First Pitch: The Actual Value of Platoons

Last night I wrote about how the problem with the Pirates offense this year has been that three positions in the lineup struggle against left-handed pitching. Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, and the right-field duo of Travis Snider and Jose Tabata have all struggled against lefties this year.

Platoons are very underrated. Or should I say the left-handed side of the platoon is underrated. Just look at a lot of the comments about Gaby Sanchez’s value. Some will see how valuable he is this year. Others will point to his .233 average and .754 OPS and say he’s a horrible hitter.

Then you’ve got Pedro Alvarez. He’s got an .833 OPS. However, that’s because he’s crushing right-handers and struggling against lefties. Every time you talk about platooning him, you inevitably have someone demand the conversation stop. Who would ever consider platooning Alvarez? It’s almost like he wouldn’t continue crushing right-handers if you didn’t keep him in there to struggle against lefties.

The thing about platoons is that the guy who hits right-handers is going to have the better overall numbers. If you only look at those numbers, you’ll question why that guy isn’t playing every day. If you dig deeper, you’ll see that a platoon situation could actually improve what the team is getting, while at the same time getting the bulk of the production from the guy who crushes right-handers.

Then there’s the guy who hits lefties. He’s not going to see as many at-bats against lefties, so his overall numbers will be lower. If you look at the numbers, you’ll write him off as having no value. The idea of sitting an .833 OPS guy for a .754 OPS hitter seems strange on the surface. But once again if you dig deeper, you’ll see the value. Together, you’ll get a duo that crushes everyone, rather than one player who can only hit right-handers and one player who can only hit left-handers.

The Pirates have three positions that could be platooned: second base, third base, and right field. They have one position currently in a platoon: first base. Garrett Jones has actually been struggling in his role lately, but Gaby Sanchez has been excellent. Sanchez has a .293/.400/.569 line against lefties. The Pirates have pretty much stuck to the platoon with Jones, benching him against lefties. Sanchez has played some against right-handers with Jones moving to right field, in part because of the struggles from Travis Snider and the injury to Jose Tabata.

You can talk about how platoons work all you want, but what about the actual value? What if the Pirates had someone who provided Gaby Sanchez value against left-handers at second, third, and right field? And what if they had those players from the beginning of the year?

Here are the combined stats against left-handers this year for the current starters.

Pedro Alvarez is crushing right-handers, but struggles against lefties. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Pedro Alvarez is crushing right-handers, but struggles against lefties. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Pedro Alvarez/Neil Walker/Travis Snider/Jose Tabata – .193/.242/.282 in 181 AB, 9.22 wRC.

That’s a horrible triple slash line. To put the wRC number in perspective, that’s the same amount of runs that Clint Barmes has provided this season on offense in about the same amount of at-bats. So those four combined against lefties have been as bad offensively as Clint Barmes.

If we combined three Gaby Sanchez hitters to replace those guys, we’re just going to get Sanchez’s triple slash line. But what about the wRC? Sanchez numbers against lefties at three positions would be 42.1 wRC, which is basically his 14 wRC against lefties multiplied by three.

Putting that number in perspective, Pedro Alvarez on the season (against everyone) has a 45 wRC. Three platoon guys putting up Sanchez numbers would equal the value of what Pedro Alvarez has done to date.

If we compare those, we could say that going from Alvarez/Walker/Snider/Tabata against lefties to three successful platoon guys would be the equivalent of upgrading offensively from Clint Barmes to Pedro Alvarez.

There are a few disclaimers. The starters would still get at-bats against lefties. They could be limited, like Jones, with about 16 at-bats each to this point. So that would impact the overall results.

There’s also the disclaimer that it’s not easy to add a platoon guy to hit lefties. If it was, every team would just find a player who hit right-handers, find a player who hit left-handers, and combine them for some extreme value at each position. That’s not to say it’s impossible. It’s just that the guys hitting lefties have small sample sizes. So even though a guy might be strong against lefties his entire career, he might have a year where his numbers struggle, all because of sample size. Or you might find a guy like Matt Diaz a few years ago who is at the end of his career and regressing against lefties, taking away his only offensive value. That’s what is happening to Brandon Inge now.

Even if the lefty hitters struggle, there’s not much downside. It would be hard to bring in three platoon guys who would struggle worse than Alvarez/Walker/Snider/Tabata so far this year. You’re going to upgrade the offense, just maybe not with that Barmes to Alvarez scenario.

This is an approach the Pirates need to consider as they approach the deadline. They don’t have to focus on giving up top prospects because platoon options who hit lefties come cheap. They don’t have anything to lose, because they’re not getting production against lefties from second, third, and right field at the moment. And they’re not going to lose any production from guys like Alvarez because almost all of Alvarez’s production comes against right-handers. Upgrading the team, keeping top prospects, and all with no risk of seeing a downgrade to the offense is an approach the Pirates need to take at the deadline. It’s the best thing to do in the short-term, and the best thing for the team in the long-term.

Links and Notes

**Download the newest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 12: Prospect Analysis on Jameson Taillon, Luis Heredia, and Tyler Glasnow. Also includes an interview with 2013 first round pick Reese McGuire.

