2016’s Most Promising Platoons

So, what did everyone think of the Justin Upton deal? Took a long time to sign. Got a lot of money. Good player. Gonna hit a bunch — probably something like 25% better than league average. Might not be great in the field, but, hey, it’s certainly an upgrade over what they already had. Deal mostly makes sense. It’s just so weird that the Rays were the team that signed him.

You didn’t hear? Yeah, it was the Rays that got him. The Tigers? No, no no no no no. The Rays landed Upton. Big-time move for them.

OK, fine, they didn’t technically get Upton. Technically, Upton signed with the Tigers, sure. I’ll admit that. They didn’t get Upton, but what they did get was Corey Dickerson and Steve Pearce, and — hey, stop laughing! Hear me out, here. Dickerson, for his career, has mashed right-handed pitching. Problem’s been the lefties. He’s got a career 139 wRC+ against righties. Pearce, for his career, and especially lately, since he turned his career around, has crushed left-handed pitching. Problem’s been the righties. He’s got a career 123 wRC+ against lefties.

When the Tigers went out and signed Upton to a six-year, $132 million contract, they signed up for something like a 127 wRC+ in 2016, according to the Steamer projections we host here on the site. Makes sense. That’s the exact midway point between last year’s production in San Diego, and the previous year’s production in Atlanta. The Rays? The Rays got Dickerson from Colorado yesterday for Jake McGee, an injury-prone, yet very effective, left-handed reliever. As for Pearce, he was signed for one year and $4.75 million. And if Dickerson only batted against righties, getting two-thirds of the season’s plate appearances, and Pearce got the other one-third by only batting against lefties, Steamer projects that the duo would combine for something like a 124 wRC+ — just a shade below Upton’s performance and at a fraction of the cost.

Of course, it never works that way. Dickerson’s going to be forced into some playing time against lefties, and it’s inevitable that Pearce is going to face his share of righties. Neither one is as adept in the outfield as Upton, and because the Tigers have an everyday player in left field, rather than a platoon, they’ve got an “extra” roster spot, relative to the Rays. You’d rather have Upton than Dickerson and Pearce. At the same time, you’ve got to applaud the Rays for spending so little to acquire a pair of corner outfielders whose production, so as long as the players are used optimally, could rival that of Upton’s.

This is one of the ways in which small-market teams can keep up with their big-market brothers, and one of the reasons why clubs like the Indians, A’s and Rays are so often found near the top of the platoon advantage leaderboard. There’s something very compelling about the cost-effective nature of a productive platoon, as well as the brutal honesty. A platoon is an organization’s way of telling a player, “We know you’re severely flawed, but we’re fine with who you are, and don’t need you to be anything more,” which sort of flies in the face of the traditional macho, “strive for greatness” athlete persona.

And so, in celebration, I thought we could go over a few of baseball’s more notable platoons. With some help from RosterResource, I constructed a table of every position in baseball where it looks like a team might run a platoon this year. Jared Cross then provided me with Steamer’s platoon split projections, and from there, I was just a couple spreadsheet formulas away from having combined projections. To account for roughly two-thirds of baseball pitchers throwing right-handed, I assigned 67% of the playing time to the left-handed batter, and 33% to the righty.

Sorted by WAR, the table (now sortable!) looks like this:

