There are some GMs like Billy Beane and Managers like Don Mattingly who embrace the platoon concept and many times it’s out of circumstance rather than design. Some would say you need the right personnel to make a good platoon and others would say you have the wrong personnel if you have to consider a platoon. All good sides to the discussion.
The Nats are not a team that has ever used a platoon in their history as a regular strategy. Mike Rizzo has always looked for lefties like LaRoche, Span and Harper who can hit left-handed pitchers well. But there’s this player named Danny Espinosa who has struggled against right-handed pitchers, and there are have even been subtle attempts to use Scott Hairston as a right-handed “match-up” guy except the only problem was his defense was so bad it was counterproductive to pencil his name into the starting line-up.
Danny Espinosa has been one of the best 2nd baseman defensively in the league, and the issue is his bat from the left side has been on the wrong side of .250 for much of his career and his .217 BA and .286 OBP just won’t cut it on most teams. The good news is there are several 2nd baseman that we’ve highlighted like Luis Valbuena who is an above league average defender and well above league average as a lefty batter when facing right-handed pitchers and Valbuena has a similar problem as Espi where he has poor platoon splits.
Stats via BaseballReference.com
Now combine Espinosa’s .795 OPS to Valbuena’s .808 and you end up with an OPS over .803.
Now look at how many 2nd baseman last year had a OPS over .800. A grand total of 5 last year.
How does Dusty Baker feel about platoons? Funny you ask because he decided after 6 lefty on lefty at-bats in 2003 by Hee Seop-Choi that he would use a platoon with Eric Karros.
“[Choi’s] going to develop against lefties,” Baker said. “But right now, you have to admit, [Eric Karros] is playing pretty good. Everybody wants to win and everyone wants to develop at the same time, but you have to do what’s best for the team and best for that person too.”
Dusty Baker was asked about the possibility of Karros getting more playing time against right-handed pitchers:
“If that happens, it’s `How come Hee Seop ain’t playing?'” Baker said. “And then they’ll say `Dusty likes veterans more than he does rookies.'”
Again, many platoons are borne out of circumstance. When Dusty was with the Reds, he didn’t have the personnel in place for a good platoon. He had a whole bunch of right-handed outfield bats with Ludwick, Heisey, and Stubbs and needed a decent lefty outfielder to platoon and it just wasn’t meant to be.
The critics say platoon players are sitting ducks when the opposing manager brings in a reliever to thwart their hitting weakness. Sure, that’s baseball. Managers will always try to exploit a weakness and we’ve seen over the years an opposing manager bring in a righty to face Espinosa in a key spot. The other issue is that many are projecting Espinosa as the starting shortstop until Trea Turner is called up on May 3o, 2016. You would need another bench middle infielder if you wanted a platoon to work. Also when Trea Turner is called up, who is taken off of the roster? Could Difo be that bench middle infielder? So many questions and so few certainties at this point of the Hot Stove.
There are some 2nd baseman on that stat sheet like Logan Forsythe who had a career year in 2015 and his Steamer projection is for his BABIP to come down 26 points and his slugging to come down 56 points. Forsythe had a breakout season with little fanfare, and what’s interesting that he was once mentioned in a platoon story as he could hit LHPs well but struggled against RHPs and look at him now as maybe he figured it out. http://www.hardballtimes.com/the-all-platoon-team1/
Platoons aren’t perfect and unless you’re going to get the Indians to trade Kipnis to the Nats or the Giants to send Joe Panik to DC of which neither will happen it’s time to dig deep and maybe Rizzo needs to get creative and think outside his box and outside of those 2 rectangular boxes that measure 4 feet wide and 6 feet in length.