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**Prospect Watch: Stetson Allie Homers For Bradenton; JaCoby Jones Hits First Homer.

**GCL Notes: First Looks at Austin Meadows and Nick Buckner.

**Minor League Schedule: Holmes and Sandfort Lead Full Slate On Thursday.

**Minor Moves: Pirates Acquire Brian Bocock From Nationals.

**DSL Prospect Watch: Pirates Down Phillies, Injury Updates For Three Players.

**Pirates Agree With 11th Round Pick Erich Weiss.

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**Pirates Notebook: All Quiet with Trade Deadline Three Weeks Away.

**Liriano Cruises, Pirates Bats Spark 5-0 Win.

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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  • https://profiles.google.com/115522615427589477970 Mike C.

    THIS. great article Tim. and also what i’ve been saying for a while now.

    Instead of going for a high priced short term rental who’s an everyday player and giving up high prospects, platoon players with good splits, especially a rhb (sort of an anti-loogy) can be found relatively cheap.

    basically we need more cheap Gaby Sanchezes at other positions.

  • emjayinTN

    Tim: If the active roster was increased to 26 or 27, you might have something, but I am happy with the limited Rotations that are in effect at 1B and RF. Gaby Sanchez is an excellent defensive 1B and a professional hitter. Garrett Jones is an average 1B and is adequate in RF. Jose Tabata can play all 3 OF positions, can hit behind runners, can steal a base, and has been a strong contributor since coming off the DL. Travis Snider has helped us a lot this year, but is in a slump right now. That’s 4 of the 25, 12 pitchers, and 2 Catchers brings you to 18. 7 players left to man the other 5 positions – one each, and a utility IF brings you to 24. Right now, that 25th guy is Brandon Inge, who supposedly adds RH bench strength. The guys we talk about in those positions are usually inexpensive adds like Inge for $1.25 mil, Sanchez for $1.75 mil (which is very cheap for this guy – hats off to NH). I do not want to think about our lineup without Pedro in it – he has earned that this year. Neil is another story – I was all over a long term contract, but he has gone backwards if anything. If he cannot get 15-20 HR’s and play 140+ games a year, he is not worth it. I thought at one point earlier in the year that he was going to break out and be a leader on this team, but ??????

    • http://wkkortas.wordpress.com wkkortas

      You make an excellent point about roster size/issues. I agree that with Tim that platooning is a useful strategy and underrated in terms of value, but it’s tough to do at more than one or two positions when you’re carrying 12 or 13 pitchers.

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

      I would disagree with a lot of that. First, I don’t know why you need 26-27 roster spots to have platoons.

      The right-field platoon would take Travis Snider’s roster spot. Snider hasn’t just been in a slump right now. He’s been in a slump since the end of April.

      Brandon Inge could be released, which creates room for another platoon spot.

      The only problem you run into is that last spot, which would probably be 2B. The problem would be that you’d need to find a guy who could cover shortstop as well, since Barmes would lose his roster spot.

      I don’t see how Snider, Inge, and Barmes prevent them from adding three guys who can hit LHP. You get an outfielder who can be more productive than Snider. You get a RH who will be better than Inge. As I said, the only issue is finding a guy for that 2B platoon who can also cover shortstop if needed.

      As for Alvarez, why does his success against RHP earn him playing time against LHP when he has struggled against lefties?

      • Kevin_Young

        While I mostly agree with you Tim, the one nice thing about having an extra slot or two would be the flexibility we’d be losing off the bench by having a bunch of platoon bats. In the NL there’s just going to be a lot of pinch hitting and there’s no way we could avoid handcuffing ourselves. It would be a whole lot easier to do this in the AL.

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

          See my comment below. I’d rather worry about the first 2/3rds of the game than the final 1/3.

          Avoiding a stronger lineup all because you’re worried about having a better team in the 7th-9th innings is like using a lesser reliever in a tight situation in the 7th inning all because you want to save your closer for the 9th.

          • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

            Tim…I’m with you on this argument.
            :)

          • Kevin_Young

            Oh I agree with the overall premise of the Pirates platooning more. I guess my main point is just that with a 25 man roster, it’s unfortunate that the A’s for instance can reap 100% of the rewards from heavily platooning while the Pirates can only reap about 66%.

          • Y2JGQ2

            TIm, in the NL, your scenario often leaves the bench empty for injuries and for pinch hitting for relief pitchers. I would rather see brandon Inge hitting than Bryan Morris or Mark Melancon, and with hitters on base, so would anyone else in America. You can disagree with it all you want, but its not based on anything you can back up.

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

              “I would rather see brandon Inge hitting than Bryan Morris or Mark Melancon, and with hitters on base, so would anyone else in America. You can disagree with it all you want, but its not based on anything you can back up.”

              Wait, what?

          • http://@gwbicster gwbicster

            With all respect, when you’re talking about platoons, the guy who plays against RHSP is that very 2/3rds of the game that is more important than the platoon guy who plays the 1/3rds against LHSP. I would rather have a very strong team against RHSP than worry too much about my lineup against LHSP, especially in a division that has a larger perponderance of RHSP than any other division. (Reds and Cards all RHSP at the moment.)

      • joe g.

