The Platoon Advantage: How Much Can John Baker Help?


Nick Hundley
can’t hit against right-handed pitchers.  At least that was the thought process when bringingin John Baker as his back-up.  John Baker can hit righties because he’s a left-handed batter.  However, when you look at the splits, Hundley actually hit righties better than lefties.  Hundley has faced righties much more than lefties, and that can be skewing the number, but his overall offense is certainly higher against right-handed pitchers.

Hundley’s OPS is a full 134 points higher against right-handed starters than left-handed starters.  His OPS is 49 points higher against righties in general.  John Baker, on the other hand, shows a very noticeable difference in his ability to hit righties verse lefties.

Baker’s sample size against lefties is small as well, but his numbers against righties are noticeably different.  Against righties, Baker’s OPS is 183 points higher.  His BAbip is 191 points higher.  It’s easy to see why the Padres, based on Baker’s number alone, would want to use him in a platoon role with Hundley.

However, the assumption that Hundley can’t hit righties is a misconception.  Perhaps the club hopes with more at-bats against lefties, they will be able to capitalize and make this a true platoon advantage.  Yet, looking at Hundley’s numbers, his performance against lefties is pretty startling.

Hundley’s triple-slash against lefties, .234/.316/.381, should cause the Padres to second guess any plans of using him mainly against left-handed pitchers.  Clearly, the team doesn’t plan on reducing Hundley’s at-bats, so he should still see most of his at-bats against righties.  John Baker will probably see most of his at-bats against righties as well.  More than a platoon split, the move to pick up Baker seems like a simple back-up plan.

The Padres did not have very much production from their players in a back-up catcher role.  Baker, even with him getting less than half the playing time should provide an immediate boost.  Below are the OPS’s for the Padres 2011 back-up catchers:

Rob Johnson – .544
Kyle Phillips – .548
Luis Martinez – .614

Compare those numbers with John Baker’s career OPS with the Marlins.  He only played in 16 games last season, so it’s hard to draw on those limited at-bats.

John Baker –  .757

It seems clear, the Padres were focusing on a competent back-up for Hundley rather than any platoon advantage.  Baker should provide that, but he and Hundley both hit well against righties but poorly against lefties.  The team does not have a catcher who excels against left-handed pitchers.

All said, though, John Baker should help the team.  He and Hundley behind the plate is a better combination than anything the Padres were able to put together last season.