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|
* 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.
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|
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.