Platoons between same-handed hitters don’t typically exist in major league baseball, but the Detroit Tigers might have a pair of right-handed hitting shortstops that could make it work in Jhonny Peralta and Danny Worth.
Jhonny Peralta has shown a relatively small platoon split for his career; his career advantage versus lefties, as compared to righties, as been “only” .031 OPS points (.010 wOBA points). That’s not necessarily an insignificant margin, but it’s smaller than the typical split (.017 wOBA points) by almost half. Last year Peralta’s OPS split was only .004.
Danny Worth, on the other hand, has shown much larger splits in his career. His major league track record is small – only about 240 plate appearances even split between left-handed pitchers and right-handed pitchers – so his .235 OPS point (.103 wOBA point) split should be regressed heavily, but he did show a large split in the minor leagues as well. Minor League Central has been tracking numbers for a couple of years, and show Worth as having a .115 OPS point platoon split in the minor leagues across 2011 and 2012. We don’t have enough data to say exactly what Worth’s major league split would be, but he appears to be a player that would carry a larger than average split.
So, what could the Tigers do with this?
I would propose a fairly strict rightly-lefty platoon with these two players with Peralta playing against all right handed starting pitchers, and Worth getting the nod when a southpaw takes the mound. Worth isn’t likely to hit a ton – even if he’s primarily hitting against left-handers – but he could very well hit as well as an average shortstop (last year shortstops combined for a .685 OPS) if not closer to the larger league average (last year MLB hitters combined for a .728 OPS). That wouldn’t be much different from the line Peralta posted last year (a .692 OPS versus LHP), but it would come with much better defense.
Peralta’s overall numbers would likely suffer for lack of opportunities versus left handed pitching, but he can still get the job done at the plate well enough against right-handers. Even last year, in a down year at the plate, he posted an ever-so-slightly-above-average-for-a-shortstop .688 OPS line.
So what kind of tangible advantage would this platoon really bring the club? I’m really not sure, but it would improve the defense in certain instances while perhaps not hurting the offense all that much. In a broader sense, it would give Worth a chance to audition for a larger role and help the team gage his value in the long term. The Tigers are currently without any sort of shortstop option in 2014 (Peralta’s contract expires after this year) so they might want to see if Worth could that void in any way. He’s likely not going to be an everyday player, but it might mean the Tigers are looking for a half-time shortstop next season rather than an everyday shortstop (a much less daunting task).