Platoon DHs on the Loose

In line with our Fabulous Split Week here at FanGraphs, this post will utilize the framework for estimating hitter platoon skill outlined on Monday. If you crave more details, read that post, or, even better, take a look at the sections from The Book on which it is based. Today, I’ll apply this analysis to four of the remaining DH-ish players left on the free agent market. This will allow us to set aside issues of defense and get a simple overview at how platoon skill effects the value of some hitters. Recalling Monday’s post, platoon skills are regressed to the mean (here based on league-wide splits 2007-2009), moreso for righties (regressed against 2200 PA) than for lefties (1000 PA).* For the projected overall wOBA, I use CHONE’s projections as listed on the FanGraphs player pages.

* David Appelman informs me that the “career splits” pages only include stats starting in 2002. That’s helpful in this case because we’re getting the more recent data for older players, although platoon skills usually don’t change much over most players’ careers. But keep in mind that the “career” numbers listed below are post-2002.

Let’s begin with some lefties:

Russell Branyan
Career Split: 15.2% (437 PA v LHP)
Regressed: 10.6%
CHONE projected wOBA: .359
Estimated wOBA vs. RHP: .367
Estimated wOBA vs. LHP: .329

Like most saber-nerds, I love talking about Russell Branyan. Although he has a platoon-guy rep, in 2009, when he got more PAs against LHP than ever before in his major-league career, he hit well against them (.345 wOBA). It’s still a small sample, but it does show that sometimes regression to the mean happens right before our eyes. Branyan actually projects as about league average vs. LHP. His back is problematic and he probably went into the off-season with unrealistic expectations about what he could get in free agency, but it’s hard to believe he won’t find a starting job before Opening Day.

Carlos Delgado
Career Split: 18.2% (1400 PA v LHP)
Regressed: 14.2%
CHONE projected wOBA: .337
Estimated wOBA vs. RHP: .352
Estimated wOBA vs. LHP: .304

In an earlier post on free agent 1B/DHes, I hinted that the once-great Delgado might want to consider hanging it up. But this is a case where a larger split makes a guy more valuable with a decent platoon partner.

Hank Blalock
Career Split: 21.8% (1060 PA v LHP)
Regressed: 15.4%
CHONE projected wOBA: .328
Estimated wOBA vs. RHP: .342
Estimated wOBA vs. LHP: .291

It may seem like Hank Blalock was good just a couple years ago, but it’s really been six. He has even a bigger splits than Delgado, but he’s also not as good of a hitter in general. A .342 wOBA part-time DH can be useful, but not often.

And now some righties…

Jermaine Dye
Career Split: 9.1% (1196 PA v LHP)
Regressed: 7.1%
CHONE projected wOBA: .345
Estimated wOBA vs. RHP: .338
Estimated wOBA vs. LHP: .363

Dye seems to have realized he can’t play the field anymore, which is good. Given how long he’s been in the league relative to Ryan Garko (discussed in Monday’s post), that their estimated split is almost exactly the same points to how much observed RHH platoon splits need to be taken with a grain of salt.

Johny Gomes
Career Split: 15.4% (600 PA v LHP)
Regressed: 8.1%
CHONE projected wOBA: .336
Estimated wOBA vs. RHP: .327
Estimated wOBA vs. LHP: .354

Now this is a righty with a big split, although not as big as people think. Despite Gomes’ reputation, his estimated platoon split isn’t any bigger than the average lefty split. Of course, he’s only about average against RHP.

This small selection reflects what we’d generally expect — lefties have larger splits that vary more widely. This implies that when setting up a platoon, given similar defensive skills (or lack thereof), the key is finding a lefty with a big split, and to find a RHH who is a decent overall hitter. And, of course, there’s the issue of whether bringing in a platoon partner is worth the roster spot. For example, given that the expected performance of Gomes and Dye (the lesser half of the platon) vs. LHP isn’t that much better than Branyan’s overall projection. On the other hand, on the right team, Gomes or Dye + Delgado might make sense.

We hoped you liked reading Platoon DHs on the Loose by Matt Klaassen!

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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

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Kevin S.
Kevin S.

In line with our Fabulous Split Week here at FanGraphs,

Ha, first thing I thought when I saw the tweet about this post was “Man, it’s Splits Week at Fangraphs.” Love the stuff you guys are bringing – the new data is not going to waste.