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2016 in review: platoon splits

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David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2016 Cincinnati Reds season in the books, we've been taking some time to assess what we can learn from this season. Mitchell Clark recently assessed the Reds through the lens of home/road splits. Today we'll be taking a look at the team in light of their platoon splits.

First, we'll take a look at how the team did at the plate based on the handedness of the pitcher. Following that, we'll highlight some individual players who had platoon splits worthy of attention. So what stuck out from the 2016 season?

The Cincinnati Reds offensive platoon splits from the past two seasons:

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

2016 vs. RHP

.260

.319

.412

.731

2016 vs. LHP

.242

.305

.394

.699

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

2015 vs. RHP

.249

.312

.392

.704

2015 vs. LHP

.247

.312

.399

.711

As a unit the Reds were more productive against RHP this season, but they were down across the board against LHP. Cincinnati's .260 average against right-handers was the 9th best average in all of baseball. However, their OBP and SLG didn't rate nearly as high which led to the team finishing the year around league average against righties (98 sOPS+).

Unfortunately, the offensive production against lefties wasn't as respectable. Their BA, OBP, and SLG all ranked 6th worst in baseball or lower. They finished the season 10% worse than league average by this split, and that left them ranked 25th out of 30 teams. If you're looking for something to be optimistic about they did hit left handed pitching better than the Dodgers. Los Angeles finished the year 30% worse than league average, and they're in the NLCS this season! We can officially say the Reds were better than a playoff team at something.

Tucker Barnhart continued to struggle against LHP...but made improvement

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

2016 vs. RHP

.271

.344

.400

.744

2016 vs. LHP

.207

.241

.305

.546

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

2015 vs. RHP

.269

.339

.360

.700

2015 vs. LHP

.178

.255

.178

.433

When Devin Mesoraco went down with another season-ending injury, Tucker Barnhart stepped in as the Reds starting catcher. Barnhart's struggles against LHP are well known (he has a career .478 OPS against lefties), and at one point he considered abandoning his approach as a switch hitter. Barnhart was optimistic about his development from the right side of the plate over the off-season, and he did show some improvement. However, he still finished the year 52% worse than the average major league player against LHP (48 sOPS+).

It remains to be seen what the Reds will do at catcher in 2017. On the one hand, fans should be encouraged by the progress Barnhart made from both sides of the plate, but there is still further development that needs to happen if he hopes to be Cincinnati's every day catcher beyond this season.

Joey Votto might be a robot sent from the future to destroy RHP

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

2016 vs. RHP

.330

.448

.584

1.033

2016 vs. LHP

.314

.396

.465

.861

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

2015 vs. RHP

.306

.456

.541

.997

2015 vs. LHP

.331

.467

.542

1.009

In 2015 Votto threw everyone for a bit of a curve when he performed better against LHP than RHP. For his career he's been better against right handers, and he returned to that kind of production this season. Not only did he return to that kind of production, but he was above his career averages in all of the categories listed above against RHP.

By wRC+ (169) he was the third best hitter against right-handers in all of baseball this season. Only David Ortiz (173) and Mike Trout (172) finished with higher marks. He finished with the second highest OPS in baseball by this split, again trailing David Ortiz. While Votto was a little less productive against LHP, he was still very good. If you look at wRC+ totals for left handed hitters against left handed pitchers, Votto finished with the sixth best mark in baseball among hitters with at least 150 PA (130 wRC+).

Eugenio Suarez was better against LHP, but took a step back against RHP

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

2016 vs. RHP

.240

.306

.377

.683

2016 vs. LHP

.276

.354

.528

.882

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

2015 vs. RHP

.277

.308

.436

.744

2015 vs. LHP

.289

.337

.482

.819

Eugenio Suarez has always been most productive when facing left-handers, and this season was no exception. He finished the year above his career averages in every category listed above against LHP. Suarez's preference for LHP can clearly be seen in light of his power numbers. Suarez had 339 fewer PA against LHP than RHP, but he hit nine of his twenty-one HR against lefties. He finished the year 15% below league average against righties, but 37% better than league average against lefties.

Billy Hamilton continued to develop as a left-handed hitter

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

2016 vs. RHP

.275

.340

.356

.696

2016 vs. LHP

.221

.267

.310

.576

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

2015 vs. RHP

.220

.276

.257

.532

2015 vs. LHP

.241

.270

.371

.641

Hamilton joins Barnhart as another Reds switch hitter who really struggles against LHP. It's difficult to call Hamilton's season at the plate a success given that he finished 23% below league average production. However, fans were excited to see steady month to month progress by Hamilton as the season went on. By the end of the year he was above his career average marks against RHP, and he finished the season within 10% of league average production (91 sOPS+).

If nothing else, this season showed that Hamilton is getting more comfortable hitting from the left side of the plate. The Reds famously made the decision to turn him into a switch hitter once they drafted him. There was a time many thought the team should abandon this approach, as they believed it was hurting his offensive development. While he's still not a finished product there were clear signs of improvement this season.

Pitching Splits

Regardless of which side of the plate a player hit from against the Reds in 2016, he was likely to find some success. Against left-handed batters the team had a 4.92 ERA which was the second highest total in baseball (thanks Arizona). However, their FIP by this split (5.25) was worst in the league. Things weren't that different against right-handed hitters. Cincinnati had the 4th worst ERA by this split (4.91), and a league worst 5.23 FIP.

Why don't we try and find a few bright spots?

Brandon Finnegan took advantage of left handed batters

Along with Dan Straily, Finnegan was one of the pleasant surprises in the Reds rotation this season. He finished the year with above league average production (107 ERA+), and that success was aided by his performance against lefties.

Against Finnegan, left handed batters hit just .218/.323/.310 with 2 HR in 2016. To give these numbers some context, those totals made him 27% better than league average against left-handed hitters. Several reasons were given for Finnegan's improvement in 2016. The development of his changeup received a lot of attention. However, his ability to take advantage of this platoon split also aided his success.

If you're a right handed hitter, you don't want to face Raisel Iglesias

There will be plenty of debate this offseason over whether the Reds should try and re-establish Iglesias as a starter, or leave him in the bullpen. Regardless of where you stand on this issue, you can still appreciate how effective he was once he returned to the team as a reliever in mid-June.

Iglesias' production was in large part due to his success against right-handed hitters. They managed to hit just .171/.253/.230 (.483 OPS) against the twenty-six year old. That was good enough to make him 66% better than league average by this split. He held down a 2.09 ERA that is bolstered by a 2.38 FIP. Debate will continue regarding Iglesias' future, but no one is debating his ability to neutralize right-handed hitting.