Bobby Valentine has personally said that he generally does not use platoons. However, he’s also said that the Red Sox have a pretty good looking pitching staff so I’m not sure his word can be taken for granted. So far in this young season, I’ve concocted a few platoon options that Valentine could use on a regular basis. The good part about a strong offensive team like the Red Sox are that platoons are not a regular part of life and they aren’t seen particularly often. See, the Red Sox have set positions at first base, second base, third base, center field, and (once Carl Crawford returns) left field. That leaves catcher, shortstop, and right field. Mike Aviles‘ performance yesterday convinced me that he doesn’t need to be platooned– he is now 3 for 11 this season (including 3 for 9 against righties) and he has traditionally been a lefties killer.
However, catcher is a position that I think Valentine could use a platoon in. Yesterday I took a few things away from Kelly Shoppach‘s first start of 2012. First off, he is a much better catcher than Jarrod Saltalamacchia– he did a better job of blocking balls in the dirt and his major league leading 41% caught stealing rate shows that his arm is better than Salty’s 31%. Another thing about Shoppach is that in his career, he has hit lefties to a tune of .273/.372/.535 while Salty (who is a switch hitter) has hit just .206/.262/.341. On the other hand, Salty has hit .264/.329/.440 off of righties, compared to Shoppach’s .201/.288/.360 mark. This shows that the Red Sox would probably be a better team if Salty started against righties and Shoppach started against lefties.
Once Carl Crawford returns to the Red Sox, there is going to be a position battle in right field between Cody Ross, Ryan Sweeney, and potentially Darnell McDonald which could be decided by a platoon. Ryan Sweeney, who is off to a hot start (5 for 11 so far) has hit right handers well in his career– .298/.354/.404. This is much better than Cody Ross’ mark of .252/.312/.412 and McDonald’s mark of .211/.273/.336 in their respective careers. Off of lefties though, things haven’t looked so good for Ryan Sweeney (.231/.304/.287) and have looked better for Ross (.283/.350/.563) and McDonald (.285/.348/.450). McDonald’s and Ross’ numbers are very similar against lefties but I think Ross would get the edge because based on my earlier post he is a right handed pull hitter who should pepper the green monster. I think Valentine could do a lot worse than hitting Salty and Sweeney against righties and Shoppach and Ross against lefties.