January 28, 2016
Welcome to Splitsville
Last week, Doug Thorburn broke down the platoon splits for first basemen and provided some insight into who best to target from each side of the plate. This week, we are taking a look at a position where a great deal of your season-long and daily fantasy value can be obtained: second base.
First base is a power-rich position that packs a great deal of punch from the left side of the dish. It is also a position that offers a good deal of lefty bats, on a regular basis, to face the right-handed pitchers in the majors. When we turn our eyes to second base, we have over 62 players who saw at least 20 games at the position in 2015. This opens up a world of flexibility in roster construction for season-long owners, especially in daily-transaction leagues. Using platoon splits and park factors while setting lineups with multi-position eligibility can make for some great options.
Now in daily fantasy, the two major sites do not allow for multi-position eligibility, so utility men only gain extra value when they are gain the platoon advantage, are in a favorable park, or happen to make a move to the top of the batting order. It will also be important to keep an eye on where sites list specific players.
Power v. LHP, Second Base (Min. 250 ABs)
If we take a look at career slugging percentages of active players with at least 250 plate appearances and second-base eligibility, we get a fairly predictable set of 10 players from the right side of the dish.
Ian Kinsler has very solid career numbers against left handed pitchers but saw a bit of a drop off last year. His .450 slugging percentage in 2015 was solid, but not enough to make him stand out amongst second-base-eligible right-handed batters. Jose Altuve was an absolute beast in 2015 and played the role of David to many southpaw Goliaths. He has seen his overall ISO and ISO against left-handed pitchers increase with each season, and deserves to be trusted in most any matchup.
Brian Dozier is a name you should be intimately aware of when playing both season-long and daily fantasy. The Twins’ second baseman took a big step forward in the power department against both right and left-handed pitchers. Despite no huge platoon split, he showed that he’s not intimidated by the best southpaws out there, hitting home runs off Chris Sale, Dallas Keuchel, and Francisco Liriano last year.
The career numbers on this chart don’t show the absolutely insane year Logan Forsythe had against lefties in 2015. He quickly became a darling of daily fantasy owners, boasting a .299 ISO, .599 slugging, and .352 TAv facing LHP. It doesn’t take a genius to see those numbers aren’t sustainable, but Forsythe has proven to be a viable platoon option in the middle of the Rays order.
Brandon Phillips makes this list much more on seasons gone by rather than any trends in a positive direction at current moment. Nonetheless, he holds value in daily fantasy leagues in a Reds lineup that may still need him to bat in a key spot after Todd Frazier’s recent departure.
When sorting by ISO and slugging percentage, you can definitely see some outliers over career numbers. Chase Utley was a top second baseman in fantasy baseball for most of his career, holding his own against same-handed pitchers throughout. In recent seasons, Utley has struggled with injuries and garnering consistent playing time, and is now merely an afterthought in most formats.
Power v. RHP, Second Base (Min. 250 ABs)
Of the above list, the most surprising name is at the top with Jonathan Schoop. The 24-year-old saw just over 300 at-bats in 2015 and had a high degree of success against same-side pitchers. Reverse splits are typically hard to nail down to just one attribute, so it will be intriguing to see if Schoop maintains this imbalance or if it comes more in line with league-wide averages over the course of an entire season.
It’s no surprise to see Cano sitting near the top of this list, as we have long known him to be one of the premier lefty bats in the game. The start of 2015 seemed to prove the hypothesis that Seattle would sap him of his power, as Cano started off poorly. Reports of a possible injury, and a highly resurgent second half, may point to a big year for Cano in 2015. He no longer has the friendly dimensions of Yankee Stadium to aid the power, so he becomes a bit more price-dependent in daily fantasy.
We’ve already discussed Utley, who has seen a rather precipitous drop from the elite fantasy option he once was. Derek Dietrich and Rougned Odor are two other names that may surprise some. Dietrich rode a very strong 2015 to hit the active career leaders list here. He had a .229 ISO against right-handed pitchers with a .502 slugging percentage. Odor was a surprise to see but speaks more to the randomness of a specific plate appearance cut-off. The Texas Ranger struggled at both the beginning and end of the season, but his ridiculous .308 overall ISO in July helped land him near the top here.
Neil Walker checks in with very solid career splits against RHP. The switch hitter has seen his skills decline from the right-hand side, where he was never a power threat, but he remains a steady performer on the strong side of his own personal platoon. The question for Walker will be whether his 2014 numbers (.222 ISO, .491 SLG) are more the norm or are his lower 2015 stats (.180 ISO, .456).
SLG Splits, Second Base (min. 250 PA vs. each)
No surprises here at the top or bottom of this slugging-percentage split comparison. Forsythe had an elite year against lefties and is an elite option for daily fantasy lineups facing southpaws. From a season-long perspective, Forsythe’s high splits should be understood as an outlier but something that is part of the puzzle on draft day. And as we discussed earlier, Dozier’s career numbers outweigh his 2015 numbers to make this split larger than we may see going forward.
Down at the other end of the split spectrum, we don’t see nearly as large a difference in power as we saw at first base last week. This isn’t too surprising as second base power numbers tend to be far more modest. We discussed Walker earlier and it’s important to remember these are splits as a switch-hitter. His numbers from the right-hand side of the plate have been paltry at best and it’s advisable to sit him against left-handed pitchers, even with the platoon advantage.
Also, it may be tempting to sit or at least contemplate sitting Robinson Cano in daily transaction leagues when facing a left handed pitcher but don’t fall for it. Obviously, we’ve been focusing on the threat of power here, not necessarily the threat of hitting. True Average is another statistic you can dive into when discussing splits and may help a bit more with the middle-infield types who don’t have much power to begin with anyway. Further, Cano’s .440 slugging percentage against lefties puts him in the middle of the pack for all second basemen, no matter which side of the plate they stand on.