When the Rays broke camp, all the pieces were in place. Lefty-killer Jeff Keppinger would play second and Ben Zobrist would play rightfield against southpaws. Zobrist would play second and Matt Joyce would play right against righties. It was a classic three-man Joe Maddon platoon.
Then Keppinger got hurt. And so did every other right-handed hitter in the Rays’ clubhouse. So Matt Joyce started playing against lefties. And something weird happened.
|Player||OPS v. LH|
(Sorry for the ugly chart. I can’t figure out how to export a chart from FanGraphs. But kudos to FanGraphs for having such easily searchable data.)
Yeah, that’s right, Matt Joyce is hitting lefties. Like, hitting them a lot. Add in his catches from Friday night and, it looks like Mr. Joyce has played himself into an everyday spot in the lineup. Right?
But, Joyce’s success causes a little bit of a problem. The Rays’ roster, you see, was not built for Matt Joyce to play everyday. No one expected him to hit lefties. So, as soon as Jeff Keppinger is ready to return to the team, the Rays are going to be faced with an interesting decision. They are already committed to playing Ben Zobrist everyday, and rightfully so. Desmond Jennings will also play against lefties (for obvious reasons). And Keppinger is on the team specifically to play against lefties.
So what are we going to do? I have two ideas:
1) Someone finally listens to me and plays Ben Zobrist as shortstop. Against lefties, Joyce would stay in RF and Zobrist and Keppinger would combine up the middle.
2) Play Zobrist at first base. I know we all love Carlos Pena but, lets be honest, he has looked pretty awful against lefties so far this summer (35 SO in 88 PA). Zobrist at first, Keppinger at second, Rodriguez at SS, and Joyce in RF.
Either way, we can all agree that Matt Joyce has become an everyday player in this lineup. If that means other players we expected to play everyday need to start losing at bats, so be it.