Graph of the Intermittent Time Period

In his latest column, the great Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly mentions the plethora of right-handed bats the Phillies could target to platoon with some left-handed hitter in right field, be it Domonic Brown or Ross Gload. Three of those hitters are free agents (Matt Diaz, Jeff Francoeur, and Scott Hairston) while seven different options (Juan Rivera, Josh Willingham, Mike Morse, Aaron Rowand, Cody Ross, Delmon Young, and Michael Cuddyer) could be acquired in a trade.

Since the role of the right-handed hitter would be to perform well against southpaw pitchers, let’s take a look at just how good each hitter performs in that match-up going by weighted on-base average (wOBA), my preferred metric for analyzing offensive production.

Click the chart below to view a larger version.

An average wOBA is equal to the league average on-base percentage. Last year excepting, that OBP has been around .330 to .335. So all ten hitters are above-average when facing LHP, but only four have been elite hitters against them. Jeff Francoeur is the worst realistic option — no surprise there — while post-season pest Cody Ross and Phillie-killer Matt Diaz are among the best.

Going by only 2010 performance, we see that the two Nationals and two Twins — Morse, Willingham, Young, and Cuddyer — performed better than their career averages while Hairston and Rowand notably under-performed. Francoeur stayed right around his career average, which is nothing to write home about.

As mentioned in this article, the Phillies should be aiming to minimize variance. Players like Morse and Young both hit very well against lefties in 2010, but well above what they had traditionally hit against lefties over their careers. While they certainly could have made some adjustments at the plate, which would explain the better performance, it is still very likely that their production regresses to the mean. The Phillies would then be paying essentially for 2010-level production when they should be expecting something smaller.

Thus, it seems that among the ten candidates, Willingham is the best option with Ross a close runner-up. Both have had very consistent production against lefties over the last three years and that production has always been elite.

If GM Ruben Amaro decides that the price tags on those two outfielders are too hefty, he can fall back on a reliable in-house option by the name of Ben Francisco. He has a career .352 wOBA against lefties over his career and hit .384 against them last year. Francisco is arbitration eligible for the first time, meaning he’s cost controlled through 2013. If the Phillies give Francisco enough playing time between now and then, and he emerges into a productive player, they could potentially earn some draft pick compensation if and when he leaves for free agency whereas players like Francoeur and Rowand would not provide that benefit.

When it comes to filling this roster spot, Amaro needs to swing for the fences or go home. Go get Willingham or Ross, or be happy with a very affordable and familiar face in Francisco.

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21 comments

  1. Mitre

    December 07, 2010 08:19 AM

    all this talk of platoon options in RF. I would not be averse to seeing a platoon in LF too. we talked a lot about (but never got to see) a Ibanez/Francisco platoon last year. Get one of these RH guys on board for a platoon roll on a WFC contender! Then let the five outfielders compete with each other for PA! Might hekp avoid those long offensive slumps we saw in ’10.

  2. Bill Baer

    December 07, 2010 08:24 AM

    Step 1: Give Dom Brown 600 PA in RF
    Step 2: Platoon Francisco with Ibanez in LF
    Step 3: ????
    Step 4: PROFIT!

  3. Cole Handsome

    December 07, 2010 09:36 AM

    Mike Morse? I’m sure pitchers were zoning out when they heard the scouting report on him. I agree that Willingham is the answer, but Rizzo is a notoriously bad deal-maker–rated as one of the worst GMs on trades (by other GMs, even before the Werth contract).
    Let’s call it as we see it–below Ross and Cuddyer, you have the Francisco imitators–no value added.
    Who exactly is signing up for the Francoeur reclamation project? (well, Rube) I’d rather rehab Milton Bradley, because at least he’s knows a walk from a strikeout.

  4. css228

    December 07, 2010 10:33 AM

    Who would we have to give up to get Willingham?

  5. nik

    December 07, 2010 10:52 AM

    No way do you give up Singleton for one year of Willingham. That’s absurd.

  6. Cole Handsome

    December 07, 2010 10:52 AM

    Singleton is too highly rated by the organization (as the long-term replacement for Ryan Howard). Why would they not deal him for Oswalt, only to deal him after good returns in trying to convert him to the outfield. Baked Rizzotti is a good bet or maybe Kyle Kendrick (they would have to bring in someone in that case–take a flier on a Rich Harden, keep Vance Worley on ice and try the oh shit button if that fails).
    Willingham makes about 6 mil on arbitration and is in a contract year. I bet those knees will be fine.

  7. Bill Baer

    December 07, 2010 10:55 AM

    Well, the Phillies have to offer something of greater value than the first round and sandwich picks the Nationals will get when Willingham is declared a Type A free agent and declines arbitration.

    In other words, offering them a package fit for Ed Wade (i.e. Kyle Kendrick and John Mayberry) won’t work.

  8. Cole Handsome

    December 07, 2010 11:04 AM

    John Mayberry has no trade value. He’s a wasted roster spot at this point. Kendrick has value. The Phillies could offer any prospect not named Singleton or Cosart with Kendrick and have a viable deal (I guess that includes Worley, Colvin, Julio Rodriguez, Aumont and Rizzotti).
    Werth contract notwithstanding, paying one year’s arbitration to Willingham and offering another year is not an easy proposal, considering they will not compete this year. Granted, they could wait to trade Willingham, but if he gets hurt again he will be worthless and not even Type A.

  9. SABR

    December 07, 2010 02:32 PM

    The Phillies would be reducing their variance by signing Francouer. He is remarkably consistent at being a terrible baseball player.

  10. Aaron H

    December 07, 2010 03:59 PM

    Why should the Phillies give up a mid-level to strong prospect that may only give us a half-season’s worth of PAs? I’m still hoping that RAJ gets some sense and realizes that Francisco would be just fine as the platoon partner.

    And also, I think we might need to organize a season ticket boycott if the Phils pick up Francoeur…

  11. Nik

    December 07, 2010 05:01 PM

    I have no problem with Frenchy. He’s younger than Mayberry Jr, got a lifetime .824 OPS vs Lefties, and has a cannon for an arm. Even with his drawbacks, we’re going to be asking him for something like 200 ABs and he’ll be decent off the bench.

  12. Dan

    December 07, 2010 05:32 PM

    Picking up Frenchy would make me want to punch a baby.

    But realistically speaking, if anyone can “fix” his plate approach, it would be Charlie. Could be worse. But I’d rather have Diaz, to be honest.

  13. css228

    December 07, 2010 06:24 PM

    So what about Ross? What kind of deal is necessary to get him from San Fran? I feel like it would cost us more than Willingham, but only because of the playoffs and the PR hit San Fran would take by dealing him to Philly.

  14. alex

    December 07, 2010 07:59 PM

    how come there is no talk of having Francisco play full time in RF? he does pretty solid work against lefties and against righties hes below average, but hes faster and not as terrible with the glove as everyone else being considered…unless Ibanez gets moved I’d let Francisco fill in until Brown is ready to play full time

  15. css228

    December 08, 2010 09:46 AM

    Diaz is gone. Another option away. I just wish the Phils would do something anything, though preferably it’d be snatching Feliciano.

  16. Nik

    December 08, 2010 01:51 PM

    Frenchy is gone too.

  17. hk

    December 08, 2010 02:04 PM

    According to MLBTR, Frenchy signed with KC. We can all now breathe a sigh of relief.

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