Do Designated Hitters deserve to win AL MVP? The answer is yes


It’s award season in Major League Baseball; the time of the year when the elite are separated from the great. Names are etched into history forever and baseball lore continues to write its autobiography.

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The three finalists for the American League MVP were announced on Tuesday. It’s no big surprise that Mike Trout, Victor Martinez, and Michael Brantley are the three finalists as all had incredible seasons and more than deserving of the award. Mike Trout used to be the easy favorite. But based on their 2014 statistics, these three players should in an incredibly tight race. But there is one player that has a slight disadvantage to his name, and that’s Victor Martinez, due to the fact he was strictly a DH in 2014.H

Historically, designated hitters have been discriminated against in MVP voting, and never has a player that was primarily a DH won the MVP award. Jonathon Gault of NESN offers this information:

"Since the AL adopted the designated hitter in 1973, no full-time designated hitter has won the MVP award. Three players — Jim Rice in 1978, Don Baylor in 1979 and Juan Gonzalez in 1996 — have seen significant time at the position the same year they won the MVP. But none played the majority of their games at the position, the closest call being Baylor’s 65 appearances at DH in ’79. Players representing every other position on the diamond have won the award since ’73, including three relief pitchers."

That raises the question, do designated hitters deserve to take home MVP honors? Before we answer that, let’s examine the three finalists’ 2014 numbers…

Victor Martinez

.335 BA (2nd)/ 36 HR (3rd)/ 103 RBI (7th)/ 188 Hits (4th)/ .409 OBP (1st)/ 42 SO

  • Only Jose Altuve posted a better batting average (.341)
  • 42 strikeouts is the lowest Martinez has had since 2008
  • Led the AL with 28 intentional walks

Mike Trout

.287 BA (13th)/ 36 HR (3rd)/ 111 RBI (1st)/ 173 Hits (14th)/ .377 OBP (7th)/ 184 SO

  • Only Adrian Gonzalez racked up more RBI (116) than Trout in 2014
  • Led AL with 115 runs
  • His 184 strikeout’s were the most in the AL

Michael Brantley

.327 BA (3rd)/ 20 HR (28th)/ 97 RBI (12th)/ 200 hits (2nd)/ .385 OBP (5th)/ 56 SO

  • Led Cleveland Indians in doubles, hits, BA, RBI, and stolen bases
  • Brantley’s 611 plate appearances are the most among the three MVP finalists
  • One of two AL players to accumulate 200 hits

So, does a DH deserve to win MVP? The answer is yes.

I’m not saying that Victor Martinez should win the award the year, but for him to be looked at lower than Brantley and Trout because of his position would be criminal of the writers. But their history shows it. In 2006, David Ortiz placed 3rd in MVP voting behind Justin Morneau and Derek Jeter, even though his WAR was significantly higher, as were his HR and RBI numbers. Ortiz should have won the award that year, which leads me to feeling the way I do about Martinez’s predicament.

Jun 12, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (34) hits his fifteen home run for the season during the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

All three of these players had great seasons and are special in their own way, but Martinez’s season was one for the ages. There were days when he put the team on his back and carried them to victory (15 game winning RBI in 2014). What he could do with a bat made fans gaze in amazement on a daily basis. But deep down in my gut, I have a feeling that he will be overlooked purely for the fact that he is a DH.

And I believe that’s wrong; a player should solely be looked at for the value they bring to their club, not their position. The argument is made that a DH doesn’t play the field, thus lowering their value. If that’s so, the argument could be made that pitchers don’t hit. Wouldn’t that make them less valuable?

I see holes in the voting process, as well as the beliefs voters hold. If a DH has had the better year, then he deserves the trophy.