The San Francisco Giants are this year’s surprise MLB team, as they were thought to be in the middle of a rebuild as their stars from their early-2010’s dynasty began to age. Instead, they find themselves in the thick of the playoff race, leading all of baseball with a 62-37. It’s taken some unexpected performances from said aging stars, but they’ve also perfected the platoon, and have used it more effectively than any other team in baseball.
The Perfect Platoon
The most notable of these platoons has been the one between LaMonte Wade Jr. and Darin Ruf, who have played the corner outfield, as well as 1st base in the absence of Brandon Belt. Since Belt was placed on the IL on June 25, Wade and Ruf have filled in perfectly, replacing his production entirely.
Wade Jr. has led off games against righties, while Ruf has hit in the cleanup spot against lefties. One interesting strategy employed by manager Gabe Kapler is to pinch-hit one for the other when pitchers change, which isn’t always seen with platoons.
Darin Ruf is a right-handed first baseman and outfielder who returned to MLB after three incredible years for the KBO’s Samsung Lions. He made his MLB debut in 2012 with Philadelphia but was sent down in 2016, before moving on to Korea in 2017. Last season, Ruf played 40 games for the Giants, slugging .517 with a .379 wOBA and 140 wRC+ in 100 PAs. Against lefties, he had a 137 wRC+. Ruf has always hit lefties well, as he had a 157 wRC+ against them in 2014, and a 201 wRC+ against them in 2015, although both in small sample sizes.
This season, the 34-year-old Ruf has played 68 games and has accumulated 161 PAs. He has a 155 wRC+ on the season, with a .262/.398/.554 slash and a .410 xwOBA, good for 1.6 fWAR. He has 77 PAs against lefties, with 18 hits, six home runs, and 15 walks against them. He’s slugged .683 vs lefties, with a .442 OBP, good for a .457 wOBA, .483 xwOBA, and 192 wRC+.
LaMonte Wade Jr.
LaMonte Wade Jr. is a 27-year-old getting his first real opportunity at the major league level. He was traded to San Francisco by Minnesota for Shaun Anderson this offseason and has exploded atop the Giants lineup. He’s spent some time in AAA, but in his major league time, he’s been incredible. He’s slashed .264/.349/.581 with a .391 wOBA and 148 wRC+ on the season, good for a 1.2 fWAR in just 171 PAs. He’s been hitting the ball harder and higher than he has in the past, leading to more barrels and more home runs.
Against righties this year, the lefty-hitting Wade Jr. has hit .300/.383/.662 with a .384 xwOBA and 176 wRC+ against right-handed pitching. 12 of his 13 home runs have come against righties, and he has a 10.7% BB% on the year. His .362 ISO is 6th in the league against RHP, while his .662 SLG and 176 wRC+ both rank 4th, all among players with at least 90 PAs vs righties.
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