When DHs just don't hit   

Updated: July 14, 2008, 3:24 PM ET

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Baseball's greatest irony has to be the designated hitter who doesn't hit. Though a pitcher who doesn't perform might seem the non-hitting DH's equal, it must be remembered that the DH position is a relatively recent (1973) addition to the game and often is reserved for those who can't help in the field. To fail in that capacity is to reverse-Peter Principle your way out of the games.

Which brings us to the 2008 Seattle Mariners. Through Friday's games, Seattle's DH corps, led by Jose Vidro, was hitting at a .191/.249/.279 clip. This, very possibly, is the worst-ever showing by a team's DH unit. Here are some other teams that suffered with a DNH (Designated Non-Hitter) corps, as compiled by Bill Burke of Baseball Prospectus:

• 2001 Anaheim Angels: No fewer than 16 different players logged time as the Angels' DH. Together, they conspired to post a line of .204/.269/.280. The main conspirators were Shawn Wooten and Orlando Palmeiro, both of whom hit much better when playing in the field. The next season, DH was a far-more-productive area for the Angels, as Brad Fullmer led the way to a team line of .278/.341/.502 and helped take them to a world championship. Chin up, Seattle!

• 1990 Toronto Blue Jays: A future batting champion and a one-time MVP were the main culprits here, as John Olerud and George Bell got the bulk of the DH time for a unit that was -40.4 below replacement value. (That means they cost their team about four games what replacement-level designated hitters would have produced.)

• 2006 Seattle Mariners: Carl Everett, Ben Broussard and Eduardo Perez had the worst showings for a Mariners DH unit that ended up -39.7 below replacement value. They're all gone, so give credit to also-departed Bill Bavasi for creating two separate historically unproductive DH squads. Other teams with less-than-stellar production from their DHs include the Tigers and Yankees of 1990, the Orioles of 2005, the Twins of 2006 and the Angels of 1997.

On an individual basis, Vidro -- provided he keeps playing at the same level and does not get replaced  has a shot at having one of the worst DH seasons ever, if not the worst. Considering that most of the worst seasons ever posted by DHs include many at-bats recorded while playing a defensive position, Vidro has a clear shot at the title. You can make a case for Ted Simmons' 1984 effort with the Brewers (.210/.259/.268 as a DH), except that only about 60 percent of his plate time came as DH. Another Mariner, Leroy Stanton, had a rough go of it as a DH in 1978, but he had only 242 plate appearances there. He went .211/.296/.296 in the DH capacity (and an even-worse .108/.182/.129 in 104 other plate appearances), but played in only 93 games total.

To my mind, the man Vidro is gunning for is George Bell  not for what he did in 1990, but for his effort in 1993 while playing with the White Sox. Used exclusively as a DH, Bell hit .217/.243/.363 and had a VORP of -14.8 in 436 plate appearances. It's the worst showing by anyone with that much playing time at DH. Given that Vidro already has 288 plate appearances as a DH and more than 70 games are left in the season, he could set a new reverse standard for the position. Before too much is laid on Vidro's shoulders, though, consider that he's doing better than the rest of his mates who've tried their hand at designating. Led by Jeff Clement's 4-for-48, they are a combined .139/.218/.194.

See that, Mariners … you might have a historic season after all.

Jim Baker is a Baseball Prospectus author and frequent contributor to Page 2. He is also the co-author -- along with Larry Burke and Peter Thomas Fornatale -- of the new book "Change Up: An Oral History of 8 Key Events That Changed Baseball."


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