Friday, June 29, 2007

Memo: Pierre still attempting to bat against LHP

When Juan Pierre was signed, I suggested that it could have been an okay signing if Pierre were platooned. I said this because a) Pierre, though his split may be less pronounced since he's a contact hitter with almost zero power, still is a better hitter against RHP, b) Pierre might play better if he was getting a day or two of rest per week, and c) starting any LHB against a southpaw needs to be evaluated in light of the opportunity cost of letting a RHB play that day - even if you had a LHB with no true platoon split, starting a generally inferior RHB is often preferable because your RHB gets the platoon advantage.

As it turns out, Pierre has hit a semi-tolerable .291/.328/.352 against RHP and a miserable .217/.233/.229 against his fellow lefties. Is there a reason that this hasn't been considered a scandal? Now, you should know as well as I do that this is a small sample that doesn't fully represent his true platoon split, but the point is that Pierre isn't a good enough hitter that you'd ever want to start him against LHP unless you were painted into a corner by injuries and/or roster problems. Of course, were the Dodgers to defend themselves against this charge (of course, they aren't since as far as I know no one in the media is advancing the Platoon Pierre cause), they'd probably spout something about not having an RHB centerfielder. And yes, the Dodgers have three starting OF who are left-handed (Gonzalez and Ethier the others). But those other two are much better hitters than Pierre, and in Ethier's case we have reason to believe that he has an atypically small platoon split. So why haven't the Dodgers been sitting two of their southpaws against southpaws? For one, they've largely scorned having a fifth outfielder, which for reasons beyond merely the title of this blog I consider to be a lousy strategy, especially if you're going to couple it with the leftrinity. Why no fifth outfielder? We could chalk it up to the Repko injury, but he was replaced with Brady Clark, who was DFA'd for essentially no reason. Plus, the Dodgers have a fine righty platoonmate at Vegas already in Delwyn Young, who is not good enough that you can really argue they need to keep him there to play everyday. The real reason boils down to the Dodgers decision to resign Nomar Garciaparra, which gave them two right-handed first basemen; now that they've finally given Loney the job they should have given him to begin with, Garciaparra and Saenz are fully redundant as RHB pinch-hitters slash first base platoonmen. Of course, the Dodgers aren't using Nomar as such, which instead means that Betemit is relegated to a bench role, meaning the Dodgers have 40% of their bench dedicated to no-field corner infielders.

I call shenanigans on the whole thing; I was arguing that the Dodgers shouldn't re-sign Garciaparra back when he was having a great 2006, going so far as to argue that they should try trading him. That signing is looking downright albatrossic, which is pretty tought for a two year deal under $20 mil. But despite knowing that they had Loney waiting and major league ready, the Dodgers still shelled out the bucks to Nomar and gave him a no-trade clause. Yuck.

But in any event, even the fallout from Garciaparra isn't enough backdoor justification for the Dodgers to screw around on this Pierre affair. Put Kemp in center against the southpaws, already. They can't possibly want to continue to make the Pierre signing look this awful, can they? Might as well boost his rate stats ... and, you know, the team's ability to win.


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