A lot of discussions about “complete” players involve platoon splits, especially when talking about a left-handed hitter. Historically, the worst matchup for a hitter is a lefty facing a left-handed pitcher. Leaguewide last year, this matchup resulted in a .237/.302/.354 slashline, by far the worst combination. This situation arises plenty of times when discussing the Braves’ lineup and general construction of the team. Many of the good hitters are straight lefties, creating this dip in production against lefties.
Looking forward, these splits are very hard to predict, due to the lack of sample size against LHP. However, you can look at a player’s BB and K rates, along with GB% and LD%, to get a better idea if his numbers varied from his true talent level. These statistics converge much quicker than slashline statistics, giving one more confidence in projecting splits. After 500+ PA, power gets to be more reliable, meaning after 2-3 seasons, LHP splits can be more conclusive.
McCann saw a very small difference in production against lefties. He walked half as much against LHP, and struck out 2% more. His BABIP was 23 points lower against LHP, but he made up for most of the difference with more power. Since power is not reliable after 150-200 PA, there is no evidence that he has more power against LHP. One can expect McCann’s platoon splits to grow this coming year. Prado had nearly no difference in performance, though his methods were much different. He walked and struck out half as much against RHP, but showed more power against them, resulting in a situation much like McCann. Chipper is obviously much different than the others, since he is a switch hitter. He was a bit better against RHP, mainly due to a difference in ISO, something that has fluctuated greatly the past few years. Unless an injury creates a problem in one of his swings, he should have no predictable split.
After those three, there were a lot of large platoon differences among Braves hitters. Freeman’s power was similar against lefties, but the other three stats showed the split. He walked 3% more, struck out 7% less, and hit 6% more line drives against righties, creating a 131 vs. 95 wRC+ split. Heyward didn’t strike out more against lefties, and his BABIP split was more than what his LD% difference would suggest. He did walk 4% less and showed a lot less power against LHP, resulting in a 108 vs. 61 wRC+ split. Gonzalez showed worse plate discipline against LHP, but hit more line drives and hit for more power, leading to a 66 vs. 97 wRC+ split.
Uggla showed the tricky reverse platoon split, hitting much better against RHP. His BB/K ratio was similar against each side, putting the ball in play more often against RHP. His LD% was much higher against RHP, though his FB% and IF/FB% were also higher, lessening the BABIP difference. Lastly, his power was much greater against righties, creating the 122 vs. 79 wRC+ splits. No other hitters had enough PA as a Brave to be worth analyzing.
The Braves as a team had a 96 vs. 76 wRC+ split, a very large difference for the team level. Uggla was brought over to lessen the gap, and he ended up further widening it. However, his career splits show a similar reverse platoon, particularly in respect to his power. Lefties are likely to be a problem again this year, but if both wRC+ numbers can jump 10 points, the split will be easier to take. My followup article will cover the pitchers, focusing in on repertoire choices in regards to platoon splits.