By Jon Weisman
By now, you should be accustomed to the Dodgers pursuing the platoon advantage at nearly every opportunity, whether through their starting lineups or mid-game pinch-hitting.
For example, Andre Ethier has exactly 400 plate appearances this year, and 359 (92 percent) have come against right-handed pitching. For Carl Crawford, it’s 84 percent.
It got me wondering whether the 2015 squad might be the platooningest team in baseball this year, or in Dodger history. The answer is no, though it has been a while since the Dodgers have had such heavy platoon usage.
Compared with the rest of the Major Leagues, the Dodgers rank fourth in platooning … in a very wide scale. (Click chart to enlarge.)
Of course, these stats can be skewed by how often a heavily right-handed-hitting team faced left-handed pitching across 162 games, but you can get a ballpark idea of what teams are emphasizing.
As for Dodger history … the 1965 Dodgers, which debuted the switch-hitting infield of Wes Parker, Jim Lefebvre, Maury Wills and Jim Gilliam, are the all-time franchise leaders in this category since the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958. That team had left vs. right or right vs. left almost exactly 75 percent of the time.
The 2015 Dodgers are at 62.3 percent, which ranks 17th on the list — but No. 2 in the past 20 years, trailing only the 2004 Dodgers (64.8 percent). In an average game, this year’s Dodgers will have 23 platoon-advantage plate appearances and 14 at a disadvantage.
Right-handed hitters Howie Kendrick (357 plate appearances), Justin Turner (292) and Yasiel Puig (230) have faced the most righties from the same side, while Adrian Gonzalez (151) and Joc Pederson (110) are tops the opposite way. The Dodgers only have 400 left-on-left plate appearances in their 143 games this year, an average of 2.8 per game.
Seven of the top 10 platooning squads in Los Angeles Dodger history came along between 1961-1971, all under manager Walter Alston. The other three came from 1990-92, under Tom Lasorda. Perhaps oddly, despite the rise of sabermetrics in mainstream acceptance, no Dodger teams outside of 2004 and 2015 crack the top 20 in platoon advantage.
A total of 20 Los Angeles Dodger teams have spent the season at a platoon disadvantage, including the 2014 Dodgers, which faced same-sided pitchers 53.6 percent of the time. Registering lowest on the platoon scale were the 1982 Dodgers, who were at a disadvantage 59.7 percent of the year.