A more reasoned post on platoon splits

DMZ · August 12, 2009 at 12:50 am · Filed Under Mariners 

That last one was uhhhhh… not constructive, I know.

Here’s the thing: when you pinch-hit a dude, the dude doesn’t hit as well as they do normally. Or, as Tango puts it in The Book, “a pinch hitter would have to be significantly better than the player he is hitting for in order to make the substitution worthwhile.”

Pretty much, it’s ~25 points of OBP. Or ~35 points of wOBA, if that’s how you roll.

Then the average platoon split amounts to ~17 points for righties and ~27 for lefties.

Now, let’s do the math. Jenks is a right-hander. Sweeney cannot hit. So here’s about the overall line you want for the left-hander you’d be swapping in:

.000/.002/.000

Actually, okay, Sweeney’s hitting .248/.306 /.393. So you want to swap him out for anyone on the bench hitting either that line as a lefty, or significantly better than that as a rightie.

Here are the guys the M’s had sitting on the bench:

Lefties:
Griffey
Langerhans (remember that guy? Yeah, he’s good)
Hannahan

Righties
Johnson, assuming his sore elbow isn’t affecting his hitting
Woodward (remember kids, don’t just write your post and publish! you’ll do the roster circa two weeks ago and be wrong!)

So the lefties, then: pretty much there were three, count ‘em, three players on the bench who would have been good pinch-hit options.

I know Don’s not a big pinch-hitting guy, and there’s probably some clubhouse/intangible/whatever justification for why. But I just do not care. The team’s wasting high-leverage opportunities late in games where they have to get hits to avoid taking the loss, and it’s driving me batty. If — as we’re to believe by all accounts — Wakamatsu is a great people manager, those moments are where he can spend that credit to the team’s best advantage. And isn’t Sweeney supposed to be the consummate professional and teammate, willing to sacrifice for the team?

I don’t get it.

Comments

38 Responses to “A more reasoned post on platoon splits”

  1. TomTuttle on August 12th, 2009 1:03 am

    Give Griffey a bat in that situation, save Langerhans and Hannahan later for their defense.

  2. Chris C. on August 12th, 2009 1:08 am

    I tried to think of a good devil’s advocate to this post, and like the movie, I failed.

    There is not a decent reason to leave Sweeney in the game for that at bat. I am all for clubhouse chemistry and loyalty, but I mean……..come on. I guess I just don’t understand what greater good could have come out of letting Sweeney bat over Langerhans, and probably won’t.

  3. Chris C. on August 12th, 2009 1:09 am

    And the reason i say Langer over Griffey is that God love him, but I have serious doubts Griffeys catching up to Jenks fastball after 8 innings of maxin and relaxin.

  4. NorthofWrigleyField on August 12th, 2009 1:27 am

    No… the part that nobody should “get” was not pinch hitting Griffey for Sweeney AND having Griffey on deck to pinch hit for Wilson? Of course, never got there. Only thing I could think of is he wanted someone on base for when he went to Griffey, which still isn’t an excuse. I was sitting up in the All-Star Club and even though I had about 10 Mt. Dews in me and a belly full of pretty much all the best food you can think of… I was still super pissed off when Griffey wasn’t sent up there for Sweeney… and then even more torqued when I saw him in the on deck circle for an at bat he never got to. And everyone in my section was saying the same things… which is the only reason I know that it wasn’t just the 10 Mt. Dews.

  5. PearlDrumBum on August 12th, 2009 1:42 am

    I agree with you almost 100%. The only thing i disagree on is Woodward being available. He was busy taking part in the melee over at Fenway tonight.
    Not that it would have mattered, ’cause he’s a righty.

  6. vj on August 12th, 2009 2:02 am

    I think this incident and the fact that he bats Sweeney cleanup show that Wakamatsu still considers Sweeney to be a good hitter and significantly better than his season numbers suggest. In other words, the issue is the evaluation of Sweeney’s talent.

    For what its worth, ZIPS projections at fangraphs have Griffey’s and Langerhans’ wOBA for the rest of the season projected around .330, each, while Sweeney is ~.320 (the updated version is about the same for Langerhans and Griffey and a little lower for Sweeney).

