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Friday, December 06, 2019

Captain Obvious

“...But Andruw Jones didn’t decline. He collapsed. Andruw Jones got hurt, got fat, and fell off a cliff at the age of 31. The best center fielder to ever grace a ball field was relegated to DH and spot starts in left. It was like watching Jimi Hendrix play Creed covers at a local bar.”

gehrig97 Posted: December 06, 2019 at 09:30 AM | 116 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: andruw jones, barry bonds, bobby abreu, curt schilling, jeter, larry walker, roger clemens

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   1. Rally Posted: December 06, 2019 at 11:47 AM (#5906249)
Was Andruw the best CF ever?

I don't know what the truth is, but often I see people think there is no way that he could really be so much better than Mays or other great CF on a rate basis, so the numbers must be wrong.

We've got a few things going on to make this illusion, but Andruw's range numbers are not actually out of line with other great CF. First you have to separate range from throwing. Andruw had a great arm, and BBref has him as +57 runs just from throwing. Take that out, and look at his CF-only numbers through age 30 (his last year with the Braves).

Andruw is +168 in CF in that time, range-only, or +17.2 runs per 162 games.

Devon White, through age 30 (his second championship season in Toronto) was +116 runs, in far fewer innings. He was +21.6 per 162 games. White kept playing, mostly in center, after that. He went from great to good, then to average, and below average his last 3 years. He didn't add any more runs during that time but added a lot of innings, bringing down his rate stats. White was about average in throwing. He wasn't a good enough hitter to play regularly until he was 24, unlike Andruw who hit 2 HR in a WS game at 19. Therefore he had only half as many CF innings through age 30 as Jones did.

On a career basis, Jones looks like a much better fielder on rate stats, but if you compare apples to apples White was a bit better on range, with Jones pulling ahead for the value of his arm.
   2. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 06, 2019 at 11:53 AM (#5906251)
Was Andruw the best CF ever?

What say you about Chris Dial's work attributing Jones' gaudy numbers to stealing discretionary, 99% chances, from other fielders?
   3. PreservedFish Posted: December 06, 2019 at 12:05 PM (#5906259)
I believe that he was the best regular full-time CF that I've ever watched.
   4. Rally Posted: December 06, 2019 at 01:01 PM (#5906279)
I believe that he was the best regular full-time CF that I've ever watched.


For me it's Gary Pettis. Based on the eye test and not the numbers. But he wasn't a good enough hitter to have a long career. Kiermaier has to be up on the list too. He's a bit like Andruw in that he combines elite range with a great arm.
   5. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: December 06, 2019 at 01:20 PM (#5906280)
I believe that he was the best regular full-time CF that I've ever watched.


For me... maybe Devon White?
   6. Walt Davis Posted: December 06, 2019 at 01:26 PM (#5906284)
Agree with #3. I only saw Mays the old man though, didn't see White or Pettis nearly as often, etc. But Andruw playing that insanely shallow CF then going back on a flyball was glorious.

In comping fielding historically, the first thing we need to do is our best to compare on the same stat. Mays' and White's fielding runs are entirely based on TZ; the first half of Andruw's is also TZ-only then for the 2nd half we have TZ and BIS data (with the BIS numbers used in Rfield for those years). As it turns out, TZ likes Andruw's defense a lot more than BIS in those years. Rally discusses the age differences.

Anyway, White's effective period was ages 24-35, totalling 157 TZ in about 12,500 innings. Andruw's effective period is ages 20-30 with a total of 257 TZ in about 14,250 innings. Willie's most effective defensive period was ages 23-35 with 174 TZ in, I dunno, something like 17,000 innings. As noted, his throwing edge over White is large, on the order of 60-70 runs but it's fairly small over Mays at maybe 10 runs.

I assume Rally knows a lot more about the calculation of TZ than I do so I will give him the floor.

We can look at some of the "trad" stats too. Andruw made just 50 errors and about 0.18 more plays per 9 than the average CF. Willie made 90-95 errors in CF in that prime and 0.12 more plays per 9 across his CF career (so presumably higher in his prime). White made about 65 errors but only 0.07 more plays per 9.

On discretionary plays -- who knows? How many such plays did White have? Mays? As far as I know, we have no idea. Mays also had the rep of playing a very shallow CF then racing back on balls. One thing we seem to have discovered (see statcast and inside edge) is that the vast, vast majority of OF plays are cans of corn anyway. The differences among OFs come down to something like 40 balls a year. Maybe Andruw's UZR, TZ, RF9 are padded by discretionary plays but the big gaps are coming from those 40 plays. FWIW, UZR puts Andruw about 100 runs ahead of Mays and 120 ahead of White for their careers.

There are obvious limitations to measuring defense to begin with much less comparing across 60 years ... but all of the measures we have say Andruw was the best. The error bars might well be broad enough we wouldn't be super-confident in that conclusion (although 100 runs is a mighty big gap) but it's our best guess based on numbers. Based on real-time anecdotes, etc. -- well, lots of folks were calling Andruw the best they'd ever seen and Andruw won 10 GGs (White 7, Mays 11 ... not sure when they started) so that supports him as at least being among the best-ever.

As to the HoF -- if we're not willing to strongly consider Andruw's defense-heavy case then we're basically saying there's no way a defense-oriented CF is HoF-worthy. Strong consideration doesn't mean he should make it (I'm not sure he should) but he should be awfully close -- I certainly think he deserves it more than Puckett and is more deserving of 40-ish percent support than Vizquel.
   7. Walt Davis Posted: December 06, 2019 at 01:33 PM (#5906287)
TZ almost couldn't disagree with me more but I think the best CF season I've ever seen was Dernier's 1984. All he could do was run but with Sarge's "I'm pretty sure the ball will land somewhere inside this circle I'm navigating" in LF and Moreland's C's legs in RF, he had to cover a ton of ground. TZ puts him at dead-average but if you look at RF9 it's easy to see why I have the impression I do -- 2.77 plays per 9 vs a league average of 2.27. Maybe it was a FB-heavy staff, maybe they were all discretionary plays but I'm sure he covered more ground left to right than any CF I saw.
   8. Rally Posted: December 06, 2019 at 01:38 PM (#5906289)
Anyway, White's effective period was ages 24-35, totalling 157 TZ in about 12,500 innings. Andruw's effective period is ages 20-30 with a total of 257 TZ in about 14,250 innings.


White was an effective CF at 35 because he stayed in shape and didn't get hurt, but he was not the same fielder after 30 than he was before 30. That's true for just about every CF ever, but for Andruw the dropoff is another level of extreme. That's why I cut the data off at age 30 for White to compare him to Andruw. If Jones had a much more modest decline he would have stayed in center and brought his defensive rate stats down in his old age, like White did. It's only because the decline was so sudden and complete that he stopped being a CF entirely and kept his rate stats at their peak level.

   9. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: December 06, 2019 at 01:49 PM (#5906297)
The top 3 CF in Defensive runs according to BRef are Jones, Mays, and Paul Blair. Although I'm certainly old enough to have seen Mays, I grew up in an AL city and therefore saw Willie only in All Star games. But Blair is the best CF I ever saw, and, like Jones, was essentially done at age 30
   10. PreservedFish Posted: December 06, 2019 at 02:04 PM (#5906303)
As to the HoF -- if we're not willing to strongly consider Andruw's defense-heavy case then we're basically saying there's no way a defense-oriented CF is HoF-worthy.


I don't know if I'd go that far. Especially today, with the rise of WAR, I think it's easy to imagine a Torii Hunter type (with even better defensive numbers) topping 60 WAR and getting broad HOF support. Heck, the Omar Vizquel of CF might be laboring in the minor leagues as we speak.

I think Andruw suffers from major narrative issues. He was thought to have never fulfilled his potential (maybe unfair), and then he also ate himself out of his prime. He ended up with 60 WAR, which is the border area to begin with, and if you ding his dWAR down to mortal levels, he's even lower.
   11. Sweatpants Posted: December 06, 2019 at 02:06 PM (#5906305)
As to the HoF -- if we're not willing to strongly consider Andruw's defense-heavy case then we're basically saying there's no way a defense-oriented CF is HoF-worthy.
I don't think that this is true. Jones's career had a strange shape, with basically all of his value (including that with the glove) packed into around 10-11 seasons. Some people are going to find it hard to believe that the best defensive CF of all time was a great defender for only ten years, especially with competition like Mays who was still above average into his mid-30s.

If Jones's career had lasted 19 seasons, or 15 seasons but with him in CF for all of them, and he'd put up the same Rfield or DRS or whatever, he'd probably have ended up with more support (even though this hypothetical scenario doesn't have him being any better as a baseball player). Voters wouldn't need to believe that peak Jones was the best defensive CF who ever played, and his career would better fit the image of what a top defender's career looks like. Jones went from winning a Gold Glove in 2007 to playing left field in 2009. Even Roberto Alomar, despite the disastrous end to his career, could still play the position he was known for. Jones's case is just too extreme for me to see the vote for him as a referendum on center fielders whose case lies more with their glove than with their bat.
   12. Jose Bautista Bobblehead Day Posted: December 06, 2019 at 02:22 PM (#5906309)
One thing I’ve always wondered about: pre-PBP metrics regress outliers compared to DRS, which compresses the variance in estimated player performance. Wouldn’t this mean that, other things equal, a player with +20 TZ was better relative to his peers than one with a +20 DRS? If this *is* the case, then is there some way to recover run values that standardize this variance?
   13. Mefisto Posted: December 06, 2019 at 02:25 PM (#5906310)
Walt, Gold Glove awards began in 1957. Mays would certainly have won in 54-56.

I did see Mays play (1962-73), and I also saw White, Pettis, and Andruw. Pettis is the only one I'd compare to Mays, but his career was too short. Mays was still astonishingly athletic in his fielding at the age of 40.

