A lot of hitters have shown extensive statistical proof that they’re productive against right-handed pitchers but ineffective against left-handers (and vice versa). A platoon is a good way to find relatively cheap value, and a good way to utilize a bench. Defined roles are helpful, and platoons can help break in a young player or get lasting impact from a veteran.
But obviously not every player needs a platoon partner, and the Yankees owe it to themselves to find out whether Brett Gardner is one of those players.
The Yankees have always seemed a bit hesitant to give Gardner an everyday job. Some of that has been because of the guys around him — Curtis Granderson was hitting lefties too well to be benched regularly, Nick Swisher was a switch hitter, so Gardner was the natural choice to sit from time to time for an effective right-handed alternative — but these are Gardner’s career splits.
vs. RHP — .269/.352/.378
vs. LHP — .256/.362/.335
Obviously there’s some more pop against righties, but Gardner’s true offensive value pretty much begins and ends with his ability to get on base and run, and he’s actually gotten on base more often against lefties than against righties. So why sit him, especially in favor of a defensively inferior player?
Some of that might be because of scouting (maybe the Yankees have reason to believe those left-handed splits aren’t sustainable) and some of it might be because of alternatives (maybe the lineup has greater need for a slugger) but some of it might also be because of exactly what Sean wrote: an “increasing comfort” with the idea of platoon player.
It makes sense for the Yankees to carry a right-handed fourth outfielder. And it makes sense to let that reserve get regular at-bats against lefties. But should we assume that Gardner will be the one — or should be the one — to sacrifice at-bats? Not necessarily.
Associated Press photo