Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Getting Maxwell into the Lineup

You might not have heard, but this afternoon the Royals acquired right handed hitting Justin Maxwell from the Houston Astros for Wilmington Blue Rock Kyle Smith. For his career, Maxwell has hit .222/.311/.419 in 286 career games, but .253/.370/.455 against lefties. Obviously, this complements the current outfield well considering David Lough, Alex Gordon, and Jarrod Dyson all hit left handed, while Lorenzo Cain holds a reverse platoon split in 198 career games.

Let's take a look at each of the outfielders' 2013 splits in terms of OPS.

  • Lorenzo Cain: .736 vs R, .562 vs L
  • David Lough: .733 vs R, .767 vs L
  • Jarrod Dyson: .870 vs R, .530 vs L
  • Alex Gordon: .688 vs R, .872 vs L
  • Justin Maxwell: .636 vs R, .836 vs L
Now originally, I think most of us immediately assumed that Maxwell was brought on board to platoon with David Lough. However, upon closer examination Lough actually has the smallest platoon split among the Royals five outfielders. Even with this consideration, my guess is still that the Royals brought on Maxwell with the purpose of platooning him with Lough. 

Actually, if the Royals were really attempting to maximize offensive production, the ideal platoon partner for Maxwell might actually be Cain. Of course, this would also result in a drop off in the quality of defense in the outfield. Going a step further, based off the above numbers Lough might actually be the best option of the Royals three outfielders to play everyday considering how much Gordon has struggled against right handers.

Ultimately, whether it is truly what's best, I think it is safe to assume that Alex Gordon will play everyday. This means there are 116 starts to divide amongst the remaining 4 outfielders. So far this season, the Royals have played 71% of their games against a right handed starter and 29% against left handed starters. So if we project those out then there are approximately 82 starts to divide right handers remaining and 34 versus left handers remaining.

Here is how I would break down the starts. The idea here is to optimize the platoons, while also getting players in the lineup a reasonable amount of the time.

Let's start with the basics. Maxwell needs to start every game against left handed pitching. Dyson probably shouldn't be receiving any starts against left handers. This leaves 17 starts to divide between Lough and Cain. Lough's quite a bit better against lefties so let's give him slightly more time here. Lough gets 9 starts and Cain gets 8.

Against right handers Maxwell should never start. This leaves us with 82 starts to divide between Lough, Cain, and Dyson. I think Dyson gets the shaft, despite his excellent numbers against right handed pitchers this season. Plus Dyson is more valuable as a bench option due to his ability to pinch run and change the game in the late innings. Let's give Dyson 18 starts. Cain gets twice as many at 36 and Lough gets the rest (28).

Here is our final breakdown:
  • Justin Maxwell - 17 starts versus L, 0 versus R, 17 total
  • Jarrod Dyson - 18 starts versus R, 0 versus L, 18 total
  • Lorenzo Cain - 36 starts versus R, 8 versus L, 44 total
  • David Lough - 28 starts versus R, 9 versus L, 37 total
This seems like a pretty good divide. Again this exercise was purely to get a feel for how the playing time could be divided up. Obviously, if the Royals don't play Gordon everyday there could be more playing time for others. This might even help to optimize the offense. I just don't expect Gordon's playing time to dip due to this acquisition and that's probably a good thing. My biggest takeaway is that we all have automatically assumed that Lough is the obvious choice to see a dip in playing time, but this might not be the best case scenario.

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