Rumors are being nosed about that the Yankees are looking hard at Bill Hall and have thought about old man Raul Ibanez for their open designated hitter position.
Let’s start with the former. It’s good that the Yankees are looking for a utility player who can sub for Alex Rodriguez on DH days and give the lineup more pop than Eduardo Nunez can. Per 162 games played, Hall has hit 32 doubles and 19 home runs. Nunez will probably hit 19 home runs in his career, but he won’t get close in a single season.
Resting Rodriguez is a great idea—he hasn’t played 150 games since 2007. However, the cost of doing that is going to be very high if the Yankees don’t have another bat to play third base in his absence. Hall, who hit 35 home runs for the Brewers back in 2006, would seem like a good idea, but the problem—by now you know there is always a problem—is that he has massive problems making contact and doesn’t walk, so the overall package is far from potent. In 2010 he hit reasonably well for the Red Sox, batting .247/.316/.456. However, in 2008, he hit .225/.293/.396, in 2009 he hit .201/.258/.338, and last year he hit .211/.261/.314, and was released twice. The Giants sent him to Triple-A in early July and he remained there for the rest of the season.
Hall’s weakness is his inability to hit right-handers. In his career he’s hit .258/.328/.454 against lefties, and .244/.297/.428 against right-handers. That doesn’t really depict the full extent of the problem. Over the last four years, he has hit .245/.304/.422 against lefties, .209/.274/.362 against righties. Hall is a decent glove and can play everywhere, but that’s just not going to work.
Raul Ibanez is going on 40 (he’ll get there in June) and didn’t field well when he was 25, but that’s not that the Yankees would want him for. He’d be the left-handed half of a designated hitter platoon. A career .286/.351/.488 hitter against right-handers (.265/.317/.426 against lefties), over the last two years he’s hit .244/.277/.391 against left handers, .267/.337/.448 against right handers. Perhaps a more salient fact is that he hit .291/.348/.510 in the friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park, but just .228/.292/.352 on the road. Perhaps Yankee Stadium would provide him the same uplift, perhaps not, but the road stats are about as ugly as Hall’s stats against righties.
As I’ve remarked in earlier posts, with Jorge Posada struggling for much of the year, it didn’t seem as if the Yankees got much production out of their designated hitters, but he actually hit well at times and almost every other player who was put in the spot did well, with the result that the Yankees got .251/.336/.450 out of the aggregate, a little better than the average .266/.341/.430. That average should be taken with a grain of salt, because three of the four AL West teams turned in DH performances so bad that you’d almost think they had gone all 1919 White Sox on that particular position. Mariners’ DHs hit .225/.316/.332. Ramiro Pena might have done better than that. I don’t see these teams making a habit of this kind of incompetence—you would almost have to try to be that bad again—so DH production levels are going to rise, putting more pressure on the Yankees to get the position right.