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The Potential of Platoons: How To Create a Win-Win Situation

Every team goes through slumps at the plate. And some teams just don’t have much going for them at the plate, period.

Even if it’s not the big leagues, head coaches can take a lesson from the likes of Hall of Fame managers Earl Weaver and Casey Stengel, two legendary Major League Baseball managers who used platoon splits to their favor.

Righty on righty matchups and lefty on lefty matchups favor the pitcher. If the pitcher and hitter use different hands, then the advantage goes to the hitter. With that in mind, Apponequet (Lakeville, Massachusetts) Regional High School coach Matt Murray sees the potential for platoons as a win-win situation.

“I want to get the absolute best from my players,” he said. “And sometimes, that means diminishing some guys’ playing roles and giving others a little more. Baseball is a numbers game — to a degree. And I think of it that way.”

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Murray said that he tries to put as many quality right-handed bats in the lineup against left-handed pitchers and as many quality left-handed bats in the lineup against righties. Sometimes, he admits, it is difficult to find out who is starting for the opposing team. And no matter what, he said he will keep his top hitters in the lineup since they tend to hit well against anyone.

In order to find out who the best players are in each split, Murray, a righty, and his assistant coach, Samuel Eith, a lefty, pitch to their players and record the results. They take notes and try to see if anyone is significantly better or worse against a set split.

“It works twofold since some kids really end up getting some more playing time,” said Eith. “And the kids are usually pretty OK with it.” 

And if a team were to throw in a reliever in order to gain the platoon advantage back, Murray said that is when he can take advantage of his bench and put the other platoon mate back into the game — if necessary. Some leagues also allot for a pinch-hitter, which keeps the player who was pinch-hit for in the game, which could prove helpful if the player already playing is superior defensively.

When Murray first heard of the platoon idea, he went a bit overboard with it — putting every lefty he could in the lineup against a star right-hander. His team was no-hit.

“When your team can’t get any hits, you usually have to place the blame on yourself,” he explained. “I had a couple of my best bats on the bench because they were righties. But even righty-righty, I think they could have gotten a hit, rattled the kid and maybe helped some other kids out. It was the last time I made that mistake.”

Murray added that in the few scrimmages his team plays every year, he tries to see how certain kids do based off the splits he sees in practice. If they look comfortable and it is what he expects, then they will likely see more at-bats against that split — lefty or righty.

From GameChanger and Thomas Joyce.

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