The New Look Outfield

With Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence gone, the Phillies will be looking at their remaining set of outfielders, including veterans Juan Pierre and Laynce Nix, recent acquisition Nate Schierholtz, as well as John Mayberry and recent call-up Domonic Brown. It’s a crowded bunch and none of them are guaranteed any playing time in 2013, so they will all be playing for a job in these final two months. It should make for some interesting baseball — at least as interesting as it can be with a team that is coming off of five consecutive division titles.

Each spot comes with intrigue. The Phillies may be in the market for a free agent center fielder in the off-season, such as Michael Bourn, B.J. Upton, and Angel Pagan. Brown figures to have a spot in either corner, but his playing time will depend on how he looks in the 200 or so plate appearances he should garner between now and the end of the season. Finally, the performance of Mayberry and Schierholtz  may determine their role in a platoon, as each compliments the other.

The latter situation is particularly interesting because platoons are rare, and effective platoons even more rare. The 1993 Phillies were famous for them, but even the most mundane of players have complained about a lack of regular playing time, so managers have preferred to run some players out for 600-plus trips to the dish even if as many as two-thirds of them are in unfavorable match-ups.

With San Francisco, Schierholtz took roughly four times as many hacks against right-handed pitching than against lefties (1,051 PA to 265, to be exact). Although he has an even split over his career, there have been drastic differences in the last two years. In 2011, he posted an .801 OPS against RHP and .562 against LHP; this year, he’s at .850 against RHP and .483 against LHP. To put that type of production in perspective, this season, there are only two qualified right fielders — Carlos Beltran and Corey Hart — who have posted an OPS above .830. Since the league sees between two and three times as many PA against RHP than LHP, by limiting Schierholtz to RHP only, the production from right field can be impacted greatly.

Mayberry had a breakout year last season, but hasn’t been able to quite replicate it in 2012. In both years, however, one thing was constant: he hit lefties very well, and right-handers not as well. Last year, his OPS against LHP was .953 and .785 against RHP. This year, he’s at .836 against LHP and .533 against RHP.

Realistically, if Schierholtz and Mayberry are applied correctly, the Phillies can get as much production out of right field as they were getting with Pence, and perhaps even more. The kicker is that they would be getting that production at a fraction of the cost. Pence is earning north of $10 million this year and is projected to earn $14 million in his final go in arbitration after the season. Comparatively, Schierholtz is earning $1.3 million this year and has three more years of arbitration ahead of him, while Mayberry is earning $495,000 and will enter his first year of arbitration after the season.

The Phillies should give a Schierholtz-Mayberry platoon a serious consideration and, if all goes well, they will have right field solidified well and cheaply, leaving them plenty of time and money to address other areas of need, such as center field and third base. It is a joke in Saber circles to say something is “the new market inefficiency” as it is a reference to Moneyball, but platoons may just be a market inefficiency and the Phillies have one staring them right in the face.

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21 comments

  1. Nik

    August 02, 2012 07:17 AM

    I love the RF platoon idea. And if Brown has a pronounced split in the next 2 months, I don’t mind Mayberry seeing some time in left next season as well.

  2. Gio

    August 02, 2012 07:55 AM

    That’s exactly what I saw, at least for this year if not beyond, was a Nate/John platoon when the deal was made. The key to all of this working with the players you mention is Dom. I’m pulling for him – we need a position player prospect to make a splash. it’s been a while since that has happened.

  3. jauer

    August 02, 2012 09:55 AM

    Sign Matt Diaz for 2M, at most. Overpay for a CF, go cheap at third base.

    Diaz/Brown platoon in left, Bourn in CF, schierholtz/JMJ in right…Galvis at third base? Would you be able to “get by” with Galvis’s bat at third base, since you have above-average offense at SS, CF, 2B, and C?

  4. Scott G

    August 02, 2012 11:29 AM

    Did anyone else hear Gary Matthews talking about how it’s harder to play Left Field than Center Field last night?

  5. JRFarmer

    August 02, 2012 11:42 AM

    >> Did anyone else hear Gary Matthews …

    Heard it, ridiculous.

    Can’t stand that television broadcast crew. My TV “dream team” is Franzke and Ricky Bo. JJ and LA can hold down the fort on the radio.

  6. jauer

    August 02, 2012 12:05 PM

    Ive heard him say that before, not last night. He says it’s easier because the ball isnt slicing away from you, at least not as drastically.

    Then here’s this quote from Cody Ross:

    ““I played a lot there last year,’’ said Ross, who last season made 19 of his 107 starts for the Giants in center field but the season before, in Florida, made 71 of 118 starts in center. “I think I’ve played there the most of any (of the three outfield positions) in my career. It’s the easiest position for me.’’”