Projected 2016 Platoons
Team Pos vsR vsR wRC+ vsL RH_wRC+ wRC+ Fld WAR
NYM 2B Neil Walker 119 Wilmer Flores 110 116 1.1 3.5
BOS OF Jackie Bradley Jr. 103 Chris Young 112 106 2.8 3.3
STL 2B Kolten Wong 101 Jedd Gyorko 115 106 0.8 3.1
LAD LF Andre Ethier 122 Scott Van Slyke 121 122 -7.1 2.9
NYM OF Michael Conforto 116 Juan Lagares 92 107 2.0 2.9
TB SS Brad Miller 109 Tim Beckham 79 98 -0.9 2.8
TB OF Corey Dickerson 126 Steve Pearce 121 124 -10.0 2.7
SEA 1B Adam Lind 125 Jesus Montero 118 123 -12.5 2.5
ARI 3B Jake Lamb 106 Aaron Hill 92 101 3.6 2.3
SD 2B Cory Spangenberg 96 Jose Pirela 100 97 1.2 2.3
SEA RF Seth Smith 114 Franklin Gutierrez 104 110 -7.2 2.3
MIL CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis 98 Domingo Santana 121 106 -2.9 2.3
HOU 3B Luis Valbuena 109 Marwin Gonzalez 79 98 2.3 2.2
ARI LF David Peralta 119 Phil Gosselin 89 108 -11.4 2.1
TOR LF Michael Saunders 107 Dalton Pompey 86 100 -4.2 2.0
CLE RF Lonnie Chisenhall 105 Collin Cowgill 88 99 -3.6 2.0
DET CF Anthony Gose 90 Cameron Maybin 100 94 -0.2 2.0
HOU LF Colby Rasmus 97 Jake Marisnick 86 93 -1.6 2.0
KC RF Jarrod Dyson 83 Paulo Orlando 85 84 2.9 1.9
TEX LF Josh Hamilton 107 Justin Ruggiano 112 109 -11.0 1.9
OAK 2B/3B Eric Sogard 80 Danny Valencia 110 91 0.6 1.7
HOU 1B Jon Singleton 113 Matt Duffy 94 106 -16.0 1.7
OAK LF Coco Crisp 93 Mark Canha 116 101 -8.4 1.7
WAS CF Ben Revere 97 Michael Taylor 95 96 -0.2 1.6
PIT 1B John Jaso 119 Michael Morse 105 114 -12.1 1.6
TB DH/OF Logan Morrison 110 Brandon Guyer 105 108 -10.7 1.5
MIL 2B Scooter Gennett 94 Jonathan Villar 75 87 1.8 1.4
NYY RF Carlos Beltran 110 Aaron Hicks 89 103 -11.4 1.2
CHW 1B/DH Adam LaRoche 104 Mike Olt 100 103 -13.3 1.1
CLE CF Abraham Almonte 87 Rajai Davis 84 86 -1.7 1.1
TOR 2B Ryan Goins 74 Darwin Barney 71 73 5.8 1.0
LAA LF Daniel Nava 96 Craig Gentry 79 90 -5.2 1.0
ATL 2B Jace Peterson 83 Gordon Beckham 79 82 1.5 0.7
CIN LF Scott Schebler 90 Yorman Rodriguez 90 90 -6.8 0.7
MIA 1B Justin Bour 108 Chris Johnson 82 99 -18.1 0.7
COL 1B Ben Paulsen 88 Mark Reynolds 116 98 -11.3 0.6
ATL LF Michael Bourn 83 Nick Swisher 95 87 -9.4 0.5
PHI 1B Ryan Howard 100 Darin Ruf 110 104 -16.9 -0.4
BAL DH Jimmy Paredes 78 Nolan Reimold 96 84 -19.3 -0.6
SOURCE: Steamer

The Mets come out on top, with a platoon that might not actually be used as a platoon. Wilmer Flores is reported to be Lucas Duda‘s primary backup at first base, and his presence will also allow the brittle David Wright to take some days off. But the Mets still have Ruben Tejada as a utility infielder further down the bench, and given the nature of their infielder’s skill sets, Walker should be sitting against left-handed pitching in favor of Flores as often as possible. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera is a switch-hitter with relatively even platoon splits, so he seems a candidate to play every day. Walker, though, has been 40% better against righties (123 wRC+) than lefties (83) throughout his career, and was essentially unplayable against southpaws in the most recent season (58). Since neither Walker nor Flores is particularly adept with the glove, the Mets wouldn’t lose anything on defense, and could gain a big advantage on offense by letting Flores handle the lefties. The combined production: 116 wRC+, 3.5 WAR. Robinson Cano‘s projected numbers: 117 wRC+, 3.6 WAR.

The Red Sox signed Chris Young to a two-year deal worth $11.5 million this year, and it looks to be a swell fit. Young is the most extreme fly-ball pull hitter in baseball, and that’s an exciting distinction for a batter who will now play his home games at Fenway Park. In addition, he complements Jackie Bradley perfectly. Most days, Bradley will play amazing outfield defense in center, and should be able to hold his own as a league average hitter against righties. When a southpaw starts, the Red Sox will replace him with Young, who will be positioned in a corner, with Mookie Betts or Rusney Castillo shifting over to center. The projected outcome of a Bradley/Young platoon looks a lot like an everyday Carlos Gomez (103 wRC+, 3.2 WAR).

The third-best projected platoon is also one that was constructed during this offseason, one that the Cardinals accomplished by trading Jon Jay to San Diego for Jedd Gyorko. Gyorko can also play other positions in the infield, but he should primarily be used to prevent Kolten Wong from seeing too many lefties, as he’s been more than 30% worse than league average against them in his career, thus far. The Wong/Gyorko comp looks a lot like a regular Dustin Pedroia (105 wRC+, 3.3 WAR).

