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The Third Base Conundrum

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Last night, Craig Counsell started at third against a right-handed pitcher, and according to Yost, we can expect more of the same.

"I'm going to have to do it a little more until some of these numbers come up for Billy," Yost said. "His left-handed numbers are as good as you can dream of ... but his right-handed numbers are about as low as they go."

It should be no surprise that Hall is struggling against righties; he's always had a pronounced platoon split.  Taking his career numbers, he's 276/358/498 against lefties and 254/303/451 versus righties.  That makes a lot of sense to me -- the biggest difference is in OBP, reflecting the truly awful pitch selection against RHP, when he can't see the ball as well.

Given the roster right now, a platoon for Billy means more playing time for Counsell.  The problem is, Counsell's not a very good hitter against pitchers with either hand.  He does have better career numbers vRHP--a ~700 OPS instead of a ~650 OPS.  Compare that to Billy's career ~750 OPS vRHP, or even his 713 OPS vRHP in his disappointing 2007 season.

Ultimately, difference like this don't really matter, except that I often eat dinner during games, and I'd prefer not to see Counsell at the plate when I'm trying to digest.

The x-factor here, of course, is Russell Branyan.  Branyan is a lefty, and his career numbers against RHP are 231/332/479 -- an OPS more than 100 points higher than Counsell's.  We lose some with the glove, to be sure, but I suspect that 100 points of OPS is worth it.  Plus, we gain a fearsome late-inning option against RHP on days he doesn't start--that's something we don't currently have, unless you're trying to digest, anyway.

Branyan's minor league numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, since he is the kind of guy who seems to drop off quite a bit between AAA and the majors.  But if we take a look at his splits (as of this writing, they are updated through Tuesday), we see something that screams promotion.  Not only is he OPSing over 1.100, his line against righties is a belief-defying 398/500/776.

Plug those numbers into my nifty new Minor League Equivalency calculator, and find that his equivalent line in Milwaukee would be 341/425/627.  Hell, if he were putting up his current numbers in Double-A, he'd still have an equivalent line 329/413/609.

In general, I love platoons--they are a great way to get solid production out of less-than-solid players, as we did with Menchkins last year.  But a platoon requires more than just a lefty and a righty; put another way, a platoon requires more than Craig Counsell. 

We can make the roster space: Dillon has averaged less than an at-bat per day for the last two weeks, and there's nothing Gwynn can do that Kapler can't (except for pinch-running, and Ned doesn't use him that way).

Ned is being perfectly reasonable in taking playing time away from Bill Hall.  But it's far from clear whether giving that playing time to Craig Counsell is the best decision.