The Pittsburgh Pirates don’t have Joey Votto or Miguel Cabrera playing first base for them, but they do have Ike Davis and Gaby Sanchez. When used correctly, the Davis/Sanchez platoon can be very effective. The problem with the Pirates, however, is that manager Clint Hurdle sometimes doesn’t use the platoon correctly.
Overall, without any platoon splits, Sanchez is hitting like an elite first baseman. In 79 plate appearances, he has a .288/.342/.575 line with a 156 wRC+. It isn’t fair to expect him to continue hitting at such a high level, especially when factoring in his plate appearances against right-handed pitching.
His true niche is hitting against left-handed pitching. Against southpaws in 2014, Sanchez is hitting .360/.385/.680 with a wRC+ of 198. He only has 26 plate appearances against lefties this season, but his career numbers against southpaws are also great. In 592 career plate appearances against left-handed pitching, Sanchez is hitting .303/.398/.505 with a 148 wRC+.
Sanchez wouldn’t be a good fit to be the everyday first baseman for the Pirates, because he has struggled against same-sided pitching throughout his career, but he does extremely well in his role on the team. The only time he struggles is when Hurdle tries to play him more than he should.
In a perfect world, the Pirates would have a full-time first baseman capable of hitting both left-handed and right-handed pitching, but that isn’t the case. In the meantime, however, the Pirates will be content with the platoon they have working right now between Davis and Sanchez.