For Better, For Worse: Examining the interleague interlude

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The 1970s brought us bell-bottom pants, leisure suits and the Designated Hitter. Two-thirds of those abominations are gone, thankfully. Too bad the DH is still with us. The DH has its supporters, but I think it's hard to endorse both the DH and interleague play at the same time.

American League lineups are built around the DH. Jim Thome, Hank Blalock and Hideki Matsui become very expensive pinch hitters when the White Sox, Rangers and Yankees visit National League parks. These guys sold their gloves on eBay years ago. They vanish from the fantasy radar during each series at a NL venue.

The flip side of that coin is arguably worse. In AL parks an NL team often moves a regular into the DH spot to "rest" him. A benchwarmer will take the regular's spot in the field and give the NL team a ninth bat, though not a potent one. It doesn't make economic sense for NL teams to pay for a quality hitter on their bench. Interleague play will put a few extra NL hitters on the fantasy radar. None of them, however, will come close to replicating the value of the American League DHs that fade during interleague contests.

The extra NL hitters with some fantasy appeal, even a little bit, are for better. The ones that have little to none are for worse. Some of them are far worse and no better than the pitchers that they replace in the order.

Grade these hitters on a curve. They are the best of a weak class and only worth pickups in very deep or NL-only leagues.

Mat Gamel, 3B, Brewers: If ever a player was born to be a DH, it's Gamel. Gamel's leather is so bad, he can't displace Bill Hall and his .208 average. Gamel will DH against Cleveland and then again in Detroit this weekend. Though striking out a ton and only hitting .239, Gamel has a chance to play every day for at least the next week.

Martin Prado, 3B/1B, Braves: Prado is a.314 hitter since the start of June and just had a nine-game hitting streak stopped Sunday. The Braves have used Chipper Jones as their DH in American League parks and Prado has played regularly, either at third or at first for Casey Kotchman. Kotchman came off the Disabled List Tuesday, so Prado figures to go back to the bench until Friday when the Braves begin a series in Boston.

Johnny Gomes, OF, Reds: The Reds have played just three DH games so far and Gomes was the DH in all of them, going 3 for 10. Gomes figures to get the nod again in the six games in Toronto and Cleveland from June 23-28. Gomes has power with 66 homeruns in only 1,274 career at bats.

Willie Harris, OF, Nationals: The Nationals have two DH-series left, first in New York and then June 26-28 at Baltimore. Harris figures to get some starts in the outfield with Adam Dunn serving as the DH. Harris has speed (3 SB) but is hitting only .222, though with a decent .345 OBP.

Eric Byrnes, OF, Diamondbacks: I swore I would never draft Byrnes again. I didn't say anything about picking him up off of waivers. Byrnes will get regular playing time this week, as Arizona plays two consecutive series in AL parks. Byrnes is hitting only .220, but he does have seven steals. After this week, Byrnes goes back to the bench and Gerado Parra (.296) will remain the regular leftfielder for Arizona. Parra is the better waiver pick-up.

Darin Erstad, OF, Astros: The good news for Houston is that DH games will let them keep Carlos Lee and his injured leg in the lineup. The bad news is that the ninth batter for Houston will be no better than having the pitcher bat. Erstad, 35, is a left-handed bat and that is the nicest thing you can say about him at this stage of his career. If Lee's leg improves, how about pitcher Mike Hampton as DH? He is hitting .348, tops on the team. Hampton's career average is .245. Even Roy Oswalt is hitting only two points less than Erstad (.115 versus .117).

Cliff Floyd, OF, Padres: It's no surprise that Floyd spent the first two months of the season on the disabled list. The fragile Floyd has yet to take the field in 2009. In fact, Floyd has not played defense since 2007. Floyd figures to DH in the majority of San Diego's remaining six games in American League parks. Floyd, 36, is only 1 for 14 this season. His .071 average is 190 points below pitcher Chris Young's average (.261).