ETA: Since OF tend to have more range when they're younger, it's worth noting that Mays missed 1.75 seasons in 52-3. He was +12 rField in his 155 games until then. That means his career totals should probably be adjusted.
   14. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 06, 2019 at 02:33 PM (#5906314)
On discretionary plays -- who knows? How many such plays did White have? Mays? As far as I know, we have no idea. Mays also had the rep of playing a very shallow CF then racing back on balls. One thing we seem to have discovered (see statcast and inside edge) is that the vast, vast majority of OF plays are cans of corn anyway. The differences among OFs come down to something like 40 balls a year. Maybe Andruw's UZR, TZ, RF9 are padded by discretionary plays but the big gaps are coming from those 40 plays. FWIW, UZR puts Andruw about 100 runs ahead of Mays and 120 ahead of White for their careers.

IIRC, the issue is those discretionary plays look like extremely difficult ones to the ratings systems, but actually add no value.

For example, Jones ranges far into RF and catches a routine flyball that the RF always gets too. By zone, that looks like Jones made an incredible play, far out of his zones, but the catch % was 99% anyway.
   15. SoSH U at work Posted: December 06, 2019 at 02:45 PM (#5906321)
Pettis was the best I've seen. I was too young to catch Willie other than at the very, very end (he and Hank both came off the bench in the first in-person game I ever attended).

   16. Rally Posted: December 06, 2019 at 03:17 PM (#5906332)
One thing I’ve always wondered about: pre-PBP metrics regress outliers compared to DRS, which compresses the variance in estimated player performance. Wouldn’t this mean that, other things equal, a player with +20 TZ was better relative to his peers than one with a +20 DRS? If this *is* the case, then is there some way to recover run values that standardize this variance?


Sure it could be done. Just figure the standard deviation for each year, and show the best fielders as +2.5 SD, or whatever, instead of the run value. All the data are on BBref if anyone had the interest and time to do something like that.
   17. Rally Posted: December 06, 2019 at 03:18 PM (#5906333)
Actually the best I ever saw, for a very brief time, was Eric Davis in the first half of 1987. The numbers don't back me up on that.
   18. PreservedFish Posted: December 06, 2019 at 03:25 PM (#5906337)
I always wonder about the backups with world class fielding ability. Tsuyoshi Shinjo is +34 RField in what is somewhat less than two full seasons. But who remembers him? Nobody, that's who. How many guys like this are there in baseball history? And what's more, how many are there that couldn't hit enough to even play Shinjo's 300 games?
   19. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 06, 2019 at 03:30 PM (#5906343)
And what's more, how many are there that couldn't hit enough to even play Shinjo's 300 games?

I would imagine the odds are very good that the best CF in the history of baseball never got a MLB at bat.
   20. RJ in TO Posted: December 06, 2019 at 03:31 PM (#5906344)
For me it's Gary Pettis. Based on the eye test and not the numbers. But he wasn't a good enough hitter to have a long career.
Despite not being able to hit worth a damn, he still lasted for (parts of) 12 seasons in the majors, including roughly 8 where he could be considered a regular. Yeah, that's not as long a career as Mays (or even White), but it's still a pretty long career. Also, at least based on the limited numbers available, it looks like he was more or less down to being a (very slightly above) average CF, after the age of 30.

Anyway, I'd probably say White was the best I ever saw, as he was just incredible for the Jays out there in the early 90s, and the then SkyDome was just perfect for showing off his skills. He would just glide across the turf, and you wouldn't realize just how fast he was moving, as he was so smooth.
   21. PreservedFish Posted: December 06, 2019 at 03:39 PM (#5906346)
I would imagine the odds are very good that the best CF in the history of baseball never got a MLB at bat.

If MLB had unlimited substitutions and 50-man rosters, how many 2-way players do you think there would be? There are a handful of obvious choices, guys like Betts and Lindor that frequently rank in the top 10 of both dWAR and bWAR. But you'd have to think that eventually, after decades of this, that a really huge percentage of players would never see one side of the field.
   22. RJ in TO Posted: December 06, 2019 at 03:46 PM (#5906349)
I would imagine the odds are very good that the best CF in the history of baseball never got a MLB at bat.
That seems likely. If you can hit (especially in the DH era), no matter how bad your defense, they can find a way to get your bat in the lineup. Whereas, no matter how good your defense, there's a minimum threshold for hitting beyond which the massive majority of teams will just ignore you.

Billy Butler, despite having defense best described as "drunk man falling down the stairs", managed to get in 10 years as a regular in the majors, while just being a good hitter. There's no way a player who hits as poorly as Butler fielded would get anywhere near as much playing time in the majors, as no one wants to keep putting a 0.150 hitter in a lineup.

Unless you're paying him $20+ million a year.
   23. RJ in TO Posted: December 06, 2019 at 03:47 PM (#5906351)
If MLB had unlimited substitutions and 50-man rosters, how many 2-way players do you think there would be? There are a handful of obvious choices, guys like Betts and Lindor that frequently rank in the top 10 of both dWAR and bWAR. But you'd have to think that eventually, after decades of this, that a really huge percentage of players would never see one side of the field.
Yes. Baseball would turn into football very quickly under those conditions.
   24. PreservedFish Posted: December 06, 2019 at 03:53 PM (#5906352)
In the alternate world a guy like Lindor (or Altuve) might never even get a chance to hit at the MLB level, just because of his size. All the hitters might soon look like Luke Voit and Dan Vogelbach. That would be unfortunate. On the other hand, it would be pretty fun to unleash a bunch of unknown Devon Whites and Ozzie Smiths on the league.
   25. Zonk didn't order a hit on an ambassador Posted: December 06, 2019 at 03:54 PM (#5906353)
I believe that he was the best regular full-time CF that I've ever watched.



For me it's Gary Pettis. Based on the eye test and not the numbers. But he wasn't a good enough hitter to have a long career. Kiermaier has to be up on the list too. He's a bit like Andruw in that he combines elite range with a great arm.



For me... maybe Devon White?


These are the three names that I'd pick, too... Alas - too young to see anything but grainy clips of Mays.

I think I'd probably give Devo an edge over Pettis - my recollection is that White had a better arm.

   26. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: December 06, 2019 at 03:55 PM (#5906355)
If Jones had a much more modest decline he would have stayed in center and brought his defensive rate stats down in his old age, like White did. It's only because the decline was so sudden and complete that he stopped being a CF entirely and kept his rate stats at their peak level.


I realize that his hall of fame case isn't what's at issue here, but since it's that season, if his decline had been much more modest, he would have sailed into the hall of fame on the strength of a good defensive rep and career total offensive numbers that you expect from an outfielder. He had 434 home runs and nearly 2000 hits despite playing his last full season at 30. Give him an ordinary aging pattern after age 30 and he reaches 500 HR and gets close to 3000 hits. Obviously Sheffield was the better offensive player, but with a smooth decline Andruw's hit and HR totals, at least, look a lot like Gary Sheffield's. That plus top-10 all-time outfield defense (best of all time is controversial, but I take it that top-10 isn't) gets him in with no problem.
   27. Sunday silence Posted: December 06, 2019 at 04:42 PM (#5906366)
Mays would certainly have won in 54-56.


wasnt Ashburn effective in those years?
   28. Mefisto Posted: December 06, 2019 at 05:19 PM (#5906375)
Yes, but I don't think he had the reputation Mays did. I'm speculating, of course.
   29. bbmck Posted: December 06, 2019 at 05:19 PM (#5906376)
Except the defensive stats don't say Andruw was the best CF through Age 30, let alone by a wide margin up to that point. The stats say that Andruw played a lot of games through Age 30 which is pretty easy to empirically prove.

Jim Piersall was the best defensive CF through Age 30 according to b-ref defensive metrics until Craig Gentry debuts in 2009 and remains the best through Age 30 if you set the parameters to 70% of games in CF and min 3000 PA until Kevin Kiermaier gets 419 more PA: 130 Rfield and 2581 PA or an Rfield every 19.85 PA. The modern group is clearly being evaluated differently, setting a standard of at least 200 PA to eliminate defensive legends like Glen Barker and Tony Walker; Jim Piersall goes from the best defensive CF through Age 30 to 8th in the last 10 years:

19.85 - Kevin Kiermaier
23.74 - Craig Gentry
25.84 - Juan Lagares
26.06 - Jake Marisnick
26.43 - Harrison Bader

27.04 - Lorenzo Cain
27.31 - Victor Robles
29.31 - Jim Piersall
29.32 - Jarrod Dyson

Min 3000 PA, same parameters:

29.31 - Jim Piersall
30.48 - Andruw Jones
34.12 - Paul Blair
34.13 - Devon White

Andruw is about 25 Runs or 10% better than Blair and Devon by b-ref metrics a site which also claims Andruw played more, a minor detail that is ignored when people point out that 238.7 is much bigger than 160.1. Because Kiermaier has only qualified for the batting title once, seasons qualified for the batting title, 70%+ of games in CF and 1 Rfield per 30 or fewer PA through Age 30:

5 - Paul Blair
4 - Andruw Jones
2 - Kevin Pillar, Chet Lemon, Garry Maddox, Cesar Geronimo, Bill North, Jim Piersall, Dave Eggler
1 since 2008 - Victor Robles, Byron Buxton, Kevin Kiermaier, Carlos Gomez, Denard Span, Austin Jackson, Michael Bourn, Franklin Gutierrez
1 while Andruw is playing and Age 30 or under - Darin Erstad, Chris Singleton, Mike Cameron, Rondell White, Darren Bragg, Ken Griffey Jr
1 before that - Marquis Grissom, Devon White, Darrin Jackson, Lenny Dykstra, Gary Pettis, Kirby Puckett, Andre Dawson, Juan Beniquez, Willie Davis, Jim Landis
1 during 19th century - Dick Johnston, Jim Fogarty, Paul Hines, Jack Remsen, George Hall

