Winter Meetings Notebook: Platoons

The Pirates signed Diaz to a two year deal.

The lone move the Pittsburgh Pirates made on day two was the signing of outfielder Matt Diaz.  The Pirates were reported to have interest in Diaz last week after he was non-tendered by the Atlanta Braves.  The signing of Diaz raises an interesting question about how the Pirates will handle their starting first base and right field positions in 2011, and whether they will employ a platoon situation.

Diaz is very similar to recently departed outfielder Lastings Milledge.  The signing doesn’t really upgrade the Pirates, considering all of the similarities between the two players.  In fact, it could provide a downgrade, considering that Diaz is 33, had a down year in 2010, and Milledge is 26 and was improving against left handers in 2010.  Just like Milledge, Diaz won’t be a strong every day right fielder.  His defense, in limited playing time, has been poor at the position, and he struggles against right handed pitching.  That’s why Diaz would be best used in a platoon.

Diaz is a career .335/.373/.533 hitter against left handers, compared to a .269/.327/.382 hitter against right handers.  He’s received most of his career playing time in the last five years with Atlanta.  His yearly breakdown:

2006 – Good numbers against RHP (.358/.400/.477 in 151 AB) and good numbers against LHP (.295/.327/.473 in 146 AB) led to a .327/.364/.475 line in 297 at-bats.

2007 – Power numbers struggled against RHP, but average was good (.318/.350/.406 in 170 AB). Strong against LHP (.356/.384/.580 in 188 AB) leading to an overall .338/.368/.497 line.

2008 – Poor numbers against RHP (.159/.182/.175 in 63 AB) but good numbers against LHP (.319/.338/.417 in 72 AB) in an injury shortened season led to a .244/.264/.304 line.

2009 – More bad results against RHP (.255/.349/.400 in 235 AB), compared to great results against LHP (.412/.464/.640 in 136 AB) led to a .313/.390/.488 season.

2010 – More poor numbers against RHP (.223/.283/.350 in 103 AB) and good numbers against LHP (.273/.318/.512 in 121 AB) led to a .250/.302/.438 line.

Diaz had good results in 2006 against right handers.  His average was good in 2007, but his power dropped.  In 2008-2010 his numbers against right handers were poor.  In each season from 2006-2010, he was good against left handers, with 2010 being his worst season.

The Pirates have a few players on the roster similar to Diaz:

-Garrett Jones is a career .282/.359/.495 hitter in 655 at-bats against right handers.  He struggles against left handers, with a .210/.249/.381 line in 328 at-bats.

-John Bowker is a career .248/.302/.420 hitter in 491 at-bats against right handers.  He’s horrible against left handers, with a .132/.158/.151 line in a small 53 at-bat sample size.

-Steve Pearce is a career .304/.372/.557 hitter in 115 at-bats against left handers.  He’s got a .211/.286/.320 line in 256 at-bats against right handers.

-Ryan Doumit is a switch hitter, but has been better as a left hander against right handed pitching.  He’s a career .272/.336/.461 hitter in 1301 at-bats against right handers as a lefty.  He’s a career .256/.321/.373 hitter in 442 at-bats as a right handed hitter against left handers.

Pearce and Diaz have both been strong against left handed hitting, but have struggled against right handed hitting.  The best options to complement them are Garrett Jones and Ryan Doumit.  There is a chance that Doumit could be traded this off-season, at which point Bowker would step in as the new option.

The Pirates could go find an every day first baseman or right fielder, although it’s unlikely they find two options capable of starting full time without the use of a platoon.  A platoon is a great way for teams like the Pirates to maximize the production out of a position, without pulling a Washington Nationals and spending $126 M on an everyday player.

The Pirates could pair Jones (.282/.359/.495 vs RHP) and Pearce (.304/.372/.557 vs LHP) together at first base.  Looking at their career numbers, they could combine to put up a very strong year from the position.  They could also pair Diaz (.335/.373/.533 vs LHP) and either Doumit (.272/.336/.461 vs RHP) or Bowker (.248/.302/.420 vs RHP) and get a similar effect in right field.  Out of that group, the Doumit/Bowker duo is the one I would be the most concerned over.  Doumit’s defense in right field would be horrible, and Bowker hasn’t really been good against right handers, he’s just been much better than his horrid numbers against left handers.

