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Breaking Down Hitter Splits for 2022 Fantasy Baseball and MLB DFS

mike zunino fantasy baseball rankings catchers drafts sleepers MLB injury news

With Opening Day of the 2022 MLB season right around the corner, it's time to start getting your mind right and preparing for a full season of fantasy baseball and MLB DFS action!

Whether you play in a season-long league with daily roster moves or you are a big DFS or sports betting person, I think there's something in this article for everyone. One of my goals this offseason was to take a look at just about every relevant MLB hitter from 2021 and try to determine which guys had the biggest platoon splits last season. I'll go into more detail about how I use hitter splits in my process for selecting DFS plays next week when I release my annual MLB DFS strategy guide!

I'm going to attempt to categorize a lot of these players. Some hitters have wide splits and should only be used where they have the traditional platoon advantage. Many of them are already part-time players as a result. Some hitters showed some strong reverse splits against pitchers with the same handedness, and there are always going to be elite hitters who are just going to hit everyone. When I'm building DFS lineups every day, I'm definitely looking at hitters' numbers against the handedness of the projected opposing starter when making the decision to roster them or not. It certainly shouldn't be the only thing we consider, and we should likely weigh those splits more for certain hitters than others.

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Mike Zunino Gets His Own Section

When I broke down all the data for this article, there was one guy who I couldn't really put in any single category - Mike Zunino. In case you missed the type of power that Zunino demonstrated last year, here's a quick reminder.

The Rays' catcher hit a career-high 33 homers last year but continued to swing and miss a ton as usual with a 35% strikeout rate and a .216 average. He actually hit one more homer off righties (17) than lefties (16) but consider that he had twice as many plate appearances against RHP. Zunino's splits against lefties were simply incredible even if the sample size was relatively small. This dude had a .526 ISO, .519 wOBA, 1.287 OPS, and a 242 wRC+ against LHP in 2021. That's amazing. Zunino is the Joey Gallo of catchers with the "home run or strike out" approach and those were the two most likely outcomes when he faced RHP.

If he could face lefties exclusively he'd be better off because his numbers drop across the board pretty dramatically against RHP and he had some of the most severe splits of any hitter in the league when it came to his ISO and wOBA. His "ISO split" which was the difference between his ISO against lefties and righties was .279 and .his "wOBA split" was .245. In DFS, it's a good idea to roster him against lefties as he has a higher ceiling than any other catcher on those days even with the boom/bust nature of his approach. But if he's expensive, I'd fade him against RHP as the chances of a 0-4 game with three strikeouts is a much more likely outcome than a two-homer game.

 

Purely Platoon Players

Now that we got Zunino out of the way, let's first look at some right-handed hitters who mainly platoon against lefties. There are some guys in here who aren't strictly platoon players, but their total plate appearances were low enough that included them in the sample.

Most of the hitters on this list didn't even have enough plate appearances against LHP for me to be able to calculate their true splits. Yan Gomes is a catcher, so he's usually in a platoon anyway but he has the most PA here with 375.

A quick note about my methodology here. What I was looking for was for RHH that hit had either at least a .350 wOBA and/or a .200 ISO against LHP. I moved those numbers around a bit for each of these categories in order to get a moderate sample of players each time.

Jordan Luplow barely made the cut here and didn't really live up to his reputation as a lefty-masher last season. Arroyo is another guy who doesn't excite me all that much, but when he and Luplow are cheap and facing a lefty they're viable punts in DFS for sure.

Madrigal is certainly a guy you can use in cash games when he's cheap as he hits for a ton of contact and will get on base. Kirk's numbers are really impressive, he's a catcher you should absolutely use against LHP and I'll talk later about his platoon-mate Danny Jansen who was actually better against RHP. Manny Pina won me a tournament last year with a double-dong performance and his power really stands out here along with the old man Ryan Zimmerman. Austin Slater and Lane Thomas are both guys who usually lead off and offer a nice combination of on-base and power skills.

There simply aren't as many hitters who platoon mainly against RHP and you'll notice that a lot of these hitters on this list had 250 or more total plate appearances. Seth Brown hit for a ton of power without much else and is now likely an everyday player with Oakland going full fire sale mode in the last few weeks.

Wade was a DFS force last year and a guy I played a ton when he led off for the Giants against RHP and Ortega is certainly a guy to consider with the numbers he posted and he's going to have an opportunity to play a lot this year.

