The American League has the distinct offensive advantage of the designated hitter. It's doing the Yankees no good in the ALDS.
After four games in the ALDS, the Yankees may as well have used their pitchers in the DH spot, as the combination of Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley has collected zero hits in 14 at-bats with just two walks while striking out seven times. Add in the wild card game and the hitless skid for Yankees DH's in the postseason is 20 at-bats, with three walks and eight strikeouts.
Meanwhile, the man they paid $13 million to be the 2017 DH, Matt Holliday, has yet to receive a single plate appearance in the series. This has to change with a Game 5 start, and if the Yankees are fortunate enough to get to the ALCS, Holliday's name in the lineup should continue to be inserted regardless of his results in Game 5.
The situation goes beyond the poor performance Ellsbury and Headley have provided in the postseason. Both players are built to play every day and in the field, and that is not going to happen as this roster is constituted. Being a DH is tough on its own, but performing in the role with sporadic time as well makes it extremely difficult for players unaccustomed to the spot.
On the flip side, Holliday proved for a better part of the season that he can be an extremely productive DH -- he was as much a key to the Yankees' offensive firepower in the first half of the season as any other player.
As the Yankees moved to a then season-high 15 games over .500 on June 12, Holliday was hitting .280 with a .384 OBP and .530 SLG in 237 plate appearances. Holliday smacked 11 doubles, 13 home runs and drove in 44 runs through that point.
Unfortunately, Holliday contracted a viral infection, which sapped a good deal of his energy as he missed over two weeks to recover. Then he missed 26 games due to a lumbar strain, which was seemingly enough to make him an afterthought to Girardi.
Holliday came back on Sept. 2, but started just 15 games down the stretch. In 66 plate appearances through the end of the season, Holliday slashed .237/.303/.441 with three homers and 13 RBI. That is certainly not overwhelming production and it allowed Girardi to ride Ellsbury and Headley while they were stroking the ball well. The playoffs are a different beast, though, and Ellsbury and Headley have been a drain in the lineup.
Holliday has faced Game 5 starter Corey Kluber in just one plate appearance (he was hit by pitch). Meanwhile, Ellsbury is 5-for-22 against Kluber, including his 0-for-3 in Game 2. And Headley is 1-for-14 against Cleveland's ace. Nothing in the numbers suggest Ellsbury or Headley are better options, and the circumstances are now beyond one-on-one history. Besides the poor results, the type of plate appearances Ellsbury and Headley have put together have not demonstrated a turnaround is in store.
The caution for Girardi as he makes his decision is that Holliday has not hit in a game situation since Oct. 1. Regardless, the potential upside of Holliday's power bat versus the hope that either Headley or Ellsbury will turn things around is clear. Aside from the chance for a home run, Holliday can work the count -- and that will be essential when facing Kluber.
Girardi mentioned that the DH spot is "due" for a hit after the Yankees' Game 4 victory. Nonetheless, what's due is Girardi using both the numbers (his typical crutch) and his gut (used more often in the playoffs), which should be telling him that the postseason DH production has been abysmal and he has another viable option.
It is time to use Holliday, the only true DH on the club. And if they proceed to the next round, stick with him -- because things cannot get worse, only better.