    So, taking into account platoon advantage and pinch-hitting penalty, this non-move wasted about .010 to .020 wOBA on one at-bat. How much would that be worth in terms of win-expectancy?

  7. TestaverdeTD on August 12th, 2009 4:18 am

    Woodward’s not available to pinch hit unless Boston’s bench is also available to Wak in the late innings.

    Give Griffey a bat in that situation, save Langerhans and Hannahan later for their defense.

    When you’re down 2 in the bottom of the 9th can you really afford to save anyone.

  8. Rick L on August 12th, 2009 5:07 am

    I agree that Langerhans or Griffey would be a better option in that situation for the reasons you laid out. But I wish you would quit saying Sweeney can’t hit. He has the 7th best OPS on the team.

    Okay, it’s a light-hitting team. I guess you could say that none of them can hit, when the best OPS is below .900.

  9. sass on August 12th, 2009 5:56 am

    Well, if you’re batting him 4th to begin with, there must be some confusion as to what his skill levels are.

  10. lailaihei on August 12th, 2009 6:27 am

    Are you really more upset that he doesn’t pinch-hit in this situation than that he batted Sweeney 4th to begin with?

  11. ajacobs3 on August 12th, 2009 7:02 am

    Wak has a flat spot in his skill set as Derek points out. Hopefully he recognizes the gap and learns. Managers – particularly new ones – are not normally going to be stellar in all aspects of the game but the good ones learn and adapt. Something to watch going forward.

  12. DMZ on August 12th, 2009 7:29 am

    The distinction between batting him 4th and the pinch-hitting decision: I’m sure (as Wakamatsu might) that the argument here is that guys have roles, and whatever (even though he’s been happy to move them all over the place). That’s a complicated argument in 12 parts, and it’d get into the whole “lineups matter/doesn’t matter” question.

    This is one decision, wholly isolated from all of that: in the 9th, with one out and a right-handed guy who can’t hit up, facing a right-handed reliever, where failure to score two runs costs you the game, do you pinch-hit?

    Yes.

  13. davepaisley on August 12th, 2009 8:54 am

    I like a lot of things about Wak, but I absolutely hate his reluctance to use his bench. And his slavish devotion to Griffey and Sweeney (esp the latter.)

    I guess you can lay some of that at the feet of Jack Z et al, but man, how many mascots do we need? Maybe Sweeney is doubling up as the Moose? It would make him slightly more valuable.

  14. vj on August 12th, 2009 8:55 am

    This is one decision, wholly isolated from all of that: in the 9th, with one out and a right-handed guy who can’t hit up, facing a right-handed reliever, where failure to score two runs costs you the game, do you pinch-hit?

    At the risk of repeating myself: I believe this is the point where you and Wak disagree. And the Zips-Projections don’t consider Griffey or Langerhans all that much better as hitters (unless I misunderstand something, the pinch-hitting penalty and the platoon advantage pretty much cancel each other out).

  15. daveblev on August 12th, 2009 8:59 am

    Langerhans and Hannahan are much better hitters than Griffey at this point in his career, I would have rather took a chance with them pinch hitting then seeing Jr flail at strike 3 in the dirt as always.

  16. Mike Snow on August 12th, 2009 9:04 am

    I would read this as a difference of opinion over at what point a guy “can’t hit” at all. I add “at all” because the practice of pinch-hitting (as opposed to the theory) seems to be entirely focused on replacing somebody who isn’t up to the task, not the marginal advantage of substitution. Hence Wakamatsu would pinch-hit for guys who are completely useless at the plate (Cedeno, Woodward, Johnson) or when the task the situation calls for is one they’re incapable of (Griffey can hit the game-winning home run; Wilson can’t). But he won’t pinch-hit for either Sweeney facing a righthander or Griffey facing a lefthander, because while they may be at a disadvantage, they’re not utterly incompetent – at least in his analysis.

  17. niterunner on August 12th, 2009 9:07 am

    I would have rather took a chance with them pinch hitting then seeing Jr flail at strike 3 in the dirt as always.

