Robinson Cano, Rickie Weeks Platoon: No No, Never Never
Our FanSided friends over at Statliners.com posted an argument today that a Robinson Cano, Rickie Weeks platoon at second base for the Seattle Mariners would be the best platoon in baseball.
As Drew Jenkins writes:
"So, in terms of pure hitting advantage, it is actually practical for the Mariners to have a strict platoon between Cano and Weeks at second base. In fact, it would likely be the best platoon in baseball."
Though his argument carries a lot of sabermetric offensive weight and logic, the Mariners would never make such a move, and such a move would be reckless and detrimental to the organization and this team’s chance of winning in 2015.
I don’t dare touch the intricacies of sabermetrics right now, as my experience and expertise with such figures is limited. But, in response to the platoon proposal, there are four main reasons I think such a platoon would be detrimental to the Seattle Mariners.
1. Cano is a better defender:
According to FanGraphs’ Defensive metric– the one that combines Fielding and Positional Adjustment– Robinson Cano has been a better defender at second base his entire career compared to Rickie Weeks.
The best Weeks ever performed defensively was a 3.7 defense in 2010 with the Brewers. Since then, he’s gone 3.4, -14.6, -8.3, -7.0, and Steamer projects a -2.1 for 2015.
In that same span, Cano’s best was 12.6 in 2012, followed by 2.5, and -2.4 in 2014. However, 2014 seems to be more fluky than a trend, as Steamer gives Cano a 3.9 defensive projection for 2015.
In all, if you exclude Robinson Cano’s 2005 and 2006 seasons, he has a cumulative +14.0 defensive metric in 8 seasons, where Rickie Weeks has a cumulative has a -42.0 in 11 seasons.
And, just watching the two play at second base, it’s clear that Cano is superior. So giving Weeks the offensive platoon could, in theory, provide more offensive and better matchups, but the Mariners’ infield defense would suffer 9 innings at a time for the sake of 3 or 4 at-bats.
2. Cano is the lineup anchor:
Throughout the 2014 season, Cano was the only Mariners position player to remain in the same spot in the lineup for the duration of the season. Everyone else, including All-Star Kyle Seager, got moved around and adjusted in the lineup.
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Though sabermetrics don’t necessarily give wait to a consistent lineup, it makes a tangible impact on the course of a season and a game. Last season the Tigers knew they’d always have Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera in the middle of the order, with the moving parts surrounding them.
In 2015, the Mariners will have a 3-4-5 of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and Kyle Seager, that shouldn’t change at all throughout the season except on days off for these three hitters.
If Rickie Weeks platooned with Cano, the lineup would be a shuffleboard mess, with players getting bounced around ad nauseam, messing with the chi of the lineup (yes, I did just use chi).
Unless the put Cano at DH on those platoon days and left him hitting 3rd, it wouldn’t work.
Also: why would you EVER want to take the player who LEADS THE MLB in WAR since 2009 out of a game for any reason other than injury or rest?
3. You don’t always get to hit a lefty, or a righty:
Platoon stats are great but what happens when the starter is out after 5 innings and they bring in a right-handed reliever to face Rickie Weeks? Does Lloyd McClendon pull Cano from the bench and have him replace Weeks in the lineup?
Generally, platoon splits work great for players who have a dramatic advantage one way or another. But Cano is a great all-around hitter. He can hit lefties, and he can hit righties. Sure he hits righties better, but if you had a clone of Cano that only hit left-handed pitching he’d have the 2nd best offensive numbers on the 2o14 Mariners, behind only the real Robinson Cano.
An outfield platoon with Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano makes more sense because they hit opposite well, but they aren’t elite hitters that are competitive against RHPs and southpaws.
4. Who do you wanted hitting when the pressure is on?
A more of a feel thing than a tangible, quantifiable stat, I want Robinson Cano in the game. In the late innings when the game is on the line both offensively and defensively, I want the Mariners in Robinson Cano’s hands, not Rickie Weeks.
He’s one of the best hitters in baseball, even at 32-years old, and taking him out of the lineup for the sake of ‘theoretically statistical matchup advantages’ just doesn’t work for me. And more than that, I know Mariners fans and baseball fans in general would riot if the Mariners had Cano playing only 120 games a season so Rickie Weeks could hit lefties in a platoon.
If the Mariners want more right-handed hitters in the lineup against lefties that’s fine with me. But start Justin Ruggiano, play Cruz in left field, and have Weeks DH.
But, aside from the ‘on-paper’ statistical advantages that appear through sabermetric analysis, platooning Robinson Cano with Rickie Weeks is a bad idea.
The Mariners won’t do it, the M’s won’t even think of doing it. Rickie Weeks will be a utility man and additional right-handed bat to play with against southpaws. He will not, however, be a platoon for the best hitter on the Mariners, and one of the best hitters in baseball over the last 5 seasons.