The early part of a baseball season is about uncovering early clues to help answer all the questions that accumulated in the offseason. Heading into the 2011 season, one of the concerns facing the Yankees was whether Jorge Posada would adapt to his new role as a fulltime DH. With three homeruns in his first four games, the early signs look good. And, if Posada continues his smooth transition from behind the plate, the real question may be whether he can become the best DH in franchise history.
Many Yankee fans probably know that the team’s first DH was Ron Blomberg, who was also the first DH in baseball history. However, Bloomberg was never primarily a designated hitter. In 1973, the bulk of the job went to Jim Ray Hart. Since then, the team has featured a revolving door of designated hitters, not only from year to year, but often within a season. In fact, on 19 occasions, the Yankees used at least 10 designated hitters, including 2010, when 16 different players performed the role. As a result, there haven’t been many opportunities for a Yankee DH to post prolific numbers.
Yankees’ Primary DH, 1973-2010
|Jim Ray Hart||1973||105||370||30||12||50||0.256||0.325||0.416|
To date, the Yankees have had 166 different players fill the role of DH, but if the team stays true to plan, Posada could become a rare full-timer. In the 38 seasons since the rule was instituted, no Yankee has had more than 570 plate appearances as a DH, and only eight have had as many as 400. If he can stay healthy, Posada would not only join this list, but could also find himself sitting atop it.
Most of the records set by a Yankee DH are held by Don Baylor, who won two silver slugger awards in his three seasons in pinstripes. In addition to being the only Yankee DH so honored, Baylor is also the franchise’s only fulltimer to fill the role in more than one season. It remains to be seen if Posada’s future in the Bronx will last long enough to join Baylor, but if he continues to excel as a DH, it could wind up extending his Yankee career.
Yankees’ DH Records
|Games||140||Don Baylor, Hideki Matsui|
|RBI||91||Don Baylor, Hideki Matsui|
Note: Rate stats based on minimum 400 plate appearances.