Although it feels like the torture has been going on longer, the Astros have only been in search of a full time designated hitter for five seasons since joining the Junior Circuit in 2013. Here is what the Astros cumulative DHs have done in those five seasons.
Those are mostly yucky numbers when you consider that this is the guy who is supposed to be totally concentrating on hitting, one of those 35 HR/120 RBI guys who makes you love not having the pitcher hit every game.
Perhaps nothing highlights the Astros’ frustrations in this area more than saying that the best season by an Astros’ DH was Chris Carter in 2014. His numbers in 432 ABs were .241 BA/.318 OBP/.841 OPS with 62 Rs/34 HRs/78 RBIs. However, most eyewitnesses would claim those were the most hollow, unclutch stats in the history of the game, kind of like Carter himself.
The Astros would love to have a high impact DH in their lineup, but a quick glimpse at the AL shows that those guys are very few and far between. First consider that for 2017 the league average for the slash numbers were .256 BA/.324 OBP/.753 OPS. Looking at the 12 guys who had at least 250 ABs for their teams as DHs – how do they look against those numbers?
- Only five of the twelve had a .256 BA or higher (though amazingly four of the five had BAs of exactly .256 or .257)
- Only four of the twelve had a .324 OBP or higher
- Only 5 of the twelve had a .753 OPS or higher, while five others were down in Death Valley with an OPS below .700
- Of course the Astros main DH, Carlos Beltran was outside looking in with 411 ABs and a .229/.280/.671 slash line and 55 Rs/13 HRs/47 RBIs
When you compare the league’s DHs against the Astros average slash line for 2017 (.282 BA/.346 OBP/.823 OPS best in the majors) things look worse. Basically the only two DHs in the league who had significant DH ABs and would be better than the average Astro are Nelson Cruz (38 HRs/114 RBIs .293/.378/.935) and Edward Encarnacion (31 HRs/95 RBIs .257/.380/.873).
And this is not an anomaly, for the last decade, the AL normally had David Ortiz as a superior hitter in a DH role and one or two other guys who were also good in that specific year, like Encarnacion or Victor Martinez or Jim Thome. These guys just don’t grow on trees, because it appears to be a tough role that most players do not wear well.
So where does that leave the Astros?
- They could go with someone like Evan Gattis in that role, but he has always hit better when playing in the field. The last time he was a full time DH was 2015 when in 523 ABs he hit a below average .247/.285/.736 with 24 HRs and 79 RBIs. Better than Beltran but not that terrific and coming at a cost of $7 million for the year.
- They could trade for one, but they are not likely able to pick up the best guys and as we showed above most of the rest are not going to give you any better than Gattis.
- They could let Gattis go and cobble together DHs with a Colin Moran/Tyler White/Marwin Gonzalez/”whoever needs a rest” rotation.
- Or they could make that trade that “old pro” has been pushing for Giancarlo Stanton and use him there part of the time.
- Or they could make a few minor trades to scoop up more international bonus money and go hard for TOR/DH Japanese wunderkind Shohei Ohtani.
So, where would you go if you were the Astros?