The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

Platoon means not good enough

Posted by disappointmentzone on 1 August 2006

Cleveland Plain Dealer sports columnist Bud Shaw titled his column today Platoon Just Means Not Good Enough. Shaw finds the Indians’ infield situation “perplexing” with all the different platoons: Casey and Martinez at first, Martinez and Shoppach at catcher, and Luna and Inglett at second. He writes that the Indians, with the Belliard-Luna trade, “added middle infield depth to the organization and overall versatility…But they’re even shorter on players who can hold down one position for multiple games in a row.” He continues: “Mike Hargrove believed regulars were regulars for a very good reason, so his lineup rarely changed”. What manager wouldn’t want that?” I assume Mr. Shaw is referring to managers wanting a roster full of everyday players, not to managers wanting to rarely have to change the lineup. After all, no manager is under dictate to do so. But, yes, having a roster full of everyday catchers and left fielders is nice. But is it necessarily better than a roster full of players who can play only against lefties or righties and never both?

Albert Pujols, if not the best player in baseball, is certainly the best 1B. Yet nearly two months into the season the second best 1B in all of baseball was Benuardo. Pujols is an everyday player. Eduardo Perez and Ben Broussard are not. Yet only the greatest hitter in baseball out-performed the platoon of Perez and Broussard. Certainly Eric Wedge would prefer Pujols to Benuardo; all managers would prefer Pujols to whoever they have manning 1B. But might this not be too high a standard? After all, how many Pujols-type players are there not only in the majors, but also in the history of baseball? Pujols has had the best first six years of any player since Joe DiMaggio. Benuardo wasn’t as good in the field as Pujols to be sure, but Shaw’s argument stems from trading Belliard–a regular player–for Luna, who is, right now, a platoon player. Luna is a better fielder than Belliard. Shaw even admits as much, if not explicitly certainly implicitly, when he says that “[Belliard] played with one foot on the warning track…and made the most of his shortcomings.” What lofty expectations Overcoming one’s shortcomings is impressive and takes courage, but such is not the standard for All-Stars. If I were to overcome my shortcomings as a second baseman I would still be quantifiably worse than Belliard. Overcoming shortcomings is just another term for hustle and grit, not skill and ability. Since Luna is a better fielder (and Inglett is, too), it’s fair to assume that Mr. Shaw’s problem with the platoon is in the offense. Is IgLoo going to match Belliard’s performance at the plate? I don’t know, but the one platoon with a long enough history to approach being comparable to single players–Benuardo–did very well.

The Indians suck this season but it certainly isn’t because of the platoons Wedge has used, whether by design or by lack of everyday players. And I don’t think it’s fair to say that managers should only turn to platoons when all else–everyday players playing everyday–fails, which Mr. Shaw implies. Mr. Shaw writes that Belliard’sdeparture leaves the Indians in need of yet another answer.” Perhaps. But the problems that need to be reconciled aren’t the platoons.

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