Thursday, July 2, 2009

Bailey, Kotsay could form effective platoon

There's always, always, always a danger with small sample sizes. But the way Jeff Bailey hit over the last two days in Baltimore makes you wonder if he's capable of playing a more-than-capable first base in the absence of Mike Lowell -- particularly if it's as part of a platoon with Mark Kotsay.

Bailey was hitting just .259 at Triple-A Pawtucket but had an on-base percentage of .373. He was -- is -- the only PawSox player to have drawn more than 20 walks while striking out fewer than 40 times. His ability to stay patient and work the count manifested itself in the ninth inning on Wednesday when he worked a five-pitch walk from Orioles closer George Sherrill that moved the runners along; he scored the game-tying run on Rocco Baldelli's seeing-eye single.

But Bailey has some stark left-right splits both in the major leagues and the minor leagues. With the PawSox this season, he had an on-base percentage of .358 against righties and .419 against lefties. With the Red Sox in his career, he has an on-base percentage of .309 against righties and .400 against lefties. The split is even more glaring in a small sample size this season: .262 against righties and .538 against lefties.

Veteran Mark Kotsay, on the other hand, has a better career on-base percentage against righties (.340) than against lefties (.326). So far this season, he's only got eight at-bats agianst lefties -- he's 1-for-8 with no walks -- but has a .389 on-base percentage against righties.

The Red Sox don't need the duo to hit 20 home runs or be capable of hitting fourth or fifth in the lineup. But if Lowell is able to return at some point this season -- be it immediately after the All-Star break or shortly thereafter -- it seems to make no sense to trade a pitching prospect for Nick Johnson or Adam LaRoche when a platoon of Bailey and Kotsay might do the job just fine.

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