Does a new set of stats reflect much of a change in who could stand to upgrade in left field?
Last week, I explored the majors’ surprising downturn in offense from left fielders, a result counterintuitive to our understanding of Bill James’ defensive spectrum, which runs DH-1B-LF-RF-3B-CF-2B-SS-C. The positions to the left of the spectrum, which require far less defensive skill, are the ones where offensive production is supposed to be the highest, yet left field has been engaged in a decades-long battle for offensive supremacy with right field—which requires a stronger arm for throwing to third base—and this past year slipped behind center field for the first time since 1966. I placed the major reason for the downturn at the feet of teams attempting to copy the 2005 White Sox, who used Scott Podsednik—a center fielder to that point in his career—in left field, and attempted to show how the defensive gain supplied by the speedsters did not outweigh the loss of offense. I even got to talk about the phenomenon on television.
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The corner outfield spots are known for production, but one field has been far more dominant in recent years.
My working theory was that it began with Scott Podsednik. In December 2004, White Sox general manager Kenny Williams sent slugging left fielder Carlos Lee to the Brewers for a three-player package that included Podsednik, who was coming off a so-so season as Milwaukee's center fielder. He had stolen 70 bases and bopped 12 homers—a nice return in the fantasy realm—but had hit just .244/.313/.364. His .237 True Average was hardly anything to write home about, and here at BP, both Christina Kahrl and Joe Sheehantossed aroundphrases like "as a hitter plugged into left field, the nicest thing you can say is that he makes a great part-time center fielder." At the time, the Sox were set with an All-Star caliber center fielder in Aaron Rowand, 27 and coming off a breakout .310/.361/.544 campaign, which didn't exactly clarify matters.
If you tuned out when the Rangers led 7-5 in the ninth, you missed quite a finish
It was the best worst World Series game—or perhaps the worst best World Series game—I've ever seen. Four and a half hours, 11 innings, 42 players, 19 runs, 23 men left on base, six home runs, five errors, two final-strike comebacks, a handful of bad relief performances, some managerial howlers including a cardinal (not Cardinal) sin… and it all ended with the much-maligned Joe Buck giving a fitting nod to history by emulating one of his father's most famous calls. As David Freese's game-winning blast landed in the grass beyond the center field wall of Busch Stadium, Buck exclaimed, "We'll see you tomorrow night!" Game Six of the 2011 World Series will be remembered as a classic—a Game Six that can sit alongside those of 1975, 1986, and 1991, among maybe a couple others—as the Cardinals staved off elimination to beat the Rangers 10-9, forcing a Game Seven.
With the rankings now complete, is our resident prospect man about to turn his back on who he ranked at the top of each position?
Right-Handed Starters Shelby Miller (Cardinals) The Case For: First and foremost, Shelby Miller is a Texan, and therefore already has an advantage over his competition for this title. I’m open about my bias. See the second rule.
From a scouting perspective, Miller has everything I look for in a future top-of-the-rotation arm. With prototypical size (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) and room for additional strength, Miller has the body and the delivery to log innings and maintain his stuff deep into games. His fastball is a legit plus pitch, and can show plus-plus velocity, as he touches the upper 90s at times. The curveball is another above-average offering, flashing plus more than it flashes the potential to be plus, with excellent depth to the break and a tight spin. As with most young power pitchers, Miller’s changeup was underdeveloped in relation to his other offerings when he was drafted, but it has quickly emerged as another plus-potential pitch. It plays well off his fastball with good weight and some arm-side fading action.
Craig Counsell has been in a bit of a slump lately. Okay, maybe that undersells it a little. Counsell is 0 for his last 45 at-bats. His last hit came a couple months back, on June 10. Another hitless at-bat will tie him with Bill Bergen of the 1909 Brooklyn Superbas for the longestknown streak of hitless at-bats by a position player.
Though left field may be where players head when they can't play anywhere else on the diamond, there are still some solid prospects at the position.
By the time my phone stopped ringing, and the text messages stopped being texted, and the e-mail stopped finding my inbox, I was left with over 100 outfield prospects with a vote of scout approval listed in my notes. That’s a sprawling canvas to work with, and the opinions were so varied that I needed to alter my approach to this article. So far in this sprawling prospect series, I’ve made every effort to narrow the positional class, usually starting with the “Leader of the Pack (Present),” continuing to the “Leader of the Pack (Future),” followed by the high-ceiling talents, the middle-tier talents, the sleepers, and finally the head-scratcher of the group, leaving a tally of 10-15 players, all of whom have legitimacy in their class. But the talent pool in left field is abstract, as it’s a position that is usually occupied with the deficient spoils of other positions, (center field, second base, etc.), and that opens the queue to a wide range of talent. That puts the onus of positional projection on those I asked, and those opinions were too varied to follow the established construct. So for this specific section of the Positional Primacy series, we have to take another road home.
