DH: (Finally) A Steady Presence
Since the days of “Hot” Chili Davis in 1991, the Minnesota Twins have not had a steady designated hitter presence. Guys like Brian “Buck” Buchanan and Matthew “Crazy Legs” LeCroy were tried for their powerful bats, but quickly discarded due to their inefficiencies pretty much everywhere else. More often than not, a Nick Punto-caliber player was installed in the DH spot, matching up against such DH sluggers as Travis Hafner, Jim Thome, and Gary Sheffield.
In 2008, however, the Twins finally received some steady production from the DH spot in the person of Jason Kubel. Playing roughly half (77) of his 141 games this season in the DH hole, Kubel batted .272 with 20 home runs and 78 RBI in 463 at-bats. Although sharing time at DH with Craig Monroe early in the season (until Monroe played his way off the team with his .202 average), Kubel pretty much inherited the bulk of the DH duty the rest of the way. Sure, Kubel is prone to stretches of ineffectiveness (usually stemming from a loss of confidence that a few days riding the pine will fix), but he also provided support for Mauer and Morneau when they weren’t on top of their game.
Of course, under manager Ron Gardenhire, the DH will likely never be taken over by a guy like David Ortiz, as Gardy likes to shuffle the lineup depending on the starting pitchers. Hopefully in 2009, though, Kubel (while still getting spot starts in the outfield to keep his fielding up to snuff) will handle the DH privilege and handle it well. Kubel was once the bluest-chip prospect in the entire Twins organization before injuring his knee in 2004, so I would love for him to finally realize that full potential that scouts once saw in him.