Red Sox: Is Travis Shaw now part of a 3B platoon?


Travis Shaw’s recent struggles against lefties led to the Boston Red Sox benching their third baseman on Sunday. Should we expect to see more of this?

Remember how excited we all were when Travis Shaw stole the third base job away from the lethargic Pablo Sandoval this spring? Perhaps it was our desire to push the Panda out of the picture by any means necessary, but Red Sox Nation sure was quick to anoint Shaw as the long-term solution at the hot corner.

Shaw is still having a fine season overall, but now that he’s started to come back down to Earth from his scorching start we are starting to see some of his flaws – the most troubling of which is his struggles against left-handed pitching.

So far this season, Shaw is 6-for-42 (.143) with a dreadful .486 OPS against southpaws. It’s still a relatively small sample size, but it’s enough of a trend that the Red Sox decided to bench him on Sunday against Minnesota Twins lefty Pat Dean.

Manager John Farrell isn’t quite ready to call it a platoon, but it seems we could be heading in that direction.

"“I don’t know about a platoon,” Farrell told reporters on Sunday, per WEEI’s John Tomase. “For the time being, with what Travis is going through, just trying to get him on track. He’s been pitched to here. Left-handers have given him something to contend with.”"

Earlier this season we routinely saw Farrell pinch-hit for Shaw with Chris Young against lefty relievers, with Brock Holt sliding in from left field to cover third base. Young was brought here for his ability to mash against left-handed pitching, but the steady stream of right-handed starters that the Red Sox faced in the opening weeks left him with little playing time. Using him as a pinch-hitter was explained as a necessity to get Young some plate appearances, but the decision frustrated many fans that wondered why it was always Shaw being replaced when he was one of the team’s hottest hitters. It’s not as if Shaw had a history of struggling against lefties, as he actually hit better against them last season with a .329 average over 82 at-bats.

In retrospect, it seems swapping Shaw out of the lineup when a lefty entered the game was the right choice based on the limited sample we’ve seen this season. Is this trend likely to continue?

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Possibly, but it’s not as if the Red Sox have great alternative options at the moment. Josh Rutledge filled in at third base on Sunday and has performed well against lefties this season (5-for-15, .333), but he is a career .258 hitter against left-handed pitching. Certainly better than what Shaw has done this season, but not quite good enough to give up on Shaw in favor of Rutledge when the former has a history of producing against lefties.

Holt would be a better platoon option when he returns from the concussion that has sidelined him for the last few weeks, given his career .291 average against left-handed pitching. Young should remain locked in as the starting left fielder against lefties, so Holt could steal playing time from Shaw if the latter doesn’t improve against them.

With his issues against lefties dragging his overall numbers down, Shaw it beginning to look like a part-time platoon player that struggles defensively at third base. That sounds suspiciously like the man he replaced at the position.

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But hey, at least Shaw doesn’t have an albatross contract or a weight problem. Perhaps one of the more optimistic things we can say about him at the moment is that he’s not Sandoval.