Surprise positional outlook: DH

February, 18, 2010
2/18/10
8:00
AM CT
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- It's time to talk about Vladimir Guerrero.

Last season, manager Ron Washington utilized his DH position in a rotation of sorts. He could get players some time off their feet by making them the DH in many games. But the lineup lacked some punch and they didn't have it at the DH position. As a DH position in 2009, the Rangers hit .242 with 38 homers and 97 RBIs. It's why general manager Jon Daniels moved to address that need this season.

By signing Guerrero, the Rangers eliminate a player that was a terror against them for his career. Mark Simon at ESPN Stats & Information (by way of Elias Sports Bureau) looked up the players since 1980 with the batting average versus a team before being signed by that team (minimum of 200 at-bats). Here's that list:

[+] EnlargeVladimir Guerrero
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesAfter victimizing them for years with the LA Angels, Vladimir Guerrero will don the Rangers' colors this season primarily as the designated hitter.
* Jim Eisenreich: .405 vs. Dodgers (joined them in 1998)

* Guerrero: .396 vs. Rangers (joined them in 2010)

* Dante Bichette: .379 vs. Reds (joined them in 2000)

* Nomar Garciaparra: .370 vs. Athletics (joined them in 2009)

* Orlando Cabrera: .356 vs. Twins (joined them in 2009)

* Jeff Blauser: .351 vs. Cubs (joined them in 1998)

Guerrero, of course, had an even higher average against the Rangers if you just look at his Angels years (he hit .404 against them in 57 at-bats last season). So Rangers fans are certainly familiar with his success at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (he hit .440 with a homer in 25 at-bats in 2009).

The key is Guerrero's health. He played in just 100 games in 2009 (after playing in 143 in 2008). He's 35 years old, so he's not getting any younger. Guerrero said at his introductory news conference that he feels good and the Rangers are confidence he'll stay healthy. He comes in as the fulltime DH. He could play some in the outfield, but there's no doubt he's the cleanup hitter and DH.

That helps another area that could be improved over last season for the Rangers: No. 4 hitter. Texas had a .249 average with 39 homers and 103 RBIs. The homers and RBIs were good, in fact tops on the team at any spot in the order. But the average could be better. That's where Guerrero comes in.

And instead of moving that slot around in 2010, Washington can write Guerrero's name down and know that he provides critical protection for Josh Hamilton. That's another important part of Guerrero's presence: He can help those around him. Hamilton could be the biggest beneficiary. Opposing pitchers can't afford to pitch around Hamilton to get to Guerrero. He remains a very feared hitter.

We will get to more predictions later, but I did find the projections from Accuscore interesting:

“Our simulations generally assume anyone who is not already injured, will be reasonably healthy, even someone older like Vald. Our season forecast for 2010 is: 135 GP, .292 Avg, 0.338 OBP, 78 Runs, 70 RBI, 19 HRs

No doubt, the Rangers would take that. A few other notes:

* Via Baseball-Reference.com, four players in Rangers history have hit 20+ home runs in a season in which they were 35+ by June 30th. They are Rafael Palmeiro (four times), Mickey Tettleton (24 in 1996), Ruben Sierra (23 in 2001) and Sammy Sosa (21 in 2007)

* If you’re a believer that Rangers players tend to wilt at the end of the season (September and October) due to fatigue from playing so many games in hot weather: Vlad has hit .330 or better in six of the last eight September/Octobers. The ones he didn’t were 2007 (.303) and 2009 (.262 with two HR in 103 AB)

As a reminder, check out the other positional previews: first base (Chris Davis and Justin Smoak), second base (Ian Kinsler), third base (Michael Young), shortstop (Elvis Andrus), left field (Josh Hamilton), center field (Julio Borbon) and right field (Nelson Cruz).

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Adrian Beltre
BA HR RBI R
.324 19 77 79
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Beltre 19
RBIA. Beltre 77
RA. Beltre 79
OPSA. Beltre .879
WC. Lewis 10
ERAC. Lewis 5.18
SOY. Darvish 182