Yesterday, I talked about the impact of losing Evan Longoria for three-to-four weeks. With the potential to miss 20-t0-25 games, we could be looking at dropping nearly a full win above replacement level if Longoria loses 100 or more plate appearances. The good news is that Longoria’s stand-ins should perform above the proverbial replacement level. Plus, there’s always the chance of a player catching fire and playing above his means in small samples (the converse is also true).
One way to help offset the loss of Longoria’s bat is putting his replacements in situations that maximize their abilities. After the game, Joe Maddon spoke about possibly using Sean Rodriguez and Felipe Lopez is a platoon at third base, saying he would need to “figure that out.” Lopez, a switch-hitter with defensive flexibility, gives Maddon the opportunity to mix and match beyond a traditional lefty/righty platoon.
Throughout his career, Lopez has been close to a league-average hitter. Looking at Lopez’s career numbers, he has hit better against right-handed pitchers. When batting from the left side, the veteran has a .340 on-base percentage. Lopez is far from a home run threat, yet 59 of his 83 career home runs have come as a left-handed batter. Because of this, he seems like a decent dance partner for the right-handed bat of Rodriguez.
On the other side of the platoon, we know what Sean Rodriguez brings. The 25-year-old posted gaudy numbers in the minor leagues against all types of pitchers, but was exceptional against left-handed pitchers. In Rodriguez’s limited major league career, he has more success against southpaws as well. Much like Matt Joyce, the Rays have talked about getting Rodriguez some additional playing time against pitchers of the same hand. Due to his superior defense compared to that of Lopez, Rodriguez should still get some looks versus righties as Longoria recovers.
When speaking about how he might use Lopez and Rodriguez, Maddon mentioned the potential to use both at the same time –specifically against left-handed pitchers. In this scenario, Rodriguez would play second, Lopez third, and Ben Zobrist in right field. Zobrist and Rodriguez are already regulars against lefties, so Maddon would be choosing Lopez over Matt Joyce. Lopez’s career numbers against righties are superior, however he’s hit .297/.350/.413 against lefties over the last three seasons (483 plate appearances).
Quite often, Maddon is lambasted for his constant tinkering with the lineup. However, given the current set of circumstances, tinkering is exactly what he should be doing. Considering the available options, using Lopez and Rodriguez in a platoon -and in tandem- could help Maddon in achieving his nightly goal of putting the best possible lineup together for that particular game. Everyone knows that we do not have one player that can replace Evan Longoria, but perhaps the duo of Lopez and Rodriguez can give it a valiant effort.