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Holiday stuffing: the missing platoon advantage


PHILLY – Happy Thanksgiving, folks. I’m spending the holiday in Philadelphia so this might be the last blog post through the weekend.


Enjoy the holiday and be safe. Also, I’d like personally thank those  loyal readers and commentators of this espace. This space is not meant to be a one-way conversation and thanks for making a likely, smart place for discussion and debate.


One last baseball thought before you feast … One thing hat surprised me while flipping through Bill James’ 2014 Handbook is this: the Pirates were not a great platooning team in 2013.


When you think about Gaby Sanchez/Garrett Jones platoon at first base, or some of the right field platooning before the Marlon Byrd addition last think, you think the Pirates employed a fair number of platoons. The Pirates and manager Clint Hurdle were at least open and embracing of platoon opportunities.


But Hurdle and the Pirates employed the third lowest platoon advantage  in the NL. (Platoon advantage is defined as percentage of lineup positions had the platoon advantage – right-handed bat vs. left-handed pitcher – at the start of a game).

Manager, team                                 Platoon advantage %

Bruce Bochy, San Francisco       .70

Bud Black, San Diego                      .66

Terry Collins,  N.Y. Mets              .61

Dale Sveum, Cubs                            .60

Kirk Gibson, Arizona                       .59

Mike Matheny, StL                          .56

Don Mattingly, LAD                         .55

Dusty Baker, Cincinnati                  .54

Mike Redmond, Miami                  .52

Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh       .51

Fredi Gonzalez, Atlanta                 .50

Ron Roenicke, Milwaukee           .47


But then look at Hurdle’s willingness to employ shifts throughout his career …


Hurdle’s lineup platoon advantage since 2005:

2005       Rockies                                 .60

2006       Rockies                                 .49

2007       Rockies                                 .51

2008       Rockies                                 .49

2009       Rockies                                 .60

2011       Pirates                                  .60

2012       Pirates                                  .55

2013       Pirates                                  .51


What we learn is that Hurdle is willing to platoon more often …. if he has more platoon tools available.


So one area where the Pirates can upgrade their 2014 offense is relatively easy and affordable: finding more platoon partners.


*The priority is finding a left-handed bat to platoon with Sanchez, who is very able platoon partner at first base.


*Perhaps it’s time to find a right-handed bat to platoon with Neil Walker (.518 OPS vs. left-handed pitching in 2013, .655 for career).


*I would be surprised if Andrew Lambo (or Jaff Decker) does not open the season as a platoon partner for Jose Tabata in right field.


*Shortstop and third base are two other positions were the Pirates could platoon more often.


One reason while Rafael Furcal is interesting is that he could help form platoons at both short and second, and perhaps a right-handed bat to platoon with Pedro Alvarez at third is a possibility. (Jed Lowrie would be an excellent trade target)


So ideally, the free-agent shopping list would include this:


*A switch-hitting middle infielder


*A right-handed corner bat that can play third base


*A left-handed corner bat


That’s the ideal list, how much holiday shopping can the Pirates accomplish?






  1. Leo Walter says:

    Hav a great Thanksgiving weekend Travis andd keep up the good work. I really look forward to your blog along with several other great Pirate oriented blogs.

  2. Steelkings says:

    I’m thankful that the Pirates don’t find themselves embarrassing their fan base with classless moves like the one Tomlin pulled last night. what a joke!

  3. RobertoForever says:

    Happy Thanksgiving, Travis. I am truly thankful the trib hired someone to provide that hole in their Bucs coverage. It added even another element in this great year to bury the other twenty.

    I look forward to more hot stove coverage and your great coverage in spring training.


  4. RobertoForever says:

    “Provide coverage for that hole in their coverage” I didn’t mean to imply you were the hole, haha.

  5. Andrew says:

    I agree with the general point about platoons and there is runs to be gained if Lambo or a pick up can platoon at first base with Sanchez. I may have posted this here before, but I do think that Walker really needs a platoon partner if you regress his split you get .339wOBA, vs RHP and .314 wOBA vs LHP. Yes he has been declining against LHP over his career and that .340 SLG is bad, so I understand the other side of the argument.