The last platoon I want to focus on is one that Jeff Sullivan already examined earlier this offseason, the Mariners‘ pairing of Adam Lind and Jesus Montero at first base. Sullivan paid some mind to that pairing, because Lind is notable for being the lefty with the most substantial platoon split since we started tracking that data in 2002. Lind is one of the better hitters in baseball, against righties. You don’t wanna know what he is against lefties. What you do wanna know, is that Lind and Montero’s optimally projected performance for 2016 is nearly indiscernible from Prince Fielder‘s (124 wRC+, 1.9 WAR). Folks might view the Mariners a bit different if they had Prince Fielder.



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August used to cover the Indians for MLB and ohio.com, but now he's here and thinks writing these in the third person is weird. So you can reach me on Twitter @AugustFG_ or e-mail at august.fagerstrom@fangraphs.com.


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Ernie Camacho
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Ernie Camacho
3 months 28 days ago

Steamer’s view of Rajai Davis is shockingly bearish. I’ll definitely take the over on 1.1 WAR for Almonte/Davis.

shamus mcfitzy
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shamus mcfitzy
3 months 28 days ago

Same with Van Slyke, it would seem.

Nate
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Nate
3 months 28 days ago

Dickerson’s platoon splits and home road splits keep coming up since his trade. If you look at both combined (home vs. L compared to away vs. left) something even more hilarious happens. 115 wRC+ home vs. 28 wRC+ road. Given the weirdness of Coors and the small sample is it a foregone conclusion he is useless against lefties?

Bobby Ayala
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Member
3 months 28 days ago

Dickerson’s minor league R/L splits are very close, better ISO and LD% vs LHP even. I’m not buying that he’s a doomed to platoon forever.

jeffrudow
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jeffrudow
3 months 28 days ago

What about Toronto’s Smoakabello platoon at 1B?

drewsylvania
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drewsylvania
3 months 27 days ago

Playing the name-combo game with this list is some fun stuff. Mattjohn Singleduff!

hittfamily
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hittfamily
3 months 27 days ago

If the Rays really do sign Ian Desmond, and Ian Desmond really does plan on playing all over the diamond, the Rays could have a Desmond Desmond platoon.

catzdogz
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catzdogz
3 months 28 days ago

This is fine fodder for trade chatter. Just keep reminding your competition that Player XYZ is platooning with Player ABC so there’s no way he’ll be getting 600 AB but then scoop him up for next to nothing and watch him rake for 450 plate appearances.

Even better in action leagues when you get a Rasmus or Dickerson for $3-4

hittfamily
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hittfamily
3 months 28 days ago

Denver is built on a platoon. It’s surrounded by mountains, but is on a flat topeed mountain, which is a platoon.

shamus mcfitzy
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shamus mcfitzy
3 months 28 days ago

I would be just as optimistic about Ruben Tejada as a platoon partner, considering he has been an above average hitter against lefties in 5 of the 6 years in his career (105 career wRC+, in the inherently small sample). Will the Mets actually platoon Walker? No, probably not, because they had the same option to platoon Murphy for years and didn’t take it. But a boy can dream.

Semih Sirin
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Semih Sirin
3 months 26 days ago

To be fair, they didn’t really have many adequate platoon-mates for Murph over the past few years, and even if they did, Murph was sort of a “star” for us. Walker is coming here for, presumably, one season with very noticeable splits. Terry is Terry, so who knows, but I’d say Flores will get a lot of starts vs LHP.

rosen380
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rosen380
3 months 28 days ago

Is there anywhere we can get all of the projected 2016 wRC+ split vsLHP and vs RHP?

Ernie Camacho
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Ernie Camacho
3 months 28 days ago

Will be publicly released in March, I believe.

WilsonOnHouse
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WilsonOnHouse
3 months 28 days ago

Is a team better off having a full-time player and a zero-WAR bench player than having two platoon partners with the same total WAR? If so, then shouldn’t the full-time player get a WAR bump or the platoon partners a WAR hit?

The Ghost of Stephen Drews Bat
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The Ghost of Stephen Drews Bat
3 months 28 days ago

Break it down and I think you can find the answer yourself:

Full-time player will have a more accurate and reflective WAR because he is accumulating the right amount of PAs for WAR to become an indicative factor. Full-time player is “full-time” because his LH/RH splits are drastically different, therefore accounting for the difference in WAR.

Now with the platoon partners, the question must be asked, can WAR be used to judge the value of a “platoon player”? I think it is understandable that no, WAR cannot because the platoon player is getting select ABs to boost their WAR, which moves away from evaluating the complete profile of the player. The platoon player is reasonably taking the “WAR hit” because of their selective use.

I would not see a reason to even use WAR for platoon players, but I could be wrong and would love for someone to tell me why I should.

hahiggins
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hahiggins
3 months 28 days ago

Big one missing: Oakland will platoon Vogt and Phegley at catcher. Combined, they compare with Russell Martin.

