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Pinch Hitting and the Platoon Advantage

The Dodgers had an up-and-down season pinch hitting in 2009.  They started out hot in April, with 13 hits in 28 pinch at-bats, good for a line of .464/.516/.536.  Mark Loretta had seven hits in 10 such at-bats in the first month, but after April the bench cooled off, to the tune of .224/.302/.338 over the final five months.  On the season, Dodger pinch hitters hit .253/.328/.362, which doesn't look like very good production until you consider National League pinch hitters hit just .230/.320/.362.  The Dodgers were an above average pinch hitting, with an sOPS+ of 107, where 100 is average.

Just think what they could have done with a platoon advantage.  The Dodgers had the lowest percentage of pinch hit plate appearances with the platoon advantage last year, that is a right-handed batter facing a left-handed pitcher and vice versa.

National League Pinch Hitters 2009
Team PA vs Opp Hand PA vs Same Hand % Advantage
Cubs 225 47 82.7%
Braves 204 45 81.9%
Pirates 199 48 80.6%
Phillies 212 59 78.2%
Brewers 199 59 77.1%
Giants 174 57 75.3%
Mets 198 88 69.2%
D-Backs 183 84 68.5%
Reds 167 84 66.5%
Astros 167 98 63.02%
Padres 165 97 62.98%
Cardinals 169 111 60.4%
Rockies 153 103 59.8%
Marlins 162 116 58.3%
Nationals 149 110 57.5%
Dodgers 144 116 55.4%
NL Totals 2870 1322 68.5%

The Dodger pinch hitters hit .270/.352/.437 with the platoon advantage, and .233/.292/.272 without.  The Dodgers spent a large chunk of last season with just a four-man bench, so I have to imagine just having an extra hitter on the bench will lead to more opportunities to have the platoon advantage.  Then again, one of either Brian Giles or Doug Mientkiewicz might be the only lefty hitter on the bench, so maybe those opportunities might not arise in a league where almost three-fourths of the pitches are thrown by right-handed arms.

The Dodgers also had the fewest plate appearances by a right-handed batter against a southpaw (24), so perhaps reserve outfielder Reed Johnson -- a career .313/.378/.463 hitter against lefties -- can help in this regard.  Or perhaps the extra bench spot can lead to more maneuvering for a key late inning plate appearance.  Is this much ado about nothing?  Perhaps, but every little advantage helps, especially in what figures to be a close race for the NL West.