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):

1997 6 923 3rd 134 Dave Clark 15 1082
1998 8 833 3rd 102 Henry Rodriguez 21 812
1999 6 717 10th 72 Glenallen Hill 17 735
2000 9 690 11th 65 Glenallen Hill 42 690
2001 6 864 4th 118 Roosevelt Brown 15 1400
2002 6 826 5th 109 Moises Alou 9 1000
2003 9 807 9th 103 Moises Alou 40 807
2004 6 1157 2nd 184 Todd Hollandsworth 13 1538
2005 6 943 4th 140 Jason Dubois 10 1189
2006 9 490 15th 26 Todd Walker 20 628
2007 6 949 4th 136 Aramis Ramirez 13 1051

(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.





apparently Soto is next to DH. Blanco expected to catch Tues & Thursday.

Orange guy up, EPat down...at least according to PSullivan article in the trib.


Showcase for trade time. Murt needs to get mad and do something with this opportunity. It could be his last shot.

I'm honestly intrigued...

I think he does, but more to keep him happy than anything.

EDIT: Checking wikipedia (the trustworthy source that it is) for precedent, I see:

On June 11, 1988, New York Yankees manager Billy Martin made the unusual choice to insert a starting pitcher into the DH slot, Rick Rhoden, who was known as a superior hitting pitcher. Rhoden went 0 for 1 with a groundout and a sacrifice fly to right field, earning him an RBI. He was pinch hit for by José Cruz in the Yankees' 8-6 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.[5]

There were three occasions where a team elected not to start a designated hitter in an American League ballgame. The pitchers for those games were Ferguson Jenkins on October 2, 1974 for the Texas Rangers at Minnesota,[6], Ken Brett for the Chicago White Sox on July 6, 1976 against the Boston Red Sox,[7], and Brett again on September 3, 1976 for Chicago against the Twins.[8]

I thought Lou already shot this down.

Why bring up EPatt for, what, 5 days if you're just going to send Murton down? Has Patterson really been given that much of a shot? I understand showcasing Murton, and honestly he should have been the one called up originally, but I don't understand the move now.

Kazmir has only given up 1 earned run in four starts at home this year. It'd be nice to ruin that for him...

Wow. I couldn't believe that. So I checked. And it's one run period. Earned or otherwise.

That's amazing.

Yikes. 0.36 ERA with a 0.808 WHIP.

Wes sent sound: gasp

Looks like patience may be the key to this guy. Check out his favorite spots to throw...


as a way to let the thumb he hurt catching heal a little. The downside of course is that you have to bring up Koyie Hill to replace the Patterson/Murton spot on the roster incase Blanco gets hurt. Sharing it bewteen Lee and Ramirez made little sense as both guys are not comfortable in the role and were replaced by players who were downgrades in the field. If he did not want to have 3 C on the roster, he should have just DH'd Hoffpauir who I would guess is Iowa's DH when the play on the road vs. AL AAA teams.

Why would they need Koyie? If Hank gets hurt, Soto can move to catcher. Did I misread?

Which if an injury happens in the first four innings means you could end up taking a pitcher out earlier than you would like in case you need a pinch hitter if you have a good scoring chance with the pitcher's spot up.

Maybe I just don't know the rule. If Hank gets hurt, couldn't they substitute a bench player with him then swap positions with Soto?

And on a related note, who's our emergency catcher?


(The DH rule is on the bottom of the page, once the DH is used as a postion player you lose the DH)

As for our emergency catcher it is currently Dero, but Murt was that guy last year and I imagine he will be in that role as long as he is up.

Gotcha, thanks. Still, I wouldn't be so concerned about an injury to Hank (resulting in a DH loss) that I'd bring up a another catcher solely for the purpose of DH'ing Soto. The pitchers can hit, if we lose the DH halfway through the game, so be it.

is probably Murton while here, and then Marmol.

I wonder if DeRo could be a catcher, too?!


The Cubs should have their best opportunities in Wed. and Thurs. games against the Rays. Of course I thought Halladay would shut them down, too. These ain't my father's Cubs. Yet.

