Pondering a Platoon

The Milwaukee Brewers re-signed Craig Counsell yesterday to a one-year pact worth $1.4 million. Counsell spent last season primarily at shortstop while seeing time at second base and third base as well. Despite Counsell’s age – he turned 40 in August – there’s a case to be made that he should find himself in the lineup more often in 2011.

The Brewers’ acquisition of Yuniesky Betancourt has led many to crown him as the starting shortstop. One tiny problem: Counsell might be the better player. Over the last three seasons Betancourt has managed a .262/.288/.384 slash line (in nearly 1,700 plate appearances) while playing poor defense; Counsell, meanwhile,  has hit .259/.349/.356 (in nearly 1,000 plate appearances) with better defensive marks.

Expecting a 40-year-old shortstop to play daily is a bit much, which means a platoon is a better idea. The contrast in batting hands allows for a perceived natural platoon and the numbers support the idea. Betancourt doesn’t do much well, but his ability to hit left-handed pitching seems genuine. Betancour has even managed on-base percentages over .330 in three of the last four seasons against lefties, which is worth noting because Betancourt is not known for reaching base. Interestingly, Counsell has walked more in the last three seasons than Betancourt has in his entire career in about a third of the plate appearances. Counsell saw his numbers versus righties slide last season, but he’s usually good for an on-base percentage over .330 versus them.

The combination might lack pizzazz and sizzle, but a Counsell-Betancourt combination could lead to the Brewers’ best offensive output at the shortstop position since J.J. Hardy’s glory days. The team’s shortstops hit a collective .230/.284/.316 last season and .247/.306/.355 in 2009. Betancourt might exceed those numbers himself, yet a little outside the box thinking could produce even better results.

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44 Responses to “Pondering a Platoon”

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  1. another know it all says:

    Interesting combination for a platoon… a guy who makes the most out of his skills, and a guy who makes the least out of his skills.

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  2. Paul S says:

    Jack Moore and others are also calling for a Gomez/Dickerson platoon in CF. I wonder if Roenicke will go for either?

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  3. Taylor says:

    I love the platoon idea but, as Neyer and others have noted, the tendency to build ever larger and more specialized bullpens mitigates the possibility. Sadly, it seems more likely that a team would carry 14 pitchers than employ two platoons (and therefore 4 part-time hitters).

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    • Sandy Kazmir says:

      Having a true super-utility player can allow 2, or even 3 platoons. The Rays can platoon at Catcher, 2B, RF, & DH (possibly SS and 1B, as well, but then you start seeing a ton of overlap) due to the defensive flexibility of Ben Zobrist and Sean Rodriguez. The 2011 season is nearly upon us (thank Gawd), but Andrew Friedman is still milking the hell out of this inefficiency. Having a league average (or better) bat that can play all over the diamond allows Joe Maddon to play matchups at multiple positions on and given day. With the likely promotion of Elliott Johnson, they’ll have another player that fits that mold.

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  4. CARLOS says:

    jajajajaja are you kidding Councell with 40 years old is better than Yuni what a joke!!!!! JUA JUA JUA Craig never puts numers like Yuni ok Here in this web are like the Western sherrif ……WANTED..Yunieky Betancourt very dangerous we want dead or alive.

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    • nitro2831 says:


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    • michaeldupuisjr says:

      Carlos makes a good point.

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    • mbrady16 says:

      “Yunieky Betancourt very dangerous we want dead or alive.”

      Yes, yes, very dangerous: He’s breaking all our western united states american records, possibly even the ones for fewest pitches seen per plate appearance or fewest walks per plate appearance. He is a legend that no western “sherrif” can hope to match.

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    • Jason B says:

      I would like Carlos to share his pot brownies with the rest of us.

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  5. CARLOS says:

    2010 Counsell 2 homers and 21 ribis 3,87 Range Factor jajajajajajajaja please dont say lies man we are not stupid the last time he played all the season was 2005 and he had 245 AVE 9 Hrs and 40 ribbis are you smoking?

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    • mbrady16 says:

      Counsell and Yuni had identical WAR’s last year, despite Counsell having less than half of Betancourt’s ABs. Let’s see how this happened:

      Betancourt’s 2010 wOBA: .300. Counsell’s 2010 wOBA: .291.

