Yesterday, when asked whether or not the remarkably gritty Brett Gardner would be in left field tomorrow, at Fenway Park, with the left-handed Jon Lester on the mound, manager Joe Girardi refused to commit to any configuration in particular, noting that the team would have a lineup ready just prior to the game. In view of his reaction, a right-lefty platoon remains a possibility, with Gardner the primary player against right-handers, and with Marcus Thames, a right-hander, receiving at-bats against southpaws (there is a possibility Curtis Granderson is the one to sit today, but it is doubtful). There could be some variation in the platoon, as well. Rather than a strict switch-up, we could see a soft one, as Gardner could sit when facing the more elite left-handers in the game.
Underpinning the platoon tactic is the concept of reverse leveraging, offensively. Brett Gardner has not proven that he can’t hit lefties – not yet – but Thames has proven that he can do some damage against them, so, in theory the platoon makes strategic sense with regards to hitting. But, one wonders at what cost is an offensive advantage gained by a platoon?
Thames isn’t necessarily a butcher in the outfield, however, he is a pretty poor defender, according to UZR (the sample size is admittedly limited). This season, as a left fielder, the 33-year old is projected to be 11 runs below average over 150 defensive games. He would cost a win, essentially. Of course, in a platoon with Brett Gardner, Thames’ time in the field would be limited, making for a much more manageable situation. However, would any lapse in defense between Thames and Gardner be worth Thames’ bat? What if the offensive upside of a platoon is marginal (this is very likely given the sporadic playing time for a right-handed platoon-mate)? I think a soft platoon might be worthwhile, with Thames seeing time against the Jon Lesters and Cliff Lees of the American League, however, beyond that, I am somewhat skeptical that a strict platoon would be beneficial for the Yankees (or beneficial to the point where the defensive gap is made up).
What do you think?
Photo by the AP
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