SAN FRANCISCO — On the surface, it was a perfect fit.
Farhan Zaidi has been open about the fact that he might try to find a platoon partner for Steven Duggar this year, so when he signed Cameron Maybin to a minor league deal a few days into spring training, it seemed like that duo was set. Duggar hits left-handed. Maybin hits right-handed. They could form a defense-first duo up the middle.
But Maybin isn’t actually all that seamless a fit if that’s what the Giants are really planning. His OPS is 42 points higher when he faces right-handed pitching, and last year he had a .252/.321/.325 slash line against lefties. Duggar has extremely small samples, but he slashed .333/.370/.476 against lefties, far outpacing his stats against righties.
The numbers say maybe it won't work as planned, but as the Giants try to form a competent outfield, they’re going to see if Maybin can balance out Duggar and Gerardo Parra, who also hits left-handed. Manager Bruce Bochy said Maybin would see plenty of time against left-handed pitching this spring.
“I know sometimes these splits don’t match up, but sometimes when you start playing a guy a little bit more against lefties or righties, they get more comfortable,” he said. “When you’re facing lefties, you just don’t see them that much, so I’m going to try to give Maybin as many at-bats as I can off lefties here this spring.
“Now, nothing has been said about ‘we’re platooning,’ but if a guy’s numbers aren’t that good against a pitcher righty or lefty, I try to push at-bats that way so he can get more comfortable.”
Maybin, who overhauled his swing in the offseason by making trips to see a specialist in Los Angeles, said he’s not worried about what the splits say.
“You get in the box, you look for something you can handle, something you can do damage on,” he said. “That’s kind of been my approach. With some offseason work, I hope that I can just continue to get better against righties and lefties.”
The same holds true for Joe Panik, who like Duggar is a returning starter who has found his name connected to a potential platoon.
For most of his career, Panik has fared pretty well against same-side pitching, but his numbers dropped off a cliff in 2018. In 120 plate appearances against lefties, Panik hit .191 with a .489 OPS. Yangervis Solarte is a more balanced switch-hitter than Alen Hanson, but his OPS is about 50 points higher against righties than against lefties.
At the moment, the Giants have some imperfect solutions as they look to platoon more. They’ll spend the spring getting veterans extra work against certain pitchers, and perhaps a young player like Drew Ferguson — a right-handed hitter — will break into the mix.
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Then again, there’s always the solution that Duggar, Panik, and others in similar spots would prefer: Hitting well enough that you play against both sides. Both have shown they have the skills to do it.
“I have to be the player I know how to be,” Panik said. “But at the same time, as a teammate, you have to be open to whatever they say. They’re going to know that I don’t hit so-and-so well, and you have to be unselfish. You have to grow up and mature and understand it is about one goal. I know that if I’m doing what I’m capable of doing, I can hit anybody. But again, it’s going to be about winning.”