New York Mets News

Platoon (Not Just an Overrated Movie About the Vietnam War)

By Unknown author

Usually when someone mentions the word “Platoon,” memories of a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Charlie Sheen, a scar-faced Tom Berenger, and a completely out-of-place Johnny Depp come to mind. Well, get your mind out of the trench (or jungle), and get with the times. A platoon, while once just an overrated movie about the Vietnam War, is also a smart way to properly match your hitting against opposing pitchers.

Earlier in the month, Sandy Alderson signed former-Florida Marlins catcher, Ronny Paulino to a one year, $1.3 (plus incentives) contract. A lot of people were scratching their heads since the Mets already have youngster Josh Thole pegged as starting catcher, and Paulino’s overall line from 2010 was an underwhelming .259 BA, .311 OB, and .354 SLG. However, if you look at Paulino’s splits against lefties, he sported an incredible .358 BA, .380 OB, and .516 SLG in 2010. That’s not just a fluke either–he owns a career .338 BA, .390 OB, .481 SLG against lefties.

Paulino, who is a right-handed batter, obviously doesn’t fare well against right-handed pitching, but he absolutely mashes against lefties. Was Alderson & Co. thinking “platoon” before they signed Paulino?

Considering Thole, a left-handed hitter, posted a .299 BA, .389 OB, .402 SLG against righties (and a .143/.200/.143 against lefties), it’s safe to assume the Mets will successfully platoon the two catchers in 2011.

Even in the Rule 5 draft, the Mets could have been thinking platoon when they selected former first-round pick, Brad Emaus. Since Dan Murphy, who is rumored to steal away the second base job from Luis Castillo, is a left-handed hitter, Emaus could serve as Murphy’s right-handed complement (and defensive replacement for that matter).

As savvy as signing Paulino and selecting Emaus was, not every baseball mind thinks platooning is the way to go. In fact, many people will and could make the argument that if a Josh Thole/Dan Murphy is always benched versus their weaker split, they’ll never fully grow as a major league hitter. Well, that devil’s advocate has a fair point. If you’re of that mindset, then you just have to trust that the Mets correctly project that Thole and Murphy might not have a future as a full-time starter, or that at the very least, it makes more sense for the team in the near future to use platoons. Either way, for 2011, the Mets are finally looking to give themselves the best chance to get on-base with every plate appearance.