May 27, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Miami Marlins center fielder Chris Coghlan (8) doubles during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Mike Redmond knows all about this as the manager of the Miami Marlins. His roster was dismantled before spring training even started so he knew his options for filling out the lineup card would be limited.
His pitching rotation was to include several promising young arms, but that quickly dissolved as Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez went on the DL before the season even started and have yet to return. Redmond figured he would at least have one star quality player in Giancarlo Stanton, but of course that only lasted for 20 games due to shoulder and hamstring injuries. In total, the Marlins have 12 players on the disabled list which ties them for second most in the majors with their good buddies the Toronto Blue Jays.
The situation has forced Redmond to make adjustments to his lineup, rotation and bullpen on a daily basis. After a slow start in April, Redmond correctly identified that Juan Pierre’s skills had degenerated to the point where he should be strictly a platoon player. When Matt Diaz joined the roster on May 2nd, Redmond elected to go with a Pierre/Diaz platoon in left field. The move has worked for Pierre as his stats improved across the board in May. Unfortunately, things did not go as well for Diaz who lasted only two weeks before going on the DL himself.
Desperation had struck again as Redmond now had no right handed hitting outfielders on the roster to platoon with Pierre. Instead of going back to having Pierre play full time, which had already been proven not to work, Redmond has made an unorthodox move inserting the left handed hitting Chris Coghlan as the starter against left handed pitching.
Coghlan is a career .240/.315/.329 (wOBA .293) hitter against lefties as opposed to .281/.347/.415 (wOBA .334) when facing right handers, so at first glance this move does not seem to make a lot of sense. Digging a little deeper, however, you will discover that in his first two seasons Coghlan hit LHP to the tune of .316/.385/.429 (wOBA .364) and .261/.356/.352 (wOBA .325). Did Redmond see something in Coghlan’s at bats that led him to believe he could hit lefties again? Well, let’s take a look at the results.
In 2013, Coghlan has hit .333/.400/.556 (wOBA .409) against lefty pitching, looking like a platoon All Star so far and making Redmond appear to be a genius. These stats only encompass 20 plate appearances so are there signs that he can keep it up? Not really. The first warning sign is that he is hitting a cool .500 on balls in play (BABIP) vs. LHP which obviously will be impossible to keep up. His career BABIP vs LHP is .289 and his best season was .367 in 2009. Another warning sign is a 30% strike out rate against the southpaws in 2013, even though this number should improve over time, I think it just serves to point out that Coghlan has been lucky to have the success he has had so far. This is probably just a hot streak, but Redmond should ride it out as long as it lasts.
More importantly though, Coghlan’s success vs. LHP has led Redmond to find him more playing time against right handed pitchers also and he has taken full advantage of the opportunity. His overall line over the last two weeks has been .351/.442/.649 (wOBA .454). Could it be that Redmond’s experiment has helped Coghlan rediscover the stroke he showed in his 2009 Rookie of the Year season?
While Coghlan’s success vs LHP may not last, I give Redmond credit for his willingness to think outside the box. The fact that he has been rewarded with a hot streak from Coghlan will hopefully give him the confidence to try other unorthodox ideas. For example, I will be interested to see how his closer by committee is deployed? Will he really use a different pitcher each time depending on the matchups? Might we see Jose Fernandez closing games between starts?