Age 23-26, min 1000 PA and 70% of games in CF:

16.21 - Kevin Kiermaier
23.89 - Juan Lagares
24.56 - Jake Marisnick
25.82 - Paul Blair
27.95 - Mike Cameron

30.53 - Devon White
32.31 - Andruw Jones
32.61 - Ken Griffey Jr
33.61 - Juan Beniquez

Thanks to a work stoppage it's an 84.8 to 65.5 Rfield lead for Andruw over Griffey, the b-ref stats don't claim Andruw was a lot better than Griffey, they claim he played almost a full extra season at those ages. Andruw has 71 fewer PA through Age 30 than Larry Walker has through Age 36. All the arguments about Andruw's defensive stats being unrealistic are based on ignoring playtime and a selective end point. Whether or not Andruw was 10% better than Devon White or nearly as good as Jim Piersall I have no idea, but "Through his age-30 season, Jones is also the best defensive center fielder to ever play the game. It’s true that defensive metrics prior to the advent of the Statcast era can be squishy — but the gulf between Jones and the number two man on the list (Paul Blair) is so vast, it more than exceeds any margin of error." has no factual basis according to b-ref. When Kiermaier reaches the HoF ballot then the argument comes into play that defensively he was so much better than anyone else in his era who are presumably fairly compared but maybe Andruw, Blair and Piersall weren't quite so much worse than Kevin as the stats imply.
   30. vortex of dissipation Posted: December 06, 2019 at 06:36 PM (#5906402)
Tsuyoshi Shinjo is +34 RField in what is somewhat less than two full seasons. But who remembers him? Nobody, that's who.


The Tsuyoshi Shinjo who announced a comeback last week after not playing for 13 years?

Actually, in Japan, everybody remembers Tsuyoshi Shinjo. No-one in the history of NPB got as much celebrity out of average baseball talent than he did. A few career highlights

After retiring, he planned to become a nude model, posing along with his wife. He never got to follow up on that goal, despite the incorrect claims of a Mets VP that Adam Rubin tweeted back in August. He did become a clothing model, though, modeling underwear and hanging out with celebrities.

He began wearing collared shirts under his uniform, with the oversized collars sticking out above the uniform. In addition, he starting wearing custom shoes celebrating his final season.

His name was spelled out in English letters, rather than Japanese kanji, on scoreboards.

On May 18, 2006, in a series between Hanshin and Hokkaido, he was caught and fined for wearing his old Hanshin Tigers jersey underneath his Fighters uniform.

In the 2006 All-Star Game, he used an opalescent-painted bat and wore an oversized belt buckle that had a scrolling LED message that stated "Never Mind Whatever I Do, Fan Is My Treasure".

During that same All-Star Game, during introductions, he was lowered from the roof onto the playing field on a large disco ball-like device.

After hitting a grand slam against the Yakult Swallows to tie a game and send it into extra innings, he purposefully threw the game by letting a fly ball hit in his direction dunk in, because he had a four-way date scheduled that night, and he didn't want to break the appointment.

While with the Nippon Ham Fighters, he told manager Katsuya Nomura that he didn't steal bases because he had no interest in doing so, and added that he didn't want his leg to get too muscular, because muscular legs would not look good in jeans.


The quote is from here.

And oh, he took pre-game practice wearing this.

   31. PreservedFish Posted: December 06, 2019 at 07:23 PM (#5906407)
Thanks Vortex. I'm actually a huge Shinjo fan and was already aware of many of those lovely details. I particularly remember the disco-ball descent from the roof. I wish him luck in his comeback!
   32. Jose Canusee Posted: December 06, 2019 at 11:24 PM (#5906463)
Without seeing the raw numbers to say that Mays caught one more ball a week than the next CF wouldn't seem as impressive as if Kiermier did the same since with the increaed strikeouts there might be fewer balls in the air, unless there were just more grounders before without so many players trying to increase launch angle.
   33. PreservedFish Posted: December 07, 2019 at 08:01 AM (#5906481)
I looked at that a little while ago. Fly balls to CF (apparently) peaked in the late 70s and early 80s. IIRC Chet Lemon set the record for OF putouts.

I didn't go back to the 50s, but in the 60s, qualified starting CFs averaged 2.3-2.6 putouts per game.
In the late 70s, it was more in the 2.8-2.9 area.
Recently, it's been in the 2.3-2.5 area once again.

Shortstop assists+putouts have dropped steadily, from a height of ~4.6 per game in the 70s to an all-time low of 3.48 in 2019.

In the last decade, two SSs have topped 500 assists (Hardy '12, Andrus '15). In the 60s it happened 16 times, in the 70s, 40 times.

So maybe the recent broad emphasis on the deep fly ball has kept OF opportunities relatively steady. But infielders are less and less important now.
   34. gehrig97 Posted: December 07, 2019 at 10:26 AM (#5906492)
@30: Bref lists Andruw with 26.6 dWAR through his age-30 season; second among CF is Paul Blair at 17.
   35. Mefisto Posted: December 07, 2019 at 12:32 PM (#5906545)
It seems strange that Jones could be half again as good as the next best.
   36. bbmck Posted: December 07, 2019 at 12:59 PM (#5906554)
Most TB + BB + HBP with 70% of games in CF through Age 27:

3449 - Mickey Mantle
3406 - Mike Trout
3193 - Ken Griffey Jr
2868 - Vada Pinson
2860 - Andruw Jones
2841 - Joe DiMaggio
2520 - Willie Mays

Andruw was a better hitter than Willie Mays and all but 5 other CF? OPS/OPS+ Mays .984/158 vs Andruw .835/112 is a pretty mainstream way to look at things, adding in a denominator. Thinking Andruw 26.6 dWAR and 7276 PA is rated half again as good as Paul Blair 17 dWAR and 5292 PA or Jim Piersall 15.3 dWAR and 4692 PA or Devon White 15.2 dWAR and 4508 PA let alone Kevin Kiermaier 15.4 dWAR and 2581 PA is the same as reaching the conclusion that Andruw was a better hitter than Mays.
   37. base ball chick Posted: December 07, 2019 at 01:07 PM (#5906558)
we are talking ONLY glove and completely ignoring bat, right?

guys i have seen who in mah not so umble opinyin are/were better than andruw jones (under age 30)

kevin kiermaier, jarrod dyson, hot dog edmonds, mike cameron, junior griffey (under age 30) and most definitely shinjo (i swear the guy had a ball magnet in that glove)
   38. Misirlou gave her his Vincent to ride Posted: December 07, 2019 at 01:09 PM (#5906559)
Andruw was a better hitter than Willie Mays and all but 5 other CF?


Well, that above chart is unfair to Mays, as he lost nearly 2 years to the army. Take Mays to 29, delete what he did in 1951 before going into the Army, and he's at 3295, well ahead of Jones.
   39. Mefisto Posted: December 07, 2019 at 01:30 PM (#5906566)
Not only that, Jones wasn't half again better than second best, which would have required him to be at an impossible 5150.

I think bbmck's basic point is that Andruw looks better because he didn't control for context (note the OPS+ difference in addition to the difference in playing time). The problem is, I don't see the dramatic change in context which would justify Jones' defensive stats.
   40. John DiFool2 Posted: December 07, 2019 at 02:09 PM (#5906582)
TZ almost couldn't disagree with me more but I think the best CF season I've ever seen was Dernier's 1984. All he could do was run but with Sarge's "I'm pretty sure the ball will land somewhere inside this circle I'm navigating" in LF and Moreland's C's legs in RF, he had to cover a ton of ground. TZ puts him at dead-average but if you look at RF9 it's easy to see why I have the impression I do -- 2.77 plays per 9 vs a league average of 2.27. Maybe it was a FB-heavy staff, maybe they were all discretionary plays but I'm sure he covered more ground left to right than any CF I saw.


Somewhat above average in groundouts (thanx mainly to Steve Trout and his 3.62:1 ratio). I recall him too, always zipping in from out of nowhere to grab various flying things.

If MLB had unlimited substitutions and 50-man rosters, how many 2-way players do you think there would be? There are a handful of obvious choices, guys like Betts and Lindor that frequently rank in the top 10 of both dWAR and bWAR. But you'd have to think that eventually, after decades of this, that a really huge percentage of players would never see one side of the field.


I shudder at this alternate universe, since it would basically mean a team of 9 behemoth DH types batting vs. a platoon of speedsters grabbing everything in play, which would exacerbate the current HR mania we are now experiencing. For the sake of the game TPTB in said universe would almost certainly have had to either deaden the ball or mandate more
distant fences.
   41. Misirlou gave her his Vincent to ride Posted: December 07, 2019 at 03:39 PM (#5906605)
In such a universe, what current good players would not make the cut? Would Javvy Baez make it? Would his O or D be good enough? It would likely spell the end of Jason Heyward. not that there's anything wrong with that.
   42. kcgard2 Posted: December 07, 2019 at 04:19 PM (#5906615)
if you set the parameters to 70% of games in CF and min 3000 PA

Why are you judging defense based on plate appearances instead of defensive innings played? Also, why are we including defensive ratings from positions other than CF? Craig Gentry gets a nice bump in this metric by playing LF and RF (about 40% of the time) better than he played CF in 2013 and 2014. Gentry (and some other guys on this list) also gets a nice bump due to the fact that he hit low in the order and so got fewer PAs per defensive inning played than Andruw. Gentry had 12% more innings played per PA than Jones did.

