Throughout the 2018 postseason, Alex Cora has mostly stuck with the same strict platoons at second base and third base: Ian Kinsler and Eduardo Nunez play against lefties, Rafael Devers and Brock Holt play against righties. There have been some exceptions to this, but it does make some sense on the surface. Obviously, Kinsler and Nunez are right-handed hitters while Devers and Holt bat from the left side, but seems a bit odd once you dig deeper.
Let’s start with second base first, shall we?
The difference between Kinsler and Holt since the start of August has been abundantly clear. Holt has been mashing, with a 129 wRC+ (meaning he’s been 29 percent better than the league-average hitter), and Kinsler has been unable to hit the ball hard, with a wRC+ of just 63. However, Kinsler’s edge is on defense, where he is one of the best defensive second basemen in baseball, and Holt is merely average. That aside, his platoon splits at the plate in 2018 don’t really justify this plan. This year against lefties, Kinsler has an abysmal wRC+ of 33, while against righties he has a much more respectable 107 wRC+. Meanwhile, Holt has been basically the same hitter against pitchers of either handedness, contributing a 103 wRC+ against lefties and a 111 wRC+ against righties. It seems like bizarre usage that Ian has played supremely against lefties when he is clearly a better hitter against right-handed pitchers, especially given Brock’s track record facing lefties. I’m fine with Cora wanting Kinsler’s defense out there, but a platoon where Kinsler faces righties and Brock faces lefties seems to make much more sense based on numbers from this season.
Now onto third base.
It seems as if third base defense cost the Red Sox a multitude of runs in this ALCS, and neither Devers nor Núñez have proved themselves a particularly trustworsthy defender. Both were net negatives with the glove this year, and this was mostly expected going into the postseason. However, hitting-wise, Devers is the clear better option. He’s definitely a better hitter against righties than lefties, and is only marginally worse against lefties than Nunez (63 wRC+ compared to 71 wRC+). In my opinion, even though Núñez has a slight edge against left-handed pitching, Devers’ power potential and improved plate discipline give him the edge over Núñez. (Note that this was written before the former’s huge home run against Justin Verlander on Thursday.)
As for catcher, Vazquez and Leon’s offense/defense seem relatively similar, and I have no problem starting either.
To be fair, almost all of these points seem moot, as it feels like everything Alex Cora touches turns to gold, however a potential must-win lineup for me would definitely include both Brock Holt and Rafael Devers. As for now, let’s take a deep breath, because more stress is coming our way starting Tuesday.