Similar to Carl Crawford – who was an everyday player regardless of his splits – there was some thought to Reid Brignac being above platoon duty prior to the 2011 season because of his defensive ability at a premium position. An early season slump quickly ended Brignac’s “Carl Crawford exemption.” Coupled with the lack of his own production and the ability of Sean Rodriguez and Elliot Johnson to play shortstop as well, Brignac quickly went from everyday player back to platoon player. The slump has now turned into a half-season of baseball, cutting into his playing time even further. So much so that the left-handed batter is sitting against select right-handed pitchers in favor of the switch-hitting Johnson.
It is now up to Maddon, his coaches, and the baseball operations staff to find the optimum matchups for Brignac. Although we do not come close to having the information of the Rays’ front office, we can get a feel for the type of pitcher Brignac might play against and those he might not.
First, we can eliminate left-handed pitchers. In just over 100 plate appearances against lefties, Brignac is hitting .172/.250/.204. It is not as if he is mashing righties (.247/.287/.365); however, outside of the rare reverse platoon southpaw like John Danks or Ricky Romero, Brignac is likely to sit with a left-hander on the mound.
Last season, it appeared the Rays employed a unique platoon with Brignac and Jason Bartlett based on batted-ball data. Although he was right-handed, Bartlett was in the lineup against most right-handed pitchers with flyball tendencies. The sample sizes on Brignac’s career remain small; however, we should expect him to continue to sit against extreme flyball types. Meanwhile, he has shown the ability to handle pitchers with heavy groundball tendencies.
Looking at what the opposing pitcher throws, it is probably best to keep Brignac away from power pitchers at this point. Those with good sliders and changeups have also given him problems. That does not leave room for much, but we saw him smash a hanging breaking ball in Anaheim and his uppercut swing should run in to a few elevated fastballs as long as they are not blown by him first.
After sitting for most of this week, Brignac figures to get the bulk of playing time against the Yankees this weekend. His left-handed stroke and the jet stream in right field of Yankee stadium should match well. It will be interesting to see if the team uses park factors in their decision to sit or start their young shortstop.
There will undoubtedly be exceptions along based on a variety of things; however, Brignac’s quickest path back into regular rotation appears to be mashing soft-tossing righties with groundball tendencies in good hitter’s parks.
That sounds easy enough…