San Francisco Giants: Platoon strategy taking shape with outfield additions
By Jeff Young
The San Francisco Giants outfield situation has been a shuffleboard all season long, but a strategy is starting to emerge from the chaos.
When the 2019 season began, Connor Joe and Michael Reed were penciled into the starting corner outfield spots for the San Francisco Giants. That seems like so long ago.
As we approach midseason, the Giants are still trying to find more consistency from the outfield spots.
They also continue to scour the waiver wire for potential upgrades:
The sheer number of outfield additions made through waiver claims, minor league free-agent signings, and minor trades should tell you all you need to know about how Farhan Zaidi felt about the outfield he inherited.
At this point, Giants outfielders are still struggling to provide any real and sustainable value.
Mike Yastrzemski has not only has been the biggest surprise so far, but he’s also been the most valuable Giants outfielder in terms of WAR (0.5) according to Baseball Reference.
In recent months, the Giants have added Yastrzemski, Tyler Austin, Joey Rickard, and Alex Dickerson in minor moves, as well as Kevin Pillar in an early season trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. From this bunch, Pillar is the only known commodity.
On the surface, most of these players look like non-consequential additions. That could certainly be the case, but each carries a niche skill set.
Rickard, Dickerson, and Austin are all platoon players, which is a trait that the Giants may see more of during the Zaidi regime.
That’s not a knock on any of these players. Rather, it’s a reason to believe they can provide real value for a major league team, by being consistently put in the best position to succeed.
Rickard and Austin both offer favorable platoon splits against left-handed pitching as right-handed hitters, while Dickerson has favorable platoon splits against right-handed pitching as a left-handed batter.
In an admittedly small sample size, Yastrzemski has shown the ability to handle both right-handed and left-handed, so he’s not included in the following analysis.
The table below shows the career numbers for Rickard, Austin, and Dickerson when facing a favorable platoon matchup:
The San Francisco Giants have seen the value that Austin can offer against left-handed pitching. Four of his six home runs this season have come against southpaws, and they have been among the most impressive blasts by a Giants player this season.
Similarly, Dickerson has a proven track record against right-handed pitching as evidenced by his .821 career OPS. While Steven Duggar is on the injured list, Dickerson should see plenty of time against righties.
Lastly, Rickard may not be on the big league roster yet, but it is easy to envision him in a platoon role as well. He’s a plus defender with a solid .752 OPS against left-handed pitching, which could make him the perfect platoon partner for Duggar who has a dismal .588 OPS against lefties.
The San Francisco Giants front office has tried to build up the club’s outfield depth all season.
They have made several minor additions along the way. None of them jump off the page, but each one carries a skill set that could offer the Giants more flexibility.
While much of the current outfield contingent struggles, it seems that Zaidi might have a strategy in mind with some of these additions. That is, he is trying to piece together a competent outfielder or two through platoon matchups.
Only time will tell if that approach will work, but now is the time to try.