        Alvarez is in essentially in his second full season at the MLB level. He’s still learning. I would occasionally sit him against a tough left hander to rest him, but I would not platoon him. Lets see if he can learn to hit LH pitching. Check out Willie Stargell’s splits early in his career.

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

          Alvarez has three seasons worth of plate appearances. Also, it’s not like performance against lefties is something that can be judged in the majors. Alvarez has struggled against lefties in the minors too.

        • http://www.facebook.com/vince.riedy Vince Riedy

          Very good point about Stargell. I would tend to want to keep Alvarez against lefties except the real tough ones. He is young and his approach seems like something changed. He seems to going with the pitch when need be rather than trying to pull everything. Also Tabata is still very young and it hitting the ball well. There is still time to evaluate before the trade deadline. The answer for 2nd base is on the roster right now. Mercer kills lefties and should plat there against lefties while putting Barmes and his exceptional glove at short. With Mercer at 2nd against lefties is makes it easier to carry Barmes’ anemic bat.

          One thing for certain is Inge must be released when Walker comes off the DL and keep Harrison up until a good bench can be found regardless of position.

      • Y2JGQ2

        Because there are way more righty pitchers and there is another manager in the other dugout who can very easily counter your “right handed hitter who kills lefties” by just putting in another right handed pitcher. You really discount the strategy here too much. On a short bench due to platoons, there are more opposing pitchers to bring in, than there are hitters to counter it.

      • emjayinTN

        I may be looking at the wrong numbers – does Pedro lead the Pirates with most AB’s against Lefties? Fourth overall in number of hits against Lefties? Is he first in RBI’s against Lefties? Two hits last night against Lefties, and I think both were for RBI’s, but I am not sure – it was too late. I applaud Hurdle and his insistence in keeping Pedro in the lineup regardless of who is pitching – two months ago he would have been on the bench. But, the kid is hitting and Hurdle is a knowledgeable Manager who is willing to ride him as long as he is able to make contact and drive in runs. BTW, a great showing by the ladies at last night’s game – Garrett’s wife, AJ’s wife and daughter(?), Pedro’s sig other, ‘Cutch’s sig other, and a few others.

    • Y2JGQ2

      emjay- you hit the nail on the head. The article is really missing the key key key point which is, there are limited roster spots available for these awesome platoons. There is a reason why few teams do it. You NEED pinch hitters in the NL for pitchers later in the game. Also, as starting pitchers pitch fewer and fewer innings, the less valuable a platoon is.

      Scenario A) Righty starts, in the 6 inning, he reaches 100 pitcher, Jones and Alvarez are up- they bring in a lefty who will likely only pitch to them. Do you dump those hitters who will likely get at least one more AB just to flip over and get solid AB vs. lefty, and then…what if they counter back with a righty pitcher, now you have an inferior hitter, who is even more inferior vs. righties- That’s why it doesn’t work in the NL Tim. It just doesn’t. You burn your bench early, and now have less than your best 8 OVERALL hitters in the lineup

      Scenario B- Lefty starts. So you bench Jones and Alvarez, and maybe Walker. Great. Again, lefty gets yanked in the 5th after 2 AB’s for these platoon guys. chances are a righty will be on the mound later, so you pinch hit and bring in Jones and Alvarez, and the coach immediately brings in the lefty specialist to pitch against them. It just doesn’t work. You are forced to burn your bench, and still don’t get the value of having the right hitters face the right pitchers. It only works in September. Pointless the rest of the time unless we are talking about 1988 or earlier when pitchers would actually throw 7 plus innings

  • https://profiles.google.com/115522615427589477970 Mike C.

    love walker but take out the pirtsburgh kid part, he’s an above average 2baseman, not someone you want long term cause of his age and injury history.
    you could do a lot worse than walker, but long term contract… I say no.
    G Sanchez, catcher(hopefylly T sanchez), the new rf or or tabata/snider, barmes or some new rhb infielder. 4 bench guys there. 1b, c, of, ss/2b. covering most position needs and most platoon needs. hopefully one more rhb off the bench.

  • skliesen

    I’m not on board with platooning Pedro in the strict sense of the word. Not all lefties are created equal. Sitting him against the leagues top LH starters makes sense.

    Seems they need to replace Inge with Harrison when Walker comes off the DL.. He can play 2B and even RF vs a LH starter.

    With all that being said, I’m in favor of going and getting an every day RF, middle of the order bat, even if it costs us an A prospect. Alex Rios is my choice. I just don’t believe NH agrees with me.

    • http://battlingbucs.wordpress.com battlingbucs

      Rios is not that guy. Since 2011 he has a wRC+ of 97. Jose Tabata has a 100 wRC+ in the same time period. That isn’t a middle of the order bat. If they can find one great but if not nothing wrong with going a more conservative route.

      That being said all the OFs I have liked are getting injured (Willingham, Morse, DeJesus) so I’m thinking perhaps I should just shut up.

    • Kevin_Young

      The really common answer is Rios, but he’s frankly an awful value. Guy plays no D, is a slightly above average hitter, has a big contract, and might cost more of a return than he should. Norichika Aoki is easily my #1 target. Would be a fine 1 or 2 hitter for us.

