Aligning the Defense

It’s no secret that the Rays love them some platoons. As we approach the half way point in the season I want to start offering some year in review type pieces. Today we’ll take a look at how the Rays have deployed their fielders. Through 6/26 the Rays have played 694 defensive innings in the field. Here’s a breakdown of who has played where:

That’s nice to see, but I’m more of a visual taker-inner of information so let’s look at this in another way:

We see nearly an equal time share at Catcher while Loney has seen nearly 90% of the time at First Base. Second Base has been a true platoon with Ben Zobrist seeing around 55% of the time and the no longer on the team Ryan Roberts getting the next largest share. I think it’s safe to assume that Kelly Johnson will see his time at 2B increase now with Myers in the fold. I find it interesting that Sean Rodriguez hasn’t played an inning at the keystone, but perhaps they feel his talents are wasted there. Longoria has dominated the time at Third Base and Lawds willing he’ll continue to see 90% of his time there, though this looks like another area where Kelly Johnson could expect to see time going forward. Shortstop has mostly been Junel Escobar, but it will be interesting to see if he starts seeing some more time off here and there in order to get Rodriguez more at bats and to give Escobar a rest from time to time.

Moving on to the outfield we see the other position where the Rays have been a revolving door. Left Field has been manned the most by Kelly Johnson, but Joyce, Fuld, and Rodriguez have all seen 15% or more of the timeshare. Right Field is similar with Joyce taking the lion’s share and Zobrist getting close to 30% of the time, but it seems like Wil Myers was called up yesterday and he’s already approaching 10% of the seasonal innings and should expect to play there mostly every day going forward. The man in the middle has mostly been Desmond Jennings seeing roughly 90% of the innings with Fuld taking the rest.

The Rays are known for utilizing platoons, but there is a method to the madness. Catcher is a natural platoon and we’ve seen almost a 50/50 split and the Rays have done a good job of mixing guys through 2B/LF/RF. Not coincidentally, these three positions are on the easier side of the defensive spectrum. Getting rest and playing offensive matchups are some of the benefits of the platoon system, but you can see that the team is smart to keep it to positions where defense is relatively easy and guys should be like interchangeable machine gun barrels. When one overheats just switch it out. Meanwhile, they’re going more traditional at 1B, 3B, SS, and CF where they not only have capable fulltime starters, but the degree of difficulty is a little higher or a little more specialized. Guys like Sean Rodriguez, Ben Zobrist and Kelly Johnson are instrumental in allowing Maddon to let things flow and put the best team on the field. So far, things have been going very much to plan.

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About Jason Hanselman

Rays fan.
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