FanPost

Doing the Splits Doesn't Always Hurt

Platoon players have gained relevancy in the majors due in part to the efforts of teams like the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays, who have used the presence of platoon advantages to piece together quality starters with stats comparable to one "star" player. In real life, a platoon situation is a sub-optimal proposition because it costs the team two players to replace the production of one. That’s two roster spots and two players whose platoon splits can be taken advantage of by pitching changes.

In fantasy baseball, a platoon player isn’t necessarily a player in a real-life platoon, but rather one with large platoon splits. Unlike real life, fantasy doesn’t involve substituting bench players for your starters during the course of a game; instead, your bench exists for you to back up certain positions or take advantage of matchups. In finding platoon advantages to exploit, you can use your bench as a weapon as opposed to a "stash palace" like the owner that picks up every top prospect awaiting their midseason call-up.

Let’s use Brandon Moss as an example. The A’s have deployed Moss as a platoon player over the past couple years, and he has repaid their faith by blasting 51 home runs and amassing a combined 311 wRC+ over that time frame.

Moss is deployed almost exclusively as a platoon player. In 2013, 417 of his 505 plate appearances (82.6%) came against right-handed pitching, and he put up a .268/.353/.552 slash line against righties with 26 home runs and 71 RBIs compared to a .200/.261/.388 line against lefties. His wOBA against righties? .387. Against lefties? A pitiful .284.

Now let’s take a look Moss’ line against righties next to that of a very popular every-day player with similar rate stats:

2013 Stats

PA

HR

RBI

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

Brandon Moss vs. RHP

417

26

71

.268

.353

.552

.387

Mystery Player

621

36

104

.272

.370

.534

.388

Pretty similar, no? Sure, this mystery player hit ten more homers than Moss’ "vs. RHP" total and drove in 33 more runs than Moss, but this player also went, on average, 106 spots higher in a snake draft according to ESPN average draft position.

The mystery player is Edwin Encarnacion, but my argument is not that Brandon Moss is worth as much as Edwin Encarnacion; it’s that there’s more to Moss than just those splits. If you play in a weekly league and the A’s face a lefty-heavy schedule, you can sub out Moss for a hitter with better matchups and likely end up with a week’s worth of superior numbers. For those of you in daily leagues, you have an even greater advantage: you can specifically remove Moss from your lineup every time the A’s face a lefty. Moss vs. RHP combined with the stats of any decent replacement hitter should be able to reasonably approach the production you’d get from one Edwin Encarnacion, and at a fraction of Encarnacion’s cost.

Using platoon advantages to your advantage is just one of many ways you can get ahead in fantasy baseball by using people’s perceptions against them. Encarnacion is perceived, rightly, as a superstar hitter, but Brandon Moss doesn’t get his due as 70% of a star hitter with the remaining 30% made up of better hitters than Brandon Moss vs. lefties. Think about the kind of upgrade you’d receive along with Moss if you were to trade Encarnacion for him and a second player. An ace pitcher? A top second baseman? Perception is often worth more than reality, and platoon advantages are a great way to leverage perception against your league-mates.

Here are some hitters with heavy platoon splits that can help your fantasy team produce at a fraction of the cost of some similar everyday players:

2013 Stats

PA

HR

RBI

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

Adam Lind vs. RHP

421

20

59

.309

.385

.539

.396

Prince Fielder

712

25

106

.279

.362

.457

.358

2013 Stats

PA

HR

RBI

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

Daniel Nava vs. RHP

397

10

53

.322

.411

.484

.392

Matt Holliday

602

22

94

.300

.389

.490

.383

2013 Stats

PA

HR

RBI

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

Andre Ethier vs. RHP

393

9

41

.294

.394

.460

.369

Justin Upton

643

27

70

.263

.354

.464

.357

2013 Stats

PA

HR

RBI

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

Lucas Duda vs. RHP

274

12

22

.240

.369

.462

.362

Giancarlo Stanton

504

24

62

.249

.365

.480

.368

Obviously you can't expect Lucas Duda to replicate the stats of Giancarlo Stanton over the course of a season, but if you're not lucky enough to land Stanton, playing Duda against right-handed pitching will probably make that gap a lot smaller than you'd think. Over the course of a long fantasy baseball season, small advantages can add up to make a big difference.

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