2020 Positional Power Rankings: Designated Hitter

This morning, we concluded our review of the outfield with Jay Jaffe’s look at right fielders. Now we wrap up the position players with designated hitter.

It’s hardly a secret that the era of the dedicated slugger at designated hitter is over. The hulking, positionless behemoth that so many think of hasn’t been the norm at the position for years. The “new-school” model is a whirring mass of position players getting rest while still playing. A second baseman here, a left fielder there, sprinkle in a dash of good-hitting catcher on an off day, and bam, you’ve got a modern DH.

The top of our list, however, shows the inadequacy of that DH model. That’s something that many AL teams do these days, and it’s something that most every NL team will do this year without the benefit of a roster built around the position. But the teams that get the most value out of designated hitter aren’t doing it in parts. They’re tabbing single players — in many cases players who could play the field if necessary, but not always — and giving them the lion’s share of the at-bats. Yordan Alvarez, J.D. Martinez, Nelson Cruz — give me any of them over the best time-share DH situation in the league, the Cubs and their Kyle Schwarber and Friends model.

There are still many ways to build a DH. You can feed many mouths, or let the big dog eat. And there’s no real need to stand out at the position to be a great team; the Astros have Alvarez, but that’s a happy accident of his development, not a long-term plan on their part. Think of DH as a fancy dessert after a great meal; a standout one sticks in your mind, but it’s certainly not integral to the experience.

Ben is a writer at FanGraphs. He can be found on Twitter @_Ben_Clemens.

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David Klein
3 years ago

I can think of a bunch of more “confusing” teams than the Mets the whole write up had a tinge of LolMets narrative. That said, the gm and ownership group are the drizzling shits.

The Tone
3 years ago
Reply to  David Klein

Yeah it’s a bit of a crutch at this point for all these writers. It’s a little sad since I think they are trying to imitate the more playful (yet informative) style that Jeff Sullivan or others since-departed from the staff would write in. I don’t think they are succeeding.

It’s one thing for us Mets fans to be self-deprecating, but it’s another thing entirely for professional baseball writers to go out of their way to land these useless barbs.

3 years ago
Reply to  David Klein

The think that always gets me is the willingness to paint anything connected to the team with adjectives like “silly” and “confusing”, and to present it as fact without much justification. Most of the write-up is fine, but the final paragraph is mostly unnecessary nonsense. No, the team is not going to play Jeff McNeil at DH and jam all of the bad defenders in the field. No, they’re not going to put Ramos at DH- unless maybe his bat is hot and he needs a day off behind the plate, in which case, why not? Why is Adams on a team that already has Dom Smith? Well, seeing as you project him to get 8 AB, he’s probably there as insurance in case of injuries- he was signed to a minor league deal and would likely have spent much of the season at AAA in a normal year. Clearly, there is a narrative that the team is silly or confusing- and Clemens has admitted to a tendency here to tie into that narrative for the sake of entertainment- but this is not even particularly well-done, unfortunately.

Connor Grey
3 years ago
Reply to  David Klein

The “most confusing team in baseball” yeah okay. I can’t solve the riddle as to why the Mets signed a decent left handed bat to a minor league deal. I mean, what were they thinking??

It makes perfect sense how the Angels manage to be terrible every year when they have the best baseball player ever and a huge payroll. Also, not confusing at all as to why the Royals thought not trading Whit Merrifield and making their employees watch anti-porn propaganda were good ideas. Don’t even get me started on how the Rockies construct their roster and allocate playing time. They might be the least confusing team in all of sports.

3 years ago
Reply to  Connor Grey

I’ll basically bet any amount Mets get better than 21st value out of the DH this season. Whatever the proper measure of value is.

Dag Gummit
3 years ago
Reply to  mookie28

I presume that the metric of choice will be WAR produced by the position. Not exactly a confusing concept. Whether that’s the “proper” measure is almost certainly comes down to your personal level of empiricism.

3 years ago
Reply to  Dag Gummit

The worst part of this site is that every jerkoff with an internet connection thinks they’re Billy Beane or “whoever your preferred Sabre leaning Gm of choice is”. But yeah I was confused.