MLB Platoons: Can they help win MLB and Fantasy Championships?

Joe Zapata prepares you for the 2014 fantasy baseball season covering the MLB and fantasy implications of player platoons, MLB news and fantasy analysis during hot stove season.

Joe Zapata - RotoBaller


The Fantasy Baseball Implications of Platoons:

Nate Freiman Oakland A's MLB News

For teams other than the Yankees, it can be tough to afford talent at every position.  Some teams that are strapped for cash have found success by platooning.  Platooning is the method whereby a team designates two players for one position, usually with one being a right-handed hitter and the other a lefty.  The theory behind platooning is that hitters fare better against opposite-handed pitching, and so ideally, a righty batter would start against a lefty pitcher and vice versa.

Platooning may also consist of a contact hitter and power hitter splitting games dictated by the size of the park.  In late-game situations, teams may substitute in defensive replacements, which another form of platooning.

In platooning, the goal is to get the most out of two adequate or mediocre players, but it doesn't seem ideal for fantasy baseball.  In many leagues, you set your lineups weekly, but platoon players might only participate in half of their team's games.  This unpredictability could cost you severely.

For those of you in fantasy leagues with daily lineups, platooning can be extremely beneficial.  When you have a bench of 4-5 players, its helpful to have a guy like Brandon Moss that you can slot in for 60% of his ABs vs. RHP.  Moss hit 26 out of his 30 home runs in 2013 against right handed pitching.  Having a few platoon players on the bench can make the difference in winning or losing a title.

Back in reality, platooning actually makes a lot of sense for MLB teams.  Retrosheet looked at all 16,562 player seasons from 1970 through 1992, excluding switch hitters, and they found that versus right-handed pitching, righties batted .248 and lefties batted .270, while against left-handed pitching, righties batted .264 and lefties batted .246. Platooning has been used for over 100 years, and statistics proves it works.

Last year the Oakland A's won 96 games to take the division crown.  But how could they be so successful even with the fifth-lowest payroll in the entire league? Platooning. Out of all 30 teams in the MLB, the A's had the most platooning plate appearances.  They're are a perfect example of how the platooning system can help low-funded teams.

One of the best platooning players in baseball last year was Oakland's Nate Freiman.   Freiman only had 190 ABs, but 148 of those were against right-handed pitchers.  Against righties, he posted a .304 BA, much better than his .167 BA versus left-handed pitching.

Another team that has found success through platooning is the Tampa Bay Rays.  Last year Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez led the league in platoon plate appearances. Tampa Bay is possibly the most well run organization in the MLB.  Their payroll is always at the bottom, yet they are always fighting to win the toughest division in the American League. They have been able to maintain success with good management, a good farm system and platooning.  Matt Joyce had 16 HR last year against right-handed pitching.  Sean Rodriguez did not have flashy numbers, but against lefties he batted .252, much better than his .225 BA versus righties.

Even the almighty Yankees might try the platooning method this year at third base.  With Alex Rodriguez suspended for the entire 2014 season, they must find a replacement.  The yankees recently signed journeyman, Kelly Johnson, who will probably split time at third base with Eduardo Nunez.  With Johnson batting lefty and Nunez batting righty, they could be quite the dynamic duo.  In 2013 Kelly Johnson hit all of his 16 home runs against right handed pitching.

So in the world of fantasy baseball, I would avoid platoon players, unless you can set your lineup daily.  In weekly leagues, a platoon player's cumulative numbers might be decent but he won't impact your team positively enough to make a difference.  In daily leagues, platooning is a must if you want to get points off of your bench.  And when it comes to actual baseball, platooning is a great method.  Teams with low payrolls can become contenders, and teams with high payrolls can platoon to fill remaining gaps.


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