The Phillies and Platoon Splits

After the Phillies won the NL East and clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, fans began to play matchmaker. Would the Phillies rather play the lefty-heavy Arizona Diamondbacks, or the Milwaukee Brewers’ wealth of right-handed hitters? The Phillies will enter the post-season with the potential of just one lefty out of the bullpen (Antonio Bastardo), so maybe you bite the bullet and roll the dice against NL MVP candidate Ryan Braun and the Brewers’ flock of right-handers.

What is interesting about the Phillies’ pitching staff, though, is that the platoon match-ups do not work the way they do with most pitchers. Pitchers tend to perform better against same-handed hitters because they can hide the ball slightly longer and the ball appears to come from a more favorable angle. That has not been the case for the Phillies this year.

Two starters and four key relievers have performed better against opposite-handed hitters, surprisingly. With talk of the Phillies potentially adding lefty Joe Savery to the roster, that now looks superfluous after perusing this information. In a late-innings situation where the Phillies need to get a crucial lefty out — say, Prince Fielder — they can instead call upon Vance Worley and expect him to get the job done.

This is an important distinction to make because it allows the Phillies the flexibility of entering the playoffs with an 11-man pitching staff. With the questionable durability of the Phillies’ entire infield, bringing an extra infielder rather than an extra fielder can make or break the Phillies’ late-game decision-making. The debate then revolves around carrying five or six outfielders (and conversely seven or six infielders). Ben Francisco could be left off in favor of Pete Orr if the Phillies want to be very safe against any potential injuries to their infielders.

Ultimately, some people may say it is an irrelevant discussion, but each roster spot should be treated as if it matters the same as any other. And, as the Phillies experienced in 2008, you never know who is going to be a key contributor. Would you have expected Eric Bruntlett, Geoff Jenkins, and Pedro Feliz to have played big roles in the Phillies’ Game Five win over the Tampa Bay Rays? Do the best you can at maximizing each roster spot and you can safeguard against being wronged by Baseba’al.

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8 comments

  1. hk

    September 29, 2011 07:20 AM

    Bill,

    Doesn’t the manager have to consider Fielder’s platoon splits (.429 wOBA vs. RHP’s /.358 wOBA vs. LHP’s) before deciding which RP to bring in to face him?

  2. Scott G

    September 29, 2011 09:58 AM

    I was going to say the exact same thing, HK.

    I trust Fielder’s 1.046 OPS against RHP this year more than Worley’s platoon splits.

  3. BM

    September 29, 2011 10:04 AM

    I don’t really understand the “infield depth due to potential injury” thing. Between games, teams can make roster replacements for injuries.

  4. Dan

    September 29, 2011 11:08 AM

    “bringing an extra infielder rather than an extra fielder”

    Typo?

    Also, Savery brings a bit of flexibility in that he’s a hitter, too. Although he hasn’t been used as such since getting called up, he has hit the ball well in the minors. In an extreme situation, we could have him pitch and not necessarily remove him if his spot in the lineup comes up to bat.

  5. Phillie697

    September 29, 2011 01:49 PM

    @Dan,

    Yeah, I’m not throwing a pitcher out there with less than one season’s worth of at bats, even if quite impressive for a pitcher, out there against major-league pitching, correction major-league playoff caliber pitching, in the playoffs where the outcome of every game is magnified. This is not the time or the place to “find out” if someone can hit major-league pitching.

    And if we do get this so-called “extreme” situation you describe, we probably deserve to lose.

  6. Dan

    September 29, 2011 07:38 PM

    Not necessarily. A 0-0 extra innings (I’m talking about like 19th+ inning) isn’t a game we probably deserve to lose. And why not use him? Talent is talent regardless of how long they’ve been in the majors. In fact, it could be better for him to hit now than later, because later they’ll have a book on him. Right now he has a book on the pitchers, but they have no book on him.

    I.E. Ryan Howard.

  7. Dennis

    September 30, 2011 03:02 AM

    YES–I hear the above but winners of the World series always seem to enter the battle with that one rookie pitcher. Old baseball fans like myself remember Bob Welch, Marty Bystrom, and many others. You need rookies–even untested ones to win. In the World Series–should we get there–I’d rather have the pitchers than the added bench depth when we go play at their park–since the DH ruins the managing of a game –at least we can have the guns to shut them down.

  8. Phillie697

    September 30, 2011 08:45 AM

    Why don’t we make sure we have a plan for tornadoes at CBP on Saturday? Maybe prepare for a meteor strike on Sunday. Or perhaps have a contingency plan in case aliens abduct Roy Halladay before tomorrow’s start?

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