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Platooning the 2014 D-backs

Last year, the Diamondbacks were about in the middle of the pack for getting the platoon advantage. Should they try and do better in 2014?

Mark Trumbo, king of the platoon prospects.
Mark Trumbo, king of the platoon prospects.
Jeff Gross

Who are our most platoonable players?

By that, I mean those who are particularly strong - or weak - against one hand of pitching or the other. To determine who are the best candidates for platooning, I looked at the career OPS for the most obvious candidates to make the 25-man Diamondbacks roster on Opening Day in March. There are two exceptions: for Gregorius and Owings, I used their 2013 splits, over both the major and minor leagues, because of the small career sample size. This has the obvious impact, especially for Owings, facing AAA pitching in Reno. The following list is in descending order of OPS gat between their strongest (typically vs. LHP for right-handed bats, and vice-versa) and weakest pitching.

  1. Mark Trumbo - 238
  2. Cody Ross - 222
  3. Chris Owings - 210
  4. Didi Gregorius - 189
  5. Eric Chavez - 178
  6. Gerardo Parra - 178
  7. A.J. Pollock - 147
  8. Miguel Montero - 144
  9. Paul Goldschmidt - 137
  10. Martin Prado - 136
  11. Henry Blanco - 87
  12. Cliff Pennington - 84
  13. Aaron Hill - 36

That's an interesting list, and seems to indicate the Diamondbacks are a very "platoonable" team. Across all baseball, the average for right-handed hitters last year, was a platoon split of only 47 points, and the average left-handed gap was 96 points. For the Diamondbacks, the same numbers were 64 points for our righties and a staggering 194 points difference for lefties. It's mostly due to abject failure against their fellow southpaws, with a 2014 line of .208/.268/.255, for a .522 OPS. Our left-handed hitters managed exactly one home-run all year off left-handed pitching: Miggy against Jaime Garcia in game #2. They take into 2014 an ongoing homerless streak of 630 such PAs since then.

A couple of things stand out. Firstly, it may be worth using Owings and Gregorius as a platoon this season, though the split this year for Owings was a reverse one, with him hammering RHP This may have been an aberration, since his 2012 one was close to even, and 2011 had the normal split direction (at 118 points). But given Didi's noted flailing against left-handed pitching in 2013, it could well make sense to sit him those days this year, and give Owings the starts. [While Pennington's split is much lower, and he's a switch hitter, that really just means in his case, offensively he's bad against RHP and very bad against LHP]

I'm also doubtful about our outfield, with all the everyday candidates being at +147 or higher, and with the replacement of Adam Eaton with Trumbo giving us a heavily right-handed tendency. They'll destroy lefties, but against RHP, there is certainly cause for concern. You know how Ross struggles against right-handers? His career OPS against them is actually better than both Pollock and Trumbo. Let's dig into the options a bit more. Here are the actual career splits for our likely positions players. Bonus! The column headers can be clicked on to sort them, so if you want to see who has the best on-base percentage against RHP, you can do so.

vs. right-handed pitching

Blanco .218 .280 .343 .623
Chavez .279 .357 .510 .867
Goldschmidt .281 .370 .485 .855
Gregorius* .280 .362 .429 .791
Hill .274 .325 .429 .754
Montero .276 .357 .452 .809
Owings* .340 .377 .511 .888
Parra .289 .341 .431 .772
Pennington .251 .322 .364 .686
Pollock .254 .313 .351 .664
Prado .280 .317 .399 .716
Ross .250 .309 .407 .716
Trumbo .223 .283 .402 .685
  • C. Montero
  • 1B Goldschmidt
  • 2B Hill
  • SS Gregorius
  • 3B Chavez
  • LF Prado
  • CF Parra
  • RF Ross

The above is what a fairly straight reading of the chart by OPS would suggest as the "optimum" line-up against a right-handed starter, which would be about two-thirds of the time, based on last year. The obvious problem is, giving Chavez four starts a week would be asking for trouble - by about mid-May, is my guess. I imagine it's more likely he'll be used a couple of times, against particularly tough right-handers, with Prado playing third on the other occasions, and the Trumbosaurus Rex patrolling left in those games.

vs. left-handed pitching

Blanco .235 .306 .404 .710
Chavez .237 .303 .386 .689
Goldschmidt .310 .391 .601 .992
Gregorius* .225 .285 .317 .602
Hill .273 .339 .451 .790
Montero .241 .305 .360 .665
Owings* .288 .310 .368 .678
Parra .236 .294 .300 .594
Pennington .239 .287 .315 .602
Pollock .280 .331 .480 .811
Prado .291 .379 .473 .852
Ross .297 .362 .576 .938
Trumbo .265 .324 .599 .923
  • C. Blanco
  • 1B Goldschmidt
  • 2B Hill
  • SS Owings
  • 3B Prado
  • LF Trumbo
  • CF Pollock
  • RF Ross

For reasons discussed above, the aim should probably be to get all the left-handed hitters out of there. The main tweak otherwise is likely that we'll see Machete only on occasion, and it'll mostly be Miggy - though I think it's telling that, over their entire careers, a defensive-minded (if right-handed) catcher like Blanco, has still hit southpaw pitching better than Montero. Still, you're only going to be facing one for about a third of the starts, so if you're going to have a weakness, that's the one you'd prefer to have. Otherwise, I'm rather more confident with this line-up, which looks capable of doing a lot of damage with a 3-4-5 of Goldie, Trumbo, Rossifhealthy.

Given this, we'll probably go 54-0 against left-handed starters this year. But will it be enough to off-set our 27-81 record against righties? I was going to get in to arranging the above into a batting order, but I've got a Zoe Bell flick with my name on it. :) So I'll save that for another day...