Going into the season, I was cautiously optimistic about the left field platoon. There were two big worries:
- It wouldn't be a platoon: Ned wouldn't be able to resist Jenkins's veteran juiciness on a daily basis.
- Ned would play the hot hand, cancelling out some of the platoon benefits.
As it turns out, the collective production we got from left field was .261/.318/.453 with 25 HRs and 90 RBI. Not bad, though below average for left field. That's a little more painful because it cost the Brewers $10MM to get that below-average production. Then again, it's only about 50 OPS points below what Carl Crawford gave the Devil Rays or Eric Byrnes gave the D-Backs.
What's frustrating is that it could've been so much better. Those of you who have been reading my stuff for very long know that I firmly believe the hot hand is BS. (I'm not alone on this one, I'm just more strident than most.) In baseball, the "hot hand" just means that a few more grounders are finding the gap, or you managed to come to plate against a couple more relievers who think it's funny to do Greg Aquino imitations on the job.
Here are Jenkins and Mench's OBP and SLG on their good platoon sides:
- Jenkins: 326/482
- Mench: 343/558
In a strict platoon, where Yost pinch-hits one for the other late in games--basically, where Mench only faces lefties and vice versa, that would've given us left field production of about a 332 OBP and a 508 SLG. OPS: 840. Better than Crawford, better than Byrnes...better, probably, than anything we could've gotten on the open market for less than Carlos Lee money. It would've been fantastic.
But...just how much does that matter? In runs created, the difference is about 15 runs, or 1.5 wins. That would've gone a long way toward winning the division.
The verdict: we got just about what we should've expected from the players themselves. This is yet another case where Ned could've done a better job. I realize it's easier to be a heartless, button-pushing blogger than a real-life manager, but Ned did a pretty nice job early in the season of sticking to the plan. Jenkins and Mench seemed to be on board with it ...and then Ned started going with whoever recently hit a double off of John Wasdin.
One more thing. Jenkins has always, deservedly, had a reputation as a great fielder. He didn't look so great in right the last couple of years, but he put up another solid season this year in left. His Revised Zone Rating (read about it here) put him well above average. By my rough calculations based on his numbers, he made about 15 plays more than the average LF would've been expected to. Given that many additional plays made by outfielders are saving doubles or triples, that's considerably more than one win (probably closer to 2, or 20 runs) he saved right there.
I think it's worth considering bringing Jenkins back, on the following conditions:
- He is used in a strict platoon, perhaps with someone cheap like Dillon. (Even Mench, if he were used in a very strict platoon.)
- The brain trust is convinced he can keep up his current level of defense. (I think he probably will.)
- The manager takes advantage of that defense, using him as a late-inning replacement, especially if his platoon partner is a Dillon type.
Of course, it always comes back to managerial decisions. I only hope that Doug Melvin realizes how much more difficult a subpar manager makes his job as GM.