This is the ninth installment of the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry. Today, we round out the offensive positions with the designated hitter. One DH has been terrorizing American League East pitchers for the last eight seasons while the other is assuming his first full-time DH assignment. David ‘Big Papi’ Ortiz and ‘Hip Hip’ Jorge Posada have been two stalwarts of the Red Sox/Yankee rivalry. Both feature above average power from the left side and consistently post slugging percentages around .500. After the 2011 season, both players will be hitting free agency, so they will be looking to have huge seasons. Who holds the advantage at DH as we enter the 2011 season?

Designated Hitter

Red Sox: David Ortiz (2010: .270 BA, 86 runs, 32 HRs, 102 RBIs, .370 OBP, 145 games)
Yankees: Jorge Posada (.248 BA, 49 runs, 18 HRs, 57 RBIs, .357 OBP, 120 games)

This isn’t the first time that these two players have squared off. ESPN featured one of their funnier commercials back in 2007, so take a walk down memory lane.

There’s no denying that David Ortiz was one of the most feared sluggers of the last decade. In eight seasons with the Red Sox, Ortiz has made the All-Star team six times, finished in the Top 5 in MVP voting five times, and hit a career high 54 home runs in 2006. However, as Ortiz has aged, he has watched his numbers begin to plummet. Take a look at these three year averages:

2005-07: .295 BA, 45 HRs, 134 RBIs, .420 OBP
2008-10: .259 BA, 28 HRs, 95 RBIs, .355 OBP

While Ortiz will turn 36 in November, there’s no discounting his meer presence at the plate. I still have nightmares about Ortiz’s walk off hit against the Yankees in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS that basically turned that whole series around and led to years of depression for me. His sweet lefty swing is tailor-made for Fenway Park and AJ Burnett fastballs (three home runs in 38 at-bats).

Bill James’ Projection: .261 BA, 91 runs, 33 HRs, 91 RBIs, .366 OBP

Alike many pure offensive catchers before him, Jorge Posada is watching his career slowly wind down. The 39-year-old has watched injuries take their toll on his body while his defense steadily decline over the last few seasons. It became obvious that the Yankees needed a change behind the plate when the Texas Rangers easily ran on Posada during last season’s ALCS. Posada is still a good hitter, but his defense is definitely lacking behind the dish.

To maximize output in Posada’s still potent bat, the Yankees have relegated him to a full-time designated hitter. In 1,549 career games, Posada has only appeared as the designated hitter 90 times. He has posted a .223/.336/.358 line with nine home runs in 296 at-bats. These numbers are a far cry from Posada’s career line of .275/.377/.479.

Over the last two seasons, Posada has averaged: 119 games played, 20 HRs, 70 RBIs, and a .261 batting average. The Yankees are banking on Posada giving them at least 120 starts at DH. Brian Cashman has already said that Posada will be the emergency third catcher this season, which basically means that they never want to use him defensively.

Bill James’ Projection: .260 BA, 49 runs, 16 HRs, 60 RBIs, .363 OBP

Verdict

Edge: Red Sox

This one wasn’t too hard. David Ortiz has been DHing for the last ten years of his career while Posada is watching his body break down. Ortiz has always been a better offensive threat while Posada will just try to stay healthy. Thankfully, Posada is in the final year of his four-year, $52 million contract. Ortiz watched the Red Sox exercise his $12.5 million club option during the off-season, so he will look to post a big season in order to secure one more payday. Big Papi still scares the crap out of me when he steps to the dish, so the Red Sox win today.

Yankees 6
Red Sox 4

Who would you rather have this season?

Check back tomorrow as we start looking at the starting pitching.