Friday, November 8, 2013

The Five Best Designated Hitters in Red Sox History

In honor of David Ortiz's Silver Slugger award and the all-around awesomeness of the 2013 season, let's take a look at the five best DHs ever for the Sox.

5. Reggie Jefferson (1997-99): Reggie wasn't a great DH, but he was solid. He hit over .300 in 1997-98 and averaged a .827 OPS over the three-year span. He also hit 26 homers and drove in 115 runs during that time.

4. Cecil Cooper (1974-76): It still chafes me that we traded away Cooper right before he became a perennial All-Star for the Brewers. You don't think his bat would've come in handy in 1978? In his three years as DH, he improved each year in home runs and RBIs. His three-year OPS is lower than Jefferson's (.794) but Cooper played a lot more games. All told, Cooper had 37 homers and 165 RBIs over that period. Then he was traded to the Brewers.

3. Mike Easler (1984-85) and Don Baylor (1986-87): I honestly couldn't pick one over the other. Their numbers are very similar. Easler had a combined 43 homers and 165 RBIs in his two-year stint; Baylor had 47 homers and 151 RBIs. Don Baylor averaged a .771 OPS over his two-year period; Easler's was .814. But Baylor's numbers were steady across the two years while Easler had a great year in 1984 but dropped off severely in 1985. If you absolutely had to pick one for the spot, you may have to go with Easler. But they're close enough I thought both deserved a mention.

2. Carl Yastrzemski (1979-83): If you go position by position, Yaz could be named in Top 5 at three of them; first base, left field and DH. The DH was where Yaz finished his career and it's the one I associate most with him (I saw my first Sox game in '78 at the age of six). Even though he continue to play first and left to some extent during the first couple of years, he finished it as a pure DH.

During those five years Yaz went to the All-Star game three times. He totaled a combined 69 home runs and 318 RBIs. That means he averaged almost 14 homers and 64 RBIs a year, all between the ages of 39 and 43. Without any drugs, mind you. His average OPS over that span was .766, not the greatest...but he was in his forties! There are kids in their 20s playing now that couldn't do what Yaz did at 41. And there's the whole Hall of Fame recognition that adds to the luster.

1. David Ortiz (2003-Whenever He Wants): But Big Papi is still the best DH this team has ever had. This past year, at age 37, he totaled 30 homers, 103 RBI and an OPS of .959. During his 11-year (and counting) stint, Papi has amassed (to date) 373 homers and 1191 RBI. His average OPS is .962 and his average OPS+ is 148. He's won four Silver Slugger awards in a row (2004-07) and six overall. He is a nine-time All-Star. He was in the top 5 for MVP voting five straight years (2003-07) and just won the World Series MVP award. Just a dominant force at the plate when he bats. A home-run threat no matter the situation. Without a doubt one of the most "clutch"* hitters the Sox have ever had.


* And yes, I know there is a seemingly-eternal argument about whether "clutch" even exists and, if it does, would Ortiz even qualify. But as far as timely, big hits that change the course of the post-season go, you cannot deny that Ortiz has hit more than a couple.

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