Monday, July 12, 2010

Welcome To Splitsville: Part One

posted by 3FingersBrown
It's common knowledge in baseball today that hitters generally find it easier to bat against pitchers of the opposite hand. It's easier for the hitter to pick up the pitch as it leaves the pitchers hand and most breaking balls will break into the center of a hitter's field of vision, rather than away from it. When a team's roster allows, managers regularly deploy platoons to gain the upper hand on the day's opposing starter.

Ever since Bob "Death To Flying Things" Ferguson (how's that for a great nickname?) first took to hitting from both sides of the plate, back in the formative days of our pastime, players and managers alike have understood the advantage that a hitter has when facing a pitcher of the opposite hand - even if teams were not actively platooning players to get the most out of this advantage until years later. According to Bill James' essay, "A History Of Platooning," featured in "The Complete Book of Armchair Baseball" the first manager known to utilize the lefty/righty platoon was Detroit Tigers manager, Bill Armour, who juggled catchers to take advantage of their handedness in his final year in The Bigs, 1906. As roster size expanded and the dead-ball era waned, managers such as John McGraw and later Casey Stengel would popularize the strategy and make it common practice in modern baseball.

In deeper fantasy baseball leagues, owners often roster players whose splits are extremely weighted to one side or another. With awareness of these splits, astute owners can make daily lineup decisions (if league rules allow of course) just as real managers do to get the most out of their players strength and minimizing their weakness.

In keeping with this week's All-Star theme, I present to you my position player picks for the 2010 all-left/right-splits team, based on a pool of players who are generally rostered on approximately 50% or fewer teams according to Yahoo. So without further ado, or a profanity-laced Ichiro speech, here are some guys to consider platooning when the opportunity arises.

Note: In a one catcher league, I would not recommend rostering two catchers unless one is also playing another position and his currently catcher eligible.

Part One: Vs. Lefties

C: Ivan Rodriguez (20% owned) The man who's caught the most baseball games in history has shown slightly more aptitude hitting left-handers over his career. In 2010 however, his splits are quite notable in an admittedly small sample size. Against lefties, Pudge has raked to the tune of a .383/.413/.500 line in 63 PA, while posting a pedestrian .263/.291/.346 triple slash against righties in 166 PA.

1B: Gaby Sanchez (34% owned) In his first year as a starter in Florida, the 27 year old first baseman is showing surprising hitting prowess against both lefties and righties. His .285/.347/.434 line against right-handers is nothing to sneeze at for a guy who you probably took a late-round flyer on or possibly even picked up off of waivers. Against lefties however, Sanchez has raked up a gaudy .350/.416/.563 line in 89 PA. He's good enough to start every day in my league, but against lefties he's been money.

2B: Clint Barnes (47% owned) With a .289/.337/.496 career line against lefties versus .247/.290/.384 against righties, The Rockies middle infielder has always displayed lefty-heavy splits. Seeing more playing time since Troy Tulowitzki has been on the shelf, Barnes has used the opportunity to display even more extreme splits this year. Against lefties Barnes has gone .304/.371/.430 in 89 PA while posting a pedestrian .238/.301/.386 against right-handers.

SS: Orlando Cabrera (45% owned) We may not find more extreme splits than those of the the Cincinnati Reds shortstop. Cabrera has been stellar against lefties - .344/.394/.427 in 105 PA and absolutely awful against righties - .207/.241/.291 in 272 PA. I wouldn't roster him with your team, but you have him in a very deep league, I'd pair him up with another SS capable of hitting righties well, such as Mike Aviles or Omar Infante - both of whom hit right handed but do their best work against hurlers coming from the same side.

3B: David Freese (20% owned) In his first full year in the majors, Mr. Freese was offering the Cardinals and fantasy owners alike surprisingly solid offensive numbers through the first three months of the season, before hitting the DL on June 28, with a deep ankle bruise. He's hit lefties at a .357/.416/.457 clip in 78 PA, while posting a respectable .271/.339/.382 against righties. You're likely to want more out of your hot corner, but paired with Chase Headley (who can only seem to hit right-handers), you have a potent 3B duo that can do damage.

OF: Cody Ross (41% owned) With an honorable mention to Rajai Davis - who's 27 steals makes him pretty much an every day player on most rosters even with his struggles against righties. Ross makes for a good platoon candidate, going .303/.354/.513 with three of his seven homers coming in 82 PA against southpaws. His power numbers are markedly improved facing lefties, as he's hit 40 career jacks against lefties and only 39 against righties in more than twice as many plate appearances.