Take innings played in CF only, and show innings per Rfield. An innings played floor would probably be a good addition as well. Andruw had nearly 15,000 through age 30. 5,000? Or 3,000? Or 1,500, if you want Gentry to get into the comparison still.
   43. bbmck Posted: December 07, 2019 at 05:02 PM (#5906626)
[42] Because PA is searchable in PI both to set search parameters and to c/p a column to a spreadsheet for a calculation. Comparing a handful by defensive innings through Age 30 takes about as long as comparing every player on the basis of PA.

60.22 - Jim Piersall, 6985 IP, 116 Rfield
63.84 - Andruw Jones, 14235.2 IP, 223 Rfield
69.30 - Devon White, 7831.1 IP, 113 Rfield
70.15 - Paul Blair, 11013 IP, 157 Rfield

Even picking the end point of Age 30 to favor Andruw he still trails Piersall and is the same ~10% better than Devon and Blair so if for whatever reason you decide Andruw was "only" as good as those players then drop Andruw to ~200 Rfield.

Andruw definitely played a lot as a young player, one of 17 players in MLB history with 7000+ PA through his Age 30 season. This leads to him piling up a lot of bases but for whatever combination of reasons few people look at the raw numbers and reach the conclusion that young Andruw hit better than young Mays. For whatever combination of reasons it's a common belief that b-ref is claiming that young Andruw was vastly superior defensively to every other young CF.
   44. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: December 07, 2019 at 05:42 PM (#5906634)
Pettis was the best I've seen.

I didn't see Pettis enough to make a serious assessment of him, but in Detroit I once saw him try to throw out a runner at the plate on a shallow fly ball, and threw it about 20 feet up the third base line. The point isn't that one bad throw means much, it's that anyone would even try to score on a ball as shallow as that unless he had a very low opinion of the CF'ers arm.

One caveat: The above took place in 1989, when Pettis was on the downside of his career. But was he ever noted for his arm?
   45. Mefisto Posted: December 07, 2019 at 05:47 PM (#5906635)
I meant Pettis' ability to catch the ball, not throwing. But fair point.
   46. PreservedFish Posted: December 07, 2019 at 08:07 PM (#5906661)
If the rules were switched overnight to allow unlimited substitutions and massive rosters...

In such a universe, what current good players would not make the cut? Would Javvy Baez make it? Would his O or D be good enough? It would likely spell the end of Jason Heyward. not that there's anything wrong with that.


Fortunately it's extremely easy to determine which hitters would remain employed as hitters. By Steamer's 2020 projections, Baez is the 119th best hitter in baseball. These numbers include 1000+ players, so it's ranking the minor leaguers on their MLEs too. There are starting jobs for the top ~270 hitters, so he's in like Flynn.

Some notable hitters that fall short of that: JBJ, Addison Russell, Salvador Perez, Victor Robles, JP Crawford, Harrison Bader, Dansby Swanson, Kiermaier ... if Steamer is to be believed, they'll be replaced by some of the following hitters that I've practically never heard of: Rowdy Tellez, Ty France, DJ Stewart, Matt Beaty, Alex Bohm, Josh Naylor, Yermin Mercedes, the possibly retired Evan Gattis and Chris Carter...

By Steamer's "Def" statistic, Baez ranks as the 50th best fielder in the majors. (And a high percentage of the players above him are catchers). So he's probably guaranteed a spot as a 2-way player in this alternate reality.

Unfortunately it's very difficult to determine which fielders really would remain employed. I don't trust Steamer's "Def" numbers on kids in the minors, or on anyone, really. And the minors is only the start of it. How many MLB-quality fielders retired in the last few years because they couldn't hit in short-season ball? How many don't get drafted at all? How many are laboring in Mexico or elsewhere? All of these kids are potentially MLB players now. Scouting these potential new starters would be the absolute wild west. It would be nuts.

An interesting difference between NFL and MLB is that in MLB there isn't a serious endurance concern to playing both ways (with the likely exception of catcher, where probably almost zero players would play on both sides of the ball). In the NFL, if you knew that your star LB could be a dynamite FB, you wouldn't use him there, because his job is tough enough as it is. If your QB could be a great safety, forget about it, you'd never consider it. I presume many linemen could play on both sides of the ball. So the sport doesn't illuminate the question of how many players might be capable of being legitimate starters on O and D. But from what I can tell, there's absolutely no reason not to play Francisco Lindor or Matt Chapman on both sides of the ball.

I do wonder what would happen to, say, a young Ivan Rodriguez. He eventually developed into a great hitter, but as a 19-year old defensive wunderkind, he'd get promoted to the big leagues, and maybe he'd never pick up a bat again, because the team would rather have some marginally superior Rowdy Telez equivalent take those hacks.

How about Matt Olson? Tall lefty, very smooth at 1B. But take some lithe NCAA shortstop with GG ability that never went anywhere because he couldn't swing at all ... would he replace Olson at 1B?
   47. Sunday silence Posted: December 07, 2019 at 10:06 PM (#5906698)

What say you about Chris Dial's work attributing Jones' gaudy numbers to stealing discretionary, 99% chances, from other fielders?


Can you cite the most relevant on line article about this, Snapper? You keep citing him everytime this comes up and I can only find passing mention of this issue. Is there a definitive article by him?

And that's not to downplay this issue. Its a relevant point for sure. The only real issue is by how much? Personally I dont think it's all that much possibly 2 balls/month for an extreme ball hog. If you look at the stat cast numbers the top players today seem to max out at about 27 or 28 more catches a year than average. Both Ashburn and AJones were at about 40 if I recall.

We might be able to quantify this further if we were to keep a close eye during playoffs and count this discretionary chances. Ive not had the time these last couple years but maybe in the future. it would be a nice project to use all these closely watched games and to make certain educated guesses about stuff like discretionary chances, or say the weighted value of a throwing error...
   48. RJ in TO Posted: December 07, 2019 at 10:34 PM (#5906705)
Can you cite the most relevant on line article about this, Snapper? You keep citing him everytime this comes up and I can only find passing mention of this issue. Is there a definitive article by him?
Here. It isn't by Dial, but it uses his data, and includes comments from him.
   49. Sweatpants Posted: December 07, 2019 at 11:53 PM (#5906731)
60.22 - Jim Piersall, 6985 IP, 116 Rfield
63.84 - Andruw Jones, 14235.2 IP, 223 Rfield
69.30 - Devon White, 7831.1 IP, 113 Rfield
70.15 - Paul Blair, 11013 IP, 157 Rfield

For whatever combination of reasons it's a common belief that b-ref is claiming that young Andruw was vastly superior defensively to every other young CF.
The numbers you posted are a pretty good reason that people make that claim. Piersall putting up slightly better Rfield/inning isn't as impressive as Jones trailing him slightly per inning, but basically matching him in twice as many innings. Elite performance is harder to maintain the more opportunities you get.

Jones's 1997-1999 are his only seasons that really seem off the chart with regard to defensive numbers. I'd be fine with him ending up in the Hall, but I don't think I'd advocate for him, just because giving his defense about the most favorable interpretation possible makes him still borderline.
   50. bbmck Posted: December 08, 2019 at 02:45 AM (#5906741)
Rtot/yr which is per 1200 innings or ~135 games, min 100 games in CF through 2008, Andruw's next highest qualifying season is 22 but he does have 41 in 1997 in 57 games and 41 starts in CF

38 - 2002 Darin Erstad
33 - 1996 Ken Griffey Jr
31 - 1998 Andruw Jones
31 - 1984 Kirby Puckett

30 - 1999 Andruw Jones
30 - 1992 Devon White
30 - 1958 Curt Flood
29 - 1970 Paul Blair

27 - 1956 Jim Piersall
26 - 1992 Darrin Jackson
25 - 1995 Chris Singleton
25 - 1964 Willie Davis

Andruw plays 1447.1 and 1372.2 defensive innings in those years. Since 2008 the numbers stand out even less, Juan Lagares 38 and 33, Kevin Kiermaier 43 and 34 and various players with one 30+ season including 2010 Tony Gwynn in his Age 50 season. Andruw pushed his Rfield high by playing almost every inning one season with 156 CG and "only" 150 CG the other season while his 1997 Rfield of 28 in only 973 IP is offset by 7 lower Rpos than his CF seasons and logically being compared to the average RF for 2/3 of the season should boost his Rfield.

Andruw is among the best defensively and has a clear end point of Age 30 you can use to separate him from those who started to decline earlier and later. His batting prowess, the Braves OF situation in the late 90s and whatever other factors led to Andruw having 772 games, 3085 PA, 270/340/491 at the same age that Devon White has played 51 games, 70 PA, 210/300/306 and is beginning his ROY-5 season. If Devon is a better batter or maybe just in a different situation he might have been roaming MLB CF in his early 20s. Once they are both full-time MLB players and still using Andruw's end point so Age 24-30 it's 128.5 Rfield for Devon and 114.8 for Andruw who has about 5% more PA.

Now you're left with the same basic conclusion as the Chris Dial linked analysis that he got fat/thick in 2001. Age 20-23 (for maximum gap drop the Age 19 cup of coffee) Andruw 4665.2 IP and 110 Rfield or 1 per 42.4 defensive IP vs Age 24-30: 9499 IP and 115 Rfield or 1 per 82.6 defensive IP. Dial differs greatly from b-ref data in that fatter/thicker Andruw is among the best defensive CF per b-ref while Dial has him averaging about 1.5 runs saved a year over the first 12 years of his career. The earlier conclusion of ~25 runs doesn't necessarily change, 4665.2 IP and 85 Rfield is 1 per 54.9 and ~50% better in his early 20s than his mid to late 20s and larger size.

