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Splits Will Make You Go Bananas

Lee Panas over at Tiger Tales has been going over the position “battles” (such as they are) pretty thoroughly, and in some of the comments, a consensus was emerging about playing Nook Logan at least sometimes against lefties. Then it occurred to me that, with Dmitri Young’s flexibility to play 1B, 3B and corner OF (assuming the reports about his significant weight loss/better shape are correct – and, by the way, click that link and check out the photo of a really young, much skinnier Dmitri Young… it’s almost comical), we could actually have some interesting platoon possibilities. That led me to look up the 3-year splits (I’ll list just OPS) of the following 8 players (for 6 positions: 1B, 3B, DH and 3 OF’ers) over at espn.com:

Carlos Pena: 702 v L, 831 v R (129 better v R)
Chris Shelton: 765 v L, 871 v R (106 better v R)
Dmitri Young: 823 v L, 858 v R (35 better v R)
Brandon Inge: 851 v L, 674 v R (177 better v L)
Magglio Ordonez: 921 v L, 856 v R (65 better v L)
Curtis Granderson: 1033 v L, 751 v R (282 better v L)
Nook Logan: 772 v L, 606 v R (166 better v L)
Craig Monroe: 862 v L, 738 v R (124 better v L)

Going by those numbers alone (and I’ll grant to anyone who wants to argue that some of these numbers are coming from very small sample sizes… and I also acknowledge the sabermetric argument out there that, given enough plate appearances, platoon differentials will essentially become the same for all players), here’s how to best fill the 6 available slots against left-handed pitching:

Shelton 1B, Inge 3B, Dmitri DH, Monroe LF, Granderson CF, Ordonez RF, leaving Nook and Carlos Pena for pinch-hitting/defensive replacement duties.

Against right-handers:

Shelton 1B, Dmitri 3B, Pena DH, Monroe LF, Granderson CF, Ordonez RF, leaving Inge and Logan for defensive replacement duties.

Originally, my thought was that perhaps Logan’s split would argue in favor of him getting playing time over Monroe, rather than Granderson (by moving Granderson to a corner OF slot), but Monroe’s split is almost the same as Logan’s, except that he’s higher by about 100 points higher of OPS against both lefties and righties.

The surprise came in Brandon Inge’s quite severe split. He’s not Nook Logan-awful against right-handers, but he’s not anything like good, either. Now, using a 3-year split means that that number also uses his last year of putrid hitting back when he wore the tools of ignorance, but 2003 (when he was injured for some time and got far fewer at-bats than 2004 or 2005) accounted for just 27% of his at-bats against lefties and 23% of his at-bats against righties in this exercise, as opposed to the expectation of about 33%. Now, surely, Inge’s defense at the hot corner (which, by all accounts and many fancy sabermetric measurements, is quite good) must count for something, but getting Inge some pine time in favor of Dmitri at 3B surely looks better in this light, doesn’t it?

As you say, if (and this is a big if) Young is fit enough to play multiple positions, that really gives the team a lot more flexibility. The thought of Young playing third against all RHP is pretty scary but I can see him playing over there against certain pitchers.

Posted by Lee Panas on February 24th, 2006 at 3:02 pm

Young is nowhere near good enough to play 3rd base. He is barely passable, at best, as a left fielder. I understand wanting the added pop, but you underestimate what a disaster it is to put a totally inept fielder at a key position like that.

Posted by Dan on February 27th, 2006 at 10:36 am

Let me make myself clear… I’m not advocating Dmitri at 3B against all right-handers, nor am I saying that he should get 50-80 starts at 3B… But 10 or 20 against, let’s say, some of the top right-handed starting pitchers in the league… That’s what I’m talking about. And let me be clear about something else, too… Dmitri has to show in ST that he’s at least passable at the hot corner for that plan. If he can’t do that, then forget everything I posted above.

Posted by jeff k on February 27th, 2006 at 10:47 am

Teams don’t plan to play guys 10-20 games at a position. He has to be able to hold his own there, at the very least, and Young is not good enough to do that, even for 10-20 games.

Posted by Dan on March 1st, 2006 at 10:05 am

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