    • Y2JGQ2

      Agreed. “toughest” really means, has a big sweeping breaking ball. Any lefty who primarily uses a fastball, alvarez can hit. The big sweeping breaking pitch he’s either going to K or walk about 80% of the time.

  • rburgh

    Oakland platoons at 4 positions, with Seth Smith as a 5th LHB. That means that against a lefty, their bench consists of 5 LHB who don’t hit lefties much. And conversely, against a RHP they will have 4 RHB on the bench. Not a great situation for late game moves.

    Do the Pirates have some LH BP pitchers? I recall seeing an article somewhere that Prince Fielder has improved greatly vs. LHP because the Tigers imported a LH to throw BP regularly. This might be a whole lot cheaper option than trying to find actual major leaguers.

    But in any case, #FreeJameyCarroll. The guy hits lefties, and is a tolerable utility guy. OPS vs. LHP .739’s in 2010, .75o’s in 2011, and .830’s in 2012 (not hitting much at all this year though).

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

      “Not a great situation for late game moves.”

      The question is, what is more important? Those late game moves, or strengthening four roster spots for the first 6-7 innings?

      If the platoons get three at-bats each, then you’re talking 12 at-bats in a game that are upgraded, versus maybe 2-3 later in the game that could possibly be downgraded. And if you’re winning early because of the upgraded lineup, you don’t need to worry about the quality of those pinch hitters later in the game.

      Personally I’d play for the best team in the first 2/3rds of the game, rather than having a weaker team the first 2/3rds so the last third could be stronger if needed.

      • http://www.facebook.com/joshua.h.baker Josh Baker

        Also it’s not like our current bench is providing clutch late inning hits.

      • http://@gwbicster gwbicster

        Part of the problem the offense currently has is hitting with RISP. Hurdle has exaserbated that problem with his batting orders that stack all the guys who hit righties better in a row (which theoretically would make for more scoring chances early in the game before RPs are a factor) and the same for the guys who hit lefties better (RH bats). This clearly has not worked, and I am very happy he is starting to stagger the order now as he did earlier in the season (which worked much better).

        From a purely statistical approach and theoretically, you are correct, that it’s more important to consider the impact in the first 2/3rds of the game, but in practicality, in the NL, it just doesn’t/hasn’t worked.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ron.loreski Ron Loreski

      That’s easier for an American League team to do because the bench isn’t as important. Much less pinch hitting and no double swicthes.

    • http://@gwbicster gwbicster

      Smith is their DH vs. RHP. They platoon at 5 positions, and their benches are usually completely RH or LH. It is a radical approach, that has worked amazingly, and the new market ineffeciency, if you will.

      I’m just not convinced that any more than two platoons would work on an NL team, unless they were willing to consider going with only 11 pitchers (which I think they could/should, but isn’t really feasable with Hurdle’s mismanagement of his bullpens.)

  • impliedi

    I think the problem I would have with platooning Alvarez is that it ignores two things:

    1. He’s still maturing as a hitter. There are plenty of examples of players (especially power guys) that struggled early in their careers against the same side pitchers. Barry Bonds had horrific numbers against LH pitching his first two years in the league, then in his third year, he had a huge reverse split.

    2. BAbip. Looking at Pedro’s BAbip, it is higher in his career (.327 vs. .305) against LEFTIES, and much higher against lefties this year (.351 vs. .297). Some would say that he’s just getting luckier when he puts the ball in play vs. lefties, but I think that this points to the fact that he’s striking out a ton against those lefties. Now will that always be the case? Or as he improves plate discipline against lefties, will his overall numbers improve? I think Pedro will mature into a more complete player overall (we’ve seen big strides in his defense, perhaps pitch recognition against lefties will be the next thing that he improves upon.)

    For the other guys, I don’t mind the idea of a platoon, but I think not allowing Pedro the chance to struggle against lefties early in his career, robs the Pirates of a potentially more complete player as he matures.

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

      1. The problem is that Alvarez isn’t improving against LHP. The only thing he’s ever had going for him was his increased power against lefties, but that didn’t continue to increase this year and it’s not to the point where it warrants him being in the lineup.
      2. Alvarez isn’t improving his plate discipline against LHP. He’s striking out 41% of the time this year vs LHP. That’s up from 38% last year and around 38% in his career.

      • http://@gwbicster gwbicster

        Disagree strongly that he isn’t improving against lefties, at least LHRP. In the past week alone, you can see him handling his plate discipline and taking those outside breaking pitches lefties pound him with to LF for singles. Granted he’ll never be as good vs. LHP as RHP, but IMO he is more than acceptable. I prefer Hurdle’s approach hitting him a spot or two lower in the order to platooning him.

  • https://profiles.google.com/115522615427589477970 Mike C.

    normally I wouldn’t mind the growing pains of a player, but in a playoff hunt season? not so sure…
    and pitch recognition and taking walks rarely improve enough in-season at his age imo.

    and in late game sitautions, u’ll often see lhp if it was rhp starter and vice versa.
    so I don’t really mind a 4 rhb bench, or a 4 lhb bench if we can START a good 8.

  • benh444

    they missed out on scott hairston who could have been a great right handed option against lefties

    • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

      they already have that in Tabata. They need a Snider replacement. I’m thinking Shierholz.
      .
      Foo

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

        Schierholtz doesn’t really add anything. He can’t hit LHP either.

