Fangraphs' August Fagerstrom had an interesting piece today that attempted to look at all the positional player platoons we might see in 2016, and rank them from best to worst, based on their projected WAR. Here is the methodology behind the piece:
And so, in celebration, I thought we could go over a few of baseball’s more notable platoons. With some help from RosterResource, I constructed a table of every position in baseball where it looks like a team might run a platoon this year. Jared Cross then provided me with Steamer’s platoon split projections, and from there, I was just a couple spreadsheet formulas away from having combined projections. To account for roughly two-thirds of baseball pitchers throwing right-handed, I assigned 67% of the playing time to the left-handed batter, and 33% to the righty.
It probably wont surprise you to find out that, out of 39 platoons he found throughout MLB, the much ballyhooed LF solution of Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry ranked 32nd, with a combined WAR of 1.0 (90 wRC+). Yeah, that's nothing to write home about, to put it kindly. This type of piece would typically send off alarm bells in my Angels-addled brain, but the subject of LF platoon projections actually came up on this very site recently, and it was one of our esteemed writers, Turk's Teeth, who added in some much-needed clarity and reason to take at least a step or two from the ledge. Again, keep in mind that the 32nd out of 39 ranking is strongly based off of those pesky Steamer projections.
Take it away, Turk's Teeth:
I don't know that I would trust Steamer projections for Nava and Gentry for 2016.
The 2015 data was just too sparse.
And I certainly wouldn’t poopoo Craig Gentry’s defense – in many ways(...)He’s also a player who put up a .280/.354/.357 slash over the three year period of 2012-2014. He came to the plate only 814 times over that span, but delivered +4.5 wins with the glove according to BR. +4.5 wins over roughly a season-and-a-half of innings with his defense alone. He’s consistently great in the field. He also stole 57 bases (to 12 CS) over those 814 PAs.
It really all comes down to whether(...) Nava/Gentry is more like their 2014 or 2015 selves. .
In 2014, Nava+Gentry combined for 666 plate appearances, and put up a devilishly good 5.3 rWAR (...) and those plate appearances constitute roughly a full season (680-700 PAs) for a typical everyday player. (They combined for 6.4 rWAR in 2013, but exceeded 700 PAs combined.)
So keep in mind – both Unipony’s scenario and Eppler’s scenario requires largely forgetting the results of 2015 and putting hopes in a return to 2014 form. If you’re optimistic that we can overlook 2015 performances, you should put more faith in a Nava/Gentry platoon than a (Billy) Hamilton trade.
Really all we have is optimism at this point. But it’s not inconceivable that a Nava/Gentry platoon can work. What’s clear is that any combination of the four OFs Eppler put on the 40-man roster for 2016 should be markedly superior on defense than recent charges in LF. All four are athletic and versatile defenders, with three lefties/switchhitters among them.
This whole discussion was spurred on by a great fanpost dealing with Billy Hamilton, a player you'd think the Angels could sorely use. But it was then that Turk's Teeth gave his astute opinion on why the Gentry/Nava platoon could not only deliver on the same promise as someone like Billy Hamilton donning an Angels uniform, but they could be even better. Again, it's perhaps one of those instances where projections aren't telling the whole story of what we can expect to see on the field.
Nava and Gentry barely got playing time last season. Gentry had 56 appearances then spent the whole season in the minors. Nava got 78 PAs in Boston, then 88 PAs in Tampa. He battled injuries through much of the season.
Nava’s performance will depend significantly on his health. If he continues to struggle with injuries, he’ll be less than worthless. If he’s healthy and thrives in a platoon (as he did with Jonny Gomes in Boston’s 2013 championship season), then Eppler’s risky plan will have succeeded.
Okay, now i'm feeling pretty OK about that LF platoon...at least just a lil bit. Don't you?