Easy Goal for 2010 That the Royals May Not Achieve Anyway: #1 Not Being Horrible at DH
Last year Royal DHs hit an astounding .209/.281/.374. Yep, that's right. The easiest "position" to fill gave the Royals the equivalent production of a 1960s shortstop.
The biggest rascal in the Punchless DH caper was Mike Jacobs, who DHed 102 times in 2009. The second most common DH was Pena (14 starts), followed by Buck (12), Butler (11) and then a bunch of guys getting a quasi-day-off a handful of times.
So can the Royals be better in 2010?
Well, first and foremost, we know that Mike Jacobs is gone. It only took one year with the Royals, but he went from an established (if over-rated) Major League player to someone who will likely not get another 500 PAs in his lifetime at that level. Dayton Moore everyone! We had so many arguments about whether or not Jacobs sucked, and way too many people found ways to defend the trade, and guess what? He was even worse than imagined! Anyway, he's gone.
Catchers Miguel Olivo and John Buck are also gone, and they DHed for the Royals a total of 23 times. Somehow, catcher was actually one of the team's strongest offensive positions, but in any event, both of those guys are also gone.
So the 2010 DH is going to be pretty wide open for the Royals. Here's what I think we can safely predict, in terms of DH starts:
- 15 Brayan Pena starts
- 11 Billy Butler starts
- 5 Wild Card starts
Those are purposefully conservative guesses. Hillman is always good for an oddball quote and some strange lineups, but he's actually pretty conservative about using the DH to quasi-rest guys. It'll happen, just not very much. At least that's what I'm predicting. For example, Alex Gordon DHed once in 2008.
So who will DH for those other 120 or so games?
- Jose Guillen
- Rick Ankiel (probably not much if he's actually the CF, but we'll see)
- Alberto Callaspo
- Josh Fields
- a Dayton Moore mystery addition
So, umm, yea. That's a group that can collectively post a horrible line. No doubt about it. Guillen is really the key here. The best thing the Royals could do would be to not play him at all, but if they can't swing that, he's better as a DH than as an outfielder. But we just don't know how this is going to play out. Guillen could DH 60 times before a crippling "injury" brings his Royal career to an end, or that number could be 5. Or zero.
We know that Guillen, if given the opportunity, would almost certainly be terrible. But if Guillen isn't our terrible DH, then who will be?
As we all can sense, the current roster just doesn't make a ton of sense. For some reason the Royals seem to be talking a lot about moving Callaspo to third, but he's probably the safest bet/bat of that bunch to be non-horrible. A Gordon/Callaspo/Fields rotation at 3B/DH would be mostly pointless, but I could get on board with it in some limited way. (Gordon just needs regular big league PAs again, against righties and lefties, for his continued development. I think moving him off of third this early in his career would be a mistake, but it probably doesn't matter as I doubt he wants to stay with the Royals for a long time anyway.)
I know we've said this many times and not quite been correct, but it really does seem like there has to be a pending move coming with this roster. And if/when that trade gets made, the DH situation will probably be a little clearer.
Prior to 2009, Royal DHs were better. The triple slash average for 2006-8 is .263/.324/.423. To be honest, I'm not convinced the 2010 Royal DHs can get back to that level, unless Butler ends up DHing quite a bit.