The Likely non Debate Over the DH in the Playoffs:
Before I get into the analysis and data, I believe that DJ LeMahieu will be the Yankees starting first baseman through their 2019 postseason run.
With LeMahieu at 1B, this opens up four potential hitters to be named the starting designated hitter through the ALDS, ALCS, and during home games in the World Series. These hitters are Edwin Encarnacion, Mike Ford, Clint Frazier and Luke Voit for whom will be the top choices for the DH spot.
Personally, I think that Edwin Encarnacion will be the Yankees’ DH for the playoffs. Quite simply, I think this because I think that the Yankees will go with the veteran Edwin Encarnacion and Luke Voit’s recent slump at the plate.
Let’s look at some objective analysis as to why this may be the case:
Note: Leading stats among these four potential Yankees DH’s are highlighted in green.
At first blush, it appears that Mike Ford and Edwin Encarnacion are neck and neck as the best selection to be the Yankees DH. They both have fairly low strikeout rates (16.2% and 21.2%) and terrific power (both with ISO’s of .287). Luke Voit has a higher full season wOBA- the one number metric of choice for most analysts- but he has not been great of late.
As I have previously written, Mike Ford has been the victim of bad luck on the balls that he has hit in play- even with fewer at-bats, strikeouts, and home runs. In my analysis, I’ve tried to adjust BABIP to account for this. I think that Luke Voit and Clint Frazier are about where their BABIPs should be given their historical performance. They both hit the ball hard and can sustain an above-average BABIP.
With the adjustments, Mike Ford looks like a slightly better option than Edwin Encarnacion. However, having said that, I’m not sure that I believe that Mike Ford’s home run totals are sustainable. His percentage of home runs per plate appearance at 7.14% is within some rarified air. Even in the minors this year, he was only at 6.6% this year. While high, you also can’t discount that he is a lefty batter who plays half of his games in Yankee Stadium. But, I still don’t believe against the top pitching competition that throwing a rookie with his brief MLB experience is the best recipe for success.
Overall, I think this data and some baseball logistics place Edwin Encarnacion firmly as the front-runner for winning the DH spot for most of- if not all of- the 2019 postseason.
I do pose these questions to you, however. Would the Yankees consider giving Mike Ford some at-bats against right-handed pitchers in the playoffs? Will he even make the roster given that Luke Voit was the starter at first for most of the year? Personally, I think this is a tough choice, but Mike Ford has certainly made his case that he deserves playing time. Whether this is the result of this level of talent, juiced baseball power, or luck, it’s hard to tell.