of Designated Hitters, led by Michael Young’s 69 games. Young also served as a sort of “Super Utility” infielder, getting starts at all four infield positions. He responded with a .338/.380/.474 year with 106 RBI despite just 11 homers. Again, Wash felt obligated to play Young in the field on the road in the 2011 World Series. Defensively, Young had a nickname among Rangers fans: PADMY, an acronym for “Past A Diving Michael Young”, heard often in the play-by-play. He wasn’t the butcher Guerrero was but there were better defensive options.
In the pivotal Game 6 in St. Louis (the One Strike Away Twice game that gave this blog its name), Young played first base and committed two errors, both eventually leading to runs. Without those errors, the Rangers may very well have been the World Series champs. We’ll never know.
That brings us to today and the Rangers are pretty certain Mitch Moreland is their primary DH. He will NOT, however, be the everyday DH for three reasons: 1) He’s a streaky hitter; 2) he doesn’t hit lefthanders well (a career .227/.289/.347) and 3) he is a walking injury case.
Fans have wanted to love Mitch Moreland for some time. He came along in 2010 when both Chris Davis and Justin Smoak bombed as the Rangers first baseman and contributed a decent 9 home runs and 25 RBI in 47 games. He further endeared himself with the fans by going 6 for 13 in the World Series, which included a Game 3 home run off Jonathon Sanchez that led to the lone Texas win in the Series.
Since 2011, Moreland has spent time on the disabled list in each of the last three seasons. He missed half of June and most of July in 2012, half of June in 2013 and more than half the season a year ago, playing his last game June 7th.
This has to be considered Moreland’s last shot with the Rangers. He has power potential, which is why they keep him around, but at some point he has to deliver. either by hitting southpaws better or by staying healthy. I’m not convinced he’s able to do either.
The question is who will serve as the Rangers DH against lefthanders? Washington gave Moreland every chance against lefties. Jeff Bannister is under no obligation. That’s why DH will likely be another revolving door, which isn’t a bad thing. Odds are Mitch plays mostly against righthanders and maybe he’ll play first base on occasion so Prince Fielder can DH (Moreland is OK defensively at 1st). Against lefties, the Rangers are hopeful newly acquired Kyle Blanks will be able to overcome injuries and tape into the power potential he showed with San Diego.
The problem here is Blanks has been just as injury prone as Moreland, thus making DH as much of a battle for playing time as left field is for Texas.
Moreland will play the most games at DH if he stays healthy. Beyond that, the spot in the order for Designated Hitter is probably Bannister’s best way of rotating quality at bats for the other three bench players. Unless Moreland is productive, it might also be the weakest position in the Rangers line-up.
Anyone can vote for the All-Star team. It’s a pretty easy process. Most fans stuff the ballot boxes at their home ballparks and online with votes only for players on their favorite team. Others, like me, vote for who we feel are the most deserving, despite our fanhood. Before going further, here are my picks for this year’s AL All-Star team:
2B: Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians (sorry, Ian)
SS: J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles (sorry, Elvis)
C: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
LF: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
CF: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles
RF: Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers (FINALLY!)
See? That was pretty easy. And most of the picks would get little argument, except from die-hard fans of other teams.
What I love to do here every year is pick a different kind of All-Star team. This is a team picked strictly on the basis of how they’ve done this year against the Texas Rangers. No Rangers allowed on this team. This year, no Baltimore Orioles player stands a chance either, as the Rangers have yet to play the Birds in 2013. The fun part of this exercise is at times seeing the most unexpected names that just happened to have had inordinate success against the Rangers. Against everyone else, they settle back down to the mediocrity we’ve come to expect from them.
Herewith is the AL All-Star team, based only on their 2013 results against the Rangers:
1B: Adam Lind, Toronto Blue Jays
Lind’s been injured this season and many have labelled him as one of those players who’s never going to consistently play up to his potential. You could have fooled Texas with that assessment. Lind has blistered the Rangers to the tune of a.433 BA with 3 HR and 10 RBI , 1.188 OPS.
