Mike Carp’s Ability to Swim Upstream

Jake’s insightful piece urging the Rays to discuss the potential acquisition of Mike Carp also encouraged me to take a deeper look at a guy that I’ve always associated more with fish jokes than for an ability to contribute to a Major League lineup.  I’m glad that I did.  The story on Carp has been that over his 600+ PA in his career he has had a reverse platoon split.  He’s had a .351 wOBA against lefties and .319 against righties which is something you’d expect from a right-handed batter, not a lefty.  Well that’s not a whole lot of plate appearances in his career so maybe it’s a fluke.  Well maybe not.

The platoon split regressor developed by Ian Malinowski and myself can be an extremely useful tool just for this reason.  The idea is that we can look at how a batter has performed against lefties and righties in their career and then regress this demonstrated split with a league average batter’s expected platoon split.  The more track record the less we need to regress and vice-versa.  Once we have the players regressed platoon split then we can adjust around some expected level of overall performance to get an idea of how that batter will hit lefties or righties.  Coupling this work with what I recently put together that aggregates all projections we now have some solid projections with which to work these guys platoon splits around:







The above table tells us a few things.  The name section should be obvious, but I bet you’re wondering about the rest.  The middle section shows the triple slash and wOBA projections using the aggregate of the Fans, Steamer, PECOTA, Oliver, and CAIRO projection systems.  Note that Jack Cust was only projected by CAIRO so instead of using one projection system I have shown what 85% of his career line looks like.  Lastly, the right-hand section shows what you would expect the batter to wOBA against lefties and righties and sorted by who hits the best against lefties.  Mike Carp stands out in this regard as he would profile to be the third best hitter against lefties and nearly league average against righties.

This is mostly good.  As I showed a little over a week ago, the Rays look like the best they can run out there versus righties is a league average wOBA and they might be 1% better than league average against lefties.  Neither of these are great, but they also show that the Rays lineup is better than national outlets would lead you to believe.  In fact here’s the original lineups as initially forecasted:


The thing is, if we’re going to use Carp’s projections using all of the projections then we should do the same for all other batters using the figures output from the table above.

Some slight tweaks here and there, but not much of a huge change overall.  Maybe you think about starting Fuld in LF or CF more often, but overall these are pretty similar lineups.

Let’s try to find a role for Mike Carp.  This probably presents the biggest issue.  Assuming Carp can hit at the very nice rates shown above and can give league average or slightly worse defense at 1B and basically neutral base-running then he’d probably be a worthwhile edition, but to squeeze him onto the roster a couple of scenarios would have to unfold:

1) The Rays burn his last option and start Sean Rodriguez at Durham.

Carp doesn’t really profile as a starter against righties here, though an argument could be made that Johnson could go to the bench, Zobrist could go to 2B, and Carp and Joyce could hold down the corners.  I’m not sure the defensive trade off is worth that.  Against lefties, though, the lineup looks significantly improved as the Rays would now have five batters that look to be (well) above average.  You don’t lose a player, though you might lose Rodriguez mentally if he has to go back to Durham for an indeterminate period of time.

2) Trade Ryan Roberts

Instead of demoting Sean Rodriguez, perhaps you try to unload the more expensive, older, similar player in Ryan Roberts.  Of course, at this time of the year you’d be getting $0.50 on the dollar for a player that already had virtually zero trade value.  Let’s say the Rays aren’t savvy and don’t care about that stuff.  Well this leaves us an even better lineup against lefties.  It doesn’t allow the Rays to give Longo a half day by being able to DH since Rodriguez isn’t as good of a 3B as Roberts, but you do get the chance to give Joyce a half day and let him totally focus on hitting lefties.

3) DFA Sam Fuld

Since I had Sam slated as a super sub coming in late in games to run the bases and/or as a defensive specialist while getting the occasional spot start we don’t have to move much around.  The lineup hits well, but it’s a pretty big step back on defense.  Those that prefer the 25th man to be a bat would probably lean this way, and those that prefer to have some flexibility and defense would probably hate this.

Those are the three most obvious scenarios for getting Carp into the Rays lineup.  Other options would mean less playing time or outright removal of recent signees like Luke Scott or Kelly Johnson and I haven’t even begun to speculate on what the Rays would have to give up to get Carp.  I think these scenarios illustrate that Carp has his uses, but on the Rays he’s not a great fit because his greatest strength only comes in handy around 200 PA or about a third of the time.  If he brought a solid glove I think I’d be a bigger proponent of acquiring the player, but he doesn’t bring enough for what the Rays would lose for me to find this worthwhile.


About Jason Hanselman

Rays fan.
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