Once in a while, a manager will face an extraordinarily tough decision when it comes to a player’s platoon splits. Diamondbacks skipper Torey Lovullo faces that dilemma with Jake Lamb.
One of the rising stars in baseball, Lamb’s overall numbers have vaulted him into the ranks of the game’s elite this year. At .288/.385/.558, Arizona’s 26-year-old third baseman ranks 19th among all NL hitters in park-adjusted offense (Chase Field trails only Coors Field among NL parks for pumping up offensive numbers); if you prefer more traditional stats, Lamb ranks in the top 10 for both home runs and runs batted in too. But few everyday players in recent memory have carried a platoon split as enormous as Lamb’s:
Jake Lamb vs. RHP, 2017: .342/.435/.676
Jake Lamb vs. LHP, 2017: .156/.255/.267
Those numbers are merely a more extreme version of last year’s splits, when Lamb batted .271/.346/.552 against righties, but just .164/.279/.345 against southpaws.
Scanning those numbers, the logical course of action would seem to be force-feeding him as many at-bats as possible against right-handers, then benching him against lefties; Lamb ranking 29th among MLB third baseman in Defensive Runs Saved (minus-4) only reinforces that idea. On the other hand, the Diamondbacks are trying to build a long-term winner in the desert, even as they run out to this surprising, rollicking start in 2017. Lamb’s impressive power in just his third season as a big league regular could portend perennial All-Star status, if he keeps this uptrend going. Plenty of other young stars with major platoon splits have eventually learned to hit same-handed pitching respectably enough over time, and it’s hard to learn unless you’re given reps.
So for now, Lovullo will continue to play Lamb everyday. If the young slugger can cobble together even league-average performance against lefties over time, opposing pitchers will become even more sheepish when they have to face him.