Saturday, May 4, 2013

Matching up with Chris Parmelee

Chris Parmelee and Cleveland catcher Van Gomes watch
Parmelee's seventh-inning homer head for the right field seats.
Seventh inning Friday night. Cleveland's Justin Masterson has a 5-3 lead and gets the first two Twins hitters out. But then Justin Morneau singles, goes to second on a passed ball, and scores on a Ryan Doumit single.

With the left-handed Chris Parmelee due up, Cleveland manager Terry Francona goes to his bullpen, but not for a LOOGY. He calls on a righty, Cody Allen.

And Parmelee lofts a fly ball that barely sneaks over the right-field wall. Home run, Twins lead 6-5.

The Twins didn't hold that lead, but I'm still intrigued by Francona's choice of relief pitcher. Why did he defy the platoon approach?

Parmelee's career splits might be one factor. He's been a better hitter against left-handed pitchers (.782 on base plus slugging) than against righties (.738) in his brief major league career. But that's just 380 career plate appearances, which is not enough to declare him the rare exception to the platoon rule.

Allen's platoon splits are even more limited — he has just 42.2 career innings — but they carry a hint of "backwards" platoon splits also. Righties have hit .273 off him; lefties .237. Righties have an OBP of .356; lefties, .318.

But ... all four home runs he's allowed have been to left-handed hitters. Right-handers slug .295 off Allen so far, lefties .461.

Francona knows a lot more about Allen than I do, and it's quite likely that Allen has a particular pitch that Francona believes is effective against left-handed hitters. It's also possible that he's just inconsistent enough with that pitch that he's vulnerable to the long ball with it.

Picking a pitcher on that basis makes more sense to me than picking him off the limited statistical evidence available on Parmelee and Allen.

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