The Yankees used fifteen players at designated hitter in 2008……….
Johnny Damon ……. who was predominately the left fielder. He played there in 27 games.
Jason Giambi ……. who was the everyday first baseman for much of the season. He played there in 26 games.
Jorge Posada …… who would have been the everyday catcher if it hadn’t been for injury. He played there in 15 games.
Alex Rodriguez…. who was the everyday third baseman. He played there when he was recovering from injury……that was 7 games
Xavier Nady….. who took over in leftfield for most of the second half of the season. He was the DH on 7 occasions.
Bobby Abreu….. who was the everyday rightfielder. He was the DH on 4 occasions.
Chad Moeller…… a player looking for a slot in the line-up. Particularly in the second half when there was one catcher too many. 2 games.
Ivan Rodriguez…… not the player they expected at catcher, so occasionally he was used at DH. Again, just 2 games.
Derek Jeter….. occasionally even the captain / shortstop needs to do half duty…… 2 games
Justin Christian…. found time in the outfield harder to come by so he was moved to DH……. 2 games.
Shelley Duncan…… didn’t live up to expectations at 1B…… 1 game
Morgan Ensberg……. another failed first base experiment…….. 1 game
Wilson Betemit…….. the consummate bench player…… 1 game
Richie Sexson….. maybe he’ll hit more home runs without the defensive responsibilities….. 1 game
All of which shows that Girardi regards Designated Hitter as some kind of bonus role for the weak and / or recovering player he can’t slot in anywhere else. This is fine when you’re a manager in the National League where the DH only becomes an issue for the half-a-dozen inter-league games at an American League stadium which are such a pesky nuisance. However, it really doesn’t work in the American League. Whether you like the Designated Hitter or not (and I do) you have to give the player in that position some kind of consistency – and use a fit player. The only player who came close to being consistently used there was also someone carrying a debilitating medical problem awaiting attention……….
Hideki Matsui (93 games). 66 of these were at DH. Matsui’s days when he was able to be a good leftfielder seem to be behind him now. He will become a useful designated hitter if he can still hit with power…. and that remains to be seen but he will need to be a different proposition in 2009 than he was in 2008. In 2008, his slugging average was .424. This was a career low for Matsui and only 7th amongst Yankees who appeared in more than half of the games of the season. Whether the Yankees should be guiding Matsui towards retirement rather than designated hitter remains to be seen. Honouring someone who’s done good service for the team is one thing but we can’t afford to do this in the active lineup unless he comes off his September surgery vastly improved.
But who will we use at designated hitter if Matsui doesn’t work out. Whether the obvious candidate seems to be Nick Swisher, who looks peculiarly surplus to requirement, now that we have Teixeira at first base. Johnny Damon would have been destined there if we had done the sensible thing and re-signed Bobby Abreu – but that looks increasingly unlikely. Brett Gardner will need to find playing time somewhere …. but he’s scarcely in the big hitting designated hitter mold that I’m arguing for…….
So Matsui it is…… with reservations.