    I’m not a fan of veterans, but Jr would be the best of the bunch you gave, NOT to strike out.

  18. daveblev on August 12th, 2009 9:08 am

    Griffey hasn’t a hit a game winning homerun all year, he has hit the meaningless Sexson types (ie: the team is down a few runs and he hits a solo homer).

  19. Chris Hafner on August 12th, 2009 9:12 am

    Mike Snow:

    But he won’t pinch-hit for either Sweeney facing a righthander or Griffey facing a lefthander, because while they may be at a disadvantage, they’re not utterly incompetent – at least in his analysis.

    I think you’re right, Mike. It seems to me that Wak views pinch-hitting as a dramatic action that needs to be justified by a major, major upgrade. A small, incremental upgrade just isn’t worth the cost of the switch (for him).

    So it seems some or all of these things is going on:
    - Wak is overrating the negative impact of pinch-hitting
    - Wak believes there is a human cost of pinch-hitting (perhaps it sends a detrimental message to the hitter?)
    - Wak overrates Sweeney as a hitter
    - Wak underrates the possible replacements

  20. niterunner on August 12th, 2009 9:13 am

    The situation last night was an OBP situation, not an RBI opportunity.

  21. Mike Snow on August 12th, 2009 9:24 am

    Griffey hasn’t a hit a game winning homerun all year, he has hit the meaningless Sexson types

    What is this, a clutch hitting argument? Griffey can hit home runs, Wilson can’t, and it looks like Wakamatsu calculated that the optimal use he could make of that spot was to take his best crack at getting a walkoff homer.

  22. JMHawkins on August 12th, 2009 9:36 am

    I’ll have to dig out my copy of The Book and re-read the PH part because I can’t remember if Tango factored in (or rather out) the advantage batters have when facing the same pitcher for a second, third or fourth time in a game. If that is part of the 25 pt PH disadvantage, then pinch-hitting against a new pitcher (aka Jenks) has less of a penalty.

    Anyway, adding to the puzzlement is that Wak is perfectly comfortable platooning Griffey and Sweeney. If the starting pitcher was a righty, then Wak would write Griffey’s name on the lineup card instead of Sweeney’s and not think anything of it. Why, when the lefty starter is out of the game and a righthander is on the mound for the 9th wouldn’t he stick Griffey in?

    Well, I guess the real answer to that question is that he was going to PH Griffey for Wilson, so values Sweeney as a hitter over Wilson. Of course, he could have PH Langerhans for Wilson if he wanted to…

  23. Red Apple on August 12th, 2009 9:45 am

    Griffey hasn’t a hit a game winning homerun all year, he has hit the meaningless Sexson types

    Like Mike said. And your memory of Sexson is pretty selective; I recall him hitting plenty of “meaningful” homers. (And no, I am not a Sexson apologist).

    Please limit discussion of “clutch” to automotive blogs or forums.

  24. Mike Snow on August 12th, 2009 9:49 am

    he was going to PH Griffey for Wilson, so values Sweeney as a hitter over Wilson

    Wilson is the winning run at the plate. The difference in the situation between Sweeney and Wilson magnifies the impact of the decision, in a way that dwarfs the difference between them as hitters in the abstract. You can’t just treat it as a transitive relationship.

    Because of that, I think something I’d add to Chris Hafner’s list of possibilities is the cost of decisionmaking itself. When you’re tinkering on the margins in real time, you can only invest so much thought into estimating the probabilities, while still planning out in your head the possible future implications of each scenario. At some point, if the probabilities don’t weigh heavily enough, trying to sort them out quickly is too much of a burden, and the inertia of the situation takes precedence.

  25. Typical Idiot Fan on August 12th, 2009 10:01 am

    While Griffey may not have hit a game winning home run this year, he hit one hell of a clutch tying home run back on June 19th.

    It’s not like it couldn’t happen. If the situation was managing players and egoes, then pinch hitting Griffey, a clubhouse leader, for Sweeney, a clubhouse leader, not only makes sense, but it evens out any ill feelings. They’re both great guys! Then, assuming Griffey reaches base, Langerhans can go run for him.

