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Is Joe Maddon Turning Carl Crawford Into A Platoon Player?

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ST. PETERSBURG - APRIL 25:  Outfielder Carl Crawford #13 of the Tampa Bay Rays pleads with the umpire against the Toronto Blue Jays during the game at Tropicana Field on April 25, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
ST. PETERSBURG - APRIL 25: Outfielder Carl Crawford #13 of the Tampa Bay Rays pleads with the umpire against the Toronto Blue Jays during the game at Tropicana Field on April 25, 2010 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
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Due to the events of this past week, some people have raised the question, as ridiculous as it may seem. After the team's scheduled off-day on last Monday, manager Joe Maddon proceeded to give Carl Crawford two of the next three days off. Question the moves all you want, but I think most would agree that the motivation behind them were health related, and not Maddon being Maddon - using numbers provided to him by the Baseball Operations Department to assemble the daily lineup. That said, both of the unscheduled absences came against left-handed pitching which is the reason why some eyebrows may have been raised..

First, Carl Crawford is not a platoon player, nor will he be at any point in the near future. Yes, it is true that his career numbers are better against righties (.306/.344/.462) than lefties (.269/.315/.383), but his defense, and what he does when he gets on-base, negates any thoughts of a platoon. In 2010, the split remains true as CC has an OPS of .878 vs. righties and just .712 against lefties. But again, I doubt platoon splits come into play when regarding a player of Crawford's stature.

While all of the above may hold true, one must still wonder if CC should remain exempt from the daily lineup shuffle. More than any other member of the Rays lineup, Crawford is a creature of habit. It has been Maddon's choice to not mess with that during his tenure as Rays skipper. In the 59 games started by Crawford this year, his name has been penciled in the second spot in the linup in each. In 2009, CC racked up 606 at-bats; 604 of them came in the two spot.

Regardless of the weaker OPS against lefties, Crawford is still the second hitter in the order on an everyday basis. In general, it is smart to get your best hitters the most at-bats. Crawford falls into this category most days, but against left-handed pitching, he probably should be shuffled down to the bottom third of the lineup. This would take away his speed threat at the top of the lineup, but he only gets on-base against lefties around 30% of the time.

That said, part of Maddon's job is understanding the players in his clubhouse. In theory, it makes all the sense in the world to bat Crawford seventh, eighth or ninth against lefties, but who knows what affect that will have on him when it comes to his regular at-bats against righties - which make up about 70% of his total.

In summation, no, Carl Crawford is not a platoon player. It is true that he struggles against lefties, but regardless, he is too valuable in other aspects to fall in the platoon ranks. Should he bat lower against LHP? In a world where baseball is played on spreadsheets, probably. However, in the real world where thinking, emotions, and confidence come into play, maybe Maddon is correct in leaving the greatest player in the franchise's history in the same spot that got him there.