Platoons have been a fixture in baseball since the 19th century. The concept was one of the earliest strategic adjustments made by managers to get the most out of their players. Since teams have gravitated toward bigger, more specialized bullpens, the frequency of platoons has diminished.
Of course, it hasn't completely disappeared. Managers just have to be a little more creative with fewer roster spots with which to commit to a traditional platoon.
Athletics Bob Melvin has been called the "King of Platoons" by outfielder Josh Reddick. That designation might have been born out a combination of frustration and admiration.
Naturally, players want to play everyday, but for most, the results are hard to argue. Teams like the A's have been able to coax solid production out of inexpensive players by playing to their strengths.
In the early days, managers like John McGraw and Casey Stengel focused on the traditional handedness splits for their platoons. However, Earl Weaver -- who managed the Orioles from 1968 to 82 and in 1985-86 -- used to base his platoons on velocity and his players' success against the fastball.
Modern managers, like Melvin and Tampa Bay's Joe Maddon, can channel Weaver, taking his approach to new level thanks to the ever-widening gulf of data at their disposal. Platoons don't always afford their teams with the ideal ambidextrous dominance that they strive for, but it's all about playing the percentages. This season, there are several part-time examples of managers employing platoons, and simply put, some are more effective than others.
A good platoon still requires a commitment of two roster spots, but if everything falls into place, the combination can be well worth the daily cogitation.
Derek Norris + John Jaso = Jorek Norso
Combined numbers: .283/.382/.465, 12 HR, 45 RBI, .374 wOBA, 142 wRC+, 2.6 fWAR
Only the Brewers' Jonathan Lucroy has been more valuable than the A's catching combination of Norris and Jaso -- and every team carries a backup catcher, right? Pretty effective. The A's mix Jaso in at designated hitter occasionally as well, but in games where one of these two has started behind the plate, Oakland has had the best catcher in the American League this season.
It also doesn't hurt that, when combined, "Norso" looks and sounds like a Tolkien character. The Scherzer eyes really drive home the Middle Earth motif.
Corey Dickerson + Brandon Barnes = Cordon Dickernes
Combined numbers: .329/.381/.553, 9 HR, 29 RBI, 8 SB, .403 wOBA, 144 wRC+, 2.6 fWAR
Honestly, before this exercise I probably would've had trouble picking either of these guys out of a lineup, but in Colorado, they don't often appear in the same lineup at the same time, so it's easier just to mash them into a single player. If you do that, you're looking at a top ten outfielder -- basically, Michael Brantley with a better glove(s) ...
Or Carlos Gonzalez.
Seth Smith + Chris Denorfia = Chreth Sminorfia
Combined numbers: .278/.354/.444, 7 HR, 35 RBI, 8 SB, .352 wOBA, 128 wRC+, 2.2 fWAR
That's not Adam Carolla. Combined, Smith and Denorfia are at least twice as funny as Carolla and infinitely more athletic. Were he a part of reality, Chreth Sminorfia would be an excellent, well-rounded player, but he might not be an All-Star this season. The 2.2 fWAR the Padres has gotten out of their semi-platoon checks in at seventh in the National League just ahead of Hunter Pence and Justin Upton, but behind the elite guys like Andrew McCutchen, Giancarlo Stanton, and Yasiel Puig.
David DeJesus + Sean Rodriguez = Seanvid DeRodjesus
Combined numbers: .244/.320/.455, 11 HR, 37 RBI, .341 wOBA, 121 wRC+, 0.6 fWAR
The number of platoons that provide top ten-caliber production is rather small. This list is by no means comprehensive, but Jorek Norsos are few and far between. Obviously, most of the situations in Tampa Bay are currently less than ideal -- they have the worst record in baseball.
Rodriguez isn't typically considered an outfielder. He's spent most of his career at second base, but this year he's appeared in left field more than any other position. This "platoon" is an example of how managers have gotten more creative as they attempt to put their hitters in the best position to succeed. Joe Maddon doesn't do many things traditionally.
Ike Davis + Gaby Sanchez = Ikby Sanvis
Combined numbers: .249/.333/.430, 9 HR, 30 RBI, .336 wOBA, 115 wRC+, 0.2 fWAR
Maybe not the best match here, which is probably why the Gaby half has been mentioned in trade rumors. The batting line looks pretty good with Sanchez providing the slugging and Davis filling up the on-base percentage. Davis is walking more than twice as often as his platoonmate, but the power hasn't showed up yet for him in Pittsburgh. However, he has a career .429 slugging percentage, so the Pirates aren't crazy to consider splitting up Ikby.
Eric Sogard + Nick Punto = Ernick Puntgard
Combined numbers: .222/.305/.274, 1 HR, 17 RBI, .269 wOBA, 69 wRC+, 0.0 fWAR
To be fair, Sogard's BABIP is currently 41 points below his career average and 80 points lower than it was last year, which was the best of his career. On the other hand, Sogard is really bringing Punto down. Neither player is slugging, but Punto has a .352 on-base percentage, so he could be the King's right hand man at second base in Oakland for a while.
It' worth noting that despite Puntgard's popless bat, the combined gloves of Punto and Sogard has allowed the A's to break even according to fWAR.
Adam Dunn + Paul Konerko = Padaul Dunnerko
Combined numbers: .225/.331/.429, 15 HR, 43 RBI, .334 wOBA, 108 wRC+, -0.1 fWAR
This looks worse than it is. Dunn and Konerko's combined fWAR is ugly, and so are their faces blended together, but there's an underlying value that isn't really apparent immediately.
In terms of value on the field, these two typically appear as designated hitters, so their WAR totals are highly dependent on huge numbers in the batter's box, but the combined batting line is pretty good -- better than what was expected by most anyway.
In terms of the face that appears above, well, that is not a handsome man. But there is a sort comforting contentment in that face that seems like it would be right at home in one of those old claymation Christmas movies.
David Murphy + Ryan Raburn = Dyanid Ramurph
Combined numbers: .257/.315/.374, 6 HR, 51 RBI, .304 wOBA, 94 wRC+, -0.2 fWAR
Both of the guys in this sort-of platoon have excellent career numbers versus othersiders, but it just hasn't worked out as well as it seems like it should have so far. They're off to a slow start, which might be why they kind of look turtlish when their faces get melted together.
Cleveland general manager Chris Antonetti had the right idea here, and it's not like manager Terry Francona has mishandled the situation. Sometimes, things just turn out poorly -- like if you were born with three front teeth, for example.
C.J. Cron + Raul Ibanez = Caūl J. Icrōnez
Combined numbers: .200/.270/.341, 6 HR, 36 RBI, .274 wOBA, 74 wRC+, -0.6 fWAR
OH MY GOD!