In fact, Beane was discussing the platooning situation a year ago. Mind you, two things tend to dictate the value of a front office: (1) the ability to collect and utilize data and (2) the ability not to share anything with anyone. On the latter point, knowledge is power. It is one of those things that can separate teams. If you are openly telling the public what the new black is, it likely is no longer the new black. You are probably simply letting people know something they should have already figured out and that the surplus value there really is not there anymore. Which is really what Moneyball is, finding a part of the market that is being overlooked or, more popularly phrased, finding the inefficiencies in the market.
Now, platooning is not a new idea. Earl Weaver was a king of platoons when it fit what he needed. You will often find kernals of the sabermetric movement in ideas that came up convergently with Weaver. That said, Weaver had his forebears with front office men like Branch Rickey and the originator of the box score Henry Chadwick. I often find it humorous when people mention how the folks today are playing make believe games using all of these advanced metrics when they subscribe to simply a different set of numbers. A rose is a rose is a rose, sometimes.
|Going Yard | photo by Keith Allison|
vs L vs R 2009 .301 .350 2010 .246 .326 2011 .474 .291 2012 .393 .310 2013 .371 .272
As you can see, Wieters is an absolutely beast when facing left handed pitchers these past three years (as opposed to the completely opposite platoon he showed his first two seasons), but shrinks to a wall flower against right handers. This past season was particularly exceptional in how poor he was batting left handed. He struggled so much that it would have been a good idea to give him rest against righties simply because he showed little aptitude in hitting them. Previously, I wrote about this and wondered whether it was a single year fluke because the batted ball distribution seemed different this year as compared to latter years and whether it was a conscious attempt by him to beat the shift. Although 2013's split was atrocious, one should not make a habit always to think the future is based solely on the past year. In other words, a forced platoon might be a bit much here to set Wieters in. However, it might be a good idea to choose to sit him against right handers who may be more difficult for him to hit. I think that was in part Dan Duquette's idea when he acquired Steve Clevenger who has shown an aptitude to hitting right handers (2013 AAA numbers: .386 R wOBA in 95 PA and .435 L wOBA in 44 PA).
Are there others out there who need a platoon partner or perhaps could be good platoon partners?
|Derek Norris | photo by Keith Allison|
Of these players who performed noticeably better than the average catcher against lefties, only A.J. Pierzynski is a free agent. Further illustrating the scarcity, no AAA catcher showed up in this analysis. For MiL catcher, I noted a 20% increase to be something newsworthy. Of the players above, only Baltimore's own Matt Wieters and Beane's Derek Norris look like catchers in need of a mate who can tee off of right handed pitchers. The others displayed above average bats no matter the pitcher's handedness.
Age Team L wOBA R wOBA MLB Derek Norris 24 Oakland .431 .221 Buster Posey 26 San Francisco .411 .368 Wilin Rosario 24 Colorado .396 .337 Carlos Santana 27 Cleveland .396 .362 Joe Mauer 30 Minnesota .390 .391 Matt Wieters 27 Baltimore .380 .284 Jonathan Lucroy 27 Milwaukee .373 .360 Chris Iannetta 30 LAAA .357 .318 Salvador Perez 23 Kansas City .342 .319 A.J. Pierzynski 37 Texas .339 .332 FA
So who can hit right handers?
|Joe Mauer | Photo by Keith Allison|
If one is looking for a partner to pair with Wieters, you are going to have to cross off Salty and Pierzynski. They obviously will get the lion's share of any battery duty behind the plate. Dioner Navarro had a stellar season in limited at bats and can probably find himself a situation where he will find more playing time than he would with the stalwart Wieters in tandem. Brayan Pena could be a player to target. I believe he came into the Tigers camp as a Minor League free agent with an invite. He has also really picked them up while Avila was struggling. If the Tigers value him or he carries that playoff mystique, he may not be available on the cheap and be out of the Orioles range of salary they would feel comfortable with for a backup catcher.
Age Team L wOBA R wOBA MLB Joe Mauer 30 Minnesota .390 .391 Brayan Pena 31 Detroit .268 .386 FA Jason Castro 26 Houston .328 .380 John Jaso 30 Oakland .209 .377 Yadier Molina 31 St. Louis .382 .372 Buster Posey 26 San Francisco .411 .368 Yan Gomes 26 Cleveland .398 .363 J. Saltalamacchia 28 Boston .298 .362 FA Carlos Santana 27 Cleveland .396 .362 Jonathan Lucroy 27 Milwaukee .373 .360 Jose Lobaton 29 Tampa Bay .287 .359 Wilson Ramos 26 Washington .310 .357 Welington Castillo 26 Chicago .316 .354 Russell Martin 30 Pittsburgh .282 .348 Dioner Navarro 29 Chicago .478 .341 FA Hank Conger 25 LAAA .292 .339 Wilin Rosario 24 Colorado .396 .337 Miguel Montero 30 Arizona .226 .333 A.J. Pierzynski 37 Texas .339 .332 FA
There are also several minor league options available:
I would not think about giving any of these players the key to the castle (aka a 40 man contract). However, I would be very interested in what scouts would think of guys like Bryan Anderson, Robinzon Diaz, Brett Hayes, and Kris Watts. All four of those players stand a good chance of being Minor League free agents this off season. The other names would be good ones to remember if there is an existing deal and the team wants to broaden out their risk probability. Phegley and Sanchez still have some shine to them, but the others stand as second or third tier prospects.
Age Team L wOBA R wOBA MiL Josh Phegley 25 Chicago .409 .421 Matt McBride 28 Colorado .450 .416 Josh Thole 27 Toronto .378 .396 Stephen Vogt 27 Oakland .345 .395 Bryan Anderson 27 Chicago .172 .372 Tony Sanchez 25 Pittsburgh .416 .372 Johnny Monell 27 San Francisco .331 .366 Robinzon Diaz 30 Milwaukee .338 .362 Brett Hayes 29 Kansas City .197 .361 Kris Watts 29 Washington .192 .359
|Steve Clevenger (far right) | Photo by Keith Allison|