Archive for July 13th, 2011

Now that the All Star Game has passed, players from the American and National Leagues will go back to being strangers until the two circuits meet up again in the World Series. However, before we say goodbye to this vestige of interleague play, let’s wade once more into the never ending DH debate that has become so commonplace this time of year.

David Ortiz is one a few high-priced, full-time DHs.

Earlier in the interleague schedule, I examined the relative fairness of playing interleague games with two sets of rules and concluded that, in aggregate, the net impact was a wash (however, DH and pitcher performance at the plate does correlate to interleague success). More recently, Dan McLaughlin shifted the debate from the field to the board room by suggesting that economic impact of the DH is what creates the greatest conflict between to the two leagues.

Writing at Grantland.com, McLaughlin concludes that because the DH amounts to a full-time position, players filling the role require a higher salary, which in turn inflates the payrolls of American League teams. To prove his theory, McLaughlin points to the $13 million gap in each league’s average payroll over the last five years, a disparity that increases to $20 million when only considering teams above .500. Finally, to support the notion that the DH plays a role in this discrepancy, McLaughlin calculates an average “full-time DH” salary of $6.8 million, which is more than two times the league-wide average.

Anecdotally, the connection between the DH and payroll seems compelling. However, there are several flaws in the logic. For starters, defining a full-time DH can be an arbitrary process. McLaughlin identified 57 full-timers since 2006, but the baseball-reference play index shows only 46 who had at least 300 plate appearances as a designated hitter during one season in that period. Also, not every full-time DH was signed to fill the role. The Yankees’ Jorge Posada is a perfect example. His $13 million salary is one of the highest among all DHs in 2011, but he was signed to be a catcher. In many cases, highly paid DHs are usually winding down big money contracts signed when they played other positions.


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