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March 20, 2014

Skewed Left

Where Are All the Australian Position Players?

by Zachary Levine


As the Dodgers and Diamondbacks embark on their mission to go Fightin’ Around the World and bring baseball to a new frontier in Australia, the challenge they face isn’t as enormous as the setting of their showdown—a cricket ground—would lead you to believe.

No, baseball doesn’t rank highly in the hierarchy of sports on the smallest continent. Cricket laps it in popularity among bat sports. There’s also soccer, which they have generally called “soccer,” and their own kind of football.

But this mission isn’t exactly bringing baseball to China, which will be an enormous undertaking that you can expect in the near future (as Ben Lindbergh wrote in his recap of the SABR Analytics Conference). Australia, despite late entry to the game, has already produced more than a full roster of baseball players: 28 major leaguers to be precise, and many more who never reached the big leagues.

But the job of bringing baseball to Australia is only halfway done, you could argue. The pitchers have arrived. The hitters have not.

Australia, which has produced 19 pitchers and only nine position players, is among the many smaller incubators of baseball talent that are imbalanced in one way or the other. The pitcher percentage (67.9 percent) doesn’t look all that out of whack, but in the land of Grant Balfour, Graeme Lloyd, Peter Moylan and current Diamondback Ryan Rowland-Smith, there’s been only one position player of any note. The rest have had such little impact that former Brewers catcher Dave Nilsson actually has 121 percent of the BWARP of the country. The rest combined to be negative.

The gap has been even wider this decade. Since 2010, Trent Oeltjen and Luke Hughes—neither a big leaguer in 2013—have been the only Australian position players in the majors, while nine pitchers have taken the mound.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Minor League Update: S... (03/20)
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Premium Article Skewed Left: The Good ... (03/13)
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Premium Article Skewed Left: PECOTA vs... (03/27)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Notes from the Field: ... (03/20)

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