Casey Stengel’s Platoon

Casey Stengel’s Platoon

 

 

Back in the 1950’s, Yankees Manager Casey Stengel was a most colorful and confusing character on the baseball landscape. After all, he once said, “You have to have a Catcher because if you don’t, you’re likely to have a lot of passed balls.” And, “The key to being a good Manager is keeping the people who hate me away from those who are still undecided.” Of course, he was also very much crazy like a fox because he also said, “Being with a woman all night never hurt no professional ballplayer. It’s staying up all night looking for a woman that does him in.”

 

From 1949-1960, Casey’s Yankees won 10 of 12 AL Pennants and 7 World Series titles. In an era before advanced baseball statistics, it seems that he was decades ahead of the curve in the ability to manipulate line-ups and get the most out of a 25-man roster. Of course, anyone can put Mickey Mantle’s name on the line-up card each day, but that version of the Bronx Bombers seemed to have a different hero each day. If you look back at some of those rosters, it’s clear that Stengel knew about percentages because he took advantage of platooning LH & RH hitters on a regular basis. Just using 1954 as a snapshot, you’ll see that the everyday 1B Joe Collins (who hit LH) didn’t even get 400 AB’s because Bill Skowron (who hit RH) was available. “Moose”, in his rookie season, hit .340 in 215 AB’s. In the corner OF positions, Gene Woodling, Irv Noren & Enos Slaughter batted from the left side, while Hank Bauer & Bob Cerv batted from the right side. Even HOF Shortstop Phil Rizzuto had less than 400 AB’s because switch-hitting Willy Miranda was available.

 

The modern version of that team is the Oakland Athletics, under the guidance of GM Billy Beane. Working with a limited budget, the “Moneyball” system has made the A’s competitive with their major-market opponents. One of the keys to their success is the same platoon blueprint that Old Casey implemented in the 50’s. A quick glance at their 2012 roster shows the symmetry. Chris Carter / Brandon Moss at 1B, Jonny Gomes / Seth Smith at OF/DH and numerous other limited AB contributors like Josh Donaldson, Derek Norris and Colin Cowgill. The A’s averaged over 92 wins in 2012-2014 utilizing versions of this formula.

 

For MLB GM’s and Fantasy Baseball participants, this lesson shouldn’t be ignored. For whatever reason, LH batters always have more difficulty hitting LH pitching than their RH counterparts have hitting RH pitching (have you ever heard of a “situational right-hander”?). If teams blindly continue to give their LH hitters AB’s against tough LH hurlers, it will impact productivity for the team. Hitters like George Brett and Tony Gywnn only come around every decade or so. From a Fantasy prospective, you need to know about this statistical category because players who don’t produce will eventually lose playing time and impact your investment in the player. The analysis becomes even more critical in today’s game where teams now carry 12 or 13 pitchers and the platoon option gets reduced with a limited amount of batters on the bench.

 

Looking only at fairly regular members of the line-up, here’s some eye-opening numbers about LH hitters and their success against LH pitching in 2015…

 

> Cody Asche, Phillies 3B/OF – .231 BA, .277 OBP

 

> Justin Bour, Marlins 1B – .221 BA, .293 OBP

 

> Jay Bruce, Reds OF – .229 BA, .286 OBP

 

> Kole Calhoun, Angels OF – .220 BA, .293 OBP

 

> Jason Castro, Astros C – .192 BA, .243 OBP

 

> Chris Coghlan, Cubs OF – .116 BA, .208 OBP

 

> Andre Ethier, Dodgers OF – .200 BA, .229 OBP

 

> Carlos Gonzalez, Rockis OF – .195 BA, .222 OBP

 

> Curtis Granderson, Mets OF – .183 BA, .273 OBP

 

> Ryan Howard, Phillies 1B – .130 BA, .176 OBP

 

> Ender Inciarte, D’Backs / Braves OF – .229 BA, .255 OBP

 

> Jake Lamb, D’Backs 3B – .200 BA, .275 OBP

 

> Adam LaRoche, White Sox 1B – .157 BA, .191 OBP

 

> Adam Lind, Brewers / Mariners 1B – .221 BA, .277 OBP

 

> Logan Morrison, Mariners / Rays 1B – .190 BA, .253 OBP

 

> Davis Ortiz, Red Sox DH – .231 BA, .277 OBP

 

> Gerardo Parra, Orioles OF – .238 BA, .296 OBP

 

> Jace Peterson, Braves 2B – .190 BA, .234 OBP

 

> Gregory Polanco, Pirates OF – .190 BA, .250 OBP

 

> Kyle Schwarber, Cubs C/OF – .143 BA, .213 OBP

 

> Denard Span, Nationals OF – .197 BA, .279 OBP

 

> Luis Valbuena, Astros 3B – .158 BA, .265 OBP

 

The question is if this type of player will get more or less regular AB’s moving forward? And, if they continue to get those AB’s, is it a positive or negative for your Fantasy roster? More AB’s will not only negatively impact the BA/OBP category, it also becomes a factor for power numbers, as this type of player has a tendency to underperform in that realm also. Bour hit 23 HR’s in 2015, but none were against LH…Lind hit 20 HR’s in 2015, but also had zero against southpaws…Bruce was at 4 of 26…CarGo hit 5 of 40…Granderson slugged 2 of 26 and the list goes on.

 

Are there LH hitters you can count on to be in the line-up everyday? A few to consider –

 

> Christian Yelich, Marlins OF – .288 BA, .347 OBP

 

> Joey Votto, Reds 1B – .331 BA, .467 OBP

 

> Travis Shaw, Red Sox 1B – .329 BA, .353 OBP

 

> Kyle Seager, Mariners 3B – .297 BA, .324 OBP

 

> Eddie Rosario, Twins OF – .289 BA, .311 OBP

 

> Anthony Rizzo, Cubs 1B – .294 BA, .409 OBP

 

> Joe Panik, Giants 2B – .291 BA, .374 OBP

 

> Mike Moustakas, Royals 3B – .282 BA, .338 OBP

 

> Eric Hosmer, Royals 1B – .279 BA, .332 OBP

 

> Jason Heyward, Cardinals / Cubs OF – .272 BA, .344 OBP

 

> Bryce Harper, Nationals OF – .318 BA, .434 OBP

 

> Dee Gordon, Marlins 2B – .350 BA, .373 OBP

 

> Alex Gordon, Royals OF – .280 BA, .377 OBP

 

> Brett Gardner, Yankees OF – .276 BA, .361 OBP

 

> Lucas Duda, Mets 1B – .285 BA, .333 OBP

 

> Michael Brantley, Indians OF – .294 BA, .346 OBP

 

> Nori Aoki, Giants / Mariners OF – .333 BA, .400 OBP

 

Just what you need, another calculation to include in your 2016 player analysis. Sort of like giving a golfer one more swing-thought.

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