Platoon-Split All-Star Team

The 2013 All-Star Game has already been played, and the result was decided. The AL defeated the NL in a 3-0 effort in a game  that was filled with players of all different types. The aging veterans who want a last hurrah. The rising stars who are getting their first taste of what it is like to play among the elite in baseball. The overpaid superstars and the underpaid superstars. However, I thought it would be interesting to assemble an all-star team of players with large platoon split.

Call it an Island of misfit toys or misfit all-stars, if you’re feeling Moneyball-esque.

Catcher

Vs. RHP Jason Castro: PA’s 380, wOBA .371, wRC+ 137

Vs. LHP Derek Norris: PA’s 173, wOBA .426, wRC+ 177

Combined: PA 553, wOBA .387, wRC+ 149

Castro doesn’t actually lead all catchers against RHP. That honor belongs to Joe Mauer. However, Mauer ranks within the top three catchers against left-handed pitching, which makes him not really have a huge platoon split. Therefore I rendered him ineligible as a platoon partner. It makes sense that the Athletics would have a catcher who is so effective in hitting left-handers, because they also have John Jaso who is known to mash righties (.363 wOBA vs RHP). If there is anything an Astro fan should be happy about  — which there isn’t much — it’s the fact that Jason Castro eats right- handed pitching for lunch and he also is one of the better catchers in the league.

First Base

Vs RHP Chris Davis: PA’s 434  wOBA .473, wRC+ 203

Vs. LHP Nick Swisher: PA’s 224 wOBA .398 wRC+ 158

Combined: PA’s 658, wOBA 447 wOBA, wRC+ 187

Davis was considered the best first baseman, as he led the league in dingers and compiled a WAR of 6.8. While Davis was performing at near-immortal levels against right-handed pitching, he was also very vulnerable against left-handed pitching with wRC+ of 104 against LHP. Nick Swisher is an interesting case because he is a switch hitter, but really struggles against right-handed pitching with a wRC+ of 93. This makes me wonder if Swisher should consider going the Shane Victorino route, and drop batting lefty to focus solely on batting right-handed. We don’t know if this strategy works for everyone — it’s probably a case-by-case situation — but it’s something to keep in mind.

Second Base

Vs RHP Robinson Cano: PA’s 420, wOBA .410, wRC+ 160

Vs LHP Brian Dozier: PA’s 148, wOBA .421, wRC+ 171

Combined: PA’s 568, wOBA .408, wRC+ 161

I had a hard time picking Cano simply because while Cano is definitely better at hitting righties than lefties, he’s not that bad at hitting lefties. Last season, Cano had a wOBA of .343 and wRC+ of 114 against LHP. That’s not a bad mark, however it is a sizable enough difference to create a platoon split. On the other hand, this points out that Dozier is a little underrated, and if he is used in the right roles, he could be a very valuable player. I find this platoon an interesting dichotomy: an overpaid superstar in Cano and a cost-effective role player in Dozier.

Shortstop

Vs. RHP Ian Desmond: PA’s 507, wOBA .344, wRC+ 118

Vs. LHP Jhonny Peralta: PA’s 136, wOBA .414, wRC+ 164

Combined: PA’s 643, wOBA .344, wRC+ 126

Shortstop was by far the hardest position for which to make a platoon. The LHP side was easy with Peralta because he led all shortstops when it came to facing lefties. The problem came with the right-handed side because the guys who could hit righties well — such as Tulowitzki and Lowrie — could also hit lefties pretty well. I settled with Desmond because even though he is well balanced against LHP and RHP, he wasn’t as balanced as Tulo or Lowrie.

Third Base

Vs. RHP Adrian Beltre: PA’s 516, wOBA .370, wRC+ 129

Vs. LHP David Wright: PA’s 150, wOBA .454 wRC+ 199

Combined: PA’s 666, wOBA .397, wRC+ 143

There were a lot of good-hitting third baseman last year. Miguel Cabrera led all third baseman in hitting against right handers and left handers. Wright and Beltre are number two to Cabrera. They also both have large platoon splits. Wright can hit RHP, it’s just that the split between PA’s against RHP versus his PA’s against LHP is huge. Beltre, on the other hand, is somewhat insignificant against lefties.

Right Field

RHP Daniel Nava: PA’s 397, wOBA .392, wRC+ 146

LHP Hunter Pence: PA’s 178, wOBA .415, wRC+ 174

Combined: PA’s 575, wOBA .399, wRC+ 154

This is where things can get a little arbitrary because there are a lot of corner outfielders, and therefore a lot of corner outfielders who have platoon splits. You could sub out both outfielders for a combination of Michael Cuddyer and Giancarlo Stanton. However, I thought that it would be more fun to point out how undervalued Nava is. Nava had a breakout year in Boston, and he did so by destroying right handers. Pence actually isn’t all that bad against RHP, wRC+ of 119 against RHP, which is kind of surprising considering he’s a lefty with a long swing. Bruce Bochy should probably take more advantage of Pence’s ability to hit left handers well. I think that both players are underrated.

Center Field

Vs. RHP Shin-Soo Choo: PA’s 491 wOBA .438, wRC+ 183

Vs. LHP Carlos Gomez: PA’s 140, wOBA .421, wRC+ 171

Combined: PA’s 631, wOBA .430, wRC+ 179

Choo is easily one of the worst defensive center fielders in the game, and he probably should shift over to a corner outfield spot in Texas. A lot of people express concern over the Choo contact because of the poor defensive play combined with a massive platoon split. Choo is godly against RHP, but below average against LHP (wRC+ of 81). The three-year, $24 million contract extension that the Brewers gave Gomez looks like it was a steal. Not only did they get a guy who punished left handers, but they also got a guy who led the NL in WAR, had great defense, and even some decent pop.

Left Field

Vs. RHP Dominic Brown: PA’s 381, wOBA .366, wRC+ 133

Vs. LHP Justin Upton: PA’s 164  wOBA .422, wRC+ 174

Combined: PA’s 545, wOBA .382, wRC+ 145

There isn’t anything interesting about why I picked these two, other than the fact that I did consider Matt Holliday instead of Brown. However,  Holliday’s split wasn’t as large as Brown’s. I wouldn’t expect Dominic Brown to perform as well against righties again; he’s in for some serious regression to the mean.

If these platoons were put into practice you could probably get as good or better production than the elite hitters in baseball. This list, just like the actual all-star game roster, is diverse. You have players who are considered elite — such as Choo, Cano, Wright, and Beltre — and then the undervalued guys such as Dozier, Nava, Norris and Castro. It’s surprising that most teams don’t take more advantage of platoons since they could get elite production from two players for a fraction of the cost.



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Ken Gilland
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Ken Gilland

When did Pence become a left handed hitter?

Special Juan Lagares
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Special Juan Lagares

Interesting piece but Pence bats and throws right

Spencer Manners
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Spencer Manners

Sorry about that guys. You’re right. Got to stop typing so fast.

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