  • javi1975

    The only reason I would agree with a platoon situation with Pedro if it was guaranteed to work. Alvarez is a bit of a mental case imo, and if you sit him for someone that only slightly improves the stats, that might get in to his head. So you would need a guy who has at the very least Gaby Sanchez type slpits against lefties. That’s probably not going to happen, it’s easier to find platoon help for the other positions than at third. Anyways talking about finding help against lhp is futile without knowing what real options are out out there for the Pirates. I’ve read options for right field and second, but I don’t remember any names being discussed on the third base options. Can you elaborate on this Tim? Is there a possible trade for the Pirates on the 3rd base platoon side?

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

      “Anyways talking about finding help against lhp is futile without knowing what real options are out out there for the Pirates.”

      I agree with that, but at this point you could make the same argument about any position. Not many guys who are absolutely on the trade block. Just a bunch of guys who we think will be on the trade block.

      One option for third could be Gaby Sanchez. If they find an everyday 1B, that would free Gaby up to platoon at 3B with Alvarez.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tim.auth.3 Tim Auth

    Josh Harrison has a 1.021 OPS against lefties at Indy. Last check, he plays 2B and 3B.

    • https://profiles.google.com/113824087346904673399 Dom DiDominic

      This is the point that should be explored. Guys in our system that can be used better.
      Harrison can platoon with Walker. Harrison can platoon with Pedro. OR he can just provide less playing time v lefties.
      Tony Sanchez can platoon with Alvarez. Martin to 3rd and Sanchez behind the plate.
      I know, this is crazy, but Barmes can platton with Walker. If you add Barmes to SS & Mercer moved to 2B v a LHP then the defense is better and Walker’s bat is out.
      All these options are on the team now, just being more creative.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrew.smalley.35 Andrew Smalley

    First of all, let’s not assume that people who disagree with you re: platoons do so because ‘they don’t understand the value’ of the same. For instance, I disagree w/ you because I think Pedro Alvarez is 26, in his 2nd full year of the Majors, and, since about the first or second week of May, has been on a tear. Sure, that tear has come mostly in the form of facing RHPs, but improvement has been noticeable. What’s/Who’s to say that such improvement can’t be replicated against LHPs? I’m not arguing that Pedro is going to become a LH masher, but it’s not to the point where giving him ABs to determine the same is killing the Pirates, especially with the lack of alternative options at the ready.

    Platoons work, they should be utilized. Not always by any means, but, in general, they should be employed w/ old’ish players whose track record has been established. In other words, they’re more of a known variable than, say, a guy who is 26 and in his 2nd full year in the Majors.

    If this is the second half of 2014 and Alvarez still hasn’t shown the ability to at least be competitive (which I think he’s been showing for the last month vs. LHP), then maybe you make a move. I don’t mind him sitting vs. a Kershaw or a Hamels or a Lee. But, sitting him against John Lannan because Lannan happens to pitch from the left-side? Nah, I’m not there yet.

    Finally, I think other commenters spoke enough (as did you, actually) about the lack of available options currently, either in-house or on market, so I won’t rehash. But, as they say, if you’re going to make a move, there needs to be a move to be made. Right now, playing Alvarez – who is still above-average w/ glove when he’s batting against LHP – is our best option.

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

      “I disagree w/ you because I think Pedro Alvarez is 26, in his 2nd full year of the Majors, and, since about the first or second week of May, has been on a tear. Sure, that tear has come mostly in the form of facing RHPs, but improvement has been noticeable”

      2nd full year in the majors is misleading. He struggled one year and was sent down multiple times.

      Also, you just made my point that he’s doing well against RHP. So why does that prevent the Pirates from using someone else against LHP?

      “Right now, playing Alvarez – who is still above-average w/ glove when he’s batting against LHP – is our best option.”

      The defense would be the best argument in favor of playing Alvarez vs LHP. That’s something you wouldn’t have said before the year.

      • http://www.facebook.com/andrew.smalley.35 Andrew Smalley

        But, we can say it *now*, no? And, obviously, today matters more than before.

        Writing 2011 off isn’t misleading, in my eyes. He ISO’d under .100 and played less than half the games. If you think 2011, including peripherals, is in any way representative of him going forward, we disagree. His BB/K levels were similar, but he had a power outage. Even his biggest skeptics/critics would admit his power is legit. I think 2011 was a lost year; while we can’t forget it, I’m not sure using it as a basis for playing him less going forward is any less misleading than someone saying to forget it entirely.

        “Also, you just made my point that he’s doing well against RHP. So why does that prevent the Pirates from using someone else against LHP?”

        Fair question. I think you’d agree, however, that it doesn’t make sense to give-up or devalue an asset that you have without due diligence or, better stated, making damn sure he can’t hit LHP. An Alvarez that proves (based on opportunity) that he can at least be serviceable against LHP is much more attractive/better than an Alvarez that cannot, no? I just think that we need to give him every chance to succeed, both for the Pirates success and the proper valuation of his worth.

        I don’t think the sample is large enough to give up on him. For a guy (me) who doesn’t have much patience, I’m still willing to give it more.

