Terry Collins and platoon players

Creative and new ideas and solutions often seem to come along as a result of limitations.  Limitations are what forced Billy Beane and Paul DePodesta to architect ‘Moneyball’ in Oakland in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.

After the rest of the league seemed to catch up with the A’s in the mid-2000’s, they came storming back with a vengeance last season, surprising everyone and winning the AL West crown.  That division title sent a message to the rest of the league: Moneyball is back.

3,000 miles away in Queens, another team is dealing with a set of limitations, and they could learn something from the club in Oakland.

Last season Bob Melvin, the A’s manager, was able to maximize the talent on his roster by utilizing 3-4 platoons at a time.

One which worked particularly well was the platoon of lefty Brandon Moss and righty Chris Carter at first base.  The two combined for 37 home runs, 91 runs batted in, and an OBP of over .355.  That is arguably more production than either player would have individually.

The same can be said for the Seth Smith/Jonny Gomes/Yoenis Cespedes shuffle in left field and designated hitter.

By taking advantage of the relative strengths of the players on the roster, Melvin guided the A’s to 94 wins and gave the mighty Detroit Tigers a run for their money in the ALDS.

And then there’s the team from Queens.

That team has struggled, partially because their manager, Terry Collins, hasn’t done what Melvin did to maximize the talent on the roster.

Take Collin Cowgill.  He was a guy who hit .318/.412/.432 against lefties in 2012, and only .233/.277/.233 against righties.

Collins gave him equal playing time against lefties and righties.  If he had been used as the right-handed hitting half of a center field platoon with say, Jordany Valdespin, there could have been some decent production out of center field.

The same goes for right field and Marlon Byrd and Mike Baxter, although both of these men have less drastic splits than Cowgill and Valdespin.

Then there’s first base.  Perhaps it’s time to think about instituting a permanent platoon at first, since Ike Davis can’t figure out how to hit southpaws.  It might be a good idea to go to Vegas to find his platoon partner, either in the form of Zach Lutz or Josh Satin.  I’d be more inclined to go with Lutz because of his power, his ability to also play third base and corner outfield positions, and is a bit younger.  Also his fragility would not be as big of a factor in a part-time role.

Obviously a few roster moves would need to be made first for this to happen, Lutz and Cowgill would have to come up, meaning two players, most likely Juan Legares (who Collins plans to platoon with newly acquired Rick Ankiel) and Justin Turner would have to go down.

Keeping in mind the optimized lineup from last week, adding the platoons in, here are the two regular lineups for the Mets:

Lineup vs. LHP Lineup vs. RHP
David Wright Mike Baxter
Lucas Duda Lucas Duda
Zach Lutz John Buck
John Buck David Wright
Daniel Murphy Daniel Murphy
Marlon Byrd Ike Davis
Collin Cowgill Rick Ankiel
Pitcher Pitcher
Ruben Tejada Ruben Tejada

Not exactly lineups that will strike fear into the mind of any pitcher, but it could serve to help the Mets win a few extra ballgames this year and lift the team from a laughing stock to one with at least a semi-respectable record for the roster they have to work with.

[1] Before you go and slam me for this lineup in the comments, this was a very difficult one to put together.  If Tejada can get hot, I can see putting him leadoff, dropping Wright to 2nd,  slide Duda behind Murhpy, and put Byrd in the 9 spot.

11 comments for “Terry Collins and platoon players

  1. Chris F
    May 14, 2013 at 8:06 am

    Either of those lists, and the huge disparity between them shows what a long way this team has to go. I’m thinking ’15 at the earliest. With batting production so bad even this platooning cannot shake the lousy pitching we are getting, except once per week. We are headed for 100 L. I think it’s worse than I expected when I predicted 70 W for this year. I’m revising to 65.

    • Joe Vasile
      May 14, 2013 at 10:38 pm

      I agree. The starting pitching and bullpen both need to be drastically improved by next season. Looking ahead at free agents, Ellsbury or Pence could be used to shore up the outfield, Harvey, Wheeler, Montero (at some point mid-season presumably), Niese, and Gee will make up the starting 5, with some intriguing options in the market to perhaps come and compete with Gee for the 5th spot/be a long man/spot starter/Darren Oliver circa 2006. That and a few minor signings to fill out the bench with guys not named Justin Turner and The mets will be drastically improved and competitive next season, with ’15 being the season when they are ready to become serious contenders.

