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?