I can completely understand people adjusting Andruw's defensive metrics or using (un-)adjusted defensive metrics from another source. My annoyance is when people don't grasp that dWAR and Rfield are fundamentally counting stats even though they can count backwards unlike Hits. Andruw doesn't have a "vast gulf" over #2 even before the 2009 statistical or roster revolution that made his peak stand out less. Andruw is rated among the best CF and has more playing time through Age 30 than almost all players in the history of the game. The best defensive players are often poor offensively because their defense gets them into an MLB lineup at a younger age and hitting most likely typically improves until a player's late 20s at which point their defense has quite possibly been in decline for half a dozen years.

Andruw was good enough as a hitter when young enough that he got rich enough and fat enough to pretty much end his Hall of Fame case at Age 30 and quite possibly short of the standards for entry. Hall of Merit having Lofton and Andruw with very similar results makes a lot of sense to me, do you want base running or even more defense? Lofton on a more crowded ballot got 18 votes compared to 31 and 32 for Andruw, even reaching the ballot in different circumstances it's difficult to imagine either being considered a viable candidate by the BBWAA although Baines and perhaps more players later today will reveal a path to induction that involves minimal BBWAA support.
   51. kcgard2 Posted: December 08, 2019 at 08:07 AM (#5906755)
bbmck, thank for running those numbers based on innings. I figured it was a PI reason.
   52. kcgard2 Posted: December 08, 2019 at 09:34 AM (#5906764)
FWIW, if we look at TZ defensive runs saved per CF inning (from FG), Andruw probably rates as the best defensive CF of all time. He and Paul Blair both have 4 of the top 30 all time seasons by this metric (with Andruw having #1, 2, 5, and 6 of the 8 seasons between them). Cesar Geronimo the only other to have multiple top 30 seasons. Piersall and Maddox with multiple top 40. Add Devon White for multiple top 50. For top 150 all time, Lofton, Mays, Griffey, Lemon, Agee, Willie Davis sprinkle the list heavily (4+ times) mostly in the 50-150 range, along with others already mentioned. Willie Mays is the only player to have a higher total TZ runs saved value than Jones, but Jones beats him on value through 30 and on rate through any age.

Player Inn/Run
1996 Ken Griffey Jr. 36.66
1984 Kirby Puckett 37.51
1998 Andruw Jones 39.21
1992 Devon White 39.61
1999 Andruw Jones 40.20
1958 Curt Flood 40.32
1970 Paul Blair 41.74
1956 Jim Piersall 44.29
1979 Garry Maddox 45.93
1973 Billy North 46.12
1992 Darrin Jackson 46.14
1999 Chris Singleton 47.10
1975 Cesar Geronimo 47.52
1964 Willie Davis 47.52
1974 Cesar Geronimo 49.74
1981 Andre Dawson 49.89
1969 Paul Blair 51.50
1990 Lenny Dykstra 51.53
1994 Marquis Grissom 51.54
1975 Billy North 52.05
1959 Jim Landis 52.05
1999 Mike Cameron 52.51
1976 Juan Beniquez 53.14
2001 Andruw Jones 53.15
1997 Darren Bragg 55.59
1983 Chet Lemon 56.69
2000 Andruw Jones 57.20
1968 Paul Blair 57.47
1967 Paul Blair 57.69
1997 Kenny Lofton 58.17

And I'm starting to suspect this view is unjust to Andruw, because FG seasonal TZ values only go through 2001 because they switched to UZR in 2002 (though their career leaderboards seem to include TZ values for all years), and on that leaderboard Jones' 2002 through 2007 are all top 22, including 3 of the top 7 seasons. If UZR and TZ runs are even close to the same scale, Jones would add top 30 seasons in 2004, 2005, 2007, plus the other 3 seasons also in the top 100. To be fair, at that point, 2001 Andruw moves to spot 31, because the 3 Andruw seasons mentioned above, plus one Taveras, Patterson, Crisp, and Kotsay season enter the top 30.
   53. Mefisto Posted: December 08, 2019 at 10:26 AM (#5906772)
I think Andruw's doubters (I'm one) agree that *by the numbers* he's a standout. The issue is whether our defensive metrics are missing something.

I'm not sure there's a right answer to criticism like Chris Dial made. Let's take the '70s Phillies as an example: Maddox in CF, Luzinski in LF. Luzinski was notoriously awful, he covered the ground where he was standing and not much more. But the Phils won division titles and a WS because they also had Maddox and he caught lots of balls that an ordinary CF wouldn't catch because an average LF would have. Those additional catches boosted his RF/9 (the only essentially raw data I have to work with) from 2.7 and 2.8 in his two seasons as a regular with the Giants (ages 23-4; Gary Mathews in LF, RF/9 in LF 2.12 and 2.03), to 3.27, 2.93, 3.01, 3.29, and 2.95 in the five seasons he played full time next to Luzinski (RF/9 in LF 1.71, 1.49, 1.74, 1.48, 1.5) ages 26-30.*

Should Maddox get credit for chances an ordinary LF would ordinarily have caught? Did those extra chances make him "better" or "more valuable" in some way? I don't know the right answer to these questions, but they are the crux of Dial's argument. In my view, what Maddox did may have helped his team, but it didn't make him a "better" CF.

*If you prefer, Maddox was -1 Rtot in 73-4 combined and +90 76-80 combined.
   54. Sweatpants Posted: December 08, 2019 at 11:07 AM (#5906789)
His batting prowess, the Braves OF situation in the late 90s and whatever other factors led to Andruw having 772 games, 3085 PA, 270/340/491 at the same age that Devon White has played 51 games, 70 PA, 210/300/306 and is beginning his ROY-5 season. If Devon is a better batter or maybe just in a different situation he might have been roaming MLB CF in his early 20s. Once they are both full-time MLB players and still using Andruw's end point so Age 24-30 it's 128.5 Rfield for Devon and 114.8 for Andruw who has about 5% more PA.
It's very likely that, had White been playing a lot of CF in his early 20s, his Rfield/inning would be worse.
Let's take the '70s Phillies as an example: Maddox in CF, Luzinski in LF. Luzinski was notoriously awful, he covered the ground where he was standing and not much more. But the Phils won division titles and a WS because they also had Maddox and he caught lots of balls that an ordinary CF wouldn't catch because an average LF would have. Those additional catches boosted his RF/9 (the only essentially raw data I have to work with) from 2.7 and 2.8 in his two seasons as a regular with the Giants (ages 23-4; Gary Mathews in LF, RF/9 in LF 2.12 and 2.03), to 3.27, 2.93, 3.01, 3.29, and 2.95 in the five seasons he played full time next to Luzinski (RF/9 in LF 1.71, 1.49, 1.74, 1.48, 1.5) ages 26-30.*

Should Maddox get credit for chances an ordinary LF would ordinarily have caught? Did those extra chances make him "better" or "more valuable" in some way? I don't know the right answer to these questions, but they are the crux of Dial's argument. In my view, what Maddox did may have helped his team, but it didn't make him a "better" CF.
What's the converse to that? Willie Mays didn't get a boost in RF/9 when McCovey and Sauer took over LF for the Giants. Does that mean that Sauer and McCovey weren't the statues out there that their reputations paint them as, or does it mean that a bunch of fly balls were dropping in for hits, because Mays wasn't covering for them the way Maddox did for Luzinski?
   55. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 08, 2019 at 11:18 AM (#5906791)
Here. It isn't by Dial, but it uses his data, and includes comments from him.

Thanks for finding that RJ!
   56. Mefisto Posted: December 08, 2019 at 12:03 PM (#5906807)
Willie Mays didn't get a boost in RF/9 when McCovey and Sauer took over LF for the Giants.


I'm sure he did. But while both McCovey and Sauer were Luzinski-esq in LF, McCovey only played one season of 100+ games there and Sauer never did.

The same, of course, is also true for Piersall -- he had an aging Ted Williams in LF during his time in Boston.
   57. kcgard2 Posted: December 08, 2019 at 02:12 PM (#5906832)
FWIW, UZR accounts for the "ball hogging" problem, though from everything I can find TZ does not. The reason being that TZ is meant to be comparable across history and is therefore based on simpler data than UZR. TZ will actually reward fielders for having other good fielders around them and penalize fielders for having bad fielders around them. It may be the best that can be done with Retrosheet data.

Off topic note: I'd be quite wary of using TZ for modern seasons due to ball hogging, defensive shifts (a huge problem for TZ as described on bbref, unless the accounting is much more detailed and specifically adapted than described), and the availability of UZR.
   58. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 08, 2019 at 02:25 PM (#5906835)
FWIW, UZR accounts for the "ball hogging" problem,

How?
   59. Hysterical & Useless Posted: December 08, 2019 at 07:43 PM (#5906875)
Ralph Kiner: "Two-thirds of the Earth is covered by water, the rest by Garry Maddox."
   60. kcgard2 Posted: December 08, 2019 at 08:42 PM (#5906896)
snapper:

UZR assigns a catch probability to a batted ball, regardless of position. In other words, if a ball is hit that the RF catches 85% of the time and the CF catches 5% of the time (for overall 90% catch probability), the CF who always goes over and ball hogs this play will accumulate very little credit for it, because it counts as a 90% catch probability ball. So he would get 0.1 x (value of preventing batted ball falling for a hit) in this example. The RF would get the same credit for catching it as the CF got, 10% of the value of that ball falling for a base hit.

So a player can still gain some tiny bit of value from hogging discretionary plays. I'm going to guess on the order of maybe 10 runs over a lengthy career of hogging these plays really often.
   61. Walt Davis Posted: December 08, 2019 at 10:10 PM (#5906927)
1. Again, comparing acrss eras, what we'd like to do is compare TZ not Rfield. Rfield and TZ are the same in pre-BIS years but switches to Rdrs after that. IN a large enough sample, that probably doesn't matter so posibly it doesn't matter for these players -- but the main issue is that PI doesn't let you use TZ separately.

