A Short History of the Short History of Cubs Designated Hitters
In the opener of the Cubs' just-completed series in Toronto, Derrek Lee, playing the part of Designated Hitter, went 0-for-3 with a strikeout; Aramis Ramirez, in his regular third base role, went 2-for-5.
On Saturday, Ramirez took over the DH role and went 1-for-5 with two K's and left five men on base; Derrek Lee returned to his accustomed position at first base and went 3-for-4 with two runs scored.
Always one to jump to a quick conclusion, on Saturday night, I got to thinking that just maybe this DH thing was a little trickier than one might imagine, especially for National League players who don't know what it is to have four or five at-bats in a game separated not by time in the field, but by long idle stretches in the dugout, or back in the clubhouse, doing whatever it is DH's do when they're not sitting idle in the dugout.
Anyway, I took a look at how the Cubs' designated hitters have fared since the onset of interleague play in 1997. Here's what I found (numbers are cumulative figures for Cub DH's season-by-season):
(The numbers all come from Baseball-Reference.com; sOPS+ compares the split in question—in this case, the OPS of Cubs Designated Hitters—against the same split, the OPS for Designated Hitters, in all of Major League Baseball; and the "Designated DH" is the Cubs player who had the most plate appearances in a given season as the team's DH.)
Some notes and observations:
— The Cubs have handled this DH thing pretty well. In 7 of the 11 seasons of AL/NL competition before this year, the performance of Cub DH's has been in the top half of the National League. Comparing Cub DH's to all Major League DH's, in all but three of these years—'99, '00. and '06—the Cubs have been better than average.
— Roosevelt Brown's name has never been juxtaposed with such sweet numbers as it is in this chart. His '01 performance was hugely influenced by a single, 5-for-6 game against the Tigers, a game the Cubs won 15-9, thanks in no small part to Brown's double, HR and 3 RBI. Similarly, Todd Hollandsworth was a DH dandy in '04, when he had a pair of 2-for-4 games at Anaheim and then another one in June, when the Cubs visited the South Side to play the Sox.
— In 2003, Dusty Baker's first year with the Cubs, he gave all of the team's DH plate appearances to Moises Alou, and Moises fared okay, with a homer, 8 RBI and a .286 batting average. The problem was, while Moises was DHing, the left field duties were being handled by Tom Goodwin, Dave Kelton, and Troy O' Leary.
— Dave Clark not only was the DDH in the Cubs' first year of interleague play, he was also, literally, the first Cubs DH ever. When the Cubs visited the White Sox on June 16 of that year, Clark hit fifth in the order and delivered a first-inning single off of Jamie Navarro in a game the Cubs would go on to win, 8-3.
And, oh, yeah, about jumping to conclusions regarding the difficulty of National Leaguers trying to fill the DH role...if I had waited until Sunday, I might never have jumped at all. Derrek Lee, returning to the DH role, went 3-for-4 and scored twice in the Cubs' 7-4 win over the Jays.
Bryant took over NL lead in WAR after yesterday's effort. 3.9. Rizzo's at 2.8 and 8th in the league. Rizzo actually with better offensive numbers (161 wRC+ versus 146 for Bryant), but Bryant gets a good bump because of defense and position(s) played.
Fowler with a 2.8 WAR as well (9th), Zobrist with a 2.7 (14th).
M. Carpenter leads NL with 163 wRC+ just ahead of Rizzo who is 2nd.
@jonahkeri Joe Maddon living out Joe Maddon fanfic IRL tonight
yes. I was at the Sean Marshall game in LF. Lou Piniella was managing. StL won 4-2, so I guess it didn't help but it was zany. Soriano/Reed Johnson and Marshall were the LF's.
On a 6 degrees of separation note: Cubs got Travis Wood in the trade that sent Sean Marshall to Cincy.
Make that 1-7, 4 RBI.
i like how strop played LF with his "crooked cap" look...that's not just for the mound.
let baez pitch the 15th, he earned it.
Forget the save, finally Javier!!
Can a pitcher get more than one hold in a game? Or a Win and a save?
Didn't they do this sort of thing with Sean Marshall years back? Sticking him in LF to save him to face others, but without a pitcher replacing him in LF.
This is the most beautiful thing ever.
all i wanna know is...when's d.ross gonna pitch?
Maddon is over-managing the shit out of this game.
i was a bit more confused why the guy who gave up a HR to votto last night was facing him with 2 men on.
...now that wood is coming in to pitch the following inning, the whole thing gets weirder. so like, okay.
Javy 0-6. At least he's consistent.
What's with the Travis Wood stuff? Is it because he pitched the last 2 games?