2B: Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels
Kipnis has done well in limited AB’s vs. Texas, but Kendrick, who has been a pest against Texas for a few years now, in more AB’s has 2 HR, 6 RBI and a 1.052 OPS.
SS: Marwin Gonzalez, Houston Astros
This position was pretty equal top to bottom. The now minor-leaguer Gonzalez gets extra points for the 9th inning single that broke up Yu Darvish‘s perfect game bid. Over a .400 hitter vs. Texas in 10 AB’s.
3B: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
No doubt about this one matching up with reality. Cabrera has torched Texas pitching for a .563 BA with 3 HR, 6 RBI and an astronomical 1.861 OPS.
C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston Red Sox
Former Ranger Salty is hitting .294 against his former team with a home run. The likely true AL All-Star, Joe Mauer, is 0-15 this year against Texas.
LF: Seth Smith, Oakland A’s
Smith has been a thorn in the Rangers’ side in 2013, blistering Texas pitching for a .368 BA with four doubles, a home run and 5 RBI.
CF: Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox
Nope, not Mike Trout, who has mostly played CF against the Rangers. He’s hitting a meager .130 against Texas in 2013. Ellsbury, on the other hand, is at .421 with a couple of doubles and a stolen base.
RF: Ichiro Suzuki, New York Yankees
Believe it or not, Josh Hamilton had this one locked down with a .360 mark against Texas (albeit with 0 HR and 0 RBI) until the Rangers visited New York this week. Ichiro looked like the All-Star of old, going .462 with two home runs and 3 RBI in 3 games against Texas.
DH: David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
Travis Hafner had the better batting average at .375, but Ortiz gets the nod at just .250 because it came with power: 2 doubles, a triple and 2 home runs, along with 8 RBI. Ortiz made every hit count against Texas: 5 of his 6 hits were for extra bases.
There you have it. Only two of nine positions are players that are likely to represent the AL this year in the All-Star game. Of the other seven, probably only two of them will even make the All-Star team as a substitute. That’s two at best. Thanks to ESPN for providing the splits to compile these stats.
- A.L. All Star Game VotingThe latest voting numbers (thesportsscript.com)
- Vote For Your Texas Rangers In MLB All-Star Voting (dfw.cbslocal.com)
The first free agent rumor salvo has been fired.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox tweeted the Texas Rangers have “serious interest” in maybe soon to be free agent David Ortiz, most recently of the Boston Red Sox. Ortiz, according to Rosenthal, would fill the power void of the most-likely departing Josh Hamilton.
Color me skeptical. And color me uninterested.
While it’s true Ortiz’ hitting coach the past six years is now the Rangers’ hitting coach, I don’t think that would be enough to pry him away from a team he loves and a city he loves. And even if he was truly interested in leaving Boston, I do not want him in Texas.
Sure, he’s a left-handed bat which translates well at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. But Ortiz has also spent considerable time on the disabled list the past two seasons and, at age 37, isn’t likely to find optimal health on a regular basis again. Additionally, as I pointed out a couple of months ago, I’ve changed my thinking on the designated hitter as it applies to contending American League teams and I don’t want the Rangers’ DH as one of the main power positions in the offensive line-up.
Should the Rangers get back to the Fall Classic, having one of your premier power hitters as the DH would pretty much ensure you must put them on the field at the NL ballpark. Ortiz has only played a handful of games in the field over the past two seasons and would be a huge defensive liability. Instead, I prefer a DH that is no better than the fifth most productive hitter on your team. That way, having him on the bench on the road in the World Series wouldn’t significantly affect your offensive line-up.
This Rangers-Ortiz rumor is probably just a plant to help Ortiz’ bargaining power with the Red Sox. I see Ortiz signing to finish his career in Boston.
Now if you want to talk about a free agent slugger, how about talking Adam LaRoche, who just turned down his mutual option with the Nationals. He’s got power and he could play the field.
- MLB Rumors: Rangers Interested in David Ortiz as Replacement for Josh Hamilton (bleacherreport.com)