Outfield Platoons

I know I'm not alone in my disappointment with the corner outfielders this year.  Nixon started off the year on fire, but has since settled into a bad stretch. Dellucci has been next to useless in key at-bats and his defense has been nothing to write home about.  I find myself cringing whenever these two guys come up to bat now, it's really been that ugly at times (as I type this, Dellucci hits a 3 run homer....awesome, but he still isn't off the hook).  I really can't complain about Michaels, but he seems to get a lot fewer at bats compared to Dellucci.  The table below shows the splits for all three platoon outfielders for the 2007 season, up to June 13.

Pitcher    Bats    Player         AB       BA      OBP     SLG     OPS     BA w/ RISP
Lefty       Left     Dellucci       23     .174      .208     .261      .469         .163
Righty                                 140    .250     .308     .407      .715  
Lefty         Left      Nixon       45     .222     .275      .289      .563        .226
Righty                                 131    .260     .355      .366      .722  
Lefty         Right    Michaels   59       .288     .377      .492      .868        .346
Righty                                  52       .250     .264      .385      .649  

As a platoon, each player's at-bats obviously correlate with the type of pitcher they've historically had the most success against. Dellucci and Nixon have seen about the same number of at-bats and neither has been much better than the other offensively.  The only standout stat is Nixon's .226 BA with runners in scoring position compared toDellucci's miserable .163.

Meanwhile, Michaels is sitting with a .868 OPS and a .346 BA with RISP.  J-Mike also sports better range in left field, making several game altering catches this season.

It's unfortunate that both left-handed platoon bats have failed to make a significant impact so far, since there is no easy alternative for Wedge other than to give them playing time.  First, Wedge is notoriously stubborn and will likely stick with the pure platoon all season, even though the two lefties lack of production arguably cancels out any benefits of matching up a righty bat in the lineup against a lefty pitcher.  Second, benching Dellucci/Nixon for an extended period of time would likely create some dissent in the clubhouse.  Taking scheduled at-bats from the team's veteran leadership is not the message Wedge wants to send to the rest of the team.

To add another layer to the issue, Casey Blake has been playing some of the best baseball of his career with solid defense in right and third (a 22 game hit streak doesn't hurt either).  At the beginning of the year Michaels had to split time with three other players, but now that Blake has moved to third base full time and Dellucci and Nixon are struggling, you would think Michaels would see more time right?  Nope, still a benchwarmer more often than not.

Given how upset Michaels gets with himself for so much as striking out, his confidence is probably suffering as he watches Dellucci misread flyballs in left and flail away at the plate.  Dellucci has done nothing to deserve 32% more at-bats than Michaels this season.  Dellucci (.208 OBP) batting second in the lineup instead of J-Mike (.377 OBP) only exacerbates the issue.  The biggest strength of a platoon is its flexibility, whether that means matching up against a pitcher or playing the hot hand to maximize production.

What do you all think of how the outfield has been managed so far this season?

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