      • Kevin_Young

        His defensive value is almost certainly pretty inflated thanks to defensive positioning, so I’m not really willing to grant him that.

  • javi1975

    “One option for third could be Gaby Sanchez. If they find an everyday 1B, that would free Gaby up to platoon at 3B with Alvarez.”
    This is the reason why this team is much better than last year. The Pirates have real depth, and not just with the pitching. Last year there were holes all over the lineup, as soon as Cutch started to struggle, everything went down the drain. This time its different, the offense is more or less what it was last year, but with contributions from different players not just Cutch. The Pirates are in a much better situation looking ahead to the trade deadline. What do you think Tim?

  • leadoff

    The thought of platooning Alvarez is totally out in left field. If you platoon him, you might as well look at stats and determine which hitter can’t hit the pitcher taking the mound today and bench them. For example, if McCutchen can’t hit a certain pitcher, might as well bench him that day.
    Alvarez is going to be great. One of my big gripes with stats is they include history, sometimes long history, fast forward to the present, Alvarez is hitting left hand pitching at this point in time, I realize the stats say he isn’t, but the stats are lying, put him out there and spend more time worrying about 2 or 3 other positions that need addressed with solid players. The stats said Locke was going to fall apart (FIP), wrong again, look at the Player NOW, is he changing? has he made adjustments? in Alvarez case, he has adjusted and he is evolving against left handed pitchers, sure there is going to be left handed pitchers that shut him down, as there will be pitchers that are right handed that shut him down.
    The reason you have platoon players is because you don’t have one good player for a position, it makes more sense to start using your farm + trading some of these guys like Sanchez, Snider and get yourself a quality player at each position.
    IMO, platoon players are bench players, not regulars. I want 8 regulars, someone else can have 6 or 7 regulars and 2 or 3 part time players.
    One other thing the Pirates must do, trade for a veteran back up catcher, if they keep playing Martin everyday, he won’t be walking in September.

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

      I’m sorry, but that’s wrong. If you’re talking about pitcher vs hitter, you’re talking about 2-3 games worth of data. Pedro Alvarez has an entire season’s worth of numbers struggling against lefties.

      Plus, the idea that you struggle against one certain pitcher is different than the idea that a player can struggle against a certain TYPE of pitcher.

  • Cato the Elder

    Am I crazy to think that Jason Bay (a career 133 wRC+ and a 123 wRC+ in 99 AB this year against left handed pitching) might be a nice trade target to platoon in RF? He is currently on a 1 year $0.5million dollar contract and shouldn’t cost much in the way of prospects. The poetics of his return for a playoff push may be clouding my objectivity. Call me crazy.

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

      It wouldn’t be bad, although if Bay returned here I think a lot of people would want him to start everyday, mostly because they’d be thinking about the old Jason Bay.

      • Cato the Elder

        I hadn’t considered that; I think you are right. Does anyone come to mind as a ideal platoon target? I realize that player availability is all a matter of speculation, but using Fangraphs “Trade Target Leaderboard” and looking at the best left-handed platoon splits isn’t yielding many inspiring options – Jason Bay, notwithstanding.

        Moving away from a platoon guy, do you think there is any chance the Pirates could make a run at Norichika Aoki, or would the Brewers be too reluctant to trade within the division. It would be nice to get a true leadoff hitter (allowing Marte to slot into a more natural spot in the batting order), he hits lefties (124 wRC+), and has a reasonable contract ($1.25 million and a club option for ’14). Seems like a nice fit, assuming the cost to acquire him wouldn’t be too steep, therefore should I just assume the cost would in fact be too steep?

      • BostonsCommon

        There’s no way he could start everyday. The only way you entertain this idea is if everyone (player, manager, GM) agrees that he’s only going to see ABs against LHP. Even then, he’s still striking out too much (26%). His numbers against LHP (116 OPS+, .286 BABip) suggest there might be something there, maybe even realistic room for improvement. And you would probably take his bat coming off the bench over Barmes, McHenry, and Inge.

        I would just be really cautious with this one. I know a return to Pittsburgh could be good karma and rekindle some magic. But he’s just been pretty bad for a pretty long time now, and to put your playoff push on this guy is just not going to be enough. Could be a nice minor, secondary move though.. low cost too.

        • Cato the Elder

          I agree with everything you say; that is why I suggested him at as a platoon target. Who would be your suggested major, primary move?

        • BostonsCommon

          Yesterday I was championing Michael Young as a guy the Pirates should target. I like him because he can play for Alvarez or Walker against LHP. I’m in the boat that says Alvarez shouldn’t be a straight platoon yet, and bringing in a guy like Young allows him to still get ABs.

          • Cato the Elder

            I did

            • Cato the Elder

              *dig. 4 letters and I screwed 1 one of them up.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.j.stein.3 Jeremy J Stein

      You’re not crazy. That would actually be a smart move. I wonder if Seattle would take Snider for Bay straight up?

  • leadoff

    Here is what Jim Bowden thinks:
    Bowden’s hypothetical has Alex Rios and Alexei Ramirez heading to Pittsburgh for outfielder Gregory Polanco, pitcher Nick Kingham, and shortstop Jordy Mercer.

    • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.brooks.581 Stephen Brooks

      And ESPN charges a subscription fee to read crap like that.

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

      That’s ridiculous.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.j.stein.3 Jeremy J Stein

      Kingham and Mercer maybe, but no way Polanco is included. Maybe Josh Bell.

      • smurph

        Not even. You don’t give up one of your top-10 prospects for either of those rentals

      • BostonsCommon

        Alexei Ramirez has see his production decline steadily for 3 straight years to the point where he is now Ronny Cedeno without the pop. Fortunately for him, he makes 3.5X what the Pirates paid Cedeno ($2M). On top of that his contract is going to increase and he is set to make $19.5M over the next two years. His inclusion in the deal makes it a non-stater…. And that’s before you even start talking about the $12.5M Rios is guaranteed next year.

        Not that it’s all about the money, but that’s a lot of cash guaranteed to less than premium players… that needs to be addressed before anyone mentions a prospect of Kingham’s status.. And Polanco for those two clowns is laughable.

    • http://www.facebook.com/vince.riedy Vince Riedy

      I would not trade one of those player for both Rios and Ramirez. much less three.

  • vanderbilt

    Do the Pirates have a left handed batting practice pitcher. If not, I am available!

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

      They released Mike Zagurski.

      • http://www.facebook.com/matt.beam.16 Matt Beam

        Hilarious

        Two words for 3rd base and PH, Cody Ransom

        As an alternative (if Gaby really can play a decent 3rd base), Kendrys Morales?

        Pirates not only need upgrades vs LHP, but guys like Morales with a history of hitting well with RISP

  • http://www.facebook.com/bryan.graham.773 Bryan Graham

    In my opinion platoons are a bit overrated, especially since you actually have to platoon the guys that are supposed to be platooning. Gaby Sanchez is a prime example, sure he is having a good year against lefties, but he has twice as many plate appearances against righties and is barely hitting over .200 against them. He has about 18 full games worth of AB’s against lefties out of the 90 games the Pirates have played. This would lead me to believe that there are A LOT more righties starting games than there are lefties. Do you really want a bunch of guys in platoons when there aren’t that many lefties to hit against? Sure you want a guys that can hit lefties or righties, but do you want to fill your bench with guys that are only good against one or the other? We have seen this year and previous years what happens when a platoon falters, you end up playing guys that are horrible against pitchers they were never meant to face (I.e. Gaby Sanchez against righties). This is a main reason that I don’t see the Pirates as real contenders this season, along with I do think the pitching will falter at some point. I see the Pirates as a year or two away if they fix the issues they will have at that point. SS, if Mercer can’t handle it, 2B because Walker just isn’t that good and is injury prone, and mainly 1B, either find a new platoon partner for Sanchez that can hit righties as Jones appears to have started to regress. Polanco will fill the RF hole in the next year or two.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.j.stein.3 Jeremy J Stein

    Inge has to be replaced. He was supposed to be able to hit lefties which is probably why he was given a shot (or I guess that veteran leadership thing) but he hasn’t hit lefties and thus his only value is above average D. If he can be replaced by a UT guy that can hit lefties then the Pirates will have a platoon for either Alvarez or Walker. Next is to find a RF who can hit lefties who will replace Snider.
    .
    I think the Pirates could find 2 platoon guys fairly easily to upgrade the offense. The only player I’m not sure about replacing is Barmes (who would be the other platton for either Alvarez or Walker). As Tim mentioned, this player would have to be able to play SS and I don’t think there are many short stops in the league who can play good D and hit (lefties at least). Such a short stop would probably cost a lot in either salary or top prospects.
    .
    In the end I’d be okay with just finding 2 platoon players to upgrade Inge and Snider.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.j.stein.3 Jeremy J Stein

      Also, Josh Harrison might be able to take one of those 2 platoon spots, so maybe the Pirates just need one platoon bat.

      • smurph

        See that is really the point. Walker hasn’t lived up to expectations, mainly because of injuries. So he gets injured for the 4th time, and you let Inge start in his place. Problem is he goes 0-8. If you had a better bench, you could sub out for Walker or Pedro once a week, and when one of them got injured, you could put someone in with the expectations of actually getting a hit or two. Harrison has done that pretty well the last couple of seasons. Same with OF/1B. Presley may not be a long-term solution, but I can’t see him doing any worse than Snider. At this point i don’t think you cut Snider, but I would be looking to move him in a trade. And if he hasn’t done anything by the 2nd week of September, I would say his career as a Pirate is over.

  • buccotime57

    Raul Ibanez… Career vs LHP 256 .301 .603 .904…and did anyone watch him come off the bench last year in the playoffs for the Yankees and hit that clutch HR in the ninth?? He is also on a huge tear and ancient so seattle should not want much more than hometown boy travis snider.

    • BostonsCommon

      Do we really want to fill the LHP half of the platoon with a lefty hitter? Love his pop, although, in 153 PA as a PH, his career line is .193 /.275/.333 /.608… Yikes.

      • http://www.facebook.com/bryan.graham.773 Bryan Graham

        I don’t care is a guy straddles the plate and swings the bat between his legs, if he can hit then he can hit.