2. It's a fair point that Andruw "through age 30" has an advantage due to PT (that's why I looked at a similar number of years for White, fair or not). But since this is the HoF we're talking about, I'm not sure we should bw worrying about Pettis or other guys who never got the PT. If we want to limit it to "Andruw was probably the best defensive CF among CFs worthy of serious HoF consideration" or some such, that's fine. But for some reason I almost always forget Blair in the Mays, Andruw, Pettis, White group.

3. Two points on discretionary plays. First, again, we don't have any idea how many of these Mays, etc. had. Chris took a look at Andrwu and maybe a few other contemporaries (which is all he could do). I don't know to what extent TZ of different eras do or don't count such plays but if it "over-rated" OOZ plays early in Andruw's career, it would do the same for Mays. Second, it's a case of value vs. quality -- if Andruw was so range-y that he was able to "steal" balls (from LF/RF/2B/SS) that Mays, etc. couldn't get to and he did so without missing balls other CFs would get to, that's an indicator he was a better defensive CF than they were.

3a. But I think we all agree that even the current numbers are wonky by the eye test and inconsistent across measuring systems (at least in magnitude and sometimes even ranking/direction) so we have even less to go on historically. My point was just that the numbers we have suggest Andruw in his 20s was as awesome as they come. He also hit decently and, thanks to that incredibly early start, he did not have a short career (8664 PA -- more than Snider and Puckett, more than Edmonds, Wynn, Reggie Smith who we would give more serious consideration to around here). That's what I mean when I say if we aren't going to give him serious consideration then I don't see how we would ever give a defense-first CF serious consideration. I suppose I'll add the caveat "barring we have a verified Ozzie Smith of CF in our future."

3b. Andruw ended up with more CF starts than Snider and Puckett too. Way more than Dawson FWIW. 60 fewer than Edmonds, 30 fewer than White, a dozen behind Pinson, more than Lynn and Wynn and way more than Smith. It wasn't a short CF career.

3c. This sort of haunted Santo too. He declined fast at a "young" age and that was sometimes held against him in career assessment. But he debuted young and was incredibly durable and made it to 9400 PA. He had 26 fewer starts at 3B than Mathews meaning (I think) that unless Brooks had already passed him, he was #2 all-time. Andruw's end was disappointing but, in PA, it wasn't particularly early. If any voters penalize him for falling off the cliff at a younger age than most fringe HoFers, they should also reward him for being a very good MLB player earlier than most such players.

To reiterate, I'm not arguing he belongs. He's probably not quite there in my HoF but I'm notably stingy. I too wish I had defensive numbers I trusted for him. He's very close, he deserves serious consideration, higher vote totals from the BBWAA (or at least higher totals than Vizquel but I'm OK if we achievve that by dropping him considerably) and I won't mind if he goes in (which seems very unlikely at this point).
   62. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 09, 2019 at 09:01 AM (#5906982)
snapper:

UZR assigns a catch probability to a batted ball, regardless of position. In other words, if a ball is hit that the RF catches 85% of the time and the CF catches 5% of the time (for overall 90% catch probability), the CF who always goes over and ball hogs this play will accumulate very little credit for it, because it counts as a 90% catch probability ball. So he would get 0.1 x (value of preventing batted ball falling for a hit) in this example. The RF would get the same credit for catching it as the CF got, 10% of the value of that ball falling for a base hit.

So a player can still gain some tiny bit of value from hogging discretionary plays. I'm going to guess on the order of maybe 10 runs over a lengthy career of hogging these plays really often.


Thanks. So, he's adding some value, but much less.
   63. Mefisto Posted: December 09, 2019 at 09:46 AM (#5906997)
Second, it's a case of value vs. quality -- if Andruw was so range-y that he was able to "steal" balls (from LF/RF/2B/SS) that Mays, etc. couldn't get to and he did so without missing balls other CFs would get to, that's an indicator he was a better defensive CF than they were.


This doesn't follow. In general when a CF takes a ball from another player, it's because that other player is defensively inadequate in some way. I don't think we're talking "ball hogging", but instead about the quality of the corner OFs (and maybe the middle IFs). That's clearly what was happening with Maddox/Luzinski.

But even if we were talking about "ball hogging", that tells us nothing about value or ability compared to other CFs. In that case, it's not a case of other CFs being *unable* to get to those balls -- we have no way to know -- but that they *didn't* make those catches (most likely because the corner OF was perfectly capable, as with Maddox/Mathews).
   64. Rally Posted: December 09, 2019 at 09:59 AM (#5907005)
One thing I wonder about is if TZ/UZR/DRS and all the rest show a bit too much variation in runs saved. I've often seen arguments to the contrary, that because of the systematic regression that takes place in TZ I'm not giving enough credit to a great defender like Andruw, or Rolen, or Ozzie, and that I'm not penalizing Jeter by enough.

But we've got pretty good evidence on the other side, that maybe these metrics need more regression. We have 4 years of Statcast data now, which does a more precise estimate of how many plays an OF should have caught based on where, how hard, and how much hangtime the ball had and where the OF was positioned. These are the league leaders:

2016: +21 Hamilton/Inciarte
2017: +26 Buxton
2018: +22 Cain
2019: +23 Robles

Now consider 2 things, this is plays made above what the average OF should have done, not the average CF. TZ/UZR/DRS are all comparing CF to only CF. The average CF is better than the average RF and LF. So to be comparable those numbers have to be knocked down a bit. Then you've got to convert to runs instead of plays made. For OF, an extra play is probably .85 runs, a bit more than for infield because some of the hits saved would have been extra bases. If we say an average CF would be +5 and take the run estimate, then we're looking at the best outfielders saving 15-18 runs per year.

So I can't blame anyone for having serious skepticism about numbers that show the greats of the past saving 30 or more runs in a season.
   65. Sweatpants Posted: December 09, 2019 at 10:11 AM (#5907011)
This doesn't follow. In general when a CF takes a ball from another player, it's because that other player is defensively inadequate in some way. I don't think we're talking "ball hogging", but instead about the quality of the corner OFs (and maybe the middle IFs). That's clearly what was happening with Maddox/Luzinski.
I don't think it's safe to say that was "clearly" why Maddox starting catching more flyballs. There are a lot of factors that can go into that. Again, Willie Mays didn't catch more balls when Sauer and McCovey took over in left field. The same logic would lead to the conclusion that he lacked Maddox's range, and because of this a bunch of extra hits were falling in.
   66. Mefisto Posted: December 09, 2019 at 10:38 AM (#5907021)
I don't think it's safe to say that was "clearly" why Maddox starting catching more flyballs.


It was no secret at the time that that was exactly what was happening. You're right that the numbers alone wouldn't prove that, but the contemporary evidence confirms what the numbers say.

As for Mays, it might well be the case that he lacked Maddox's range. I don't think the sample sizes are large enough to tell. Also, my basic point is that these numbers depend heavily on the players surrounding the CF: not just LF, but RF and middle IF too (assuming the CF plays shallow enough). If a CF plays on a team where both the LF and the RF are Luzinski, then the CF might make lots of plays, but that still won't tell us about relative ability of various CFers. It just tells us how a team structured its defense. And the problem is that without modern data we can't tell.

My favorite example here is Taylor Douthit, who in 1928 had a RF/9 of 3.54, which is about as good as it gets -- Andruw never got close to that -- even though he never appears in conversations about "greatest CF ever". Why? My guess is that Douthit played shallow and caught all those popups that an aging Hornsby couldn't reach. But maybe he was just the best.
   67. eric Posted: December 09, 2019 at 10:47 AM (#5907028)
UZR assigns a catch probability to a batted ball, regardless of position. In other words, if a ball is hit that the RF catches 85% of the time and the CF catches 5% of the time (for overall 90% catch probability), the CF who always goes over and ball hogs this play will accumulate very little credit for it, because it counts as a 90% catch probability ball. So he would get 0.1 x (value of preventing batted ball falling for a hit) in this example. The RF would get the same credit for catching it as the CF got, 10% of the value of that ball falling for a base hit.


To rephrase a bit what was said in #63, how do we differentiate between someone who is ball-hogging, and someone who is playing with a defensively-challenged teammate? If "a RF" will make the catch 85% of the time, but "this particular lunkhead RF on this play" is near 0%, but the CFer can range over and make the grab, shouldn't said CFer deserve more credit? He basically made a 5% play, not a 90% play.
   68. Sunday silence Posted: December 09, 2019 at 02:19 PM (#5907148)
Thanks for finding that RJ!


To reiterate what Snapper said. Theres a few other articles out there, but this one has significant data to back up that pt.
   69. Mefisto Posted: December 09, 2019 at 02:25 PM (#5907150)
If "a RF" will make the catch 85% of the time, but "this particular lunkhead RF on this play" is near 0%, but the CFer can range over and make the grab, shouldn't said CFer deserve more credit? He basically made a 5% play, not a 90% play.


The ability of a CF to make that play provides measurable value to his particular team, but it's not necessarily evidence that he's better than other CFers who play next to competent corner OFs and don't need to make the play.
   70. Sunday silence Posted: December 09, 2019 at 02:34 PM (#5907152)
For OF, an extra play is probably .85 runs, a bit more than for infield because some of the hits saved would have been extra bases.


How do you come up with this???

We could sit down and watch video during the playoffs and maybe get some sort of objective basis that can be peer reviewed and so try to recreate the distribution of balls caught above average or FRAA balls or whatever its called.

In lieu of that, it seems reasonable to suppose that nearly every FRAA or whatever has to be near the outer limits of a fielder range. That's just how that works. Agree?

I used to think that most of these balls would be extra base hits but from watching video there are still a lot of short fly balls and such that get caught. Lets start with the assumption that half these balls are singles and half are doubles. If we disagree then maybe we can do some study in the future.