  2. Metsense
    May 14, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    TC is not a Bob Melvin or a Dave Johnson, that is for sure. I also believe that platooning is essential when the position is manned by below average players. I would start with Davis/Turner (until Turner cools off) then move in Lutz instead of Satin who is not on the 40 man roster). The Legares/Ankiel platoon is a real head scratcher. Alderson admits that Legares wasn’t ready to be promoted and Ankiel is taking away time from JV. Reading between the lines, I think the Mets must think they need a plus defender in CF to compensate for Duda. MDD can’t heal soon enough.I disagree and would have also stuck with a Cowgill/JV platoon and defensive subbed out Duda in games the Mets led late. Byrd/Baxter in RF. In a rebuilding year, why aren’t the Mets playing as many young players as possible. The time to address the OF was last winter and they chose not to. The Mets should at least stick with the non plan and evaluate their young players.

    • Chris F
      May 14, 2013 at 1:35 pm

      I could not agree more. And that’s what makes the “plan” so hard to understand. Look, we’ve all punted on ’13, there is not much expectation left. So about come out and say: we will be graduating our minor leaguers to get them exposed to MLB experience and to see who can handle it. The Marcum’s (+Byrd, Cowgill, Ankiel etc) of the team do literally zero for us. In fact they ultimately hurt us by taking up valuable play time for people who are controlled by the organization and who are possibly part of the future. My fear with the platoon is that we need one at: 1B, 2B, SS?, LF, CF, RF…thats an awful lot of moving parts. Add the starting rotation and pen, and it makes me wonder what in hell Alderson has done besides cut payroll. But, it also indicates what a weak team we have. Meanwhile, we clearly have clubhouse problems with JV, who needs to be removed from the team IMO. His occasional heroics cannot mask that he is a bench guy with a major attitude problem. Don’t get me started about the coaching staff…

      • May 14, 2013 at 2:16 pm

        Collin Cowgill is 27 years old and has a lifetime .841 OPS in the minors. Currently he has an .854 OPS in Triple-A. There’s no reason he shouldn’t have been given 600 PA this year to see if he could help. If he could post a .750 OPS and play average defense – that would have been worthwhile and he had the potential to do even more.

        But he committed the Cardinal Sin of not producing right off the bat and was dropped into a platoon and eventually sent to the minors after 52 PA.

        What a waste.

    • Joe Vasile
      May 14, 2013 at 10:43 pm

      Right…I didn’t even consider that Satin wasn’t on the 40 man. Good point there. Also, Legares should not be on this team, he’s clearly not ready, but I think that Cowgill could turn it around if he was the righty half of the CF platoon. MDD can’t hit, even worse than Ankiel from what I’ve seen.

      As for your point about why they aren’t playing as many young guys as possible, I agree with starting to play the younger guys, but you have to balance that against allowing them the proper time to develop in the minors. For example, bringing Wheeler up now would be a mistake in my opinion. Waiting to see if he can put together 3 or 4 more dominating starts and then bringing him up when he shows consistency at AAA.

  3. Za
    May 14, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    You think the Rays would be okay with a Lucas Duda for Joe Maddon trade? That’s a trade I would be willing to do. Or Rafael Montero for Joe Maddon…but someone with some value.

    • Joe Vasile
      May 14, 2013 at 10:44 pm

      I’d do that in a second.

  4. Za
    May 14, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    Instead of bringing up Lutz, they could platoon Ike with Andrew Brown. That way, you have a righty bat off the bench, like Lutz, but one who can also play competent OF in addition to first. Lutz can play 1B/3B. Longer term, Wilmer Flores looks like he’s about to turn the corner. If he continues heating up while Ike stays cool, I think we know whose spot that is. The Mets’ FO loves him. He just needs to continue developing, but he’s got a Major League bat.

    • Joe Vasile
      May 14, 2013 at 10:46 pm

      I love Flores. If he shows he can hit AAA pitching well, then I say he’s worth a September cup of coffee at best, since he’s still so young. Moving forwards, an Ike/Flores platoon at 1st and maybe even a Murph/Flores platoon at second could be an interesting option.

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