June 11, 2013
The Fantasy Platoon Advantage, Part One
As injuries cut deeper into the player pool with each passing day, fantasy managers are left to fend for themselves, to pick up the pieces and push on with their ballclubs. There are obviously different ways teams can plug in the holes that are guaranteed to strike everyone at some point during the season. The most direct approach is, of course, via trade—trading from surplus to plug the hole. Hitting the waiver wire is the most readily available option for mixed leaguers, and it doesn’t cost any of your current talent. The freely available talent won’t be as good as what you could get by trading some assets… or will it?
Today’s piece is going to apply to the mixed-league crowd and specifically those of you in leagues of 12 teams or fewer. We are going to focus on split advantages and leveraging those to increase the probability of replacing your broken All-Star with near-All-Star production. Sorry, single leaguers, but your waiver wires are usually picked clean of the prime meat by May 1 and bone dry by Memorial Day. This will also play well for the daily fantasy crowd, as these guys will often be extremely cheap options who can deliver premium production in the right matchup.
Let’s start with the most prominent split: the platoon. Righty/lefty splits are the most exploited in the game with managers often opting to replacing their pitcher with lesser talent just to ensure the platoon advantage. Meanwhile, more teams are starting to leverage their bench players, creating playing-time platoons to ensure they are getting the most value out of their 25. Looking first at “the short side,” here is a group of guys who dominate lefties. Their playing time is capped by the limited pool of lefty starters in the game, but this also makes them more likely to be on your waiver wire.
Here are five guys making life extremely difficult for left-handed pitchers so far this season.
Baker is the poster boy for this strategy having clubbed yet another home run on Monday evening. With ownership rates of just two percent at Yahoo! and three percent at ESPN, he is widely available to be your top right-handed bat. His 2013 performance to date is especially strong, but the sharp split falls in line with his career work, as he has an 879 OPS against southpaws in 754 PA compared to just a 655 OPS against righties in 809 PA. His incredible composite numbers are going to start pushing to the top of free agency lists and perhaps fool some into thinking he is a full-time player, when he should only be utilized against left-handers.
Once a promising full-time player, Sanchez has started settling into his platoon role the last two years. His 729 OPS against southpaws a season ago wasn’t special, but compared to his 566 mark against righties, he was clearly valuable from just the one side. He is even more widely available than Baker.
The 37-year old veteran has found some late-career utility as a lefty-killer specialist, capable of playing some premium infield positions. After years of nondescript performance, he exploded with a 903 OPS and six homers against lefties a season ago in under 100 PA, before following it up with a 1.007 OPS and another six homers in nearly half the playing time.
Ross hasn’t exactly been inept against right-handers like the rest of our group, but his work against left-handers is just incredible. Only once in the last eight seasons has he been below an 883 OPS against lefties (a weird 2011 season when he managed a meager 698 in 110 PA). Last year, in 150 PA, he clubbed 12 homers with a 1.010 OPS, and so far this year he has a .367 AVG, 958 OPS, and a pair of home runs in 54 PA of action.
The Rule Five Draft pickup from the Astros by way of the Padres has created a little niche for himself on the A’s, thus enhancing his chances of sticking with them all year long. Though the sample is scant, he has posted a hilariously bad 195 OPS against right-handers in 21 PA, while serving as a perfect platoon partner for Brandon Moss. Freiman held his own against righties the last two years in the minors with an 802 OPS, but his 1.060 clip against lefties showed where he was most comfortable.
To manage these and other lefty-killer bats into the most effective platoon, you will have to do the legwork of scouting schedules in advance. But if you are fielding a team that is currently ravaged by injuries on the offensive side, this could be your best bet. Next time out, we will focus on hitters you could use to your team’s advantage thanks to their excellent numbers against right-handers.