John Korsgaard / The Players
THE TRUE PLATOONS
by John Korsgaard
Someone needs to give us a study of the true platoons in history. Several men have done serious discussions of platooning but mostly along the lines of managerial strategy and historical development of the practice. What someone out there needs to do now is make us a catalog (or someone needs to make me aware of what might have already been done)
Two recent additions to our store of knowledge can help. Total Baseball (Pete Palmer's) games at LF-CF-RF overcomes what we didn't previously know about the distinct outfield spots.
Here are some games played numbers for Oriole outfielders from 1979-84.
CF Bumbry 146
RF Singleton 136 Lowenstein 41
LF Roenicke 114 Lowenstein 44
CF Bumbry 160
RF Singleton 151 Roenicke 38
LF Lowenstein 88 Roenicke 86
CF Bumbry 100
RF Singleton 72 Roenicke 54
LF Lowenstein 67 Roenicke 45 Dwyer 43
CF Bumbry 146
RF Ford 119 Roenicke 42
LF Lowenstein 110 Roenicke 80
CF Bumbry 99 Shelby 115
RF Ford 103 Dwyer 49
LF Lowenstein 106 Roenicke 79
CF Shelby 118 Bumbry 82
RF Young 85 Dwyer 51
LF Roenicke 85 Lowenstein 68
Average games played [median] for a regular CF is 78% of the schedule or 127 games of a 162 game schedule
Average games played [median] for a regular RF is 74% of the schedule or 120 games of a 162 game schedule
Average games played [median] for a regular CF is 71% of the schedule or 115 games of a 162 game schedule
In none of those seasons did the O's have a LF who played at median historical games. But when you combine the two headed platoon of Lowenstein and Roenicke, LF becomes at least the equal of CF and RF in "regularness"
This would be the first criteria for a true platoon. Two men, most likely lefty and righty batters, who are 1 and 2 in games played at a position while their total runs nearly the entire schedule with neither of them above average in games played.
This criteria distinguishes a true platoon against a defensive switch with a guy like Shelby getting into a lot of games but having fewer chances than the real regular.
Next, Bill James' new win shares helps because a manager will not continue a platoon if one is not contributing. Same chart with win shares
CF Bumbry 19
RF Singleton 32
LF Roenicke 19 Lowenstein 9
CF Bumbry 33
RF Singleton 27
LF Lowenstein 9 Roenicke 9
CF Bumbry 13
RF Singleton 15
LF Lowenstein 5 Roenicke 6 Dwyer 3
CF Bumbry 12
RF Ford 7 (Dwyer 8)
LF Lowenstein 21 Roenicke 20
CF Bumbry 10 Shelby 8 behind Dwyer at 9
RF Ford 13
LF Lowenstein 15 Roenicke 11
CF Shelby 4 (Dwyer) Bumbry 7
RF Young 16
LF Roenicke 10 Lowenstein 6
In every case, both Gary and John were in the top 4 contributions among outfielders. In neither 1983 or 1984 was Shelby, a fielding replacement (or vice versa, a starter that got pinch hit for) the leader among CFs or among the top.
I was motivated to write this article when I discovered that the best left fielder in Orioles history (not the Browns with Ken Williams and George Stone, just the Baltimore edition of the franchise) is, so far, 1979-84 GaryJohn Roenicstein (or whatever). If I hadn't known to look for this,my numbers would've ended up naming Bob Nieman or Don Buford. GOOD but not as good.
I also think a catalog is needed to distinguish reality from legend. Have you heard of the famous Yankee platoon of Woodling and Bauer. In Casey Stengel's first year of 1949, with injuries all over the place, especially to Henrich and DiMag. Legend has it that Ol Case outsmarted everybody with his platooning. He did, indeed, work wonders with BATTING ORDER but here are the numbers for 1949 yankee outfielders
LF-Woodling 82, Lindell 63, Bauer 21
RF Henrich 61 Bauer 60 Mapes 49
CF DiMag 76 Mapes 58
Mapes and Lindell are also lefty-righty but where is the Woodling-Bauer platoon in this? For the next five years, Gene Woodling was the Yankee LF. Bauer and Mapes platooned in RF in 1950. In 1951, Hank had his only year of coming within 50 games of Gene in LF while Mantle played right in Joe D's swan song.
The next three Bauer was the RF PERIOD. In 1954, Woodling shared LF with Irv Noren a fellow-lefty.Hank stayed in RF through the rest of the 50s while LF was a mishmosh.What about Billy Johnson and Bobby Brown at 3B?
In 1949, Case had Brown 86 and Johnson 81. In 1950, Johnson 100 and Brown 82. In 1951 Brown 90 and Johnson traded after 13 games. In 1948 under Bucky Harris it was Johnson 118, Brown 41. In 1947, Johnson 132, Brown 47. I don't deny there were lefty-righty considerations but what really happened here was that Brown gradually took the 6 year older Johnson's job.
Also how do we account for the rightnhanded Johnson getting the lion's share even in 1949-50? If Brown-Johnson was a true platoon....
What we need in the catalog is:
Again, a position shared by two men. Neither get above the median games, together they get nearly 90% of the schedule.
This goes on for more than two full seasons.
Watch out for catchers. Before Ray Schalk and Steve O'Neill, the primitive equipment, hot day baseball and simple rigors of the position had teams often with two catchers. Wasn't a platoon even if the manager was smart enough to distribute the load by "sidedness". Was reality of the need.
Finally, when we have the catalog and the number of team-seasons represented by true platoons out of over 2000 team seasons, we'll know some things about finding a man for the spot versus patchworking.