  • westonian420

    What could the pirates get for Jason Grilli in terms of prospects?

    • BostonsCommon

      Why would you want to move Grilli? You’re going into a pennant race and you just locked up the most dominant closer in the game for 2 years, $6.75M total… That’s about half of what Papelbon will make this year ALONE!

      • westonian420

        Because of depth and the fact that Melancon is as good if not better than Grilli. The pirates are getting into about the same situation that they had with Hanny. They should of traded Joel a year or two before they did. Now in hindsight the trade looks great but at the time all the “experts” were saying they could of gotten much more if they would of traded him earlier. The pirates would be trading from a position of strength and I’m just wondering what they could realistically expert for Grilli?

        • http://www.facebook.com/bryan.graham.773 Bryan Graham

          I have mentioned about trading Grilli earlier in the season for the same reason the Pirates should have traded Hanrahan a couple years ago. Grilli’s value will never be higher, they have Melancon, Grilli hasn’t been near as dominant recently. I guess the main question is do you believe in the 2013 Pirates. If you do, then there is no way you can trade Grilli, if you still think they are a year or two away, then it would make perfect sense to trade him. Regardless of what fans think, the Pirates aren’t going to trade him though. They will show how they feel about this years version of the team with the moves they make or don’t make in the coming weeks.

          • westonian420

            I agree that it does come down to if you “believe” or not. I believe this team will break the losing streak and could very well make the playoffs. I do not believe this is a world series team tho and trading Grilli is the smart move if the return is great enough

        • BostonsCommon

          I think this is apples to Oranges for more than one reason.

          First:
          Grilli is 36 years old. Even as a dominant closer, he’s not going to hold the same value has Hanrahan did, based on age alone. People were screaming for the Pirates to move Joel earlier, becaues at 29, he was still in the peak prime years of his career, and actually would have drawn more of a return. Either way, I think Grilli is much more valuable to the Pirates than any prospect would be. I don’t even think he would return much of a prospect.

          Second:
          This Pirates team is actually a contender. It’s been documented that the other teams were doing it with smoke and mirrors, but the Pirates couldn’t handle the negative publicity of trading away a closer while they were “contending”. Those teams probably should have traded Joel. This team is a legit contender (re: SANTELLI’s articles about Pirates’s playoff chances % ), and should NOT trade their closer.

          Those are the two main reasons the situations are different. I do understand your argument about dealing from a position of strength and depth, but the ‘pen is one of the biggest reasons this team won’t fall apart. With Watson, Wilson, Melancon, and Grilli, the Pirates are basically playing a 5 inning game.

          • westonian420

            I understand Grilli is older than Hanrahan and if your correct that Grilli would fetch much less in a trade then I’d say keep him. That’s why I asked what Grilli would be worth and I’m still interested in an answer to the question. A top prospect, top ten, top twenty, what?

            • BostonsCommon

              Manny Ramirez is back with AAA Roundrock….

              In all seriousness, I don’t think the return value is there in terms of prospects. Outside top 20 for sure. Tim, prove me wrong?

          • http://www.facebook.com/bryan.graham.773 Bryan Graham

            The Pirates playoff % chances are meaningless, they were right up there last year also. It was also written in articles why last years team wouldn’t collapse. As for Grilli’s value, yes he is 36, but he also has a very manageable contract with another year of control on it so he does have value. I would like to know what it would be just out of curiosity. You can believe all the “This team won’t collapse” articles you want and I very, very much hope you’re right, but as far as them being a real contender I opt to believe it when I see it. If it does happen this year, it will be because a lot of pitchers will have done better than they ever have before. #freeAndrewLambo

    • Kevin_Young

      I love this topic. I know that trading your ‘closer’ in the playoff hunt is an unthinkable sin. But signing a 36 year old wanderer, getting a half year of the best bullpen guy in the league, and then flipping him for a bounty of prospects could be a shrewd and ridiculously beneficial move.

  • jpwcpa

    I saw the idea of a platoon at second. What if we use Jordy Mercer as the platoon at second and go after a shortstop like Alexi Ramirez?

  • https://profiles.google.com/107500598404660809214 Kerry Writtenhouse

    First off, Snider isn’t the player to replace to improve against lefties. Snider has stunk overall against lefties and righties. Scott Hairston would have been a good get for mashing against lefties.

    I agree with Tim on the premise that if you have platoon bats filling your bench, they will be more prepared for pinch hitting assignments when they come up. You’re not always going to replace the lefty hitters when a lefty comes to the mound. It depends on the situation. In addittion, most teams have at most 2 lefties in the bullpen so that scenario won’t play out nearly as often. Subbing out the platoon half that’s starting a particular game should be dictated by game situations.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joshdziomba Josh Dziomba

    Tim, all I can say is I thank God that you are not running the Pirates. Then we could have every player platoon and run the game likes its a Video Game or a fantasy lineup. All these ideas take out of the equation the human factor. Like when everybody complains of Gaby Sanchez hitting RHP its because he doesnt see them very often. I believe his last two HRs were of RHP.

    Now with Pedro you park him in the middle of the lineup and you do not move him no matter what. Even vs LHP he brings fear into an opposing manager and pitcher. Even a lefty knows he can’t make a mistake.