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This is Not How You Handle Kyle Blanks

We can all agree on two things regarding Padres outfielder Kyle Blanks:

1.) He’s an important cog in the future machine for San Diego, and a potential middle-of-the-order bat, and
2.) He’s off to a bad start, especially regarding strikeouts.

Given Blanks’ potential (he was ranked San Diego’s best prospect entering last year, and hit .250/.355/.514 with the big club last year) and issues (.180 AVG, 46.1% strikeout rate, .682 OPS), there are three logical courses of action.

The first thing the Padres could do is simply play Blanks every day for the next month and hope he figures it out.

The second thing they could do is send him down to Triple-A, call up a hot-hitting veteran outfielder (Chris Denorfia or Mike Baxter), and hope 100-200 ABs in Portland help him find his stroke–again, playing every day.

The third thing they could do is keep Blanks in the majors and simply play him against righties.

It might seem odd that I’m suggesting that he only faces righties. Yes, I know he bats righthanded. But let’s look at some numbers.

In 2009, Blanks hit just .220/.304/.366 against lefties and bashed righties at a .262/.373/.570 clip. He’s reversed that in 2010 (.235/.480/.647 vs. LHP and .167/.259/.306 vs. RHP).

Those are both pretty small samples, though, but the 2009 data at least suggests Blanks is as good against RHPs as LHPs, if not better.

One sample that isn’t small is Blanks’ minor league data, and that points toward a reverse platoon split as well (.869 OPS vs. LHP, .914 OPS vs. RHP).

The final blow to the idea that Blanks has a traditional platoon split comes from the 2009 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, which, as I mentioned, ranked Blanks as the top prospect in San Diego’s system. It had this to say about Blanks’ platoon split:

“[Blanks] hasn’t shown much power against lefthanders the last two seasons, as he has struggled to stay back on their backdoor breaking balls. He’s much more comfortable facing righthanders, even sidearmers and submariners, because they tend to work him hard inside and just react.”

The other nice thing about starting Blanks exclusively against RHPs is that there are more righties than lefties, so you still at least get him semi-regular at-bats while allowing him to work out of his slump by facing pitchers he’s most comfortable against.

As a third plus, it puts Scott Hairston (career .860 OPS vs. LHPs, .716 OPS vs. RHPs) back in a role where he faces the pitchers he does the most damage to.

And yet, here we are. The Padres started Blanks against Barry Zito yesterday. He struck out twice against Zito, which were the only two strikeouts the lefty had all night. Blanks then walked three times against San Francisco’s bullpen.

And then the Padres benched Blanks today against righty Matt Cain.

It’s one thing to not look at advanced stats to make your decisions, but platoon splits and a four-paragraph scouting report are far from advanced stats, and even they say that if Blanks is to be platooned, it should be him facing the righties and not the lefties. Restricting Blanks to duty against lefties also kills his playing time, which means he’s less likely to get in a groove and work out of this slump quickly.

Come on, guys. You know better than this. Pick one of the three decent options, not the one possible bad one.

Tags: Kyle Blanks San Diego Padres

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