2013 Fantasy BaseballFantasy Baseball

Platoon Advantage: Center Fielders

Millions of people bought Moneyball and millions of others watched the movie. Many of them came away with the idea that the revolution in analytics was all about on base percentage. They were wrong. If you even generalized that to looking at offense differently you would still be wrong. The idea behind Moneyball and the way that the Oakland Athletics (and now most of baseball) do business is to find value where others do not. In that particular case, it happened to be OBP specifically and offense in general, but it doesn’t have to be.

Is it any wonder that the Athletics use platoons more than most teams? The implication is that they have found value in it where other teams have not. Vince Gennaro mentions it in his landmark book Diamond Dollars. Having met Mr. Gennaro I can honestly say he is one of the nicest and brightest people in the business. He didn’t invent the idea of the platoon (anymore than Billy Beane invented on base percentage). He simply used what others had done before and organized it into something that made sense economically. Beg, borrow, and steal is the phrase we often use in the education business. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Just go over to someone else’s wheel and borrow the ideas for your own.

If you listed to the last fantasyfix podcast with Brett Talley, you heard us discuss the limitations to platoons. Sometimes, your platoon partners are facing pitchers that pitch from the same side. Sometimes you have limited bench slots. Obviously, you can get bogged down on draft day by thinking too far ahead. Instead, use the following information as a general guide for how you value players. I’ll help out by pointing out some obvious examples in a minute.

Bats

TAVR

TAVL

DIFF

Curtis Granderson

L

.300

.277

.023

B.J. Upton

R

.271

.284

.013

Jacoby Ellsbury

L

.289

.265

.024

Alejandro De Aza

L

.289

.271

.018

Dexter Fowler

B

.273

.286

.013

Austin Jackson

R

.286

.282

.004

Michael Bourn

L

.271

.255

.016

Coco Crisp

B

.279

.252

.027

Angel Pagan

B

.285

.271

.014

Jon Jay

L

.288

.263

.025

The balanced list leaves a lot to be desired at this position. This could lead you to want to platoon here, but we must remember that depends on the rules that govern your outfield. I happen to play in league that splits them up by position, but many others ask you to start three or five generic outfielders. Instead of pinpointing anything specifically, I invite you to compare many of these players with the players to come in the next list. In particular, B.J. Upton and Jacoby Ellsbury are being way overdrafted in most leagues. Players focus on one or two brilliant seasons and forget about the career in total so far.

On the other hand, Dexter Fowler offers a unique sort of platoon advantage you don’t see very often. It isn’t shown here, but his home and road splits are extreme even for a Rockie. At home he has a career slash line of .295/.395/.487. On the road he would barely qualify as a benchwarmer with a paltry .248/.331/.367. Remember, we are looking for value wherever we can find it, so you can always keep him as an extra and only start him when he is playing at home. Otherwise, many of these players are overvalued for one reason or another, so it pays to look for alternatives.

Bats

TAVR

TAVL

DIFF

Shin Soo Choo

L

.326

.243

.083

Adam Jones

R

.295

.265

.030

David Dejesus

L

.295

.204

.091

Colby Rasmus

L

.260

.224

.036

For my money, Shin Soo Choo is the most underdrafted player going so far. It’s all about finding value where others do not. If you take him strictly against right-handed pitchers, he is more valuble than both Carlos Gonzalez and Justin Upton. It’s a constant battle I have with others within the industry. Do you want the steak itself or do you want the sizzle? Live long enough and you will see servers preparing Bananas Foster by the table. The crowd oohs and ahs as the flames approach the ceiling. At the end of the day you have a good dessert, but is it as good as a bowl of ice cream with chocolate syrup and a brownie?

In the same way, David Dejesus will go undrafted in a lot of leagues. All you have to do is make sure you sit those guys down against left handed pitching. You don’t have to necessarily take a strong lefty counter option. You can take a balanced guy like Jon Jay or Alejandro De Aza and simply plug him on those days. That being said, you can find some surprisingly good options that can be had at the very end of your draft or even after.

Bats

TAVR

TAVL

DIFF

Matt Kemp

R

.301

.376

.075

Andrew McCutchen

R

.299

.354

.055

Franklin Gutierrez

R

.213

.331

.118

Justin Maxwell

R

.242

.304

.062

Chris Young

R

.251

.302

.051

Lorenzo Cain

R

.254

.292

.038

Again, we are talking about recognizing value where others do not. Be honest, how many of you had Franklin Gutierrez on your draft list? I know I didn’t. That’s because we are looking at the whole player and not the sum of his parts. I wouldn’t be caught dead playing him against any right-handed pitcher, but against lefties he is one of the top hitters in the league. He would make a perfectly good platoon partner with someone like Choo or Dejesus. Of course, there are limitations there.

If you play in a generic outfield league then you are in great shape on draft day. All you have to do is look at the whole outfield universe and choose one guy that mashes lefties and one that mashes righties to stash on your bench. That way, you will normally be able to plug one of them in just one of your slots. Just remember you are playing the percentages. Gutierrez is not better than 95 percent of the outfield universe, but on days when the Mariners are facing a lefty, he is among the top five or ten percent of baseball. Think of the platoon advantage as a way to simply think more creatively than the rest of the guys in your league.

 

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