OF: Dexter Fowler (13% owned) Since coming back to the big club from AAA, the Rockies outfielder has been a huge spark for the resurgent Rox. With only 773 PA in the majors since debuting with a cup of coffee in 2007, we'll use his entire MLB resume here to find that Fowler's noticeably more effective against lefties with a .314/.388/.462 line versus the paltry .221/.338/.354 he's posted against righties. At 24, Fowler's still young though and his recent success leads me to believe he'll close that gap enough to give him full-time playability in 12 team mixed leagues.

OF: Lastings Milledge (3% owned) Once thought to be a "can't miss" prospect, Milledge has just about disappeared off of the fantasy radar the past couple of years. In 2010 however, Milledge makes an appearance on my all splitsville team. While righties are still giving Lastings a hard time (.255/.297/.327 in 177 PA) the 25 year old has found his stroke against the southpaws going .318/.431/.518 in 102 PA. Notably, he's hit all three of his homers against lefties and perhaps even more telling he has a 17/11 BB/K ratio, a lot better than the lousy 8/36 BB/K split that he's posted against righties.

UTL: Jeff Francoeur (27% owned) Free swinging Frenchy has always hit lefties much better (.302/.345/.484 in 924 career PA versus an anemic .256/.297/.406 in 2341 PA against righties). With Carlos Beltran returning to Flushing to roam centerfield, it seems that the sizzling hot Angel Pagan will slide over to right and form a potent platoon with Francoeur. With the switch-hitting Pagan wielding a better bat from the left side of the plate, Francoeur will be relegated to taking his cuts against lefties, who he's pounded this season (.348/.403/.449 in 77 PA). In deeper leagues where he might rostered, this could be used to a fantasy owners' advantage by pairing him with a righty killers like Pagan or David DeJesus.

No this isn't an NL only team, that's just how it worked out. I assure you that when we see who's carrying the righty heavy splits, you'll see some A.L. players. Tomorrow, I'll flip around and swing from the other side in Part Two...

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Blogger Pauly said...

Check out Ronny Paulino's splits

vs. lefties: .355/.372/.513
vs. righties: .247/.302/.316

Now that's stark contrast!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 2:04:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Pauly said...

And I forgot to add: no wonder the Marlins kill lefties!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 2:05:00 PM EDT  
Blogger 3FingersBrown said...

You can flip a coin between Paulino and Pudge. If I wasn't doing a 50% owned cut-off, you could probably add just about the entire lineup to this list save for Hanley, who strangely enough is having problems vs. Lefties this year - while his lifetime splits are pretty even. I hate throwing a southpaw starter against the right-heavy Fish!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 3:19:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

Interesting stuff. I think it would also be interesting to look at splits from the pitchers perspective and from a team perspective. I imagine there are some starters and relievers out there with pretty extreme splits. Like the Marlins kill lefties I'm certain some team(s) must be loaded with lefties that kill righties.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 3:54:00 PM EDT  
Blogger 3FingersBrown said...

Definitely something to delve deeper into in the near future Jon - especially in the context marginally rosterable starters. I always try to look at R/L splits when I'm considering streaming pitchers.

Here's a completely unrelated question for both of you guys: It's buy/sell time in my 12 team H2H keeper league (keep 5) and my team is surging - currently in 6th place, but only 7 games between me and 1st place. I'm going hard after a number of arms. How do you see Tommy Hanson and Matt Cain doing in the 2nd half. I was leery of Hanson going into this year, due to his increased workload between '08 and '09 - I think it's catching up with him now - and Cain's xFIP and decreased K rate scare me.

Both of these guys are being shopped to me in exchange for a draft pick in next years draft. What would you give up for either of these guys? For some context, I just offered a guy a 7th round pick for Gallardo, but I don't think that's going to get it done. Any input would help as the trade talks in this league are heating up fast.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 6:18:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

Here's an idea for a future post; guys that are usually profiled as "lucky" but clearly have skills that are not being properly measured. Matt Cain would be the poster boy of sch an article.

Cain doesn't get huge strikeout numbers or have pinpoint control. He also isn't an extreme groundball pitcher. With nothing else said that guy will always be undervalued by FIP and xFIP.

Instead, Cain gets a fair number of strikeouts, he he has a career 7.40K9, 3.54BB9, he keeps the ball in the park. Part of that is his park but another part is inducing a good number of infield flyballs, A skill also long underrated in Barry Zito and others. His career HR/FB and HR9 numbers also suggest that he is very good at limiting hard contact.

