Most baseball seasons, we end up asking questions about a platoon, and whoever is answering those questions usually grimaces and says that he does not like the word platoon. Which makes sense. Because the word platoon suggests an equal distribution of duties between two or more individuals charged with accomplishing a specific task. In the army, a platoon might be charged with clearing an enemy stronghold, with individual soldiers as platoon members. In baseball, the task is manning a position, and the individuals are usually a right-handed batter and and a left-handed batter. Problem is, the duties can't be distributed equally, because there are far more situations that require a left-handed batter than a right-handed batter, because there are far more right-handed pitchers in the majors than there are left-handed pitchers.
Take, for example, the first two weeks of the Phillies' regular season schedule. Thanks to the fine work by Jason Martinez over at MLBDepthCharts.com, we can quickly piece together a projected slate of pitchers that the Phillies would likely face if the season were to start today:
- April 1 - Tim Hudson (R)
- April 2 - OFF
- April 3 - Kris Medlen (R)
- April 4 - Mike Minor (L)
- April 5 - Wade Davis (R)
- April 6 - Bruce Chen (L)
- April 7 - James Shields (R)
- April 8 - Jon Niese (L)
- April 9 - Shaun Marcum (R)
- April 10 - Matt Harvey (R)
- April 11 - OFF
- April 12 - Jacob Turner (R)
- April 13 - Ricky Nolasco (R)
- April 14 - Henderson Alvarez (R)
That's nine righties and three lefties, which means the left-handed member of the platoon will likely get three times as many plate appearances as the right-handed member. Point is, while we often address a position by saying, "Oh, well they can just platoon," the left-handed member of the platoon is still, by far, the most important player. And, for all intents and purposes, is the team's "regular."
I bring this up because the Phillies currently have three right-handed outfielders who are in play for the two corner spots. Two of those outfielders are John Mayberry Jr. and Delmon Young, both of whom have hit lefties very well in their careers. Last year, Young logged 189 appearances against lefties, posting a .308/.333/.500 line for an OPS that is close to his career mark of .824. Which is all well and good, except that, again, the bulk of plate appearances in right field are going to come against righties, and Young hit just .247/.279/.370 in 419 tries against them for a .649 OPS.
Delmon Young, OPS and PAs vs. RHP
2007 - .714 (509)
2008 - .720 (437)
2009 - .685 (282)
2010 - .781 (419)
2011 - .670 (361)
2012 - .649 (419)
To put the above numbers in perspective, the left-handed Domonic Brown has a career .736 OPS in 383 plate appearances against righties (.243/.324/.412). So Brown's career mark against righties is significantly better than the mark Delmon Young has posted against righties in five of his six professional seasons. Which is why I wrote today that I fail to see any benefit in the Phillies entering the season with Young as their every day right fielder. As Dennis Logue (@denlogue) wrote on Twitter this morning, "Every criticism of Brown also applies to D. Young. Plus, Young is older. . ."
I raised this point to Charlie Manuel yesterday. He said, and I'm paraphrasing, "That's why we're going to throw them all out there (in spring training) and see what happens."
Thing is, Manuel also said that Delmon Young is a question mark for Opening Day, and will likely be behind in spring training, because of an ankle surgery. So it is getting to the point where it seems like the Phillies will need to look for a reason not to have Brown as their starting right fielder on Opening Day.
Even if Young is healthy, I don't see the sense in using him as anything other than the right-handed complement to Brown in right field or Laynce Nix in left field, with Darin Ruf or John Mayberry as the other right-handed complement.