If he catches a would be single that the average guy wouldnt have he should get credited: 0.45 (weighted value of a single that he prevented) + .23 (the value of an out that he produced that avg guy would not) + runners advanced (probably 50% of the time a man is on, he should advance on average 1.5 bases roughly worth .37, .37 x .5 = .18). Total valued in weighted runs: .86.

Now if its a double: the wt'd value is .75 the out is .23 and half the time a man will advance 2 or 3 bases (more often 3 but what the hell lets say its half) value of advancing 2.5 bases is .62 x 1/2 = .31; TOTAL weighted value: 1.3 runs

So assuming half of each category the average runs saved should be 1.1 or so. So every FB caught that an average man could not catch is 1.1 runs.

In the table above, the average outstanding guy there caught 23 balls more, thus worth 25 runs or so.

DOnt you think your system is underestimating things!
   71. Sunday silence Posted: December 09, 2019 at 02:41 PM (#5907156)
So I can't blame anyone for having serious skepticism about numbers that show the greats of the past saving 30 or more runs in a season.


Well ok for RANGE, i.e. the ability to make catches. The last time I went through this I figure the maximum value for range of a CF should be about 27 or 28 runs/year. Your table above sort of cuts back on that little, are those full seasons played by those players?

ANyhow what about assists? Without doing the math, Im going to say that a CLemente could save 12 runs a year on assists vs average RF.

And what about preventing runners from advancing? these arent assists, they dont turn up in assist totals but they do track that stat. OK its about 5 or 6 runs a year.

If some hypothetical super star OFer could max out each of those, he save 40 runs a year. I dunno if thats ever happened, I dunno even know what OFer would have the best liklihood to do that.

So your statement above needs a little more parsing.
   72. eric Posted: December 09, 2019 at 03:05 PM (#5907171)
The ability of a CF to make that play provides measurable value to his particular team, but it's not necessarily evidence that he's better than other CFers who play next to competent corner OFs and don't need to make the play.


While true, he's still making a 5% play, which is evidence that he's better than most other CFers. I agree that for this specific scenario it's hard to tease that out from other CFers who wouldn't even be in position to have to make the play, but giving the guy credit for a 90% play seems going way too far in the other direction.
   73. Rally Posted: December 09, 2019 at 03:14 PM (#5907177)
If he catches a would be single that the average guy wouldnt have he should get credited: 0.45 (weighted value of a single that he prevented) + .23 (the value of an out that he produced that avg guy would not) + runners advanced (probably 50% of the time a man is on, he should advance on average 1.5 bases roughly worth .37, .37 x .5 = .18). Total valued in weighted runs: .86.


My understanding is that the .45 run value of a single is the weighted average of what a single is worth across all base situations. You don't need to add in the value of runner advancement, it's already in there.

Here's a link: http://www.tangotiger.net/lwbymob.htm

Run value of a single is .29 with nobody on base, .73 with runners on, and average value of .49
   74. Sunday silence Posted: December 09, 2019 at 03:40 PM (#5907203)
oh, hmmmmm
   75. Zach Posted: December 09, 2019 at 07:59 PM (#5907307)
29.32 - Jarrod Dyson
...
30.48 - Andruw Jones


This makes me hesitant to accept a pure defense HOF case for CF.

Dyson is a spectacular centerfielder. He was part of a KC team that went to two consecutive World Series based in large part on outfield defense. He's charismatic and likeable. And he will never see a second HOF ballot.

Now of course, Jones is a much, much better hitter than Dyson. He got a lot more playing time, too, so his accumulated defensive runs saved are much higher than Dyson's. But on a rate basis, it's a dead heat.

Does that make sense? Does being Jarrod Dyson in the outfield for 4x the number of innings make you a Hall of Famer?
   76. RJ in TO Posted: December 09, 2019 at 08:17 PM (#5907311)
Does being Jarrod Dyson in the outfield for 4x the number of innings make you a Hall of Famer?
If the numbers are accurate, and if he is actually that good on a rate basis, and he can actually keep up that rate for 10500 PA, why not? Is there any reason why a guy shouldn't be able to make the Hall of a defense-first case, if he's actually an elite defensive player?
   77. PreservedFish Posted: December 09, 2019 at 09:53 PM (#5907328)
You're asking is it plausible that Dyson could be a HOF candidate if we quadrupled his WAR? I mean, ignoring the fact that he's strictly a platoon player and that giving him more ABs would tank his hitting numbers ... it's a funny question. Dyson quadrupled would have 60 WAR with 2000+ hits, 1000+ SBs, a mighty 80 HRs, and his handsome 78 OPS+. That guy, especially with the 1,000+ steals (!), might be the next Omar Vizquel or even Ozzie Smith candidate. Give him some good press, and sure, why not? I could see it.

His numbers don't really work though because he plays as a defensive replacement so often that his defensive innings:PAs ratio doesn't match a regular starter's ratio. We'd have to increase his hitting contributions more so than his fielding, which would probably drop him somewhat below 60 WAR.
   78. Rally Posted: December 10, 2019 at 08:30 AM (#5907361)
As Fish said, if you bump Dyson up to full time play, say he gets 10,400 over 20 years, you can't also quadruple his defensive innings. Ichiro was in that range for PA and had right around 20,000 defensive innings. So quadruple the offensive WAR, and multiple the fielding runs by 3.45 to get there, and close enough, that puts him right at 60 WAR.

Is that a HOFer? You've got an all-time great fielder, a Vizquel/Maranville bat, and second place all-time with 1000 steals. Tough call, since Kenny Lofton was a better player than that and did not get much support. Dyson would have his supporters, if enough people turned his uniqueness into a narrative he might make it.

For Dyson to keep his ratio of PA/Def innings he's got to play 40 years as a part timer. So 66 WAR as the ultimate backup outfielder, debuting at age 17 right after high school, and retaining elite speed to the ripe old age of 56. Is that a HOFer? I'd say it is even without any peak value, because such a player would be so far off the charts of how you expect a career to progress. Think of Bartolo Colon's cult following, but without the steroid bust and playing to about 10 years older than Bart was.
   79. PreservedFish Posted: December 10, 2019 at 08:56 AM (#5907367)
I think it's easy to overlook what an extraordinary baserunner Dyson is. I overlooked it, and I'm a longtime Dyson fan.

He steals 30 bases annually at a very high percentage, despite playing partial seasons.

This year Dyson tied for the MLB lead in BR's 'Rbaser' statistic, again despite playing only a partial season. In 2015 he ranked among the leaders despite playing less than half a season.

Since 2012, Dyson ranks 3rd in Fangraphs' BsR metric. The guys ahead of him are Billy Hamilton (who trails Dyson on a rate basis) and Mike Trout (who has twice the playing time). Jarrod Dyson is in fact the best baserunner in baseball, according to this statistic. Hamilton is close, then there's a bit of a dropoff to guys like Eric Young Jr, Buxton, Deshields, Trea Turner.

This may be unfair to use PA as the denominator, because Dyson surely gets used as a pinch-runner more than most of these guys. But still, he's absolutely elite at one of the sport's central skills. Both websites agree that if he were a full-time player he could expect his baserunning to add about 1 WAR to his yearly line, which is super impressive.

While it strains credulity to imagine him doing this enough to make the Hall, there's no question that he's a winning player despite his modest hitting skills.
   80. Rally Posted: December 10, 2019 at 09:11 AM (#5907370)
He certainly is an elite baserunner. Surprisingly, he's able to do that without absolute top notch speed. Sure, he's fast, but looking at the sprint speed leaderboard there are a lot of faster players in MLB, more than 100 last year. His best ranking on that was in 2015, when he was 19th.
   81. PreservedFish Posted: December 10, 2019 at 09:17 AM (#5907371)
I sorted Fangraphs' numbers again. From 2012-2019, which position players add the most non-hitting value? That is, fielding + positional value + baserunning.

The top 11 were all catchers, I think boosted by pitch framing metrics. But after those guys, it's Jarrod Dyson.

Other non-catchers that rank high: Hamilton, Buxton, Andrelton, Kiermaier, Matt Chapman, Jose Iglesias ... the usual suspects.

Is it fair to say that Dyson adds more non-hitting value than any other (non-catcher?) player in baseball? Hamilton probably has him beat if you properly control for opportunities, maybe Buxton too, but he's got a good case anyway.

Billy Butler narrowly edges some other DH types at the very bottom of my spreadsheet, but the very worst, with the worst pitch-framing numbers ever recorded, is Ryan Doumit.
   82. PreservedFish Posted: December 10, 2019 at 09:20 AM (#5907373)
Let's put it this way. In the alternate reality I described in #46 above, Jarrod Dyson would be a ####### superstar.
   83. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: December 10, 2019 at 09:25 AM (#5907375)
Let's put it this way. In the alternate reality I described in #46 above, Jarrod Dyson would be a ####### superstar.

In two platoon baseball, would any defenders be superstars? They sure wouldn't get paid like the hitters and SPs.

I think defense might be an anonymous progression of 20-25 y.o.'s who were quickly replaced as soon as they lost a step.
   84. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: December 10, 2019 at 10:07 AM (#5907386)
I sorted Fangraphs' numbers again. From 2012-2019, which position players add the most non-hitting value? That is, fielding + positional value + baserunning.

The top 11 were all catchers, I think boosted by pitch framing metrics. But after those guys, it's Jarrod Dyson.

Other non-catchers that rank high: Hamilton, Buxton, Andrelton, Kiermaier, Matt Chapman, Jose Iglesias ... the usual suspects.

Is it fair to say that Dyson adds more non-hitting value than any other (non-catcher?) player in baseball? Hamilton probably has him beat if you properly control for opportunities, maybe Buxton too, but he's got a good case anyway.