    I mean, Wak has used pinch runners before, so he knows that you can substitute someone who’s slow as dirt for someone faster. What’s the problem with substituting someone in for a more advantageous hitting situation? Either you’re willing to hurt feelings or you’re not.

  26. mlathrop3 on August 12th, 2009 10:14 am

    [off-topic]

  27. Hud67 on August 12th, 2009 10:31 am

    I did not agree with the decision either. However, didn’t one of the announcers say that Sweeney was 3 for 9 against Jenks? Had Griffey ever faced him?

  28. TranquilPsychosis on August 12th, 2009 10:33 am

    At some point, if the probabilities don’t weigh heavily enough, trying to sort them out quickly is too much of a burden, and the inertia of the situation takes precedence.

    So they were too “stunned” by the situation to make the proper call? I would like to think that all these scenarios were thought out long before they actually came to be.

  29. DMZ on August 12th, 2009 10:34 am

    Batter versus pitcher matchup statistics have no worth.

  30. Chris Hafner on August 12th, 2009 10:54 am

    Typical Idiot Fan:

    “Either you’re willing to hurt feelings or you’re not.”

    I’m not sure I see it that way. Not pinch-hitting is the default state. In my opinion, Wak won’t override that default state until the benefit of pinch-hitting outweighs the costs by a certain threshold. Replacing Cedeno with Griffey when Griffey has a platoon advantage clears Wak’s threshold. Replacing Sweeney with Langerhans in the situation outlined here doesn’t.

    Wak’s threshold could probably be set lower to maximize the chances of winning, as in this case. But it seems logical to me that Wak would have a higher threshold for pinch-hitting than he would for filling out a platoon-optimized lineup card. This is just me trying to get into Wak’s head, but pinch-hitting is an exception and there needs to be a very clear benefit before he will do it.

    Just curious – how do other managers rate in this way? I would imagine that being a little too conservative with pinch-hitting would be the norm among managers.

  31. DMZ on August 12th, 2009 11:06 am

    It’s not, actually. There’s a good study o’er at BP about this, but managers frequently pinch-hit when there’s little or no advantage. They tend to get better at it over their careers.

  32. TranquilPsychosis on August 12th, 2009 11:06 am

    Batter versus pitcher matchup statistics have no worth.

    Not exactly what I was referring to. This is:

    in the 9th, with one out and a right-handed guy who can’t hit up, facing a right-handed reliever, where failure to score two runs costs you the game, do you pinch-hit?

    Yes.

  33. DMZ on August 12th, 2009 11:12 am

    Sorry, that wasn’t a response to you, but to quoting the broadcaster’s “3 for 9″ stat.

  34. Paul B on August 12th, 2009 11:12 am

    Batter versus pitcher matchup statistics have no worth.

    Based on what I’ve seen this year from Wak, I would guess he would disagree with that statement. It looks like he pays attention to it. Has any reporter ever asked him about it?

  35. Chris Hafner on August 12th, 2009 11:15 am

    DMZ:

    There’s a good study o’er at BP about this, but managers frequently pinch-hit when there’s little or no advantage.

    Hmm, that’s interesting. I’m not a BP subscriber, but I’m curious as to whether that’s primarily because managers don’t know about/take into account the pitch-hitting penalty, or because managers don’t know how to evaluate the relative value of their hitters. A mixture of both, perhaps.

  36. TranquilPsychosis on August 12th, 2009 11:47 am

    Sorry, that wasn’t a response to you, but to quoting the broadcaster’s “3 for 9″ stat.

    That’s what I get for making assumptions. My apologies.

  37. BLYKMYK44 on August 12th, 2009 2:59 pm

    It’s not like it couldn’t happen. If the situation was managing players and egoes, then pinch hitting Griffey, a clubhouse leader, for Sweeney, a clubhouse leader, not only makes sense, but it evens out any ill feelings. They’re both great guys! Then, assuming Griffey reaches base, Langerhans can go run for him.

    - Not that clutch hitting matters…but how can you say this when Griffey’s HR against TB last Friday was the start of a big inning?

  38. Typical Idiot Fan on August 12th, 2009 3:35 pm

    What?

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