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Oakland A’s Designated Hitters Historically Bad

Oakland DHs have a franchise-worst .595 OPS in 2017, placing them 7th-worst in American League history.

Oakland Athletics v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Since the advent of the designated hitter in 1973, the A's have had no worse than a .637 OPS from the DH position. That .637 mark occurred in 1987 when the position was headlined by a pair of aging stars in the twilight of their careers: 41-year old Reggie Jackson, who was in the final season of his 21-year career, batted just .220 while 39-year old Ron Cey hit .221. Although a young Jose Canseco would add 30 starts at the DH position and hit 31 home runs, he did most of that damage while playing in left field, contributing just 5 home runs while assigned the DH role that season.

Prior to that, you have to go back to 1974 and 1977 when their DH-by-committees (which includes Bill North, who was Oakland’s very first designated hitter in 1973) produced a .647 and .648 OPS, respectively.

Fast forward to 2017 and the disappointing Oakland lineup is putting up its worst season statistically from the position in franchise history. Coming into their series against Cleveland, A's designated hitters, headlined by Ryon Healy, Chad Pinder, Stephen Vogt, and Jed Lowrie had combined to slash .195/.264/.332 with 6 home runs and 16 RBIs. Their .595 OPS place them 7th-worst in American League history, well within reach of the Minnesota Twins' all-time OPS low of .545, which was set during the strike-shortened season of 1981.

Lowest DH .OPS in American League History
1. Twins, 1981 (.545)
2. Rangers, 1988 (.560)
3. Angels, 2001 (.562)
4. Mariners, 2014 (.567)
5. Yankees, 2013 (.583)
6. White Sox, 1974 (.588)
7. Athletics, 2017 (.595)
8. Mariners, 2012 (.597)
9. Brewers, 1976 (.603)
10. Orioles, 1984 (.605)

The least productive of the group: Trevor Plouffe (3-for-14), Mark Canha (1-for-8), Matt Joyce (0-for-2), and Adam Rosales (0-for-1) are averaging .160 and have struck out in 14 of their 25 ABs.

The A's production in 2017 has been so bad, in fact, that they could also conceivably break the record for lowest RBI total since that same strike-shortened season in which DHs from both the Kansas City Royals and the Toronto Blue Jays combined to drive in 36 runs in just over 100 games played that season.

Is Ryon Healy the answer at DH for the A’s? In his 24th start at the position yesterday against Cleveland, Healy went 3-for-4 and hit his 9th home run of the season, but his .270 OBP against right-handers is a major cause for concern. Is a platoon the best scenario and if so, who?