Monday, March 14, 2016

Contemplating a Platoon Advantage

Jonathan Dyer- USA Today Sports
Teams are always searching for the a way to get a leg up on the competition. Analyzing spray charts to find the right placement for outfielders, shifting infielders to the right side against a power hitting lefty, or bringing in a LOOGY (left-handed one out guy) in the late innings. Baseball continues to evolve and the teams changing the fast seem to find more success.

Possibly one of the biggest flaws under the Ron Gardenhire regime was his refusal to platoon hitters. For example, take a look at Danny Valencia's tenure in Minnesota. During his rookie year, the right-handed hitter managed to hit .280/.303/.410 against righties which is pretty good. In 2011, his numbers dropped as his OPS dipped to .626 against righties while he posted a .822 mark against lefties. Gardenhire could have taken advantage of Valencia's strength and played him against lefties while utilizing another option against right-handed starters.

The Twins have an interesting opportunity facing them this season and it could be setting up to be a very nice platoon advantage for Paul Molitor. Byung Ho Park will almost assuredly make the team's 25-man roster when they head north. Oswaldo Arcia is out of options and it would make sense to have him at the disposal of the big league squad. Park is a right-handed batter and Arcia is a left-handed batter so the Twins might have a perfect solution.

Arcia has been a very streaky hitter over the course of his career and that's one of the reasons the Twins let him toil in the minors for almost all of 2015. In nearly 100 minor league games last season, Arcia posted a .678 OPS versus righties which was 243 points higher than what he was able to do against lefties. This still wasn't that great as his OBP was under .280.

In his time at the major league level, Arcia's splits are much better against right-handed hurlers. His OPS is almost 200 points higher against righties (.807 OPS vs. RHP) and only six of his 36 home runs have come against southpaws. Since Arcia has been a streaky hitter in the past, the best way to use him could be to get his at-bats exclusively against righties.

Byung Ho Park will be facing a tough transition this season as he transitions from the KBO to the MLB level. Things have been going fairly well for him so far this spring but it's hard to take spring training numbers too seriously. Minnesota is going to want to take a long look at Park this season but his best option might be to step-in more regularly against lefties.

Last season, Park's batting average was 39 points higher against lefties and he posted a very respectable 24 to 21 strikeout to walk ratio. The right-handed slugger struck out 105 times in 343 at-bats versus righties. Park might be better suited to set-up more frequently against southpaws if the Twins want to avoid some of the struggles that come with transitioning from a foreign league.

Overall, it seems more likely for the Twins to use Arcia in a role as fourth outfielder. This would allow him to get one or two starts a week and to step in if a player was injured. His bat coming off the bench would be a nice option but his time in Minnesota might be slowly sinking away.

Park is going to get playing time this year as the club tries out their new acquisition. Molitor likely won't use a full platoon with Park and Arcia because this would mean playing Arcia more than Park since there are more right-handed pitchers in the baseball world.

However, the team could benefit from giving Park the night off against tough lefties like Chris Sale and David Price.

So, what do you think? Could the Twins take advantage of some platooning this season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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