The great Ty Cobb once said, “If a man pretends to be a major leaguer, he should stay in the lineup no matter who is pitching.” This is coming from someone who was 1 of 2 guys to ever have over 4,000 MLB hits. For the rest of the 99.99% who don’t have the highest all-time batting average, looking at lefty/righty matchups can prove valuable to a team.
Platooning a player doesn’t have to be the punishment that many people see it as. In fact, platooning can be used to maximize the value of certain players. When a player embraces his role, the possibilities are endless.
For this article, I looked at a current free agent: Brad Miller. It is no secret that Brad Miller has been platooned throughout his career. 68% of MLB pitchers are righthanded, but due to matchup choices by managers an everyday lefthanded hitter would face a bit lower than 68% righties on average.
The top 10 lefthanded hitters in terms of plate appearances (PA’s) faced righties 65.7% of the time. Over Miller’s career, however, he has faced righties 78% of his PA’s. The past 3 years are even more staggering in which he faced right-handers 83% of his PA’s. This shows that his managers have picked spots to specifically maximize the times he faces a righty instead of a lefty.
There is a CLEAR reason for this, his career numbers are indisputably better against righties than lefties.
Over his career against righties, his OPS+ and wRC+ show he is 10% and 13% better than league average respectively. Against Lefties however, he is 33% and 32% below league average.
Looking at the past 3 years we can see his splits are even more drastic.
Against Righties, his OPS+ and wRC+ show he was 31% and 27% above league average respectively. Against Lefties, however, he was 44% and 50% below league average.
If he played every day, he would be expected to face righties about 66% of the time, and lefties the other 34%. Projecting his stats with his averages of the past 3 years we would get an OPS+ of 106 and wRC+ of 101. This means that as an everyday player his struggles against lefties would bring his overall value down to an average/slightly above-average hitter. This is consistent with his FanGraphs Steamer projection of a wRC+ of 105 for 2022.
I then went to compare what his totals would be if he was platooned similarly to his past 3 years while keeping his splits consistent. His OPS+ would be 120 and wRC+ would be 116. Instead of an average everyday player with 600 plate appearances, he turns into a hitter with well above-average production over 400 PA’s.
Last Year only 66 Hitters had 400 or more Plate Appearances while having a 115 or higher OPS+ and wRC+. Looking at FanGraphs Steamer projections for 2022, a 120 OPS+ would put him about 60th in all of baseball. Some players that are projected to get a 120 OPS+ by Steamer are: Jose Abreu, Christian Yelich, Marcus Semien, Austin Riley, J.D. Martinez, and Ketel Marte. Of course, these players are all projected everyday players and are estimated to have 200 more PA’s than Miller. But even with the lower amount of PA’s, similar production to those hitters for about 3-5 million dollars (his projected salary) is quite the steal!
He can even provide more value if the players’ at-bats he is replacing have opposite success patterns to him. For example, if he replaces a guy that has an OPS+ of 50 against RHP, that expected at-bat goes from an OPS+ of 50 to 120.
An added factor to Miller’s value is his versatility. Last year he played 392/640 innings at 1st base, but in his career, he has played 20+ games at every position besides catcher and pitcher.
A team can benefit from Brad Miller in various situations:
- Teams with a lot of righty hitters who have trouble against righty pitchers
- Teams with a specific player who contributes vs. lefties, but struggles vs. righties
- Teams with older players who could benefit from an extra day off each week
- Teams looking for a veteran player with experience
- Teams looking to add a Lefty bat
- An NL team looking to cover at-bats if the “Universal DH” gets passed
- Teams on a budget who are looking to find relatively cheap players of value
- Because I say so…
Even if the last reason is not enough to move the needle for an organization, the other 7 should do the trick. Many teams check multiple of these boxes in which Miller could help them, and virtually every single team can find room on their team to add Miller as an improvement. Signing Brad Miller is a low risk and high potential reward.
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