Maggie Wiggin, ContributorThe most likely scenario for the Mets at first base, going into next season, is some combination of the left-handed Lucas Duda and the right-handed Josh Satin.
Both have pronounced handedness splits, putting up far better numbers against pitchers who throw with the opposite hand, so in order to maximize the production from that position, Terry Collins should use the two players in a relatively strict platoon based on the opposing pitcher.
Using Duda and Satin’s splits against righties and lefties, we can get a good estimate of the production the team can expect from this tandem and see where that ranks among first basemen in baseball right now.
The ratio of right-handed and left-handed pitchers in the league varies a bit from year to year, but 25 percent lefties to 75 percent righties is about average. This means Duda would get about 525 plate appearances and Satin would get 175.
Duda’s line against right-handed pitching in 2013 was .240/.369/.462, good for an .831 OPS. This is close to his career numbers, so it should be a reliable estimate of what we can expect next season.
Satin is harder to pinpoint because he has just 104 plate appearances against lefties for his career. His 2013 line against lefties was extremely good (.317/.404/.476) but it’s a safe assumption he’ll have some regression towards the mean, so just to be conservative, I’ll use his overall line for the season (.279/.376/.405).
When we combine these statistics, assuming Duda has 525 plate appearances to Satin’s 175, we get a line of .250/.371/.448, with an OPS of .819. The pair would combine for 146 hits (including 39 doubles and 25 home runs) and 99 walks. This production would make for a well above-average offensive first baseman, tied with Prince Fielder for 11th best OPS among qualified first basemen in 2013.
Obviously, projections can falter and injuries, decline, bad luck or failure to stick with a strict platoon could all combine to result in first base production falling short of this estimate, but using this arrangement in 2014 gives the team an excellent chance at strong numbers from the position, and it will likely cost the team around $2 million, since Satin is pre-arbitration and Duda is first-year arbitration-eligible. This frees up payroll for upgrades elsewhere on the field.
Platoons are often derided as a way to hide bad players, but the Mets in particular have a history of employing them to get the best out of their players. Both the 1969 and 1986 championship teams featured productive platoons, and while the 2014 Mets still look a long ways away from postseason contention, it’s a good reminder that the technique can and has worked. Both Collins and Sandy Alderson should strongly consider it to maximize first base numbers for a reasonable price-tag.