With all the talk about the future of Carl Crawford and the Rays outfield, I realized how often we forget the platoon of Gabe Gross and Gabe Kapler. While B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford, Desmond Jennings and Matt Joyce are all more talented and grab more headlines, the Gabes continue to quietly put up solid production in the right field corner. While both have their individual flaws, together they have combined to be an above average right fielder both offensively and defensively. Of course that was the plan all along, but seldom do plans work out this well.
As the left handed batter facing right handed pitchers, Gabe Gross continues to get the lion's share of the at-bats. A .246/.347/.413 career hitter, Gross has put up typical numbers in 2009. His overall slash line reads .258/.370/.409 which is slightly above his norm. The increase in OBP is a welcomed sight thanks to an increase in BB% of nearly two percent over his career .
Gross's main job is to hit righties and he's faired pretty well at that. Hitting .257/.360/.388 against righties this year, Gross remains good at being average. In an extreme small sample size, Gross is hitting .263/.462/.632 against left handers, but in just 26 plate appearances. The thing that jumped out to me about Gross's splits against lefties was seven drawn walks in just 24 plate appearances vs. five strikeouts. While it's tempting to see how those numbers would hold up over a larger sample size, the play of the other Gabe makes it an unnecessary practice.
Gabe Kapler got off to a bad start. Over the first two months of the season he hit .178/.274/.274 in 84 plate appearances. However, he got "toasty" as Joe Maddon would say once the calendar hit June. Since June 1st, Kapler is hitting .293/.362/.549 with 12 extra base hits in 94 plate appearances.
Unfortunately, injuries in early part of the season force Maddon to use him against right handed pitching and that has really taken a toll on his overall numbers. He is hitting just .109/.163/.109 against righties in 49 plate appearances. Luckily for us, things have balanced out and Kapler is almost exclusively facing lefties now. If you haven't noticed, Kapler absolutely crushes left handed pitching. On the season he's hitting .294/.380/.550 against southpaws with 19 extra base hits in 129 plate appearances.
The beauty of the Gabe of the day platoon is it isn't just an offensive pairing. Both Kapler and Gross have been above average fielders. Kapler has earned himself a 7.0 UZR in right field while Gross has been even better in a larger sample size. After posting an 11.8 UZR in 121 games last season, Gross has a UZR of 8.5 this year.
As Rays fans we've been trained to look for value, value, value. Well Value is exactly what we're getting with the Gabe of the Day platoon. Signed for a combined $2,225,0018 million dollars, the Gabes have put up a combined WAR of 2.6. or nearly $12 million dollars worth of production.
Even though the pairing has worked so well this year, there is a good chance the two won't be together after this season. While the names may change in seasons to come, platoons are something Rays fans should get accustomed to seeing. It may not be a sexy option, but a good economical one.To get back to my original point at the top, the Rays almost certainly will never be able to replace Carl Crawford's production with one player. However, using the correct combination might get you close for a fraction of the cost.