Just when it looked like Chris Johnson had earned the majority of playing time at third base for the Atlanta Braves, he went 0-for-17 with eight strikeouts to begin May.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez chose to return to the platoon at third base in San Francisco, letting the pitching matchup dictate who starts at the hot corner. That meant Juan Francisco receiving three starts to Johnson’s one. The straight platoon situation may not be ideal, but it may just work perfectly for this Braves team.
The right-handed hitting Johnson has torched left-handed pitching so far this 2013 MLB season. He is hitting .405 with all three of his home runs and eight of his 12 RBIs coming off southpaws. His on-base percentage, slugging and OPS are all much higher against left-handers than right-handers.
Johnson temporarily halted his horrific start to the month of May by breaking out against Arizona Diamondbacks left-handed starter Wade Miley. Johnson finished the game 3-for-4 with a home run, three RBIs and a triple short of the cycle in the Braves’ 10-1 win.
Meanwhile, all Francisco has done is torch pitchers from the other side. For the season, Francisco is hitting .292 with all five of his home runs and 15 of his 16 RBIs coming against right-handed pitching. Francisco has just one extra-base hit against left-handed pitching and has a much higher OBP, slugging and OPS against righties.
Both Johnson and Francisco have similar defensive games as well. They feature limited range, below-average hands and strong arms. That, combined with their splits against pitchers, makes this a perfect platoon situation.
I doubt most managers hope for a straight platoon entering a season, but for the Braves, it looks like the best option.