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The Platoon Advantage: Catcher Edition

Leave it to our readers to give us the best article ideas. Someone read my article on the platoon advantage and reached out to me via Twitter. He asked if I had a listing of which players had the biggest splits. Of course, I didn’t because I hadn’t bothered with the research yet, but the suggestion got my synapses firing. So, over the next few weeks I’ll break down each position based on the platoon splits against righties and lefties. We will start off our journey with the catchers. Before we do, let’s define some terms and lay down some ground rules.

To make life easier on us all, I will use an all encompassing tool that Baseball Prospectus uses called Total Average (TAV). Total average was created to encompass everything a hitter does into one number that resembles batting average. It is adjusted for ballpark effects and represents a quick reference for us. Like with real baseball, .260 represents the league average. So, anything .300 or above represents what we might call all-star performance and anything much below .250 represents someone that really shouldn’t be playing regularly. The numbers you will see represent the career averages for all of the players.

We are splitting players into three different categories. The first category are guys that are balanced in their splits. Of course, we are not differentiating by the quality of the performance here, but in general you want players that are balanced. You don’t have to pull them based on their splits, so you can dedicate your bench slots to another position. That being said, you can go too far with this philosophy as you can imagine when you see some of the players on the list.

Yadier Molina





Carlos Ruiz





A.J. Ellis





Chris Iannetta





Mike Napoli





Brian McCann





J.P. Arencibia





Wilson Ramos





John Buck





We can split this list in half between guys we would want to draft and guys we really shouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. For one, John Buck is nice and balanced and all, but both halves are below the league average. The same is true for someone like J.P. Arencibia although he might be a nice waiver claim if you need someone that is passable against lefties. That leaves the rest of the list. Yadier Molina, Mike Napoli, and Brian McCann (although he is less effective than previously thought) will undoubtedly be drafted and others like A.J. Ellis and Carlos Ruiz should be drafted but may not be for various reasons.

This leaves guys like Chris Iannetta and Wilson Ramos undrafted. If they go undrafted and you do not get one of the balanced guys, you might think of adding them to your bench to sub on days where the starter is facing a tough matchup. They are not players you want playing regularly, but putting Iannetta or Ramos in against lefties beats a lot of the options when you have catchers that dominate against right-handed pitching. Here are some catchers that mash mainly against righties.






Miguel Montero





Jarrod Saltalamacchia





Alex Avila





Jason Castro





Joe Mauer





Nick Hundley





John Jaso





A.J. Pierzynski





You don’t want to pick guys that have holes, but if you have to choose then you want players that hit against right handed pitchers. Righties make up approximately 80 percent of the baseball universe, so if you want to suffer, suffer against the 20 percent. While these players do have issues on the other side, not all issues are created the same. Joe Mauer and Miguel Montero are not producing ideally against lefties, but they produce enough to where you can keep them in the lineup. You do not want to do that with the other catchers on the list.

That being said, there are some tremendous platoon opportunities if you want to punt the catcher position on draft day. Catchers like John Jaso, A.J. Pierzynski, and Alex Avila will likely be drafted, but they will picked later on in the draft. You could easily match them up with one of the lesser catchers from the left handed list (coming shortly) and build yourself a top-flight catcher in the aggregate. If you prefer to draft a catcher that mashes against lefties you can easily add a Jason Castro, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, or Nick Hundley after the draft is over.






Matt Wieters





Ryan Hanigan





Carlos Santana





Wilin Rosario





Salvador Perez





Jonathan Lucroy





Russell Martin





Buster Posey





Buster Posey is officially unbalanced, but we have to keep that in perspective. He still produces a .296 total average against right handed pitchers. According to the contunuum at Baseball Prospectus, that would make him merely a good hitter against right handers as opposed to the Hall of Fame production he has against lefties. He is obviously a notable exception to this rule. Similarly, Carlos Santana can also be removed from consideration as he is still producing a solid .280 against right handers.

The rest of the catchers on the list represent a perfect example of how one could utilize the platoon advantage to their benefit. Matt Wieters, Wilin Rosario, and Salvador Perez will likely be drafted, but they could easily be paired with one of the lesser catchers I mentioned from above. Meanwhile, guys like Jonathan Lucroy, Russell Martin, and Ryan Hanigan are perfect complements to the lower level drafted catchers from the list of catchers that mash against righties.

Again, most leagues don’t give you the bench slots to do this at every position, but if you are thinking about punting catching until the end of the draft, you can surprise those in your league by producing some of the same numbers they do with the name players. For instance, and Jonathan Lucroy/Jason Castro platoon could net you a combo player capable of producing better than .300 (total average) in the aggregate. There might only be a handful of catchers capable of producing that total for the season. 




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