Multiple platoon situations raise the question as to whether a team can afford to have two spots on the bench taken up by platoon players.  I don’t feel that would be an issue for the Pirates.  Most of their starters are young.  Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, Andrew McCutchen, and Jose Tabata will all get everyday playing time.  They will obviously need a backup catcher, a backup middle infielder, and a backup corner infielder, but they don’t exactly need an outfielder specifically to spell McCutchen and Tabata, as one of the platoon players could fill that role if needed.

The platoon situation doesn’t really impact the bench either.  If the Pirates had an everyday first baseman, they’d still have one of the platoon options on the bench.  The only difference is that the platoon option wouldn’t see as much playing time, and wouldn’t get regular starts in favorable match-ups.

None of the individual options are overly exciting, as none of them stand out as an everyday player.  However, if platooned together, the Pirates could piece together a respectable lineup.  The top spots are already occupied with McCutchen, Tabata, Walker, and Alvarez, so it’s not like the platoon positions would be expected to carry the lineup.  My preference would be for the Pirates to add someone better than Doumit/Bowker for the right field platoon, or add an everyday first baseman to create a Diaz/Jones platoon.  That said, based on the current roster, the best approach would be platoons at first base and right field.

Daily Recap

-The Pirates are making a lot of offers to relievers.  They offered a deal to J.J. Putz before he signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks for two years and $10 M.  They currently have an offer out to Kevin Gregg.  They’re strongly pursuing Jeremy Accardo.  They’ve also shown interest in Hiroyuki Kobayashi and Aaron Heilman, both as relievers.  It should be noted that they were linked to Putz, Gregg, and Accardo last year.  I’ll be writing about their pursuit of bullpen arms tomorrow morning.

-The Kevin Correia signing isn’t complete, as his wife recently had a baby, which will delay the process, but his contract details are announced.  Also, I explain why I like the Correia signing.

-The Pirates inquired on Orlando Cabrera, although they are not interested.

-With Correia and Scott Olsen on the verge of officially signing, the Pirates’ interest in Kenshin Kawakami has probably cooled.

-The Pirates haven’t approached Andrew McCutchen about a long term deal yet.

Reactions

-Charlie at Bucs Dugout has a similar reaction to the Diaz signing, noting the similarities between Diaz and Milledge.  Pat at WHYGAVS also shares the opinion.

-Pat also looks at the future of the rotation after the Correia/Olsen signings.

-Matt at Pittsburgh Lumber Company has an interesting look at how Correia’s home run totals translate to PNC Park.

-You’ve gotta love Twitter.

-Jesse Behr has a quote from Kevin Correia about the Pirates from when he was with the Padres.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • Lee Young

    Karstens gone after 2013? That’s the first I’ve heard that. Should we be signing him to a long term contract?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Smalley/100001279428589 Andrew Smalley

    While I agree w/ the general sentiment of this post (ie: we should think long and hard before giving up assets for quick fixes), I’m pretty sure that most teams would agree with most prospector sites: the arms in AAA (Wilson, Locke, Owens) all project to be closer to #5’s rather than #3’s as this article seems to indicate. While a back-end starter is still valuable, those are the types of guys that we should be less reluctant to trade as opposed to high-end guys like Polanco/Garcia/Hanson. While everyone has their preferences regarding the AAA-arms (I prefer Wilson over Locke/Owens), we need to be realistic that there is a reason these guys are all pushing their mid-20’s and still haven’t been given an extended chance at the ML level – and it isn’t because we have some great depth in the starting rotation. If giving up one of those guys were to get us another bat this year, or if giving up one of those guys w/ some other pieces gets us an impact player, we shouldn’t be hesitating b/c of the ‘fear’ of giving up a back-end starter. High-ceiling prospects are a different story; somewhat known commodities are/should be easier to deal.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      Baseball America just called Jeff Locke a middle of the rotation guy.