Betts beats him according to BBRef. 2014-2019, Rbaser + Rdp + Rfield + Rpos

Betts - 34 / 6 / 112 / -18 = 134
Dyson - 25 / 7 / 80 / 2 = 114

Account for playing time, Dyson may do more with less opportunities, but who knows, numbers don't always scale with more time.
   85. PreservedFish Posted: December 10, 2019 at 10:11 AM (#5907388)
snapper:

Well, you'd think that at least a few of the defense guys would be stars. People still love watching defense.

Also depending on the exact rules you could maybe pinch-run him like every inning, so he'd be extremely prominent.

But I think it would take generations to sort out what the ideal way to build teams is. I mean, the NBA still hasn't figured out how many 3's a team should take. I don't watch enough minor league or college baseball to have even an amateur guess on whether or not there are a bunch of terrible-bat, great-glove guys that could immediately be promoted. I'm sure there are some, but how many? Would a guy like Michael Conforto - a competent corner outfielder - ever play another inning in the field? I've got no clue.

NFL running backs peak at 24-25 years old, suggesting that raw athleticism outweighs technique, and their success is hugely context based, and the physical ravages of the position are extreme ... but still it wouldn't be right to say that they are best used in an "anonymous progression." And it's rare to hear that a shortstop is "already an MLB fielder" when they're in AA. I think that fielding is techniquey enough that you can't just plug and play with good athletes.
   86. PreservedFish Posted: December 10, 2019 at 10:19 AM (#5907391)
#84 - you have to at least try to adjust for opportunity. Betts has a lot more playing time than Dyson.

Fangraphs' (Def+Bsr)/PA, 2012-2019, these are the top non-C players:

Dyson
Hamilton
Buxton
Andrelton
Kiermaier
C Gentry
B Ryan
Chapman
Leonys M
J Iglesias
Addison R
Lindor
Mookie
Lagares
DeJong
Cain
J Uribe :)
Marisnick
B Crawford

Dyson probably gets leveraged more than any of these guys, so it's not really fair to do it per PA, but I'm not going to go figure out how many times he's on base and such to truly account for it properly.

The point is that he's not just good at these things, he's actually a total stud.
   87. Rally Posted: December 10, 2019 at 10:40 AM (#5907395)
How about 2 platoon baseball where you can sub offense/defense at will. Only restriction on subs is that each player in the game is tied to a specific lineup spot. So you can have Kendrys Morales (a few years ago, when he could still hit) as your batting center fielder. Dyson is in for defense. If Morales bats 3rd in the top of the first and reaches base Dyson can come in for him. But now Dyson is tied to the #3 spot, he can only pinch run for that lineup spot.

Not advocating any of this, but if we do this to rid the world of crappy bats and crappy gloves, might as well have the best base runners out there.
   88. Rally Posted: December 10, 2019 at 10:44 AM (#5907397)
It would of course be an aesthetic disaster. Because it would further encourage baseball to use TTO-type hitters as your offense. Even a good put the ball in play type hitter, like Michael Brantley, would probably find himself out of job because all the Dyson and Iglesias types will make it very hard to get hits on balls in play.
   89. PreservedFish Posted: December 10, 2019 at 10:45 AM (#5907398)
That's probably a better rule than allowing Dyson to pinch-run for the first batter to reach in every single inning.

I wonder how often you'd get a fielder that does *not* pinch-run for his hitter. Like, Tim Raines was a better hitter than he was a fielder. Maybe Tim Raines is benched in the field for some AAA CF that we don't remember. Or guys like Paul Goldschmidt that are bizarrely excellent runners. He might be a 2-way player, but I'm not sure.
   90. PreservedFish Posted: December 10, 2019 at 10:50 AM (#5907400)
It would of course be an aesthetic disaster. Because it would further encourage baseball to use TTO-type hitters as your offense.


I'm not 100% sure about this. I mean, yeah, it would encourage TTO hitting, and it would further encourage hitters to get muscled up and huge. Ideally you'd deaden the ball too. But at the same time, you've totally eliminated the presence of players that are unsuited for their roles. You've got great baserunners always, great fielders always, great hitters always.

The NFL might be more compelling if CB/WR was a single position, but the level of play would be reduced if Randy Moss (the gazelle) and Darrell Green (the hummingbird) both had to play each other's position. The game would begin selecting for all-around talents, less strange body types. It's not obvious to me which would be better.
   91. Rally Posted: December 10, 2019 at 10:57 AM (#5907405)
Lou Brock would definitely not be allowed to field. Though I'm not sure how long he'd be allowed to hit either - certainly a much shorter career than he actually had.
   92. PreservedFish Posted: December 10, 2019 at 11:15 AM (#5907408)
Oh, I think Brock would have only lost a few seasons at the beginning and/or end. He was a good enough hitter to hit in the alternate universe.
   93. RJ in TO Posted: December 10, 2019 at 11:21 AM (#5907409)
Lou Brock was a career 109 OPS+ hitter, with a career high of 127 OPS+, and only 4 times above 120. In the proposed world of extreme specialization, he's a pinch runner.
   94. PreservedFish Posted: December 10, 2019 at 11:32 AM (#5907410)
That is absolutely not true.

Let's take 1970. Lou had a 108 OPS+, close to his career average. It's smack in the middle of his career.

That year he ranked 33rd in the NL among qualifying players in OPS+. There are 108 starting positions in the league. Is it your contention that there were 75+ hitters better than Brock that didn't get to start that year because their defense wasn't good enough, were unfairly stuck in the minors, or something like that? (Actually it's 150+, double it for both leagues)

Brock would have been the 3rd best regular hitter on an average team. Teams just do not have 6 superior hitters buried on the bench or in the minors. And that was one of the worst years of his prime.
   95. RJ in TO Posted: December 10, 2019 at 11:37 AM (#5907412)
They will in this supposed world of extreme specialization, as the guys who can't field a bit will now be given opportunities to play.

Also, you can't just look at qualifying players, as many of those non-qualifying players didn't qualify because of things like defensive deficiencies in general, or the positions at which they were qualified defensively being blocked by superior players. By making defense no longer a consideration, you're greatly changing the nature of the talent pool on offense.
   96. PreservedFish Posted: December 10, 2019 at 11:40 AM (#5907413)
When I was composing #46 I noticed that the lineup/bench line for the 2020 season, according to Steamer's hitting projections, is about a 97 OPS+ or wRC+. That is, anyone that projects above a 97 OPS+ might have a starting job. I don't know if that's applicable to other years and eras, but I bet it's within the ballpark. Of course that's on Day 1 of the new rules, things would change after some years have passed.

But if you think that there are dozens or hundreds of prospects out there that have the potential to put up huge offensive numbers that simply aren't drafted/developed because of their defensive inability, well, I'm not sure what sport you're watching.
   97. Rally Posted: December 10, 2019 at 11:41 AM (#5907414)
I've got to agree with Fish here. There aren't enough hitters to go around that would render Brock useless at the plate. A typical MLB lineup has 8 regulars, with 4 of them above a 100 OPS+ and 4 below. You've got guys on the bench who might hit better than your bad hitters, but can't field. Also some in AAA. I don't think there's any way the supply of those types is big enough to start replacing your above average hitters.

Last year's Angel team was about average in hitting. Pass 2 platoon baseball and who makes up the 9 player lineup?

Trout, Ohtani obviously.
Calhoun, Goodwin, that's 4.

J Upton only had a 92 OPS+, but we know he's better than that, so he's #5. La Stella makes 6.

In AAA the best hitters were Justin Bour, Jared Walsh, and Taylor Ward. All had better than a 1.000 OPS in the silly hitting PCL, but none of them hit well in the big leagues.

If you don't go with those 3, hoping their MLB stats are small sample size and that they can improve with experience, your next options are Fletcher, Pujols, Rengifo, and Simmons, who were all below average batters in MLB last year. Fletcher and Simmons in particular seem like ideal candidates to be infield starters on defense, but they are actually in the running to make the best 9 person offensive lineup too.

I don't know how the bottom 3 spots shape up, but I can see very clearly that a guy like Kole Calhoun (108 OPS+) is in no danger at all of losing his lineup spot.

Kole is a solid right fielder, but he'd probably lose that spot to a speedy minor leaguer. Maybe Torii Hunter Jr.



   98. PreservedFish Posted: December 10, 2019 at 11:44 AM (#5907415)
Going back to 1966, and removing the tinytiny sample size guys, there are about 55 hitters that achieved a 108 OPS+. So are you telling me that fully 50% of the best hitters in the world weren't given an opportunity to play at all? Come on.
   99. Rally Posted: December 10, 2019 at 11:46 AM (#5907416)
They will in this supposed world of extreme specialization, as the guys who can't field a bit will now be given opportunities to play.


They can't if they don't exist. Guys who are MLB average hitters but can't field at all might be playing in AAA. In an earlier time they might be pinch hitters, like late career Rusty Staub. But guys who are better than average, say a 120 OPS+, have jobs no matter what they can field. You can live with bad D at first or left, or failing that play them at DH.

There is no supply of poor fielders who can top a 109 OPS+ sitting on the sidelines. They are in the game, and probably getting substantial time in MLB.
   100. Zach Posted: December 10, 2019 at 11:46 AM (#5907417)
His numbers don't really work though because he plays as a defensive replacement so often that his defensive innings:PAs ratio doesn't match a regular starter's ratio. We'd have to increase his hitting contributions more so than his fielding, which would probably drop him somewhat below 60 WAR.

But Dyson being a defensive replacement is my point! Here's a guy who's healthy and available, and a great baserunner to boot, and he's sitting on the bench 3/4 of the time because he's more valuable as a situational guy than as a starter.

Give Dyson a 100 OPS+ and a starter's innings, and it would be an interesting argument.
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