Lewis and Gomes: Perfect Platoon Partners

No, it’s not the newest cop buddymovie set in southern Ohio. Instead, the combination of newly-inked Fred Lewis and current Red Jonny Gomes could be the solution to one of the few holes remaining on the Cincinnati Reds roster: left field. Although it remains to be seen if that’s the way that Dusty Baker will use this pair, a platoon of Fred Lewis and Jonny Gomes should be productive in 2011.

Neither Gomes nor Lewis are great or even good players, and that comes from their lack of defensive value. Gomes is appalling at times in the outfield and posted a -16 UZR in his first full-time gig of his career. Lewis isn’t nearly as bad as Gomes, but after a poor season last year we can probably say that he is average at best. Both are decent hitters – Lewis has a career wRC+ of 108, Gomes has a career wRC+ of 109 – but those just aren’t the kind of sticks that plays well with bad corner defense.

Despite their faults, Gomes and Lewis possess one fantastic quality which can overcome their individual mediocrity. Gomes is right-handed and Lewis is left-handed, and both perform significantly better against opposite-handed pitchers. Against RHPs, Lewis has a career wRC+ of 114, well above Gomes’ mark of 96. The spread on the other side of the plate is even greater: Gomes carries a career wRC+ of 136 against lefties against a mark of 80 from Lewis.

According to ZiPS, both Lewis and Gomes are projected to be closer to a 100 wRC+ overall than their career marks, and we should adjust our expectations of their platoon numbers down accordingly. Still, between the two hitters, we’re looking at something closer to a 120 wRC+ (think Torii Hunter’s .354 OBP and .464 SLG for the Angels last year) than the 100 that they are projected for individually.

With more Lewis and less Gomes out in the field, this platoon would be significantly better against right-handed pitching and in the field while still benefiting from Gomes’s stellar production against lefties. Although the sum of Fred Lewis and Jonny Gomes is merely two mediocre players, their pairing in Cincinnati’s left field could be a substantial boost to a team with stiff competition to repeat as NL Central champions.

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I too like this move. It’s the best way to get the most out of two players with known flaws. Now throw Chris Heisey out there as a defensive replacement for both of them and you have something even better. The whole thing is a relatively low cost solution to a problem.

The Reds are stacked with #3,4, or 5 starters in the minors-at least two of which are left handers. The next thing they should do is find a real shortstop upgrade. Jose Reyes, anyone?