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How could the Twins optimize righty/lefty platoon splits?

Looking at batter splits versus right and left-handed pitchers to see if there are players we can readily identify as "platoon-able." Which is absolutely a word now.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

We said in this morning's game recap that Paul Molitor has his work cut out for him, and there's no way to overstate that sentiment. On paper the rotation looked better but that hasn't played out through seven games, the bullpen is a hot mess, and the bats have been silent. After taking a glance at the bullpen yesterday afternoon, let's take a few minutes to talk about the offense.

Molitor hasn't been incredibly vocal about what he'll be doing differently in comparison with his predecessor, but we know that he's open to defensive shifts and microscopic attention to detail. Platoons are certainly in the cards if they make sense, which is something that Andrew covered in his feature last week (recommended reading), we know that Molitor is already employing a "loose platoon" in center field.

After sitting both Oswaldo Arcia and Jordan Schafer versus intimidating left-hander Chris Sale on Sunday, it got me thinking a bit more about splits for the first time this year. Arcia has started in two games versus southpaws, but as Andrew mentioned one was on opening day and most teams will trot out their "everyday lineup" for the opener regardless of the pitcher's handedness. The second time was yesterday's home opener versus the Royals, against a lefty who is admittedly not as dangerous as Sale. Schafer, the other player that Bryz singled out in his post last week, did not start in either of the last two games.

We're dealing with the same small sample size that we were trying to decode yesterday in our conversation about the bullpen, but there's an additional step we can take as we discuss the Twins' potential for offensive platoons: righty-lefty splits. Here are the splits of every position player on the 25 man roster, plus one more familiar name, for both 2014 and their careers.

Player Split vs RHP vs LHP
Kurt Suzuki 2014 270/334/360 331/371/438
Career 261/315/382 246/310/357
Brian Dozier 2014 233/349/394 264/337/467
Career 225/305/359 284/348/506
Eduardo Escobar 2014 252/296/358 328/358/519
Career 233/284/322 303/336/462
Joe Mauer 2014 282/367/409 268/349/305
Career 331/418/498 295/366/383
Trevor Plouffe 2014 249/318/420 378/353/430
Career 233/294/392 273/344/471
Danny Santana 2014 326/359/482 301/338/447
Career * 270/313/368 289/333/430
Kennys Vargas 2014 309/338/561 228/287/315
Career * 283/363/502 290/366/464
Oswaldo Arcia 2014 249/321/527 198/261/313
Career 248/320/485 221/262/340
Chris Herrmann 2014 203/242/254 250/294/250
Career 201/276/294 176/208/275
Torii Hunter 2014 278/312/442 308/240/459
Career 274/326/455 290/351/485
Eduardo Nunez 2014 267/306/410 232/232/354
Career 266/313/368 263/294/402
Shane Robinson 2014 148/207/222 152/243/182
Career 241/294/330 215/303/278
Jordan Schafer 2014 267/333/348 143/236/163
Career 245/326/332 169/248/222
Aaron Hicks 2014 178/300/212 279/410/382
Career * 259/370/393 277/364/450

* Santana, Vargas, and Hicks career numbers denote minor league splits since 2011.

There are quite a few things worth noting here, from Mauer's insane career numbers versus right-handed pitchers to the unfortunate quantity of players who have some pretty extreme splits. Vargas really struggled versus lefties after his promotion to the Majors last summer; you wouldn't lose many runs in a season if you let a rock hit in place of Schafer versus lefties; Hicks posted a .792 OPS versus lefties last season.

Wait, what?

I'm not the first person to point out how well Hicks hit left-handed pitchers last season. "Just" 83 plate appearances it may be, but Hicks has a history of being stronger while hitting right-handed. It happens quite regularly to guys who are switch hitters. Unfortunately, 63% of Hicks' plate appearances came versus right-handed pitchers last year, meaning he was stuck batting lefty most of the year. His weak side overshadowed his strong side.

Knowing what we know based on that chart above, what might an "optimal" platoon look like for Paul Molitor? Let's take a stab thusly:

Position vs RHP vs LHP
C Suzuki Suzuki
1B Mauer Mauer
2B Dozier Dozier
3B Plouffe Plouffe
SS Santana Escobar
LF Arcia Hicks
CF Schafer Santana
RF Hunter Hunter
DH Vargas Vargas

God help us, that's how you could realistically lay it out - if Hicks were on the roster instead of Robinson, that is. That lineup versus left-handed pitchers is actually pretty good. Dozier, Plouffe, Escobar, Hicks, and Hunter are all at their best versus southpaws. The offerings versus righties are a bit less impressive, because the lesser of evils still results in three or four potential black holes; because yes, Nunez his historically a better hitter versus righties than the other options on the roster.

Whether Molitor truly plans on utilizing platoons to maximize strengths and mitigate weaknesses remains to be seen, although we've seen hints of it - even in just seven games. Even if he does, the bad news is that there aren't a lot of good options to gloss over what looks like a lineup that is somewhat susceptible to righties.