The Cardinals are still without the platoon advantage at the plate



The Cardinals re-acquired Matt Adams last week from the Washington Nationals in exchange for cash. The move made sense for a couple of reasons: First, the Cardinals now have another serviceable option at first base besides Matt Carpenter, and thus more lineup flexibility given that it appears they're likely and wisely done trying to shoehorn José Martínez into that spot. This will be even more important if Kolten Wong is out for a chunk of time, and they need to rove Carpenter, Jedd Gyorko, and Yairo Muñoz around the infield. Second, the Cardinals now have a power bat from the left side on the bench, something they've lacked all season. And if you want to add a third reason, the Cardinals could use some left-handed hitters in general.


Last March, I noted on this site that the Cardinals had the fewest plate appearances in the National League in 2017 with the platoon advantage, a shame because as a team they hit as well as anyone when they did have it. A few changes were made to the roster heading into this season, but it mostly consisted of exchanging righties for other righties so if your assumption was that this problem still persists you would be correct. (Although how much weight you want to give said problem is probably up for debate.)


Anyway...


Plate appearances in the NL with the platoon advantage (through August 25)

The problem is that right-handed pitchers have thrown around 72 percent of the approximate 35,000 innings pitched so far this season, and the Cardinals, as noted, have a pretty righty-centric lineup. Again, I want to stress that I don't think this is the biggest deal. The Cardinals are tied for the fourth highest wRC+ (98) in the NL and if you've been reading Bernie Miklasz lately or just watching the games then you know that for whatever reason the offense has vastly improved with Mike Shildt at the helm.


Regardless, it's worth looking at how the Cardinals are again on pace for the fewest plate appearances with the platoon advantage - because I don't think anyone would argue that having the platoon advantage is a bad thing - and what they are doing at the plate when they do have it. Let's start with right-handed hitters versus lefties.


Platoon advantage versus LHP (through August 25)

Okay, so what we're looking at here are teams starting on the left as sorted by plate appearances (the blue line) and their wRC+ (the green bar). I point this out because I am far from a graph-making aficionado. But, as expected, the Cardinals are closer to the left side since they have a lot of righties. Their 103 wRC+ in these situations is seventh in the league and above the NL average (100). That'll do. Jedd Gyorko shines the brightest with a .316/.402/.570 slash line in 92 plate appearances against lefties. Paul DeJong on the other hand has a reverse-split season going with a wRC+ that's 26 points higher against righties (107 vs. 81). That sounds like a stat that I absolutely should have known and one that everyone else does know and by talking out loud I probably look silly, but...I didn't know that.


Now, the other side...


Platoon advantage versus RHP (through August 25)

(Nolan Gorman, we need you, man!)


Here, the Cardinals easily have the fewest plate appearances in the NL against right-handed pitchers - 114 fewer than the Marlins, who are 14th, and nearly 1,100 fewer than the Braves, who lead the league. The Braves have three left-handed hitters (Freddie Freeman, Nick Markakis, Ender Inciarte) with 530 or more plate appearances in 2018. For some perspective, Kolten Wong is second on the Cardinals with 349.


Production-wise, the Cardinals have done just fine against righties. Their 106 wRC+ is sixth in the league and again above league average (103). As you can probably surmise, this is predominantly the work of Matt Carpenter, who heading into his four-double day on Sunday had a 152 wRC+ against righties, which has accounted for approximately 74 percent of his plate appearances in 2018 (for what it's worth, he's doing just fine against lefties, too). On the other end of the spectrum is Dexter Fowler, who's a switch hitter so he sees the advantage in every at-bat but as most are aware he was enduring an absolutely dreadful season before landing on the 60-day DL with a broken foot.


Partly as a result of Fowler's ineffectiveness, the Cardinals are no longer the best hitting team in the league with the platoon although they're better than average. They're still seeing less of the platoon than anyone though. For what it's worth, I think this information mostly belongs in the FYI category. The team has won nine series in a row. They have the second highest wRC+ (113) in the NL as a team since August 1. The platoon obviously isn't everything, the team is doing just fine, and going forward Adams gives them some thump (hopefully) from the left side for when they may need it.