February 27, 2013
You Complete Me
Four Platoon Candidates for 2013
Platoons seem to carry an unfavorable stigma among major-league players, and I’d like to submit two hypotheses for the negative perception of them: the unavoidable association with Charlie Sheen and the unflattering premise of a player not being good enough to warrant a spot in the everyday lineup.
The latter is (probably) more damaging to a player’s psyche, but I believe this perception is borne of an imperfect understanding of what a platoon is. A platoon isn’t some scathing indictment of a player’s worth, but rather an astute recognition of ways to maximize value at a given position with the pieces at a team’s disposal.
The Tampa Bay Rays, an organization with a reputation for ingenuity, have one of the league’s more progressive attitudes toward platoons, and have employed them routinely over the past few seasons. Extracting value out of combinations like Gabe Gross/Gabe Kapler, John Jaso/Kelly Shoppach, and even a three-man platoon of Ben Zobrist/Sean Rodriguez/Matt Joyce, the Rays have been able to optimize production by using players to the best of their abilities and distinguishing between favorable and unfavorable matchups. Incidentally, they’ve made the playoffs in three of the last five years, averaging roughly 92 wins per season over that span.
By recognizing their players’ strengths and weaknesses, other teams can reap similar rewards. Here are four clubs with reserve players that could provide substantial value if they were to be used in platoons this year.
Dodgers: Jerry Hairston Jr. (RHH) for Andre Ethier (LHH)
Hairston, a utility man extraordinaire, is a competent outfielder and represents a defensive upgrade over Ethier, who has proven a liability in right field in every season of his career except 2006, according to FRAA. More importantly, however, Hairston provides a right-handed hitting alternative to Ethier, whose futility against left-handed pitching is well documented, with little hope of improvement as he nears the age of 31.