Ranking the Top 40 Designated Hitters of All-Time: Nos. 40-21
In the 40 years since that day, the 16 different teams to inhabit the AL have used their DH spot in numerous ways; some have installed a quality hitter in the spot full-time, others have used it as a final stop for defensively-declining players or a space to relieve an overcrowded situation at one position, while yet others have chosen to use it primarily as a tool to give some of their stars a “half-day off” while keeping them in the lineup.
In compiling a list of the Top 40 DH’s of All-Time to commemorate the anniversary, the YESNetwork.com staff had to be creative with the criteria; in the end, while guys who were full-time DH’s for most or all of their careers won out in the top spots, the entirety of the list contains guys who fit at least these two minimum criteria: 150 career games started as a DH and at least two full seasons where they spent more games as the DH than at any other position.
On the exact anniversary of the designated hitter’s arrival, we present the latter half of the list, DH’s Nos. 40-21, ranked below in reverse order, with the Top 20 revealed here.
No. 40: Sam Horn
Horn, who was the Red Sox’ top draftee in 1985, was a first baseman by trade but played just 12 of his 389 career MLB games there; in parts of seven seasons with the Sox, Orioles, and Indians and Rangers, he hit .240 with 62 homers and 179 RBI, with more than a third of the latter totals coming during his lone full season as a starter (as Baltimore’s DH in 1991).
No. 39: Edwin Encarnacion
It may be hard to believe, but Edwin Encarnacion has played more games as the DH (153) in his three full years in Toronto than at either corner infield spot; it seems to have worked well, as he hit .280 and shattered his career highs with 42 homers and 110 RBI in 2012.
No. 38: Bob Hamelin
“The Pied Piper” won the AL Rookie of the Year Award in the strike-shortened 1994 season, hitting .282-24-65 while making 67 of his 91 starts as the Royals DH. He started more than half of his career games at that spot over six years, but never again approached his rookie totals before abruptly retiring while with Triple-A Toledo in 1999.
No. 37: Rusty Staub
Staub was a first baseman and outfielder in the NL for most of his career, but only played in the AL for five years, but he spent 2 ½ full seasons as Detroit’s DH in the late-1970s, putting up back to back seasons with at least a .270 average, 20 homers, and 100 RBI in 1977 and 1978.
No. 36: Jack Clark
A right fielder/first baseman while in the NL, Clark spent three AL seasons – including one with the Yankees in 1988 – as a mostly full-time DH, posting a .242-27-93 line with the Bombers and a combined .236-33-120 line in 221 games with the Red Sox.
No. 35: Tony Oliva
After a decade as the Twins’ right fielder, Oliva became the full-time DH when the position was instituted in 1973, hitting .283 over three seasons in that spot while averaging 14 homers and 69 RBI per year.
No. 34: Ken Singleton
Like Oliva, Singleton was an outfielder who spent three seasons at the end of his career as a full-time DH; acting as the Orioles’ DH from 1982-84, Singleton hit .251 overall while making fans in the stands yell “Look out!” 38 times and driving in 197.
No. 33: Michael Young
A true renaissance man over his dozen years in Texas, Young spent more days at DH in 2011-12 than at any other position. In the first of those two years, Young hit .338 and led the league with 213 hits, earning his seventh All-Star nod and a Top 10 finish in MVP voting.
No. 32: Steve Balboni
A first baseman throughout the 80s with the Yankees and Royals, Balboni became more of a full-time DH with Seattle in 1988 and stayed there when he put the pinstripes back on in 1989. “Bye Bye Balboni” hit just .216 overall in his second stint in pinstripes, but did bash 17 homers in both 1989 and 1990.
No. 31: George Brett
Brett was a Hall of Famer as a corner infielder, but he spent the final three years of his career serving as Kansas City’s primary DH. A .305 career hitter, Brett had a .270 overall mark from 1991-93, and he notched the 3,000th hit of his career in 1992 while serving as the DH.
No. 30: Adam Dunn
Dunn served as the DH in most of the Reds and Nationals’ interleague games from 2001-10, but has been the full-time DH since joining the White Sox in 2011; his first year was quite disappointing, but he hit 41 homers in 2012 and led the AL in both walks and strikeouts as well.
No. 29: Larry Parrish
Parrish transitioned from third base into more of a full-time DH role late in his career, and had a banner season in that role for Texas in 1987, hitting .268 with a career-high 32 homers and 100 RBI – one short of his best mark there – and earning a berth in the All-Star game.
No. 28: Andre Dawson
“The Hawk” was a Hall of Fame outfielder, but he spent his two years in the American League (1993-94) serving mostly as the Red Sox’ DH; in those two years, Dawson hit .260 with 29 homers and 115 RBI in 169 games, and he even stole a few bases at ages 38-40.
No. 27: Jason Kubel
In six full seasons with the Twins, Kubel played anywhere from 30 to 85 games as Minnesota’s DH per season, and left the Twin Cities with a .271 career average and more than 100 home runs.
No. 26: Vladimir Guerrero
A feared hitter throughout his career, Guerrero spent his final three MLB seasons as a full-time DH for three different teams, posting a .300-29-115 line with Texas in 2010 that earned him his final career All-Star appearance.
No. 25: Ron Blomberg
Blomberg’s career was short, but he hit .300 in back-to-back seasons in 1973-74 and made 165 of his 225 starts from 1973-78 as a DH…including the first one ever, which is enough to earn him a spot in the Top 25.
No. 24: Eddie Murray
Murray had a Hall of Fame career with more than 3,000 hits and 500 home runs – and he hit both of those milestones not as a first baseman but as a DH, playing all but 45 games in his final four seasons at that position and racking up an impressive .323 average in 1995 at age 39.
No. 23: Mike Easler
After a decade in the NL, Easler came to the AL in 1984 to be Boston’s DH and hit .313 with 27 homers and 91 RBI. After a second good season in Boston, Easler spent 1986 and part of 1987 as the Yankees’ primary DH, hitting a combined .297 in 211 games in pinstripes.
No. 22: Richie Zisk
Previously an outfielder, Zisk transitioned into a DH role in Texas in 1980 and then spent 1981-83 as the Mariners’ primary professional hitter, batting .286 with 49 home runs in the final three seasons of his career.
No. 21: Cliff Johnson
Johnson joined the Yankees in 1977 and took his first turn as a DH that year, morphing into the role full-time over the latter half of his career; his best seasons in the role came in Toronto in 1983-84, when he followed a .265-22-76 season in 1983 by hitting .304 with 16 dingers the following year.