A three year Indians review: Designated Hitter
By Jeff Ellis
July 31, 2013
The next position to tackle in this series is that of designated hitter. This position has been surprisingly ineffective for the Indians over the past few years thanks to a mix of injuries and just plain lack of production. The major difference for this position is that we can look at it purely through the offensive prism as defense just doesn't matter.
If only you could sign baseball players on a month to month basis I would totally give Travis Hafner a two month deal. There are few hitters who start better than Hafner, but the more he plays, the more his numbers tail off until the unavoidable injury sneaks up and causes him to miss half the year.
It was funny to watch and see fans get excited every year that Hafner was finally back, but unlike David Ortiz he was not able to find the fountain of youth and start to have career years after 35. The guys who ended up splitting those at bats when Hafner went down were Shelley Duncan and Jose Lopez who were nowhere near as successful.
Reynolds' and Hafner's starts this year mirrored each other as both were white hot to start the year and faded fast. I know people talk about how streaky Reynolds is and while that is true it is typically up a month then down a month maybe two. Reynolds has been a below average hitter since the first week of May first - that's half a season.
End of the day Hafner's limited production was still better than what Reynolds did in twice as many plate appearances.
For this stat remember anything below 0 is below replacement level, 2+ is a starter, 5+ an All Star:
2011 - Travis Hafner 1.3
2012 - Travis Hafner .5
2013 - Mark Reynolds -.2
Here we see where the Indians are really seeing diminishing returns at this position. This year they are actually below the replacement level for the position. So your average quad A player would have been better for the Indians than Reynolds has been.
It's a place where when I was growing up you saw professional aging hitters with the Harold Baines' and Eddie Murray's of the world. I have not seen that as much anymore; it's now a place for guys who are horrible in the field.
I have no doubt the Indians need to add a hitter and improve this position and do it soon.
For this remember 100 is average and 120 is great as it means the player produces 20% more runs than your average starter.
2011 - Travis Hafner 158
2012 - Travis Hafner 125
2013 - Mark Reynolds 96
Two years ago Travis Hafner was really able to become the Pronk of old if only for a short time. He was offensively putting up huge numbers and creating a ton of runs. Now, Reynolds is below average in terms of run production. As I said earlier, a cold streak implies it's going to end, but Reynolds has shown no signs of life over the past month.
The position name says it all, you are a designated hitter, and when you don't hit well it renders you useless. Shelley Duncan was a better run producer last year according to wRC+. There might be better ways to say it, but thus far Reynolds is a bust.
So this is a loss for the Tribe as the combo designated hitter actually worked better than what the Indians have seen this year. It's now 3-2-1 for the Indians through six offensive positions with only three to go.
Also here is the compiled WAR and wRC+ for this team vs. 2011 and 2013:
2011 vs. 20013: WAR +1.6 wRC+ +29
2012 vs. 2013: WAR + 2.1 wRC+ +53
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