Seeing what positions are providing you with the most offense is important when you need to make a trade or drop a player to make room for one on the waiver wire. If you're into positional scarcity, then knowing where offense is the most scarce (or prevalent) is key for knowing what a player's value is like contextually. Today we'll take a look at how each position is doing via True Average (TAv) thus far, and compare it to last year's end of season totals. TAv is a catch-all offensive statistic scaled to batting average–.260 is always league average, but each position can have a different average to it.
Now, it's been just over a month, so these numbers are subject to change, but the lowest at-bat total at a position this far in is 2650, so we're not playing with tiny numbers either:
In 2009, catchers collectively hit .253/.323/.393 with a .254 TAv, which isn't that much different than this season outside of the OBP (a stat that isn't necessarily used in many leagues). Currently there are 17 catchers with a TAv over .300, though many of those are in smaller samples. Plenty of starting catchers have been doing well so far too, with Joe Mauer (.321), Geovany Soto (.347), Jorge Posada (.321), and Ryan Doumit (.310) all passing the .300 mark. The position still doesn't look all that deep overall (there are far more offensively-challenged catchers than those hitting well) but it looks like it's chugging along at about the same rate as 2009.
First base was far and away the best position on offense last year, which is part of the reason it didn't make a whole lot of sense to spend heavy dollars on a first baseman or pick one very early at auction or draft. They had a .293 TAv in 2009, which was a full 15 points higher than the next most productive position. They are actually two points behind right field as of yesterday, While many first basemen are chugging along as expected, Prince Fielder (.267), Lance Berkman (.265), Todd Helton (.256), Russ Branyan (.248) and Mark Teixeira (.237) are helping to drag down the average. Chances are good they will all rebound (and help to stem the dip in production that comes from players like Paul Konerko, Daric Barton, etc.) and bring this position back up to the top.
Second base is in the same place it was in 2009 (.267 TAv), despite struggles from Brandon Phillips (who is near replacement level at the moment) and no Ian Kinsler for most of the completed season. Adam Rosales (.289), Blake DeWitt (.294) and Ty Wigginton (.351) have helped to pick up the slack in the early goings.
It's obviously still early, so a lot of this can change, but third base looks to be doing about the same as last year overall (.270). They even managed to get Alex Gordon out of the picture again! Casey McGehee is the big surprise near the top of the list, as he's ranked third at the position, but David Freese (.331) has also looked great so far. Chase Headley is back at third base and has a .304 TAv, which is better than that of the player he is replacing (as well as better than his previous work in left). Andy LaRoche has crossed the .300 mark as well, and Adrian Beltre has bounced back nicely from a poor 2009.
Shortstop is below-average offensively as a collective? Who could have foreseen such an event? They were at .258 last season, and somehow this year's current leader is Alex Gonzalez of Toronto, a trend which could fall apart before you even finish reading this sentence. Cliff Pennington's bat has been a surprise, and Edgar Renteria isn't embarrassing himself daily yet, which has helped to mask slow starts by players like Jason Bartlett and J.J. Hardy, who are both teetering around replacement level after a month. As always, this position lacks in offense.
Left field is far off of the 2009 pace (.277) thanks to a poor showing in the power department. The .147 ISO at the position is behind last season's .166 mark, but the batting average is also significantly lower here as well so it comes off even worse. There aren't many players hitting at a dominant level at the position–you have Ryan Braun, then you have a bunch of part-timers doing well while other regulars struggle or deal with injuries. This should pick up, but right now things aren't going so well.
Center field is showing a little bit more power than last year, so their TAv is up by six points. Vernon Wells (.347), Austin Jackson (.336) and Colby Rasmus (.351) lead the charge at present, though expecting the three of these players to stick at this pace for the season could end up costing you. Many of the players struggling are part-timers, but Julio Borbon, Adam Jones, Cameron Maybin and Nate McLouth are all starters playing well-below expectations. The position has no more value in 2010 than it did in 2009 though, and as the bottomfeeders pick up the pace and those at the top return to normalcy, this will be even more apparent.
This is your current position leader, with a TAv nine points above 2009's rate and plenty of players to back up the performance. Andre Ethier, Jayson Werth and Nelson Cruz are tearing up the league (though Cruz had to take a reprieve on the DL), and there is even more depth after that with Shin-Soo Choo, the rookie Jason Heyward, the resurgent Nick Markakis…the list goes on. They may not finish the year performing better than first base, but they should be in the top two by season's end.