I believe the Ellis/Grandal platoon in LAD is also missing? (comparable with Vogt/Phegley in projected WAR I think)

hahiggins
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hahiggins
3 months 28 days ago

errr well. idk if ellis/grandal counts since grandal switch hits. but i assume they’ll still be able to pursue an optimal balance.

Chris Walker
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Chris Walker
3 months 28 days ago

Thanks, August!

Peckerhead
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Peckerhead
3 months 28 days ago

Conforto did not really have any splits against lefties in the minors…are you sure his wRC+ against them wouldn’t still be higher than Lagares?

OrangeJoos
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OrangeJoos
3 months 28 days ago

I don’t agree with the Oakland Platoons at all.

Phegley and Vogt were the platoon of 2015 and I am sure it will happen again.

Canha and Alonso make sense as they are a platoon in the making but Canha hits RHP better than LHP and Alonso hits LHP better than RHP.

I also don’t get the Sogard/Valencia 2B/3B platoon at all. In fact Lowrie is probably a lock for 2B and Valencia is a lock for 3B with Sogard doing some filling in at 2B/SS but then there is Tyler Ladendorf and Joe Wendle around, I see almost no time for Sogard and rightfully so, he offers nothing but defense and base running

Kyle H
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Kyle H
3 months 28 days ago

What are the chances that Josh Reddick gets platooned? He is just as weak against lefties in the last two years as Corey Dickerson has been.

TrevorCap
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TrevorCap
3 months 26 days ago

Naw, Reddick will get his days off vs LHP (with Smolinski most likely getting some of that) but for the most part he plays every day.

Scoreboard
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Scoreboard
3 months 28 days ago

August, I love this article but I feel like you missed in capturing the underlying value of the platoon. Yes, Neil Walker and Wilmer Flores combine for a projected 3.5 WAR collectively, but isn’t the real incremental value of the platoon the 2/3 + 1/3 combined WAR (3.5) minus the better player’s full-season WAR projection (Walker’s 2.4)?

For instance… If I paired someone slightly better at hitting left-handed pitchers w/Eric Hosmer I could easily create a 2+ win platoon combo. But that’s not a very useful strategy since Hosmer is already projected to provide 2+ WAR on his own. The real value from a platoon comes from your ability to get more WAR than you would have gotten had you just played the better player at 100%.

TJ
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TJ
3 months 28 days ago

Who else is dying for a full-length August article about the fearsome Bourn/Swisher platoon? At least add a $/WAR column to the table.

rauce1
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rauce1
3 months 28 days ago

Curious as to why Steamer is so down on jarrod dyson?
He had a RC+ of 94 last year vs RHP and 93 for his career, but he’s projected to tumble down to 83 in 2016?

robertobeers
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robertobeers
3 months 28 days ago

Matt Duffy is not the other half the Houston’s 1B platoon.

robertobeers
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robertobeers
3 months 28 days ago

Welp – I stand corrected.

Silver King
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Member
Silver King
3 months 27 days ago

Neat link in the article. I especially like looking at this year, however:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/MLB/1985-situational-batting.shtml#teams_situational_batting::3

FrustratedHypocrite
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FrustratedHypocrite
3 months 27 days ago

It’s doubtful that Morse gets many ABs in Pittsburgh this year as a 1B, imo.

Rich Rieders
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Rich Rieders
3 months 27 days ago

The Mets are a team full of platoons and potentially very successful ones. It’s one of the reasons why many believe they will be a top offensive team this season. Just look at their splits using last season’s wRC+

v RHP: d’Arnaud (113), Duda (130), Walker (119), Cabrera (107), Wright (116), Conforto (142), Cespedes (146), Granderson (151)
Lineup Average (119)
v. LHP: d’Arnaud (207), Flores (162), Cabrera (97), Tejada (104), Wright (187), Cespedes (99), Lagares (116), Granderson (61)
Lineup Average (129)

Now obviously there are sample size issues and regression needs to be taken into account, but the Mets should be able to put together a very strong lineup against both LHP and RHP. Add that to the #1 rotation in baseball, one of the best relievers in the game and a weak division and you have a team that should be expected to get 90+ wins.

mr.met89
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3 months 26 days ago

Man, the mariners wasted a lot of money on Cano. If the projected comp is the Mets’ Walker/Flores platoon, then I am psyched!

ElJimador
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ElJimador
3 months 26 days ago

What about the Giants’ 1B combo of Belt and Posey? It may not be a strict platoon but the vast majority of the others projected aren’t going to be either, and it is a fact that most of the time Posey starts at 1B is vs. LHB (with Susac taking Belt’s place in the lineup). If that usage continues wouldn’t this one top the list?

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