Death of the Platoon?

Death of the Platoon?

Ernie Whitt

Everyone complains about the price of players, but no one does anything about it — even though platoons, especially in corner positions, often provide above-average production for below-average cost, if you can spare the extra roster spot.

Kelly Gruber 

Growing up as a Jays fan in the 80’s, I watched many great platoon combinations. These include:

  • Rick Leach, Juan Beniquez DH
  • Ernie Whitt, Buck Martinez C
  • Pat Borders, Greg Myers C
  • Rance Mulliniks, Garth Iorg 3B
  • Rance Mulliniks, Kelly Gruber 3B
  • Fred McGriff, Cecil Fielder 1B
  • Lenny Dykstra, Mookie Wilson CF (honourable mention)

Rance Mulliniks

These days platoons are few and far between. The following are players who are cost effective and could add punch to a lineup that can spare the roster spot if they are plugged into the appropriate role:

Josh Phelps

Phelps feasts against lefties hitting .314/.392/.500 against them. He also has potential 30 HR power if he improves his effectiveness .vs RHP as he has been doing the last few years. Even so, put him in solely against lefties for a value play.

Jonny Gomes

Gomes has fallen out of favour with the Rays due to them having a crazy-deep farm system and young guns pushing Gomes out of the way. Gomes’ 2006 season was a write off due to a mangled shoulder, though he showed improvement in 2007 where he still dominated lefties hitting .313/.376/.542. He is another cost effective option that is a 30HR power threat.

Bobby Kielty

If ever there was a candidate for being a platoon player, Kielty is it. Kielty has absolutely mashed LHP throughout his career and been miserable against righties. Although the sample size in 2007 is too small to discern any real trends, in 2006 Kielty went off on southpaws, hitting a pretty .325/.358/.607.  This guy could be had for the league minimum and would fit nicely with a left handed hitting slugger who gets killed by lefties.

Garth Iorg

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  • I think that the problem is multi-faceted. Number one the agents are going to throw a huge stink if a player they represent is relegated to platoon duty.

    The other big factor is that most solid platoon candidates eat up left handed pitching. Some teams may only get to see 1 or 2 lefties a week, max. This really hampers the platoon situation.

    Personally I love platooning. As you said in the article, it really comes down to roster spots. 11 Pitchers is the norm (with some pulling 12 for stretches), leaving only six non starting hitters in the NL & 5 in the AL. A backup catcher is an absolute must, so each AL team is essentially down to four backups.

    After the Jays acquired Scutaro, it looks like the 2008 roster is all filled up. I’ve heard JP say that Reed & Stairs will split time in 2008. One has to figure Scutaro & another infielder (adams maybe) will backup, and they have Wells, Lind, Rios, Reed, & Stairs in the outfield. That’s all of the roster spots (including the backup C) with an 11 man staff and Thomas in the DH role.

  • In the 70s and 80s pitching staffs were smaller, carrying 9-10 pitchers instead of 11-12. There go two platoons out the window. I suppose that most teams still platoon catchers. Teams usually carry one lefty and one righty backstop.

  • Not as much as in the past. Off of the top of my head,

    AL East:

    Varitek, Posada, Hernandez, Zaun, Navarro

    AL Central:

    AJ Per, Martinez, Pudge, Mauer, Buck

    In the West I think the platoon is prevalent. If I recall, didn’t you do an article last year stating that Platoon’s behind the plate were a better risk then 1 catcher straight up (might have been a comment).

  • I just went and looked over some stats and I know that injuries were a big reason but the A’s had only 3 players with 140 games or more played last season (or even over 125), a rarity in today’s game.

  • I did do an article on that. The Jays had an platoon with Molina/Zaun in 2006 and it was more valuable in ways of prodcution vs salary in a VORP way than the Yankees and BoSox had with their catchers.

    The catching position is still where you have any resemblance of a platoon in broad generalities. The stud catcher will still play far less behind the plate than other studs. Posada caught the equivalent of 124 games for the Yanks, dispite MVP quality production.