Looking Back at What Was: Designated Hitter

July 26, 2010 - Cleveland, OHIO, UNITED STATES - epa02262285 Travis Hafner of the Cleveland Indians rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run against the New York Yankees in the second inning of their game at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, 26 July 2010.
Source: Yardbarker.com

This is the fifth in a series of posts looking back at the realities of the Indians 2010 season. We’ll look at what was hoped for, what actually happened, and what the expectations are going forward at the position in 2011.

Barring an injury, Travis Hafner will be the opening day designated hitter.

Beyond that, things get a lot more murky.

By now, you know the story with Hafner. Once one of the most feared hitters in baseball, the man lovingly called “Pronk”, Hafner signed a fat extension, and then conveniently stopped producing. This year, Hafner had a respectable .374 OBP (.824 OPS). In 396 at bats, he had 13 home runs. No, it’s not like his monster 2006 season (42 HR, .439 OBP, 1.097 OPS!), but at least it’s getting something for your money.

Hafner was still bothered by inflammation of his right shoulder and did a stint on the DL. This is the same shoulder injury that has ailed Hafner for the past three years. Hafner still appeared in over 100 games for the first time since 2007. However it appears Hafner’s days as an everyday designated hitter are over, especially given his health and the somewhat alarming statistic that 12 of those 13 home runs came versus right-handed pitchers. “Pronk” is no more. Hafner is an overpaid platoon player at this point, like David Dellucci times 15.

I am of the camp that Hafner’s contract shouldn’t guarantee him playing time if he’s sucking. I know the Indians desperately want him to do well enough so that some team will take him off their hands.  Hafner has two years (2011 and 2012) left on his contract. The Indians may want to consider just cutting him loose if they have someone else who deserves the at bats more. This may come down to a choice: the Indians must decide whether they want to improve the team, or worry about their wallets.

So, barring an injury, Travis Hafner will be in the opening day lineup. He’s been voted out as the mayor of Pronkville, but at least he wasn’t totally useless last year. The Indians will have to live with that, and learn from their mistake.

Topics: David Dellucci, Travis Hafner

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