When Adding a Designated Hitter Isn’t All That Helpful

Tonight, interleague play starts yet again, and if you’re not over the moon about the prospect of the Diamondbacks renewing that eternal rivalry with the Twins, you’re not alone. The Dodgers head into Chicago for a three game series against the White Sox, and since it’s an American League park, that means we’ll be seeing the designated hitter in use for the first time all year.

For most NL teams, that’s a nice bonus. Instead of watching their pitchers flail helplessly, they get to pump up their offense by letting a bench bat get some time, or give a half-breather to a productive hitter, or improve their defense by getting a big bat off the field without losing his hitting. That’s generally how the Dodgers have played it in the past; in 2010, Manny Ramirez DH’d in all six games, while in 2009 it was split between Mark Loretta, Mitch Jones, and Russell Martin.

That made sense in previous years. Manny’s power bat/poor glove profile was an obvious fit for the spot, while Loretta was a bench platoon hitter and Martin received a day off from catching. But what about this year? Is it really a good thing for the Dodgers to have yet another bat in the lineup? Now, instead of choosing between one of Russ Mitchell or Jay Gibbons or Juan Castro or Tony Gwynn – part of a collection that Steve Dilbeck half-jokingly called one of the worst benches ever – each day, the Dodgers get the “benefit” of having multiple variations of them in at a time.

Is that really an upgrade on having the pitcher hit? Hell, Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley have each been more dangerous at the plate this year than Gibbons, Mitchell, and Castro. Hiroki Kuroda can at least lay down an excellent bunt when he’s called upon to do so, which is more than we can say for most of these other guys. I’m mostly being facetious here, but only mostly. While other NL teams are going to add another bench bat or markedly improve their defense by taking a glove away from an Aubrey Huff or Jason Giambi or Jonny Gomes, the Dodgers will have the fine pleasure of adding little to no value at all to their lineup.

Man, I hate interleague play.

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Plenty of billboard talk today. Via 6-4-2, Yahoo’s Tim Brown tells us how the advertising space for the mugshot billboards of Bryan Stow’s attackers was donated, and here’s a group who is trying to put up anti-McCourt billboards around the stadium.

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  1. [...] for the club in that time has been their difficulty in filling out the designated hitter role. We talked about this last year, joking that the Dodgers could barely find eight MLB-quality hitters each day, much less nine: But [...]