Time To Abandon The Platoon In Favor Of Stability

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While it’s true the Athletics have done well with the system the last two-plus seasons, it has now come time in the season where wins are at a premium and some of those who were platooning have established themselves as everyday players. That – and also the right-handed batting side of the line-up is definitely not producing. Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the caution given today by Athletics beat writer Susan Slusser, I still feel the aspiration to “blast” the current use of the platoon system – especially with only a few weeks left in the season and the A’s in serious need of production and some stability.

"“And remember, should you want to blast Melvin for any issues with the L-R lineups, this is a system that was put in place by the front office, and the A’s brass has been forthright about platooning being the system they want. It’s worked for two-plus seasons, for the most part, and the organization likes to take a long-term view of things” – Susan Slusser, Drumbeat, SFGate, 9-3-2014 (http://blog.sfgate.com/athletics/2014/09/03/progress-for-sean-doolittle-coco-crisp-back-friday/)"

While it’s true the Athletics have done well with the system the last two-plus seasons, it has now come time in the season where wins are at a premium and some of those who were platooning have established themselves as everyday players. That – and also the right-handed batting side of the line-up is definitely not producing.

As evidenced in Tuesday night’s game vs. the Seattle Mariners, and LH starter James Paxton, the A’s didn’t start scoring runs until the eighth inning when the plethora of lefties were inserted into the line-up, accounting for all five runs in just the two last innings.

That same left-handed-powerful-producing line-up was responsible for the A’s 6-1 victory on Monday.

The last victory that can be credited to the right handed lineup (8/23 started with the righties, but the winning runs/go ahead runs were scored with leftie side) was all the way back to Aug. 22 in a 5-2 victory.

The A’s are leading the league in on-base plus slugging percentage of .327 vs. right-handers while ranking 12th vs. lefties at .314 (and last in team BA at .240). In other statistics, a rough accumulation of WAR stats – offensive Wins Above Replacement – is 2.0 in favor of the left-handed hitting line-up.

This year, The A’s utilized platoons at five positions – catcher, first base, second base, DH and since the Cespedes trade, now left field.

All-Stars Brandon Moss, who was .268 before the All-Star Break, who can play the outfield corners and first base, and catcher Derek Norris, .294 before the break, had been so hot at the plate that they had earned starts against same-side pitchers. Not so the case anymore, but Moss still has a better average than Jonny Gomes, his rightie replacement, vs lefthanders (.274 for Moss vs. .218 for Gomes).

The A’s second base platoon of Sogard-Callaspo-Nick Punto has not produced. Never a strong hitter at the major league level, Sogard seems to lack the ability to hit after having impressive spring trainings, posting .152 versus LH and a .233 versus RH but he does have far superior defensive ability over Callaspo who is just .254 vs LH and .194 vs RH. The team may have to risk the .040 loss in BA to go with a sure glove and wider range up the middle. On the plus-side, Sogard’s overall OBP of .306 outweighs Callaspo’s .295.  (Many thought this was the one area the A’s would upgrade prior to the trade and Aug 31 roster deadline.)

Some of the A’s lefties namely Adam Dunn cannot hit southpaws. He has a career .154 vs LH pitching so the platoon should still be used for DH allowing Gomes or Craig Gentry some playing time

Now that his team is getting healthy again, manager Bob Melvin should be able to post a consistent lineup every game. The A’s have plenty of bench depth to allow for days off for some players, but stability and production is needed best by playing the top producers for the next three-plus weeks to gain ground and hopefully into the post-season.

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