Anyway - weirdly, righties do better against Sonnenstine. Check the splits:

Quick Splits:
vs. Left: .289 vs. Right: .315 Home: 5.32 Road: 4.38
Day: 8.10 Night: 4.10 Grass: 4.12 Turf: 5.56
Current Month: 4.50 Last 30 Days: 5.67

He is no Kazmir. Good - but not "lights out".

Thanks, E-Man.

After seeing the Toronto official scorer wipe 4 earned runs off of Halliday's record by (I think) changing his ruling after the runs had scored -- I am beginning to wonder about the validiity of Halliday's stats.

Recent comments

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  • Not AZ PHIL but after being DFA'd by the Cubs (after they got him from the Pirates in the "I get a chance in the Majors clause"), the Cubs re-signed him for the remainder of the season. I do not believe service time is an issue for him, so he is eligible to opt for Major League Free Agency - which he is doing and the Cubs or someone else will sign him to an MLB deal. AZ PHIL please correct this if you see fit - but that is the most current info that I'm aware of.

  • To also be fair to Emery, wtf do you draft Shea McLellin as a #1, Jonathan Bostic in the same draft, let Peppers go in lieu of signing Jared Shit-Head, Brandon Hardin, Evan Rodriguez, Isiah Frey, on and on...

    I will give him credit for Kyle Long - who is like my favorite player (what does THAT say about the team - but he did throw in the 90's as a former pitcher), and Jeffrey.

  • Geo Soto leaves the WSux and signs with the Angels who lost Chris Ianetta to the Mariners.

    Freed... The Angels also promoted Bobby Scales from director of player development to special assistant

  • AZ PHIL- Is Clayton Richard a free agent or not? One site I see he is, on another no. MLB has him listed as a free agent, Cot's contracts says he is a FA, baseball-reference says he's not, but Cubs have him on active roster. I know that he is just short of MLB 6 years service by just like 15 days, but that doesn't always matter.

  • Except that he gave up Russell and McKinney for a half-season of Hammel...

  • Beane cam at least point and laugh at Hammel.

  • The genius Angelo traded Olsen at Martzs request

  • Maybe Theo will sign Shark just so he can call Billy Beane and say: "Let's see...Russell? Check. McKinney? Check. Hammel? Check. Ninja? Check. Any other deals?"

  • To be fair to Emery and Trestman the foreshadowing of last year started happening well before them with the failure or mismanaging of multiple draft classes forcing the team to overspend in a free agency market that is even worse than baseball. Kyle Long seems like a good pick but they traded away another good one in Olson because of Martz's stupidity and inability to change his offense to fit the team talent.

  • HAGSAG: I think Domonic Brown does fit the criteria of a reclamation project, but unless he is willing to accept a minor league contract with an NRI to Spring Training, I don't think the Cubs would be interested given where the Cubs are right now. A couple of years ago? Yes. But probably not now.

    Brown would be better-off going to a club that is rebuilding and re-establish his value there, like Chris Coghlan did with the Cubs. And if he can re-establish his value, he could get traded to a contender at the trade deadline and take it from there.  

  • "they just fade away"

    (Except in the cases of no-fade lefties like Moyer, Orosco and Rich Hill.)

  • Amazing to me how quickly it fell apart under Trestman. Year 1, they were a Chris Conte brain fart away from making the playoffs. Year 2 -- coach, staff and GM all fired.

  • I am sure Jonathon Mota will be signed next.

  • AZ Phil, what is your thoughts on Domonic Brown as a reclamation project?

  • He also played LF in deference to Curtis Granderson.

    Meh... other moves to make...hope to see a move or two soon.

  • I haven't seen much Bears football this year - difficult to watch the games out here, but the game I saw the week before I was watching in shock as I saw them actually make tackles. And Cutler has looked really good, too.

    I guess people can quibble about play calling, but the team I saw is way more than 50% better coached (my only very minor disagreement with your comment).

    Under Trestman, the team didn't do anything right. This team played like a well coached team when I saw them play the Rams.