  7. Scott G

    August 02, 2012 12:26 PM

    Last night Sarge’s reasoning was that the ball gets on you quicker in LF and RF. “The only thing you need in CF is to be fast”.

    Can we now blame Manuel for putting Burrell in LF instead of CF his whole career? Maybe he would have been stellar.

  8. EricL

    August 02, 2012 12:41 PM

    I’m not sold on Mayberry, even as just a platoon player. His OPS is very highly SLG related: .278/.282/.546, which itself is reliant on a huge 25% HR/FB ratio. While he does have a lot of power vs. LHP, 25% is ridiculous. Even his career year last season only saw his HR/FB ratio at 19%.

    And if he’s not hitting bombs, he doesn’t get on base at all (Notice the .282 OBP vs the .278 average). Zero walks, 1 HBP.

    I’m decidedly lukewarm at best on Mayberry going forward in any kind of regular role.

  9. jauer

    August 02, 2012 01:02 PM

    By definition, a RHB in a platoon is not a regular role because most pitchers are not lefthanded

  10. jauer

    August 02, 2012 01:05 PM

    Also, if you’re not sold on Mayberry in a platoon, even more reason to sign Matt Diaz to initially platoon in LF with Brown. If Brown is lighting it up next season and JMJ is terrible, you can promote Brown to full-time LF, replace JMJ with Diaz in the Schierholtz platoon, and demote JMJ to the bench where he probably belongs long-term.

  11. Jeff

    August 02, 2012 01:46 PM

    They need to get a right handed hitting OF who can play everyday. Upton is probably the one they’ll target. He’s underachieved, but he’s still only 27, is an excellent CF and has speed and some pop.

  12. Chris S

    August 02, 2012 02:30 PM

    When we made the trade for Schierholtz I automatically thought platoon with Mayberry. I think that would be best for this team moving forward, along with signing a guy like Upton who is a solid player that will contribute to a club that has a chance to be very good next year. He has a track record of being a 4 win player (4 of the last 6 years) according to fangraphs and there would definitely be room for an under-valued guy like him (because of Avg). I have a feeling we could have him for around 10M-12M a year and maybe I’m off a bit, but I don’t think the price will be outrageous and he is the CF the Phillies should target this fall/winter in my opinion.

    To the writers: Which CF would you target this winter assuming platoon with Schierholtz and Mayberry?

  13. Bill Baer

    August 02, 2012 02:35 PM

    @ Chris S

    You should tune into the next podcast when it goes up, we talk about that at the end when we get to Twitter questions. :-P

  14. nik

    August 02, 2012 02:50 PM

    We should get Cody Ross.

  15. Chris S

    August 02, 2012 02:56 PM

    @Bill Baer

    Awesome, I have been listening to the podcasts when they come up, very entertaining stuff, keep up the good work.

  16. Charlie

    August 02, 2012 04:48 PM

    No mention of Michael Martinez in your future plans? He’s a great switch hitter and an amazing center fielder. In fact he ought to be starting anytime we face a LH starter.

  17. EricL

    August 02, 2012 07:21 PM

    Nik, getting Cody Ross after this season is the definition of buying high. At one year, three million he’s a steal, at $7-8 million for multiple years, which is probably where he’s going to end up after the career year he’s posting right now, he’s not nearly as good a signing.

    You could do worse, I just wonder about getting him at a reasonable rate after his destruction of the Green Monster this season.

  18. Mcneildon

    August 02, 2012 08:29 PM

    You know, at first I thought to myself, “there’s no way this organization will do something intelligent like employing a properly implemented platoon at an outfield position.” But, I then remembered that they did exactly that in 2005 with Jason Michaels and Kenny Lofton in center field. And, it was a very productive platoon at that. They put up a combined 7.6 fWAR. And, Michaels only started 6 games in left and right while Lofton started 1 game at DH, so that WAR figure is a fairly close to what they got overall out of center field that year. It was fairly strict too. Lofton started 0 games against LHP while Michaels only started 21 games against RHP.

  19. Mcneildon

    August 02, 2012 09:45 PM

    It’s amazing how stigmatized, so to speak, platoons have become in the last 20 years. Today, a platoon basically means “well, we expect to get terrible production out of this position.” Whereas for the 93 Phillies, it wasn’t a novelty or bizarrely fortuitous outcome that a platoon at three positions worked out very well.

  20. gkit

    August 03, 2012 10:40 AM

    Not only do you get maximum production from 2 players in a platoon but the playing time makes them better pinch hitters also.

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