Jake Fraley may end up being a great DFS play against righties with the trade to Cincinnati and a major ballpark upgrade. He will certainly hit some dingers in Great American Ball Park. Gavin Sheets was one of my favorite punt plays when he cracked the lineup last year and he mashed righties as part of a really good, young platoon with Andrew Vaughn in Chicago (Vaughn shows up in this next section, spoiler alert!)

 

Bonafide Lefty Mashers

So here is where we get into the everyday players who excelled against left-handed pitching last season. There are a few small-ish sample size alerts here with Longoria, Pujols, and Robert all falling short of 300 plate appearances in 2021. Longoria and Robert missed big chunks of the season due to injury but are not platoon players. Pujols at age 42 really is a platoon-only guy and should be on the last list I had, just a minor oversight there on my part. Haase and Kelly are catchers so are on the big side of their platoons, but still plenty of PA against RHP, too, while Marte is the only switch hitter on our list and also has a relatively low amount of PA for a full-time player because of time missed for injuries.

Here are the criteria I established in order to come up with this list.

  • minimum of 100 plate appearances against LHP.
  • .350 wOBA against LHP or better.
  • .250 ISO against LHP or better.
  • .050 wOBA differential, meaning the player had a wOBA that was a half-point higher against lefties than their overall average.
  • .075 ISO differential, meaning the player had an ISO that was three-fourths of a point higher against lefties than their overall average.

And here's the list!

There's some serious power here and I decided to include their home run numbers to give an indication of just how much power we are talking about (those numbers are against lefties only). We aren't sneaking up on anyone with this list as we have plenty of guys here who have been torturing southpaws for some time (Abreu, McCutchen, and Goldschmidt come to mind). McCutchen leads the way in terms of homers with 15 and heads to another homer-friendly park in Milwaukee this year. Teoscar reached near auto-play status against lefties for me last year as just absolutely crushed them, hitting for average and power. Luis Robert's numbers have a small asterisk with him having only a half-season worth of plate appearances but those numbers are still impressive.

Eric "the Boss" Haase had a stretch in the middle of the year where he was unfadeable against LHP and I expect him to get more work at DH this year even on days when he's not behind the plate. The other catcher on the list in Carson Kelly who has long been one of my favorite plays against lefties now for several seasons.

Vaughn is a guy who could end up playing every day this year, but I will be circling the matchups with lefties when it comes time for DFS lineups. I also will be someone who's willing to pay up for Trevor Story at home in Boston as I think he will be just fine leaving Coors despite some of the road splits that might suggest otherwise.

I'm buying in on Ketel Marte this season. Against lefties, he struck out only 12% of the time and had an OPS of 1.171. He has traditionally hit for more power as a right-handed hitter and when paired with Carson Kelly they are a dynamic duo in DFS against LHP.

 

Raking Against Righties

Now we look at some left-handed sluggers who had great numbers against right-handed pitchers. I changed my criteria a bit here from what I used for the RHP vs. LHP mainly because of how many more right-handed pitchers there are in baseball. Most full-time players have more plate appearances against righties than lefties, so in many cases, the differential between their overall numbers and their numbers in the platoon splits are less drastic as a result.

Here are the criteria I established in order to come up with this list.

  • At least 150 plate appearances against RHP.
  • .250 ISO against RHP or better.
  • .350 wOBA against RHP or better.
  • .100 wOBA differential
  • .040 ISO differential

And here's the list!

The power here is substantial and players like Schwarber, Devers, and Harper - while pricey - should be staples of our cash game lineups when they are facing hittable RHP. Jesse Winker has long been a favorite of mine and I didn't coin the phrase "Winker vs. sinkers" but I've used it often in writeups as he profiles so well against that pitch. The move to Seattle is less than ideal for his power numbers, but his superior splits will still make him a solid play against RHP.

Speaking of moves, Kyle Schwarber is now in Philadelphia and finds himself in another great lineup to produce this season. He was great in Boston last year after the trade and he even led off against righties often.

Votto had a major resurgence in 2021 and committed to a new launch angle that helped him hit more dingers. If he keeps focusing on power and not contact, he should be an undervalued DFS asset again. Meadows had a somewhat disappointing season, but still crushed right-handers for the most part. Meanwhile, his teammate Brett Phillips is probably the most surprising name on this list as he was prolific against RHP while struggling badly against lefties. He strikes out a ton, but his quality of contact was excellent.

 

The Anti-Platoon Players

Our list here is made up exclusively of right-handed hitters. There simply weren't any left-handers with significant reverse splits last year (though we will look at a few lefties who did hit lefties really well here next).