      So they’re pretty close in terms of offense. Sadly for Yuni, defense counts too. Counsell is by many accounts a much better defender (just glancing at UZR/150 and FSR).

      A 40-year old utility guy is just as good as your (fairly young) idol. Yes, its kind of sad, but get over it.

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    • adohaj says:

      I like to think that Carlos is Carlos Gomez.

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  6. Thomas says:

    Carlos, you are a moron. GTFO

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    • Nathaniel Dawson says:

      No No No.

      Carlos is the funniest thing I’ve seen on Fangraphs in a long while. This is comedy at it’s best! I have no idea whether he’s yanking people’s chain, is a lunatic or is just plain retarded. This is comedy gold.

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  7. jake says:

    this guy has been all over yuniesky on about 50 topics. ridiculous

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  8. Thomas says:

    Look at it this way, if Yuni is sooo good then why do people constantly trade him away. The Royals should have locked him up in a 5 year deal since he is the face of their franchise.

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  9. CARLOS says:

    jajajajajajajajajaja idots

    -8 Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. CARLOS says:

    yes yes yes my fiend is rigth USA is a country of many ignorant

    -13 Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. CARLOS says:

    dont eat many hot dogs your brain up off jajajajajajajaja

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    • mbrady16 says:

      Comments like these are bound to cause a international incident. Such precise and scathing insults leave no room for response.

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  12. Thomas says:

    We are the idiots with our “brain up off”.

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  13. Flharfh says:

    Counsell should probably play as much as possible at SS, but that may not be enough to have a real platoon, since he is the backup 2b and probably 3b as well, depending on if Matt Gamel makes the team. Hopefully Gamel makes the team and can be the backup 3B/1B/Corner OF guy, and play 1B in interleague games so tubby can DH.

    In CF? Whats the point of platooning a guy that can’t hit at all (Gomez)? Dickerson is probably a superior hitter to Gomez regardless of splits, and likely has equal or better defense to boot.

    I think Gomez and Dickerson will fight it out in spring training, and the winner will start in CF while the loser is the 4th OF.

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  14. AJS says:

    Is jajajajajajaja how people named Jose or Javier laugh?

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    • mbrady16 says:

      In spanish, the letter j makes a sound very similar to the english H in “haha”

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      • joe bananas says:

        yes, similar to how people named pierre or jean-luc make the “haw haw haw” sound when they laugh.

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    • Jon says:

      AJS’s response to Carlos made me realize that I was misinterpreting some of the subtleties in the e-mails from this Spanish girl I was dating for a while. On this basis, I think we’re forced to admit that Carlos has made a useful contribution to the Fangraphs community.

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  15. AlexS says:

    Is it possible this is the same “Carlos” from the movie The Hangover?

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  16. CARLOS says:

    Sorry guys, I was a little tired earlier. What I meant to say was, Yuniesky Betancourt once saved my cat from a tree in my native Panama. I am forever indebted

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  17. DIVISION says:


    We’ll always have the 2001 Championship run. That HR you hit at Busch Stadium to bury the Cardinals in the NLDS was epic. Tony LaRussa never lived that down….

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  18. Chad says:

    CARLOS’s comments really brightened my day.

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  19. mattc says:

    Perhaps Carlos could help us out by answering the age-old question of how babby is formed.

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  20. Andy S says:

    The troll.

    You are feeding it.

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  21. CARLOS says:

    Yuni is 6th homers jajajaja 4th rbi 78 jajajaja 9th Total bases jajajaja 12th slug jajajaja

    Now…Class Let see class listen to me ….Yuni is the.1th in put out with 256 in all MLB short stop ok? and we have more wait…..4th asist with 418 ah…sorry Iam Talking all short stop not only AL ok?…folow let see class we dont finish yet ….Yuni is…4,70 Range Factor and the best arm in all siors in mlb do you grab this? dont talk more sheets

    Ah wait….I forgot to say….that Alexei RAMIREZ is a real gold glove no the dead body like Jeter doy you keep the lesson please? ok and Know you are stupid but I hope you learn something..

    now can you answer me in spanish please ohhhhhhhh what a shame!!!! you don say a word in my language hahahahahaahahahah

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