Miami Marlins Season Preview: Marlins Platoon Splits

What are the odds Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio have any platoon splits to show in 2012? Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

The final preview pieces that we will do this offseason before Opening Day 2012 will indirectly involve something fans are often interested in. Not every team's offseason can be as exciting and discussion-inducing as the Miami Marlins' this season, but that does not stop fans from rampant discussion about their teams throughout the offseason. One topic fans love to discuss is the batting order. Well, here at Fish Stripes, we will gladly oblige!

But why are we talking about platoon splits if we really want to discuss batting order? It is fairly simple: to build a good batting order, you need to know about hitters' platoon splits. Yes, there may indeed be some familiarity factor as well with batting in a certain part of the lineup, but we also know certainly that platoon matchups play a real role in the performance of hitters, so why should they be ignored when building a lineup? If you can squeeze any sort of advantage as a major league manager, you should do it, and platoon splits and managing those performances are certainly real interactions that can contribute to real runs. That is why we must first start by discussing platoon splits this morning before we go into talking about proper, optimized lineups.

The Method

How are we going to project those platoon splits? Well, this is not the first time I have done this, so I have detailed the process before. Here is the article where I initially discussed how to do this, and here is what I wrote on the matter:

The Rules (as written by The Book)

The Book handled platoon splits pretty well, identifying them as a real effect on pitchers and hitters. For pitchers, it was much easier to establish a platoon split, i.e. it was regressed a lot less to the mean split. For pitchers, it took righties 700 PA of facing lefty hitters to regress 50%, while it took only 450 PA for lefties facing lefties. For hitters, however, the regression was a bit more harsh: left-handed hitters facing lefty pitchers had to be regressed 1000 PA for 50% to the mean, while righties facing lefty pitchers had to be regressed 2000 PA to the mean.

Now what means am I regressing to? I’m stealing a line from FanGraphs writer and friend of the Maniac Matt Klaassen from his piece on estimating hitter platoon skill. Matt calculates the league average wOBA split for lefties versus left-handed pitching and righties versus left-handed pitching, arriving at a split of 8.6% for lefties vs. lefties and 6.1% for righties vs. lefties. Given the matchups, this means that on average, lefties had a split between their lefty and righty wOBA that was 8.6% of their actual wOBA, worse against lefties. Meanwhile, righties had a split between their lefty and righty wOBA that was 6.1% of their actual wOBA, better versus lefties.

Essentially, we take the career split of a player, regress that split by the appropriate amount as determined by The Book and their calculations, and we apply that split to a current projection of that player. The projections will be from ZiPS, as listed by FanGraphs. How would one go about doing this? Let's take a look at an example.

An Example

Gaby Sanchez, for his career, has exhibited a very large platoon split. In 329 PA versus left-handed pitchers, he has posted a superb .309/.402/.514 slash line, good for a .397 wOBA. However, in 1009 PA against righties, he has done quite the opposite, batting a mere .257/.327/.417, worth a .326 wOBA. Given his career .345 wOBA, we consider Sanchez's career split at 17.1 percent of his career line. However, that is in just 329 PA versus lefties, and we know that a right-handed hitter's career wOBA against lefties can only project 50 percent of a player's talent against lefties at 2000 PA, meaning we have to regress that with 2000 PA of the average righty split, which is 6.1 percent. Doing the calculations as described in the above Method section, we get a projected .366 wOBA versus left-handers and .338 versus right-handers. In other words, we expect Sanchez to be a little better against righties and good deal worse versus lefties than he has been in his career, but his split is still expected to be bigger than the average.

The Players and their Splits

The following is a table with all of the splits for the Miami Marlins position players who project for significant playing time in 2012. The Marlins will run these players out primarily in 2012, and here is how they will fare versus lefties and righties.

Player wOBA vs. RHP wOBA vs. LHP
Jose Reyes .362 .362
Emilio Bonifacio .305 .305
Hanley Ramirez .355 .375
Giancarlo Stanton .380 .401
Logan Morrison .361 .337
Gaby Sanchez .338 .366
Omar Infante .307 .317
John Buck .300 .321

What do these numbers end up meaning? Here are some observations I noted:

- Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio have no splits because they are both switch hitters and thus should theoretically not have any splits. In Reyes's case, the description does seem fairly accurate, as his splits are fairly even throughout his career. In Bonifacio's case, he has been significantly better as a right-handed hitter versus lefties (.307/.354/.396, .331 wOBA) versus his performance versus right-handed hitters as a lefty hitter (.253/.318/.328, .291 wOBA). If he projected him as a right-hander, we would project him to hit .311 versus lefties and only .303 versus righties.

- Logan Morrison has a .354 wOBA against lefties and righties throughout his career, but again, we still have to regress some of that lack of split appropriately because of Morrison's lack of PA versus lefties. As of now, he is projected to hit 6.9 percent better versus righties in 2012.

- Giancarlo Stanton is really, really good.

- Hanley Ramirez is not as good as he used to be. Just two seasons ago, before the year started, we projected Ramirez to hit over .400 wOBA versus both lefties and righties. After two down seasons, including one of the worst years from a superstar in his prime, he is down to being projected by ZiPS to hit just a .355 wOBA against righties.

Later today, we will use this information to write up the proper, optimized lineups against both left-handed and right-handed pitchers. Stay tuned.

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