The Giants’ Offense Doesn’t Care About the Platoon Advantage

As many articles have pointed out over the last few weeks, the Giants are going to be at a loss for power in 2015. Steamer projects only three players to have double-digit homers, and they’re the usual power suspects from the team: Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt. Brandon Crawford is close with nine, but the Giants might have to look into every possible crevice they can to find that power in an environment where power is scarce in the first place.

Except maybe the Giants have already hit their peak in production, regardless of a lack of power. While for most teams it would be a cause for concern and employing someone like a Dayan Viciedo would be a worthwhile addition to help against lefties, the team looks like even Viciedo’s power success against lefties isn’t necessary. Take a look at the totals from the left-handed batters the Giants will employ in 2015 with a minimum of 50 2014 PA, sorted by wRC+ (forgive my rudimentary table in my maiden voyage):

Brandon Crawford 178 .395 .484 .879 .163 .404 .383 152
Nori Aoki 124 .428 .435 .863 .073 .398 .386 150
Joe Panik 84 .381 .458 .839 .084 .437 .369 143
Gregor Blanco 138 .346 .384 .730 .088 .363 .325 112
Brandon Belt 71 .324 .391 .715 .125 .306 .318 108

That’s five left-handed hitters who were above-average against southpaw pitchers in 2014. Nori Aoki’s highly vaunted league-leading .363 batting average was a talking point during last postseason with him being able to slot into the #2 spot in the Royals lineup regardless of who was pitching, but on his new team, he wasn’t even the best player against same-handed pitching. Crawford routinely crushed southpaws, yet Bruce Bochy kept him down in the lineup a majority of the time regardless of who pitched. Panik’s arrival and success against lefties also came with a giant flashing “BABIP! SMALL SAMPLE SIZE!” sign, but his contact-based approach should serve him well. Aoki’s arrival probably pushes him down in the order, but Panik’s early success is obviously a good sign even if his BABIP comes back down to Earth (as it is for all the players on this list).

The most interesting part of the chart is Belt. When Brett Pill was still a Giant and hitting homers off Clayton Kershaw, there was scuttlebutt about whether or not Pill should step in and hit when a lefty was on the hill. Then Pill showed off just how much talent he had and the Giants turned to Belt on an everyday basis anyways. Much like his fellow Brandon, Belt has done very well against lefties in his career with a .338 wOBA and a 120 wRC+. Those are numbers where the platoon advantage isn’t really necessary, but Belt has yet to put together a full season worthy of what many have expected of him. An injury-free 2015 season for him could go a long way in telling if the 350+ PA against lefties throughout his career will hold up or will fall by the wayside.

The other (unfortunately) obvious part of the Giants not needing to utilize the platoon is because they have possibly the worst bench in all of baseball. Outside of Andrew Susac, who could start for any other catcher-deficient team in the league, the Giants employ a light-hitting, defensive-oriented bench outfit. That plays well in AT&T Park, but when you need to give guys a day off here and there, lefties facing Juan Perez and Joaquin Arias aren’t going to be as afraid as they would be if any available Brandon is standing in the box. That’s where Blanco’s bat comes into play, as giving Aoki, Pagan or even Hunter Pence a day off doesn’t lead to a huge drop-off in production even if a lefty is on the hill.

While the Giants aren’t as flexible as other teams (with their cross-bay rivals leading the charge in mix-and-match lineups) their distinct lack of platoon advantage doesn’t necessarily hurt them. Their lack of depth and betting on a full season of Pagan, a full season of Belt and Aoki shoring up left field might be gambles, but if everything works (and it’s a rather large “if”), the Giants might have been able to replace the production of the departed Pablo Sandoval in their weird, unique way.

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9 years ago

Ive never seen a team that had lhb hit lhp like that before! Maybe leftys should be looking at some video of the giants. Wonder why Crawford is so good verses leftys but horrible vs rightys.