Mood Music - Life For Revenge by Dark Moor
This post is probably more interesting than meaningful, but that could be why you're here. That other thing that you're doing can wait another five minutes for something interesting to read on the internet. I mean, the post is called Good News with an exclamation point. Who doesn't like good news? Probably communists. Communists hate good news but love exclamation points. This post will be a mixed bag for any of you who happen to be communists.
I don't like pure DH splits. For his career, Player X is hitting ___ when they play in the field and ____ when they DH is almost certainly going to introduce a substantial selection bias. The vast majority of players do not spend a lot of time DHing in the prime of their careers when they're having their most productive offensive seasons. If they do get more than a game or two, it's likely the result of injury. So, I would assert that -- in a majority of cases -- players will put up worse numbers as a DH not entirely as a result of not playing the field, but also as a function of being old or injured.
But, lots of players really don't like the way DHing takes them out of the action of the game. Jorge Posada was famous for it. While I would guess that most hitters would regress to their true hitting levels once they had enough time to get used to DHing every day, I could definitely see different players handling it differently. It seems logical that some guys would take to DHing better than other guys. Jorge Posada really hated DHing. Probably because when he was a DH, he would be on the bench to hear everyone else laughing at how the back up catcher was so much better on defense.
Here is a rudimentary attempt to make a more fair DH split:
For each season, I will split plate appearances into times up as a DH and as a fielder. Then, show the corresponding OPS in each situation. So, for example: Alex Rodriguez has come to the plate forty-two times as a DH so far in 2012. When playing the field, he has OPS'd .863. So, we would expect him to also be an .863 OPS hitter when he is a DH. Back in the early 2000s when he was OPSing around 1.000, we would expect him to be a 1.000 OPS hitter when he was a DH.
So, we can use the number of plate appearances as a DH and the OPS as a non-DH to make a weighted average. And then we can see if his actual numbers are better or worse than that weighted average. If his numbers exceed the expectation, he is hitting proportionally better as a DH than as a fielder. Here are his numbers:
Expected OPS is found by dividing the total by the total number of plate appearances, completing the weighted average. So, if as a DH, A-Rod hit with exactly the same OPS as when he was in the field for that season, he would have an .899 OPS as a DH. It makes sense for this to be below his career OPS, as the bulk of his time at DH has been later in his career.
But, the good news! is that A-Rod has a career .935 OPS as a DH. He's actually been a better hitter as a DH than as a shortstop or third baseman. As someone who is going to be DHing more and more for the next five plus seasons, it would be kind of shitty if he struggled with DHing or really hated doing it. It's only 257 scattered plate appearances, so it is by no means definitive, but it is definitely encouraging.
I did the same thing for Jeter, Ibanez, and Jones. As Ibanez and Jones have bounced around multiple positions, I compared their numbers as a DH to whatever position they spent the most time at in that particular season.
So, A-Rod and Jones have been proportionally more productive from the DH spot, while Jeter and Ibanez have been proportionally worse. With so few plate appearances as a DH for Jeter, it is not terribly meaningful. But, as he is also expected to start doing more DHing, it might be something to keep an eye on.*
*He has a 1.037 OPS in twenty-nine plate appearances as a DH so far this year, so that's good.
Jones doesn't seem to be bothered by DHing, which should be a good thing. If he's the DH against a left handed starter, we're not sacrificing Brett Gardner's defense to get his bat in the lineup.
But, what I think that we can all agree on is that Raul Ibanez really needs more playing time in the outfield. Just look at those splits!