FanPost

On Chris Johnson’s Reverse Platoon Split

When the Braves acquired Chris Johnson along with Justin Upton in the trade that sent Martin Prado, Randall Delgado, Zeke Spruill, Nick Ahmed and Brandon Drury to Arizona, it was assumed that Johnson would be paired with Juan Francisco in some form of platoon at third base. Fredi Gonzalez has pretty much confirmed this in recent comments, barring one or the other having a particularly dominant/dreadful spring.

Many Braves fans are concerned about this, however, due to the fact that both Johnson and Francisco hit better against right handed pitchers, despite the fact that Johnson is right handed. What is the point of a platoon if both guys have the same weakness? It's a valid question with a couple answers.

First, let's take a look at the splits. In his career, Chris Johnson's line against righties is .283/.323/.452, while against lefties he is .255/.294/.372. Juan Francisco has gone .272/.320/.487 against righties and .190/.224/.222 against lefties over the course of his brief career. Johnson doesn't hit left handed pitching particularly well, but Juan Francisco has been downright awful. Based on this alone, Johnson should be the frontrunner for the everyday job. In my personal opinion, if his split was traditional, no one would even bring it up.

But if you look a little closer at Chris Johnson's numbers, concern about his reverse platoon split will quickly fade away. Consider:

BB%

K%

BB/K

LD%

GB%

FB%

vs. RHP

4.8%

24.8%

0.19

23.9%

42.8%

33.3%

vs. LHP

4.7%

24.4%

0.19

23.9%

43.0%

33.1%

As you can see, his walk and strikeout rates as well as his batted ball profile are nearly identical against both left and right handed pitching. While we'd like him to walk a little more and strike out a little less, he clearly doesn't alter his approach based on who the pitcher is. Further, about one-fourth of Johnson's career plate appearances have come against left handed pitching. Coincidentally - or maybe not - approximately one-fourth of his career hits and one-fourth of his career home runs have also come against left-handed pitching.

One possible explanation for the disparity in Johnson's slash lines is that his career BABIP against right handed pitchers is 41 points higher than it is against lefties. Other than that, it's hard to find a reason based on past performance for his reverse platoon split. Going forward, I see no reason to believe that Johnson can't hit lefties just as well as he hits righties. Juan Francisco has tremendous power upside, but unless he shows significant improvement during the spring in both his plate discipline and his ability to hit lefties, Chris Johnson is the clear choice to be the everyday third baseman heading into the season.

This FanPost does not express the views or opinions of Talking Chop.

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