There are two ways to look at this list really. The positive thing here is that these are guys who you shouldn't fade against RHP despite not having the traditional platoon advantage. The negative thing here would be these RHHs likely underperformed against LHP when compared to public expectations and were not likely worthy of consideration against lefties.

The numbers from Garver and Smith are both really good and these are catchers with some nice pop in their bat, especially against RHP.

There was nothing cheap about the way Will Smith slapped that one (too soon for that joke?) and he's long been one of my favorite catchers in DFS and is usually a good bit cheaper than other Dodger bats.

Garver gets a change of scenery this year in Texas and I know a lot of folks are high on him. His splits last year might be a bit noisy with a fairly small sample size when you consider he's been pretty splits-neutral over his career.

Guys like Sano and Duvall have massive power vs. RHP but also strike out a ton and don't have great on-base skills. You're usually rostering them in DFS for a chance at a home run anyway, these are GPP plays not cash game bats.

Danny Jansen was solid against RHP and when paired with lefty-masher Alejandro Kirk these two give the Jays an elite combo of hitters behind the plate.

 

Lefty on Lefty Crime

One of the biggest mistakes that I've seen DFS players make (and maybe I've made this mistake a few times myself) would be to avoid elite hitters when they don't have the traditional platoon advantage. We often tend to do this with lefties, in particular, ignoring the fact that some left-handed hitters actually hit LHP well and that they're also likely to see some right-handed relief pitching later in the game.

I wasn't able to dig up any old screenshots, but I don't know how many times I've rostered Freddie Freeman under 10% against a lefty when he was just 30% rostered the day before against a RHP.

Freeman didn't make last year's top six, but here are other lefties you should definitely consider against LHP based on some elite production.

I have a major man-crush on Matt Olson, it's become well-documented this preseason. While his numbers were pretty similar across the board against righties, his power was on full display against LHP, and 22 reverse-split homers is something that should have everyone's attention. Watch him take poor Kolby Allard out to the opposite field with relative ease here.

And while no one hit as many home runs off lefties as Olson, it was Ohtani who had the best numbers against LHP as a left-handed hitter. His swing is a thing of beauty and southpaws struggled to get him out as often as righties did. This moonshot is true lefty-on-lefty crime.

Righties Abusing Righties

Let's revisit some everyday right-handed hitters now and see who crushed RHP. There are some really big names at the top of the leaderboard here with Tatis Jr., Acuna Jr., and Guerrero Jr. all posting some massive numbers in both wOBA and ISO. Acuna's season was obviously cut short due to the injury and now it looks like the most we get out of Tatis this year is maybe a half-season, too.

But the best RHH against RHP last season was actually Byron Buxton, although the usual caveat of a small sample size comes with the territory. He still managed 14 home runs against RHP last year in only 168 plate appearances which is just nuts. Check out this absolute crush job off Nathan Eovaldi last spring.

Buxton is getting a lot of hype this preseason and rightfully so. It's just a matter of staying healthy for Byron, something he hasn't been able to do much.

Jumping down to the bottom of the list you will find one of my favorite DFS plays from last season in Tyler O'Neill. Don't sleep on his power and don't save him just for days when the Cards face a lefty either since he smashed RHP.

You might notice that both Rhys Hoskins and Nick Castellanos both made the cut here, too. Those two are now teammates on the Philadelphia Phillies and when you stagger those two in between Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber (who were both on our lefties with elite splits vs. righties lists), you're looking at a pretty damn dangerous lineup for opposing RHP.

 

Conclusion

What does any of this mean and why should you care?

I firmly believe that baseball is the one sport where doing the extra research can really pay off in the long run. Sure, there is a ton of variance on a daily basis in DFS, but this is a sport where we get new data to incorporate into our samples every day. And we have large sample sizes of data from previous seasons to crunch.

I think looking at trends from year to year, month to month, and even week to week is helpful. Identifying trends in data that others might not see (or be willing to dig deep enough for) can give you an edge. We can debate all day long about our favorite data sets and whether or not any of it is predictive, but I prefer to live in a world where more knowledge is never a bad thing.

I hope you found something useful here and if not, maybe you just liked watching the home run video tweets. More than anything, I think you should consider players' splits on a daily basis. My goal was really to see for which players we should weigh them more heavily than for others and highlight some guys who buck the trends of the traditional platoon advantage. I like numbers and stats...and baseball. And chances are that you do, too, which is why you made it this far. Thanks for reading and if you liked it, share it with a friend. Baseball is almost back...enjoy!



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