      Also, a number five starter is a pretty low bar. The average number five starter usually has an ERA above 5.00. A number four starter is closer to 4.50-4.75. A number three starter is around the high 3s, low 4s.

      I don’t see these guys being number five starters and putting up ERAs over five. I see them being number four starters in a strong rotation or a number three starter in a weaker rotation. Both amount to ERAs in the low 4s.

      As for their ages and why they haven’t been given a chance, they’re all 24 and all major league ready. The reason they haven’t been given a chance is because there has been no chance in the majors this year with the Pirates.
      Also, I’ll just point out that your value of these guys doesn’t match up with your trade ideas. If they’re only back end starters, then you’re not going to get anything of value in return.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Smalley/100001279428589 Andrew Smalley

        There is a lot wrong with this post:
        1) “The reason they haven’t been given a chance is because there has been no chance in the Majors this year w/ the Pirates.” That’s not accurate. As far as I know, Kevin Correia is still in the rotation; Brad Lincoln was given numerous starts this year, despite being a more natural fit (two-pitch pitcher) and getting better results in the bullpen; and, Charlie Morton (the projected #5) is gone for the season. All three of the above situations created a situation where one of the AAA-arms could have been called up…..if the Pirates thought they had what you seemingly think they have.
        2) “If they’re only back end starters, then you’re not going to get anything of value in return.” This is clearly wrong, and, incidentally, contrary to your original article. If you don’t think a back-end, inning-eater SP (w/ years of control, as these would in all cases) could get you a 2-3 month rental, you’re mistaken. While the Nationals haven’t traded Lannan yet (due mostly to questions w/ Detwiler and Strausburg’s innings limit, presumably), there was and is interest in him. He’s not a #3 or a #4; he’s a #5, charitably. Yet, his name is still thrown around as an asset. Plus, if you think #3/#4 is as valuable as you state, why wouldn’t a #5 at least have some value? Guys that can start and eat innings still have value and can get *something* (particularly a rental) in return.
        3) Also, you’re projecting 2 guys that haven’t seen the majors and one guy that wasn’t very good as being #3 SPs. That is a bit rich and a bit optimistic. I didn’t see the BA quote on Locke, but that has to be based on his first-half this season and not his results in the Majors last year or his ‘stuff’. Therefore, SSS included, I have questions concerning that ranking.
        4) You’re using ERA as the metric, which is your first problem. It’s also probably why you were late to the “Kevin Correia is awful” mantra that most Pirate fans know and appreciate. I don’t care what a guy’s ERA will be w/ good defense and a tough hitter’s park behind him; I care what a guy’s actual value is independent of his defense and park. Saying a 5th starter is this ERA or a 4th starter is that ERA doesn’t begin to tell the reader (or person you’re attempting to persuade, including opposing GM) actually *how* good of a pitcher a guy is. Tell me his K/BB, tell me scouting reports on his stuff, tell me his out-pitch, tell me how he makes people swing and miss. These are all more crucial in determining a guy’s value than some antiquated stat like ERA.

        Essentially, I think you’re overvaluing the AAA-pitchers, while simultaneously undervaluing what a back-end starter could get in return. Projecting their performance, based on no evidence at the ML level and using a dubious stat to do the same, doesn’t make it very likely that your projections will be right and, therefore, your values are skewed, in my opinion.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=72405411 Ian Rothermund

          The reason Lannan has value as a #5 guy is because he’s a proven commodity. Guys in AAA need to at least be projected to be better than that to actually have any value. Going back to being proven, that’s why Correia is still here for that matter. I’d like to go into more, but I’m kind of indifferent, and you seem relatively heated. If I could match your passion here, I’d probably go for it.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Smalley/100001279428589 Andrew Smalley

            Ha. Nah, not heated, just focused on the next three weeks and what, at least to me, seems like an overvaluing of our guys which will lead to a disappointment in their return. Lannan is a proven commodity, I agree – just not a very good one. However, based on the fact that he can take the ball every 5 days and not get obliterated, he has some value. Correia is also a proven commodity – again, just not a very good one. I don’t doubt that Locke/Owens/Wilson (particularly the latter) can’t be better than Lannen/Correia (particularly the latter), but I still don’t see them as #3 SPs, like Tim does.

            • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

              Again, you’re focusing on one number. I don’t see them as #3 starters. That’s saying they’ll only be #3 starters. I’m saying they could be 3-5 guys. There are possibilities there.

              • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Smalley/100001279428589 Andrew Smalley

                That’s true. I guess I’m stating, in my opinion, which is *most* likely. But, you’re right, that ceiling *could* be higher, particularly w/r/t Wilson, in my eyes.

              • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Smalley/100001279428589 Andrew Smalley

                That’s true. I guess I’m stating, in my opinion, which is *most* likely. But, you’re right, that ceiling *could* be higher, particularly w/r/t Wilson, in my eyes.

        • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

          1. I agree Correia should have been removed for one of these guys. But Correia is putting up good numbers. He probably won’t continue with these numbers, but he’s done it so far. Lincoln was given a chance to start, which is the right call since his value is greater as a starter. None of this says anything about these three players.

          2. You were the one who called them back-end starters. And Lannan is not a number five guy. Your expectations for each pitching slot are off. The reason #5 guys don’t have much value is because they’re barely major leaguers. They’re guys who are similar to 4-A guys. Kevin Correia is an example of a number five starter. And he has no trade value.

          3. I’m not projecting them as #3 starters. I’m saying they have the potential to be 3-5 starters. I’m including a range of possibilities. You’re setting the limits.

          4. My starter ranges are based on research that I did on this subject, looking at every major league rotation. Also, my opinion on Kevin Correia has never changed. I’ve always felt he is what he is. He’s a number four or five starter in a bad rotation (which the Pirates had pre-2011) and he’s a number five starter or a spot starter in a good rotation. The only thing that has changed is the Pirates rotation got better, and didn’t need him.

          If you’ve read the site, you know I rely more on xFIP when looking at individual pitchers. But over the sample size for my research, ERA worked. Now if I’m comparing an individual pitcher to those ERA numbers I posted, I’m comparing their xFIP. So Correia, for example. He has a 4.34 ERA, but his xFIP is 4.77. The 4.34 is a 3/4 starter, but the 4.77 is a 4/5 starter.

          I think your expectations for pitchers are off. As for the AAA pitchers, I think it’s convenient to say they’re number five starters (especially if you don’t know what a number five starter is). I’m basing my opinion on all of those things you talk about above: their stuff, their control, their command, and their secondary numbers. And my values are pretty close to what other outlets and scouts I’ve talked to have said about those guys.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Smalley/100001279428589 Andrew Smalley

            All good points. I’m not as high on the AAA-guys as you are, but I do still think they have value. However, I just think, while not expendable surely, they are available to be had, much easier than a Polanco/Hanson type that you can dream on a little more. That’s just my perspective in regards to prospects: if they *can* be stars – even if not likely – they have much more relative value – to me – than a guy that his future is relatively stable and easy to envision and, most importantly, easy to replace. Perhaps ‘shiny new toy’ syndrome, but it has always been my preference.

            • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

              I think they’re available to be had, but only in the right deal. As I mentioned in the article, I wouldn’t deal them for a rental.

            • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

              I think they’re available to be had, but only in the right deal. As I mentioned in the article, I wouldn’t deal them for a rental.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Smalley/100001279428589 Andrew Smalley

            All good points. I’m not as high on the AAA-guys as you are, but I do still think they have value. However, I just think, while not expendable surely, they are available to be had, much easier than a Polanco/Hanson type that you can dream on a little more. That’s just my perspective in regards to prospects: if they *can* be stars – even if not likely – they have much more relative value – to me – than a guy that his future is relatively stable and easy to envision and, most importantly, easy to replace. Perhaps ‘shiny new toy’ syndrome, but it has always been my preference.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=72405411 Ian Rothermund

    Now, I’m not a huge fan of ESPN, so I tend to gravitate towards local sports radio. Given that, if I hear the guys on 93.7 talk about how the Pirates need to sell off prospects and go for it all this year, I’m going to tear my car radio out and throw it right out of my window on the highway. What if this isn’t the year? Quite frankly I don’t see this team as a World Series team this year, even with someone like Justin Upton. I have a feeling that many would agree with me, so really, are people suggesting that sending 3-4 legitimate prospects away (two of the top-5), including a guy with #1 upside in the rotation, is a good idea in exchange for a player that they’d only have for 2-3 years?