    However, on the list of positions were a platoon partner I would put second base near the bottom. Alvarez has a career .270 wOBA, regressed .296 wOBA (.322 SLG and 38% K rate) vs LHP, I would start there if I were looking for regular starters who would benefit from platoon partners.

  6. RobertoForever says:

    Travis, here’s a side subject for you. 1 loss SEC team over an undefeated other power conference. It’s Ohio State this year, but it just as easily could have been Oregon or Florida State.

    People think having a playoff will fix this argument, but it will just change to which second SEC team should get in over another power conference with less losses.

  7. The Gunner says:

    Looks like Phil Hughes won’t be coming to the Bucs. Apparently, he signed a 3 year deal with the Twins for around $25 million. Maybe this means AJ is coming back to Pgh in 2014.

  8. joel says:

    The Pirates fell behind the Cards as they are making moves. The Pirates should have resigned Marlon Byrd as he is a big improvement over Tabata and Lambo ??? please. Tabata should have joined Jones out the door. Think about if the Pirates had traded Polanco last year to the fish for that hr hitting OF, we would have been in this last WS. Now the Pirates turn around and let [Byrd] walk who was the most consistent hitter and propelled the Pirates into the playoffs. Does the Pirates realize how far back the Pirates will be if Tabata and Lambo in RF ??? I agreed 100% on how the Pirates were rebuilt by the Nutting’s and Neal but this makes no sense. Oooh well, at least the Pirates have G. Polanco to look forward too.

  9. The Gunner says:

    My gut tells me NH is probably close to doing something that will have some impact with the 1B & RF situations as well as the Burnett thing. The winter meetings start next Monday, Dec 9. Also, then there is Pirate Fest that takes place on Dec 14 & Dec 15.

    Nutting wants to sell some season tickets and licensed merchandise so, the BMTIB has some incentive to get moving on plugging their holes.

  10. Travis Sawchik says:

    Thanks, Roberto. Your readership and comments are much appreciated

  11. NMR says:

    Many thanks to you as well, Travis. Hope you enjoyed your holiday.

    Pirates may get another left handed 1B platoon option through non-tender this evening when the A’s must decide what to do with Daric Barton. If you aren’t “Moneyball”-inclined, just stop reading now and save yourself the headache.

    Considering the current likelihood of a major payroll increase seemingly slim to none, I think Barton would be an excellent gamble as 2014’s version of James Loney. Loney is known as a contact hitting, low power first basemen with plus defensive skills. Daric Barton checks all those boxes, some better than even Loney. Major difference you’ll see right off the bat is batting average. Loney has consistantly posted averages in the high 2’s while Barton likely will sit around .250. If you’re of the mindset that walks are as good as hits, Barton makes up this difference by posting career walk rates almost double that of Loney.

    A Barton/Sanchez platoon would be a really neat experiment in value. For something around $4m, the Pirates could pull a combinded .350+ OBP and the best defense in the league. Combo would drive traditionalists crazy since 1B are “supposed” to be big bruising HR/RBI machines, but for the price I think it would be worth a four month trial.

  12. Leefoo says:

    NMR….interesting thought. Plus, he’s a former first round pick….like candy to NH….smile

  13. Travis Sawchik says:

    It’s such a flawed system as we know, and such a tough call.

    I do believe if you’re only comparing a handful of teams against each other, strength of schedule should a primary tool. However, I don’t think past seasons (The SEC’s seven straight titles or Ohio State’s undefeated 2012) should have any role in the decision-making process.

  14. The Gunner says:


    I hope they do better than Barton, I checked out his stats. He hasn’t played much the last couple years, has he been injured?

  15. NMR says:

    Hey Gunner,

    Brief history of Daric Barton goes something like this…broke out in 2010 with an excellent season only to completely fail out of the gate in 2011 before finding out he had been playing with a torn labrum in his right shoulder which completely zapped his power. Struggled finding his game again in 2012 before Brandon Moss came in and took everyday honors at 1B. Barton rebounded well in a small number of appearances last season, and the narrative seems to be that it took him a while to adjust his game after injury. Barton was DFA’d twice by Billy Beane last season since he had no spot on the Major League roster but was recalled imediately after injuries and was even put on the playoff roster for his outstanding defense.

