Kelly Shoppach’s Platoon Splits Revisited | The Process Report

Kelly Shoppach’s Platoon Splits Revisited

A few days ago, I wrote about Kelly Shoppach being undervalued by the community. I then wrote a post about Matt Joyce’s platoon splits improving with time based on regression. While those seem like separate thoughts, they aren’t. The technique I used in the Joyce post – which nobody appeared to have much issue with – is the same technique I used here with Shoppach’s splits. Within that post, I wrote this:

Shoppach has 785 plate appearances against righties and 258 versus lefties, so yeah, there’s some regressing to do; roughly 90% against southpaws and 56% against righties. That gives him a true talent OPS against lefties of .799 and .719 against righties. Assuming something like 450 plate appearances with 60% coming against righties, Shoppach would project for a wOBA around .333 – knock a few points down for park, age, and maybe even AL East – and you still have a catcher that will be hitting around league average – something fewer than half those catchers with 300+ plate appearances accomplished.

What happened is that Shoppach’s OPS versus lefties did drop – to .823 – but his numbers versus righties declined too – down to .432. The bright side is that Shoppach received fewer than 200 plate appearances (with a nearly even breakdown), meaning both declines could be a small sample size trick and the numbers presented above could still be accurate expectations heading forward, but wait, we have more information about Shoppach now than before.

Adding the 2010 numbers in tells us that Shoppach’s performance versus righties must be regressed by roughly 53% and his numbers versus lefties by 86%. In the end, we get projected OPS of .778 versus lefties and .696 versus righties – leaving Shoppach as an above average right-handed hitter against lefties and below average versus righties. The validity of the numbers depends on your opinion of Shoppach. Is he a bad hitter who has gotten lucky against lefties, or is he a good hitter with a rash of issues versus righties?

It’s an interesting and unanswerable question. Shoppach had a similar season in 2006 when he had 81 plate appearances versus righties. He hit .213/.263/.267 with 35 strikeouts, five walks, and two extra base hits. Over the next three seasons he saw more righties on an average basis and hit them better – with two seasons of a .650-.690 OPS acting as bread to the meat of a .835 OPS season. Shoppach had an inarguably awful season against righties in 2010, but there’s a reason to think he’s better than that.

What if he’s not, though, what can the Rays? The most prevalent thought is to dump the contract on whoever can stand it ($3 million) and insert Nevin Ashley until Robinson Chirinos is ready. I’m not much of a believer in Ashley. PECOTA didn’t even bother with a projection this season for him but last year’s suggests he’s not going to hit well, which isn’t a surprise considering his minor league numbers – his career Double-A slash line is .244/.333/.359 despite being old for the league, and that’s an improvement over his career High-A numbers.

Ashley becoming Dioner Navarro at the dish (.249/.309/.356) could prove optimistic and remember, there is a reason the Rays acquired Shoppach in the first place – namely to limit Navarro’s playing time. Oh, and Ashley is only six months younger than Navarro. In order to see Ashley as the better fit, one has to envision a scenario where either he is worth within $3 million of Shoppach or the trade return makes up the difference. If you see Ashley as I do – as a Michel Hernandez type – then his .270 (or so) wOBA means he has to be a sensation defensively to come close to Shoppach.

Maybe he is, but there doesn’t seem to be incentive to lower the Rays’ playoff chances because of it.

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