    Utterly ridiculous.

    If they hold on to these guys, the Pirates could continue on like they have been, progressively getting better and building from within. To give away 3-4 top 10 prospects for a chance at maybe getting to the playoffs makes no sense.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kirk.vandergrift Kirk Lee

    Tim, I think you do a very good job of taking a level-headed approach when everyone in Pittsburgh is losing their heads and getting starry-eyed at the available upgrades… even if you may have a tendency to be slightly overly-protective of Pirates prospects at times (after all, it is the name of your website these days). I don’t think the Pirates should have to be blown away with a deal to pull the trigger on some prospects, but I do think they should have to truly believe they are getting the better end of it. Guys like Cole and Taillon should be untouchable with rare exceptions (such as when a superstar with several years of control is being discussed). Other guys should be dealt very cautiously. But no one should be untouchable. The Nats offer Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg (which they would obviously never do), you give them whatever they want in return. Hypothetical insanities aside, each offer should be considered before being rejected, and considered long and hard before being accepted.
    On a side note, I don’t think it’s a certainty that Karstens is gone after 2013. He wouldn’t exactly break the bank to bring back in free agency, and Pittsburgh loves the guy.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      My approach to prospects has nothing to do with the site. It actually benefits me if they deal prospects, as that leads to incoming links from other teams learning about the prospects they just got. That’s what happened when they dealt Pounders to the Royals and Cayonez/Moreno to the Yankees.

      The reason I’m protective with prospects is because of what I’ve been saying pretty much since starting this site in 2009. The Pirates need to build through prospects. They need to take the approach of the Rays. Bring up prospects, have them perform for their controlled years, then trade them before free agency hits and reload the system, ideally with a new prospect ready to take over. You don’t get to that point by making it a habit to casually deal prospects away.

      I agree that each offer should be considered. That’s why I tried to outline some examples of when a guy would be untouchable. A major league ready prospect for a two month rental? I don’t do it. Dealing a guy with upside who hasn’t broken out? You’re selling low. Dealing a potential star who is close to the majors and can give you six years of cost-controlled production for three and a half years of an expensive option? Again, not the move the Pirates should be making.

  • Kevin_Creagh

    I’m a day late on this piece, but let me explain my theory a little….
    I’m probably repeating myself, but a farm system has 2 uses. The first is to supply cost-controlled talent to the major league team. Second is to use as trade chips to augment the major league team.
    The Pirates are in an unusual (for them) position to contend right now, right here, in 2012. They have to make a move of some sort to auger the fan base for a playoff run.
    Prospects are a little like fruit — you can’t keep them on the vine forever or else they will wither. To some extent, that’s what is starting to happen with Owens, Locke, and Wilson. Correia should have been replaced by 1 of these three at this point, but the Pirates are trying to squeeze every dollar out of him. Next year, two of the 3 should be starting, but most likely it will be only 1. So get someone value out of 1 right now for a Carlos Quentin type. (My offer was one of the 3 plus Willy Garcia in the conversation with Tim).

  • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

    Every team has internal values, whether it’s prospects or major league players. That’s no different than everyday purchases in real life. You would spend X amount on a car, but I might not value a car as much as you.

    I think all teams take a similar approach to putting value on their prospects. They research what prospects have done historically, which gives them an idea of what a prospect is capable of going forward. It’s probably not the same system that we use, but it’s probably similar.

  • Dave Parker’s Unfiltered Camel

    I’ll be clear on this: I’m not implying that your methodology is wrong. I’m just wondering if the organization looks at it a little differently. I have a feeling that they place even greater value in their prospects. I agree with your thought process with regard to building from within.