    Trust me, Barton was far down my list entering the winter. But I also expected far more payroll flexibility than Huntington apparently has to work with. If the injury narrative is to be believed, and Barton’s splits against RHP last year (11%BB, 13%K, .269/.352/.397) are close to what he can provide moving forward, than he’d be a slam dunk low-cost addition that would end up being close to what you’d get out of Loney.

  16. Andrew says:

    I like the thought, if the Pirates want to find a platoon option at 1st waiting until the non-tender players are available seems sensible. Barton fits the Huntington model of former top 100 prospect.

    He has not played because of Brandon Moss + right handed hitting platoon partner. The reason Barton is not employed in this role, he has a reverse platoon split of .049 wOBA, so I am not sure how he could be paired with Gaby Sanchez. But I do have any names to add, so I cannot be critical.

    Also Pirates acquire C Chris Stewart from Yankees for a PTBNL, I sure Travis will have an article/post about the details soon.

  17. The Gunner says:

    We all know how the BMTIB thinks – we’ll see if there is any movement with this Barton thing. I see where the Bucs just acquired the Yankees backup catcher, Chris Stewart. The Fort appears to be history at this point.

  18. NMR says:

    Barton does have an odd reverse split, but dig a little deeper into those numbers. The difference just about exclusively comes from BAbip (.335 vs .277) despite similar batter ball profiles.

    And as far as how he’s paired with Gaby, I see this as more of a 1a and 1b situation. A sabermetric conglomerate of on-base skills and defense.

  19. Travis Sawchik says:

    Interesting name … but Barton has reverse platoon splits for his career: .819 OPS vs. LHP, .698 OPS vs. RHP

    Like the overall player but I think Gaby’s presence makes him an unlikely target

  20. Andrew says:

    Also if you regresses the split, is goes from -.049 to .003 wOBA so Barton should hit around his overall (vs L & RHP) .329 career wOBA average against RHP. So the Pirates would get production similar to what Morneau provided, at around $1.1 million/per year, instead of $3 million for a month and half. In the abstract I would think there would be a better strict RHH platoon option available, but if the Pirates want to add options a low cost Barton fits that profile.

  21. Travis Sawchik says:

    Looks like Barton will be tendered ..

  22. NorthPirateFan says:

    Still say you’re all being to optimistic as to just how much Sabermetrics is influencing the front office decisions.

    Not that I would have a problem with Barton being acquired and actually being used in a platoon at first, lest we forget the way Sanchez was used last season, the recent quote of Huntington by TS saying that he still believes (despite all evidence to the contrary) that Sanchez could still improve against RHP and be valuable at first as a full time player and the fact that the Pirates had a player very similar to Barton last season in Clint Robinson but chose to give him up on waivers the day before opening day rather than play him.

    The numbers are there in support of such a move, but the recent history of the team doesn’t support the idea it would actually be made.

    I’ll wager a that no matter who the Pirates pick up purporting to be Sanchez’s platoon mate, if they do, come seasons end Sanchez will get at least as much playing time against RHP as he did in 2012, fair just as poorly, and the lefty they may or may not pick up will spend most of his time on the bench watching it happen.

    Hope they prove me wrong, but I doubt Neal Huntington and Clint Hurdle will.

  23. NMR says:

    Interesting. Thanks for the link, Travis.

    Means either Reddick/Moss will be traded or Barton will be expensive AAA depth.

    No way Billy Beane keeps him on the 25-man as a DH/PH, IMO.

  24. NMR says:

    For the record, Huntington has simply said they feel Gaby Sanchez COULD improve against RHP. Nothing more.

    And he is absolutely correct.

    From 2010-2011 Sanchez slashed .256/.329/.415 w/ 10.8%BB, 16.0%K, and .283 BABIP over 982 PA against RHP.

    From 2012-2013 Sanchez slashed .205/.315/.315 w/ 9.6%BB, 17.8%K, and .234 BABIP over 409 PA against RHP.

    There is very clear evidence to support his opinion that Gaby Sanchez could improve against RHP.

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