MLB's problem with designated hitters who can't hit

Edgar Martinez, a two-time batting champion, was one of the first true designated hitters to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

IT'S ONE OF the mysteries of the modern game of baseball: Why do so many teams receive so little "hitting" from their designated hitters?

A few weeks ago, I ran some of the numbers past Josh Bell, the regular designated hitter for the Cleveland Guardians. Some of those updated figures for 2023:

  • Three teams are hitting under .200 from the DH spot. Another six are hitting under .225.

  • The major league average OPS is .729. Thirteen teams are seeing their DHs produce an OPS worse than a league-average hitter.

  • Seattle Mariners DHs are hitting .161 with a .553 OPS -- and that isn't even the worst OPS in the majors. Milwaukee Brewers DHs are hitting .184 with three home runs for a .533 OPS.

  • The Detroit Tigers have used 16 different DHs and started nine different players there -- and they've combined to hit .206 with three home runs.

These numbers aren't anomalies. Last season, four teams hit under .200, and a whopping 14 teams saw their DHs produce an OPS under .700, despite a leaguewide OPS of .707.

"Yeah, I don't know what to say," Bell replied. He paused and laughed. "Other than hitting is really hard."