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April 24, 2014 6:00 am

Pebble Hunting: Platoonies Never Say Die

2

Sam Miller

The new crop of platoon players.

In 2013, Mike Carp was limited to a strict platoon—88 percent of his plate appearances came against right-handers, up from 77 percent the year before—and, just months after Boston acquired him from offense-starved Seattle for mere cash considerations, he produced a better OPS than Adrian Beltre. I’m going to assume this happens to everybody who moves into a strict platoon. They just immediately become way better than we ever thought they would. Way, way better. Every single player.

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Ben and Sam discuss two players exceeding all expectations in 2012: R.A. Dickey and Eric Chavez.

Effectively Wild Episode 18: "Popcorn Popping"

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Catching tandems and managerial tactics run up against limited rosters and slim pickings.

I've been arguing for a few years now that a kind of tactical stasis has become the rule of the day on offense, in part because of the foreshortened rosters teams stick themselves with as a result of the 12-man pitching staff. One consequence has been the decline or increasing rarity of stable platoons. It's fairly hard to build all that many platoons in the first place, with rosters limited to three non-catcher reserves on most American League teams, and four in the National.

That's not to say there isn't plenty of pursuit of platoon advantages among contemporary major-league skippers. You can still have the floating platoon guy, the player who might be the adaptable righty-batting tweener or just an outright thumper. The Rockies' Ryan Spilborghs didn't platoon in right or left — instead he platooned in both, splitting time with Brad Hawpe and Seth Smith and Carlos Gonzalez, and making two-thirds of his 78 starts against lefties. Marcus Thames platooned for the Yankees, making 44 of 57 starts against lefties, but he wasn't paired up with any one player, as his lineup assignments drifted between DH and the corners.

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Jonah Keri takes a closer look at roster construction, in search of a better way. Bobby Cox, Earl Weaver, Casey Stengel and George Stallings lend a hand.

Rarely does a game go by in which I don't see a player thrust into a situation in which he's overwhelmingly likely to fail. We're told that the talent pool is shallower than it used to be, that players don't have the same breadth of skills they used to have. Some say that for every strong major league player, there are three more on the roster who barely belong there, and there's not a thing we can do about it.

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