I’m off the bandwagon, so I can gleefully point to Adam Dunn’s 4-SO performance on Sunday night. He really hasn’t been able to hit the fastball this year…Justin Morneau‘s disabled list stint will be extended for over a month. He has elected to get neck surgery to remove a herniated disk fragment, which means he should be cut in all shallow leagues…David Freese was just activated off the disabled list. He’ll be a serviceable bat at a depleted position…Carlos Gonzalez whacked another 2 HR yesterday. He’s batting over .300 since that awful April (and over .330 in June) with 11 HR and 9 SB, which means you should have landed him about a month ago… Brett Lawrie has been pushed off until August.
We have all but reached the midway point of the season (most teams will hit 81 this weekend), effectively slicing our season in two. It therefore feels apropos to speak of advantages to be gotten off of splits. The concept of the platoon has bounced around baseball for nearly a century, as Bill James so eloquently presents in his Historical Baseball Abstract. Cooperstown managers Casey Stengel (Joe Collins, Bill Skowron anyone?) and Earl Weaver popularized the platoon, and the pairing of bats has maintained a foothold in the game ever since. Since the slightest jump can propel a squad to victory, we owners should delve into the possible benefits of running a “platoon” – or even simply benching a player – for our fantasy teams.
That being said, we need to identify where significant splits lie for players. If you haven’t read about Josh Hamilton’s hitting woes during the day, check them out here. I’m still not sure what to make of a blue-eyed Day/Night split, so I’ll hold back judgment for now. But clearly some players hit lefties better than righties, throw better under the bright lights, and destroy the ball more often in Coors than the Trop. We’ve heard of famous ones (think Matt Joyce), but let’s take a look at a bunch of players that display split personalities.
1B/OF Michael Cuddyer – My kingdom for a lefty! A righty, Cuddyer has always leaned heavily in favor of the platoon advantage, but in 2011 all hell has broken loose. Michael has a respectable ten HR (267 AB) on the year, but six of them have come in only 71 AB against southpaws. Start him over anyone and everyone when a lefty faces him on the mound.
OF Curtis Granderson – 9 HR in 91 AB versus lefties, and not the only Yankee to ignore platoon disadvantages (Robinson Cano). But then again, you shouldn’t be benching him against anyone.
SS Hanley Ramirez – Oddly enough, he’s generally batted better against the platoon advantage, but that hasn’t repeated this season. He’s hitting .218 overall, but .349 vs. lefties. I’d start him with impunity anyway, but certainly with this information.
1B/OF Carlos Lee – Not a lot of HR when facing southpaws, but I’d take a .333/.373/.536 any day of the week.
SS Eric Aybar – Look, his struggles with lefties has not been an issue throughout his career, but he flat out cannot hit them at the moment. Bench him in most formats versus lefties if you have the spot.
OF Carlos Gonzalez – Uh oh, we have found a dual split-ster. Not only does the outfielder give up 275 points of OPS when facing lefties (.311 vs. R, .219 vs. L), he can’t hit outside of Coors Field. (If this doesn’t explain the power of Coors, I’m not sure what will.) In 2010, the outfielder was absolutely dynamite at home, hitting 26 HR at a .380 clip, while only having eight round trippers and a .289 AVG on the road. This year, Coors is at it again: Gonzalez possesses seven of his eleven HR away from home, and his batting average vaults up more than 90 points by entering the mountain air (.327/.230). He’ll probably steal more often on the road – especially in the depressed run environments of his division. Don’t ever fear benching him against Luebke in Petco Park (San Diego).
OF Justin Upton – Is he also simply a product of his park? Upton’s home OPS from 2008-10 sits at .918, while his road OPS was a down-to-earth .763. He’s continued this trend in 2011; ten of his twelve homers occurred in the friendly confines of Chase Field, and his average that is one hundred points better there(.358/.253). It’s not a good idea to sit Upton down in any situation, but if your league is shallow enough, you might be able to avoid sending him to Busch Stadium (July 7-10).
Los Angeles Dodgers – Did you know that the Dodgers possess four .300 hitters? Or that being a Dodger slices off twenty points of batting average? The Dodgers have hit .274 on the road, but only a paltry .239 in the Ravine. The quartet of OF Matt Kemp (having an MVP year anyway), OF Andre Ethier, 2B/SS Jamey Carroll, and IF Aaron Miles all sport .330+ batting averages on the road. That’s some elite contact hitting. Neither Ethier nor Kemp deserve to be benched in any format. But the other two could deserve some ‘split’ love. Carroll in particular has lit it up on the road, pounding out 49 hits in 128 AB (.383 AVG). If and when Dee Gordon gets demoted to AAA, Carroll looks to be a solid spot start for those looking to defend AVG. He’ll need to find AB in a group that includes Furcal, Uribe, and Miles, though. (Sidebar: How does someone have 8 RBI at this point in 275+ PA? That is an impressive feat.)
Pitching (Fantasy pitchers don’t quite get used against only lefties or righties)
James Shields – Day – I’m guessing nobody can handle the changeup during the day. (1.10 ERA, 6 GS) Has also been unhittable at the Trop.
Jaime Garcia – Home – Finally, a split with some practical use! Garcia is human outside of Busch Stadium, and absolutely untouchable at home. (0.88 ERA, 7 GS)
Paul Maholm – Home – This feels like a small sample size issue, but Maholm has been about a run better at home for years now. This year, it has extended to 2.5 runs. (2.08 ERA, 9 GS)
Ubaldo Jimenez – Road – This wouldn’t be the first year that Jimenez has posted better results away from Coors. But then again, that shouldn’t be surprising. (2.14 ERA, 6 GS)
Jeff Karstens – Night – He has also pitched better in PNC Park. Not that I think throwing Karstens anywhere is a great idea, but home night games feel safe. (1.84 ERA, 8 GS)
San Diego Padres – Home – There’s a tremendous difference between the 2.99/1.22 ERA and WHIP the Padres sport at home and the 3.88/1.39 ratings they’ve got on the road. Clayton Richard defines what Petco means to the pitchers. He’s been destroyed on the road – the ERA is nearly six through nine starts – while he continues to succeed at home, with a 2.25 ERA through seven starts. (And yet he’s 0-5 at home. They really could use some hitting.) Aaron Harang (DL) and Matt Latos both are over one run better per nine at home, while Stauffer is slightly better on the cavernous grounds. Only Dustin Moseley has proven immune to the park’s penchant for wiping out left handed hitters. If you can afford to stash starters who can pitch half of the time, Petco Park is a nice place to do it.
Washington Nationals – Home – Not including Jordan Zimmerman, arguably the ace of the staff and hardest to spot start, the Nationals’ next four starters have compiled a 12-5 record with an ERA of 2.35 at home. On the road? 7-16, 4.97 ERA. Think removing Roy Halladay, inserting Travis Wood. That’s a sensational differential.
Statistical deviations clearly can help us prevail.
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