The Dodgers Can Make a Second Base Platoon Work in 2019

SAN DIEGO, CA - APRIL 18: Max Muncy
SAN DIEGO, CA - APRIL 18: Max Muncy /

Let’s skip a fancy introduction and cut right to the chase: you hate me and you’ve only read the title. Second base has been an issue the Dodgers have not been able to solve since 2015 and this season, with prospects and cash in hand, things are looking up in imagination land.

Bryce Harper is a free agent, Corey Kluber is on the trading block and out there somewhere (we’re not sure where) exists a second baseman for the Dodgers. Yet, I say do not add that second baseman.

But, you read it right. I did, in fact, say in the very headline of this article that the Dodgers can make a second base platoon work. They really can. By combining the correct players, the Dodgers second base group would work to make a well above league average “player” if you will. The combined numbers of Enrique Hernandez, Chris Taylor, and Max Muncy are far higher than any reasonable acquisition the Dodgers can make. Thus, bring on the platoon.

First, allow me to explain how this will work. We’re making one player out of three. The Dodgers will use what will likely end up being the trio of players I just mentioned to man second base. Given the assumed irregularity of their starting, I combined their numbers to create a super second baseman or, in simpler terms, I made a single number for the potential offensive output the Dodgers could get from three people. This allows us to compare them to a single second baseman out there on the trade market or in free agency.

Let’s get into it.

Max Muncy had a career year last season. He far exceeded even the wildest expectations out there thus, it is extremely hard not to project some regression for him in 2019. In 2018, Muncy slugged .586, the fifth-highest slugging percentage among any player with a minimum of 300 at-bats and led the league in ISO, beating Mike Trout by .003. Muncy was a top one percent power hitter last year. The out of this world performance was nice but a repeat in 2019 is a tall, and unreasonable, projection.

So, I jumped on both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference to see their projections, find the middle ground between the two and used those as Max Muncy’s numbers in my super player.

Baseball-Reference was more generous. In 2019, they have Muncy hitting .247 with 23 home runs and 60 RBI’s while slugging .487. All of that is good for an ISO of .240, a .079 decrease from 2018.

Fangraphs, on the other hand, has Muncy hitting .236 with 22 home runs, 67 RBI’s, a .431 slugging percentage and an ISO of just .195, a .124 drop from 2018.

Mash those two projections together and Muncy is projected to hit .242 with 23 home runs and 64 RBI’s. His projected slugging percentage between Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference averages out to be .459 leaving an ISO of .217.

So, by the projections, Muncy is your typical power hitter- low average, mid-20’s in home runs and a slugging percentage that dips well below acceptable for a power guy.

Moving on.

Enrique Hernandez had, in my opinion, the best season of his career last year. Unlike Max Muncy, I think the pace he set in 2018 is far more sustainable than any other breakout player that year as Hernandez got something he really did not have in the previous three seasons: consistent playing time.

After getting over 100 more plate-appearances than he has ever had in a major league season, Hernandez hit .256 with 21 home runs and 52 RBI’s. His slugging percentage was .470 and his ISO was .214. Because I think these numbers will not get absolutely washed away in 2019, I am using them to build the super second baseman.

Lastly, we have Chris Taylor. Taylor saw his regression last season and that was in large part due to his inability to keep his bat on his shoulder on balls out of the zone, chasing 23.4 percent of pitches out of the zone. When balls were in the zone, Taylor only made contact with 78.2 percent of them where the league average was 83.2 percent contact on balls in the strike zone.

At the end of the day, his numbers took a pretty good beating and he did not look like the superhero he was in 2017. The projections for Taylor actually increase his 2018 output and for the sake of being fair here, I will use his real like numbers from 2018. On the year he hit .254 with 17 home runs and 63 RBI’s all while slugging .444. That boils down to a .190 ISO.

Now let’s combine them. Our three-person super player projects to hits .251 with 21 home runs and 60 RBI’s. The slugging percentage comes out to be .458 with an ISO of .207. This player is not bad at all and the collective numbers stack up really nicely against the other options on the market.

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Take Brian Dozier as an example. Dozier spent part of 2018 with the Dodgers and while the rumors of a reunion have been quiet, it has been mentioned once or twice. Dozier hit .215 with 21 home runs and 72 RBI’s in 2018. His slugging percentage was a career low, .391 and his ISO was .176. Dozier was horrible last year and right off the bat, our three-man combined player has a better average offensive output.

The same goes for DJ LeMahieu, a player the Dodgers have been connected with. Aside from his defensive metrics and batting average, the 30-year old middle infielder was, like Dozier, worse than the platoon.

Let’s put the statistics aside for a second and look at the cash. Hernandez and Taylor project to make $3.2 million apiece in arbitration this offseason while Muncy will remain at the league minimum $545,000. Combine them and it comes out to roughly $6.9 million between three players whereas Dozier or LeMahieu should eclipse that single-handedly.

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There are certainly flaws in the logic here. Trends can change and playing time can mess with a one player average I created out of three people. But, financially and, by my freshly created system, statistically, a platoon may be the way to go for 2019 as the result may not be as awful as you think.