Check out Cain's profile at fangraphs, he's been this pitcher for six seasons.At what point do we start giving him credit for these abilities as skills rather than just a ridiculously long lucky streak.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 7:24:00 PM EDT  
Blogger 3FingersBrown said...

That's a good point Jon and a reason why I'm starting to look at tERA more often - which takes into account the various types of batted balls. Cain's tERA is 3.90 right now, almost a point better than his FIP (4.72) - due in large part to those IFFB's. He also pitches in a pitcher friendly park that limits HRs. Two things trouble me about Cain for our fantasy purposes though, his decreased K rate and the lack of run support from the SF lineup.

I'm keeping him in the back of my mind as we approach the trade deadline, but I'm shooting for a guy who'll get more K's at the moment. In the same league, Gallardo's owner just offered him to me for 7th and 15th round picks in next years draft. Do you think that's paying too much for a guy on the DL or do you think I should take a shot and go for it. I like Gallardo a lot and I feel like I'm a solid arm away from having a top team.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 7:38:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

tERA is a better stat but it isn't as commonly used, maybe that means we should use it more.I do understand the worry about the falling k-rate but I wouldn't worry about it too much. I think the run support problem is sorting itself out a bit and the Giants are looking to add a bat. Still, I understand.

That seems like a lot to pay for a guy on the DL. We know that Gallardo is not expected to miss much time. But how many times have we seen a player (especially a pitcher) miss more time than expected. Still, Gallardo is awesome and if you feel like taking the chance he's probably as good a pitcher as you'll find available.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 7:53:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

For those wondering here's what tERA is (from - The Sabermetric Library):

Building on FIP, tRA includes batted ball types, namely line drives, ground balls, and the different types of fly balls. By assigning expected run and out values, tRA correlates better with following-year Runs Allowed per nine inngings than any of the other advanced metrics. tRA is on a R/9 scale so it will always be higher than ERA. It is on a Runs per nine innings scale because the creator, Graham MacAree, felt that since the statistic is based on league and defense neutral out values then defenders should be expected to have a league-average error rate. League average tRA is typically in the high 4s. tERA is the exact same thing, but scaled to ERA. To convert tERA to tRA, simply divide tERA by 0.92. tERA is more useful for comparing to ERA/FIP/xFIP as they are all on the same scale.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 8:06:00 PM EDT  
Blogger 3FingersBrown said...

Good explaination of tRA/tERA. I'm really surprised it's not used more by fantasy pundits, rather than FIP, since it seems to paint a better picture of what's actually happening out there on the field. It's especially useful for evaluating the work of "pitch to contact" guys who generate weak contact - like Cain or Zito.

As for that trade, it's pretty risky but I'd have to give up far more for some of the other arms available, who don't have nearly the upside. I've actually expanded it now: Corey Hart (who could be kept for a 25th rounder) plus my 7 & 15th round picks in exchange for Gallardo and Adam Dunn. My thought is that Dunn will out perform Hart in the 2nd half (we count OBP & QS along with the standard 5x5) and he gets a cheap keeper for next year - who I really don't trust enough to want to keep myself.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 8:21:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jon Williams said...

I'm assuming this is a mixed league, though you've only named NL guys.

Corey Hart as a 25th rd pick is a pretty valuable trading piece, even more so in an NL-league. That said, for the balance of the season, I agree, Dunn is the better bet. This is especially true in an OBP league.

I do like Hart. He's hitting a career high 47.5 FB rate and a sorta ridiculous 18.8 HR/FB (compared to his career 12.2 rate. Part of this is just an awesome streak. I prefer to call these things awesome streaks rather than luck. There's another part of this that is Hart finally being healthy. For the last few years he's struggled through a series of injuries both the major and minor sorts. And finally Hart is entering his prime years as a hitter.

I prefer Dunn because like everyone else on the planet I expect Hart's power pace to slow down. And if that happens as expected, Dunn is the better power hitter and on-base guy.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 8:44:00 PM EDT  
Blogger 3FingersBrown said...

Yeah it's a 12 team mixed keeper league. I tend to go with NL starters (6 of my 8 starters are from the NL).

Hart's been a beast - awesome streak is right! The guy has a ton of power and doesn't hit cheapies, so I don't think it has much to do with luck. Power hitters are streaky by nature and I tend to think we've seen his best already this year though. If he was still stealing bases like he used to, I'd be less likely to move him, but for straight up power and OBP, I'll take Dunn in a heartbeat.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010 at 9:10:00 PM EDT  

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