Here’s my idea: Instead of trying to fit the collection of talent into the established tiers [read: those cute little aforementioned tiers], let’s just make it simple and present the prospects in two categories: “High-Ceiling Division” and “Not-Quite-the-Ceiling-of-the-‘High-Ceiling-Division’-but-Still-Packs-a-Prospect-Punch Division.” Let’s offer up the material in scouting snapshots rather than full-length scouting essays, and let’s free ourselves from the burden of listing every middle-tier prospect at the position, which would keep me here for the rest of my life, writing reports on players like Angelo Songco or Jake Smolinski, and basically drinking myself to death to dull the pain in my fingers. I had to make some choices.
Jay takes a tour around the worst outfield predicaments among contenders and how they can remedy their problems.
Continuing what we started on Friday, the Replacement-Level Killers is our semi-annual all-star team of ignominy, highlighting the positions at which poor production threatens to sink contenders, plus each team’s options as the July 31 trade deadline approaches. I've loosely defined contenders as teams no more than five games out of a playoff spot, so this turkey shoot now includes the Twins—who have won 3 of four since the All-Star break—as well as the also sub-.500 White Sox and Reds, while excluding the 47-47 Mets. Having gone around the infield and behind the plate the last time around, we turn to the outfield and designated hitter. Note that while I'm using WARP here, the criterion isn't as strict as having a WARP below zero.
The Duke of Flatbush departs the stage, but not without leaving his mark on the game, a city, and an era.
On Sunday, the baseball world learned of the passing of Duke Snider, who made his name for the Brooklyn Dodgers at a time when New York was the center of the baseball world, with its three teams each boasting a future Hall of Fame center fielder. "Snider, Mantle, and Mays," wrote the great Red Smith. "You could get a fat lip in any saloon by starting an argument as to which was best.”
Every team has positions that seem to chronically drag them down, but these teams ought to consider addition by excision.
When it comes to playoff races, every edge matters. Yet all too often, managers and GMs fail to make the moves that could help their teams for reasons rooted in issues beyond a player's statistics, allowing sub-par production to fester until it kills a club's post-season hopes. Back in 2007, I compiled a historical all-star squad of ignominy for our pennant race book, It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over, identifying players at each position whose performances had dragged their teams down in tight races: the Replacement-level Killers. The concept has been revisited on a more or less annual basis here at Baseball Prospectus, both bymyself and by my colleagues, with an eye toward what teams can do to solve such potentially fatal problems.
With the Fall Classic now upon us, the staff at Baseball Prospectus shares their most memorable World Series moments.
Every baseball fan has a special World Series memory, whether it's Willie Mays' catch, Bill Mazeroski's home run, Brooks Robinson's defense, Kirk Gibson's limp around the bases, or Derek Jeter becoming the first-ever Mr. November. With the World Series opening tonight at AT&T Park in San Francisco with the Giants facing the Texas Rangers, many of our writers, editors, and interns share their favorite memories of the Fall Classic.
David Ortiz, whose career seemed in an unstoppable downward spiral at this time a year ago, punctuates his return to prominence.
Some stat geeks and sabermetric fanatics usually pass-up the All-Star Home Run Derby, calling the event purely commercialized for the younger or more casual fans, not for the true fans that study the game! Well, now at 18, I’d like to think of myself as a “scholar of the game.” I’m increasing my knowledge each and every day with Baseball Prospectus, as numerous research and analytical assignments ensures the expansion of my baseball mind.
However, I can happily admit that there was nothing wrong with enjoying Monday night's showcase of baseball’s best power hitters (well, beside A-Rod, Pujols, and Ryan Howard….). Maybe, aside from bragging rights, it didn’t count for anything, but what it did do was bring to light the competitive nature of a baseball player. Yes, it was just a derby, but it still meant something to each and every one of those participants. Especially for Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, who was pronounced as good as dead at the same time last year. Now, once again an All-Star, Big Papi put on a show at Angels Stadium in Anaheim.
A conversation about analysis and the game with the former skipper and present-day talking head.
Buck Showalter is in many ways an old-school baseball man, but that doesn’t mean the former Yankees, Diamondbacks, and Rangers skipper doesn‘t value data -- or that he hasn’t for more than three decades. He unmistakably understands the mechanics of the game. Currently an analyst for ESPN, Showalter offered his thoughts on a variety of subjects, including how the game has (and hasn’t) changed, why Paul O’Neill could hit southpaws, why switch-sliders make good switch-hitters, and what makes the Twins the Twins.