HomeTeamsMetsThe Mets Have Always Had A DH Issue

The Mets Have Always Had A DH Issue

Quick, can you name the greatest DH in Mets team history? It’s not completely a trick question but then again maybe it is.  The National League did not institute the designated hitter permanently until the 2022 season although the DH was also implemented in the NL for the 60-game pandemic season in 2020.

In Mets DH history, officially that’s makes the departed Daniel Vogelbach the best, or only really, DH in Mets team history. Met fans can lament about the fact that in two seasons with the Mets, Vogelbach somehow managed a 116 OPS+ despite hitting only 19 home runs and 73 RBI’s total. Vogie’s best talent was for bases on balls which is why his numbers for on-base-average seem ok at .359. But really Vogelbach got the job because there wasn’t anybody else.

It didn’t start out that way. When the everyday DH was implemented in 2022 the Mets had J.D. Davis, Dom Smith and even Darin Ruf. In 2020 the team even tried Yoenis Cespedes at DH, an experiment that only lasted 8 games and 34 plate appearances. But there was a point when it felt like the Mets were poised to take great advantage of the new DH rule in the NL. But that never happened.

The Mets over the past two seasons, received some of the worst DH performances in all of MLB. In the National League there were several teams that struggled to get decent production out of the DH slot in the lineup. Some of that is due to the way teams are treating DH today compared to the way they did 20 years ago when sluggers like David Ortiz, Edgar Martinez, and Frank Thomas were playing their HOF careers. Moving away from the always-in-the-lineup slugging DH, MLB teams have pivoted to filling the position with a variety of player on the roster. Some might need a day off in the field but having their bat in the lineup is critical. Others might be used situationally versus a particular pitcher or group of pitchers. Teams have decided that the DH position is filled by a committee. Only 3 MLB players logged at least 110 games at DH during the 2023 season, Shohei Ohtani, Marcell Ozuna, and Joey Meneses. 13 of 30 teams received production at DH that was below replacement level. The DH is unique for the widely used WAR (wins above replacement) formula because it starts with a deficit for a player providing no value in the field.

Before 2022 when the Mets played at an American League ballpark, they would bat a DH in the lineup. Most NL teams were not really set up to have a player ‘only’ hit. They took the approach noted above – mix and match to fill out the DH spot. It was better than batting a pitcher. Except when Jacob DeGrom was pitching.

The 2024 season may not be different than the past two. Resisting the signing of J.D. Martinez, at least so far, the Mets are planning on entrusting the DH duties primarily to Mark Vientos. But surely Pete Alonso will get some ABs at DH, and there will be occasions to have Francisco Alvarez step out from behind the plate but not out of the lineup. It even makes sense for Francisco Lindor to take a day off at shortstop but stay in the lineup. Vientos looks as if he’s going to get his chance to win the job outright but that might not mean he’s the DH for 110 games or more.

Mark Vientos would be better off finding a place to play in the field. Being 24 years old and relegated to DH so early in a career is a difficult road for player to travel. One of the biggest complaints about Daniel Vogelbach’s tenure with the Mets is that he could not play in the field. Anywhere. Unless you hit like J.D. Martinez at DH, having a DH with some versatility as a fielder really helps a team. Martinez played 12 innings in the field in 2023. He also had an OPS+ of 134 for the season. If Mark Vientos had an OPS+ over 130 for the season in more than 100 games that would be a best-case outcome for he and the team.

Mark Kolier
Mark Kolierhttps://mlbreport.com/
Mark Kolier along with his son Gordon co-hosts a baseball podcast called ‘Almost Cooperstown’. He also has written baseball-related articles that can be accessed on Medium.com, Substack.com and now MLBReport.com.


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