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The Voids in Left and First

Matt Diaz: 10-for-45 (.222); 4 runs, 2 RBI
Ryan Langerhans: 2-for-32 (.063); 0 runs, 0 RBI
Left Field: 12-for-77 (.156); 4 runs, 2 RBI

Scott Thorman: 7-for-34 (.206); 4 runs, 5 RBI
Craig Wilson: 5-for-37 (.135); 4 runs, 1 RBI
First Base: 12-for-71 (.169); 8 runs, 6 RBI

Combined: 24-for 148 (.162); 12 runs, 8 RBI

This is game 19 and we have gotten virtually nothing from two spots in the order. Is it too soon to panic? Four regulars on the club have better numbers than the combined totals of these two positions. Is this a consequence of the platoon? I think it is.

There are many people who favor platoons, which are supposed to align more desirable match-ups in favor of the batters. Obviously Bobby Cox is one of them, but there are quite a few stat junkies who point to the stats of players facing left-handers verses right-handers and deduce that this player or that player would be better in a platoon only facing the left or right armed pitcher type that he supposedly hits well against.

The assumption goes like this; when the Braves acquired Matt Diaz before the 2006 season everyone was pointing to his 2005 numbers which showed his skewed stats in favor of facing lefties - "perfect platoon partner for Langerhans," they said. Diaz had hit .370 against lefties and just .143 against righties in 2005, but it just doesn't always work out that way. In 2006 Diaz put up a respectable .295 batting average verses left-handers, but he really excelled at facing right-handers, hitting a robust .358 in an almost equal number of at-bats against each.

For Langerhans' part, he has historically hit left-handers better than he has hit right-handers. Over the last two seasons he has hit left-handers at a .299 clip, while only hitting .246 against right-handers. So along this knowledge, we should really be playing Langy against the lefties and Diaz against the righties - BUT THAT DEFIES THE LOGIC OF THE PLATOON!

But then again, that assumes that there is actually logic behind the platooning of players. I have never liked platoons for the simple fact that it fractures two players' playing time. It is better to give one player the vast majority of the playing time and let the other player dedicate himself to being the best bench player slash pinch hitter he can be. Defining roles for players helps all the individuals in a lineup, and also helps those who ride the pine most of the time.

Look what happened to Adam LaRoche last year. He broke out offensively, not necessarily because he was finally facing lefties, but because he was getting regular playing time. He knew he was going to be in the lineup day after day, and he was able to work through problems quicker and prepare better. In his platoon years of 04 and 05 he never got a chance to hit against lefties, but in 06 he got his chance and held his own, but the frequency of his play also improved his abilities against right-handers - he hit almost 20 points higher than in previous seasons against righties.

So there it is; my argument to quit these damned platoons. Put Thorman at first full time and Diaz in left full time and ride them for a month or so and see how they do. Let Langerhans and Wilson concentrate on being pinch hitters who get the occasional start. Instead of ruining the rhythm of four players, at least we'd only maybe ruin the rhythm of two, and the positives we might gain from regular production due to regular play would be a whole lot more than we're getting now.

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