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Labor Day Weekend Open Thread (With a Suggested Topic: Platoons)

Let’s talk about platoons and anything else that interests you this Labor Day weekend.

St. Louis Cardinals v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Happy Saturday Viva El Birdos!

The Cardinals play the Cubs this evening. And this morning is yours to talk through whatever you want.

Can I suggest a topic? Let’s talk about platoons.

What got me thinking about this was looking into Dylan Carlson’s stats as I was preparing to not write an article tonight. (I have about 30 free minutes with a wedding this weekend, so you’re getting a half effort from me here.) I was curious about just how much of a slump he’s in, how long it’s lasted and how deep he’s fallen.

With it being the first of the month, I worked backward in about 15-day increments to get a sense of the short sample size movements of Carlson’s performance after the All-Star Break. I know, I know… arbitrary endpoints and all that, but this is an “open thread” not even a real post.

Anyway, I was surprised to see that Carlson’s gotten 47 PAs since mid-August, more than you would expect from someone who was falling into the weak side of a platoon role. During those 47 PAs, Carlson has hit .300/.404/.350 with a 125 wRC+. With a lot of PH appearances in there and the small sample size, the SLUG% doesn’t bother or surprise me. The overall performance does – including the impressive OBP – because the narrative lately has been “Carlson sucks”.

Eh, not really. He’s actually doing just great in his half of a platoon situation, while still getting some PAs from both sides of the plate.

Also, kudos to Oli Marmol for keeping him in there on a pretty regular basis. It feels like Carlson has been buried but the PA count doesn’t support that. Over the same period, he has 5 more PAs than Dickerson (218 wRC+), who essentially functions as his platoon partner, even though they play different positions.

As a point of comparison, Nootbaar has 75 PAs over the same period with a 196 wRC+. He’s essentially playing every day.

Should he, though? Absolutely not. Because on the season Noot has a horrible line against lefties – .205/.315/.273 with a 75 wRC+.

That’s a little worse than Carlson’s season line against righties: .210/.290/.343 with an 82 wRC+.

I won’t embarrass Dickerson by mentioning his line against lefties. That’s not what he was brought here to do and, thankfully, Oli has given him very few plate appearances against his same side.

Anyway, Carlson’s 15 games before that were terrible. His slump timed out with Nootbaar and Dickerson’s offense explosion, which the team translated into a bunch of wins that have not quite buried the Brewers in the standings. It’s too bad for Carlson. But it’s great for the team.

The point? Platoons are good.

They mess with our narratives about players – a “platoon player” is worse than an “everyday player” in our minds – but most players in baseball have significant platoon splits. And, honestly, most players in baseball would benefit from mostly facing their opposite hand.

Here are wRC+ platoon splits for some notable Cardinals players this season. (Name: LHP, RHP)

Righty Hitters:
Nolan Arenado: 172, 160
Paul Goldschmidt: 269, 167
Albert Pujols: 223, 80
Tyler O’Neill: 116, 91
Juan Yepez: 65, 123

Switch Hitters:
Tommy Edman: 107, 101
Dylan Carlson: 155, 82

Lefty Hitters:
Lars Nootbaar: 75, 152
Brendan Donovan: 124, 128
Nolan Gorman: 109, 112

There are a few oddball performances in there. Including Yepez against righties and Donovan and Gorman against lefties, but sample sizes play heavily into those.

Platoons. They’re a good thing. Oli is using them well. I would like to see us fans get more comfortable expecting them and evaluating players for what they do well inside of their known platoon splits.

Back to that Carlson narrative for a second. We – and I’m probably guilty of this too – keep talking about Carlson’s performance against righties as a problem that might keep him from being a “good” player. Because by definition an “everyday” player is good and a “platoon” player is not. That’s more conditioning than it is reality because that’s the way baseball was for decades.

What if, instead, we saw basically every player as a platoon player and recognized that there’s only a select handful of extraordinary players who should be given the chance to routinely play through their platoon splits? Like Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt. And that’s about it.

Feel free to talk about that. Or anything else that you want to talk about. This is, after all, an open thread. And this post is meant more as a comment than a real article. Have at it!

(Yes... only I would post an open thread with an 800-word count...)

Enjoy your long weekend, everyone!