First Pitch 07/24/13: Out of left field

USA TODAY Sports

With Ryan Braun out of the picture temporarily, who's the best left fielder in baseball?

It's a late First Pitch, but better late than never, right? And we apologize for not covering every game today -- but it's either this or this thing will never get done. Thanks for bearing with us.

One Quick Thing -- Out of Left Field

Yesterday, there was some brief Twitter discussion born out of a tweet from Mark Simon, of ESPN Stats & Info.

This is a pretty good question, and a few of us here at Beyond the Box Score had a rough discussion about this. I'll post some of our tweets here, and some of my thoughts on the matter.

The first tweet is Matt's thoughts on one potential top left fielder:

Okay, so the crux of this discussion is that Matt thinks that Alex Gordon is one of the top left fielders in the game, and that he's still underrated despite making the All-Star game this season. Yes, Gordon doesn't get the national media coverage he should. But while I agree with the first part, I'm not so sure he's underrated anymore. After all, it is kind of tough to call an All-Star underrated ... unless they're a true superstar.

Gordon, however -- I'm not sure he is a superstar. In 2011, he was truly great, posting a 141 wRC+ to go with his elite defense in left field. In 2012, he was almost as good, posting a 125 wRC+. But this season, he's posting only a 105 wRC+, with a second consecutive year with a .050 drop in slugging percentage. He's not hitting much better than league-average, and that's not a superstar. That's a guy who's barely an All-Star, thanks to his defense -- so it sounds to me like he's rated correctly.

Of course, you should take into consideration, as Matt did, that you might want to give more credence to his previous years and not over-weight his current season. I understand that, but it'd be different if his performance was moving up and down, rather than what appears to be a consistent downward trend. Of course, he could David-Wright on us, and see his offense surge back up, but Wright had a longer track record of success. Perhaps 2011 was more of an outlier year, and Gordon's true talent going forward sits something closer to 2012-2013?

I think that most of us were in agreement that Carlos Gonzalez was the best left fielder in baseball, especially if you remove quasi-center fielders like Mike Trout / Jacoby Ellsbury / Brett Gardner / Bryce Harper from the equation. When we're talking about pure left fielders* Carlos Gonzalez is the man.

[ * - That phrase, "pure left fielders", that sounds stupid to everyone else too, right?]

Good-to-great defense? Check. An absolute assassin on the basepaths, who regularly adds half a win or more using his legs? Check. A bat so potent that he's posting a 150 wRC+, hammering the ball even after you take the Coors Field effect out of the equation? Double-check. This is a guy that's currently doing it all, and he's only playing through his age-27 season.

Bonus Carlos!

Since he has so much trouble staying on the field, and because he plays in San Diego, and because he's terrible at everything that's not hitting, I think Carlos Quentin is a bit underrated. Last year, he posted a 146 wRC+, and though his traditional stats weren't eye-popping, he was able to perform at a high level in the toughest offensive environment in baseball -- PetCo Park. This year, he's simply doing roughly the same thing, posting a 143 wRC+.

While Quentin's bat seems to play in San Diego, I'm thinking that he'd be better served playing for an AL team, where he could DH and reduce the wear-and-tear on his injury-prone self. I think he's a little underrated as a left fielder, but if he were a DH, maybe he'd be rated more accurately?

The Smallest Sample Size -- Game Results for 07/23/13

Photo credit: Thearon W. Henderson

Giants 3, Reds 9 -- Game 1

In the first game of their day-night doubleheader, the "home" Reds beat up on the Giants, led by a trio of homers by Joey Votto, Zack Cozart, and the suddenly-raking Devin Mesoraco. This came in support of rookie lefty Tony Cingrani, who threw six and two-thirds strong innings and nearly 120 pitches. Cingrani only gave up two runs, striking out two and walking three.

Eric Surkamp, making his season debut to start for the Giants ... well, he should have stayed in Triple-A. He couldn't make it through three innings, gave up seven runs, and now has a 23.63 ERA on the season. Yusmeiro Petit did a fine job in relief, going five and a third and striking out seven while giving up two runs, but the damage was already done.

Reds 3, Giants 5 -- Game 2

Fortunately, the Giants didn't just roll over and die in the nightcap, pushing to win by two in the second game of the night. Barry Zito didn't last long for the Giants, only going four and two-thirds and giving up three runs, but the bullpen was stellar in four and a third innings of work. Sergio Romo even struck out four hitters en route to a .162 WPA and a shutdown. Pablo Sandoval led off the scoring with a big two-run double in the first, and Brandon Crawford added a double and a walk.

On the Cincy side, Greg Reynolds didn't have it in five innings of work, giving up five runs on eight hits, while only striking out one. Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier did their parts, with each chiming in for three hits. Two of Frazier's were doubles. Good job, good effort.

More on the Reds at: Red Reporter More on the Giants at: McCovey Chronicles

Yankees 5, Rangers 4

Brent Lillibridge, a personal favorite of mine, went from goat to hero over the course of this game, as he capped off a ninth-inning rally against Joe Nathan with a run-scoring single. While Lillibridge gets the credit for driving in the game-winning run, Eduardo Nunez actually did the most damage, slamming a triple off of Nathan, tying the game and racking up .423 WPA over the course of his game. Lillibridge needed the redemption, given that his error in the sixth inning led -- directly or indirectly -- to all four Texas runs.

Meanwhile, the Rangers fought a good fight. Alexi Ogando came off the DL to throw five innings of three-run ball, but he only struck out two. The Rangers put together a strong sixth inning after that Lillibridge error, culminating in a big two-run jack by "The Godfather" Mitch Moreland.

More on the Yankees at: Pinstriped Bible More on the Rangers at: Lone Star Ball

Pirates 5, Nationals 1

In a result that everyone expected before the season, the powerhouse Pittsburgh Pirates rode the arm of a former No. 1 overall draft pick to defeat the woeful, offensively-challenged Washington Nationals. Gerrit Cole was a boss, giving up a single run (on a solo homer) in seven innings of work, and allowing just one other hit and one walk. The big offensive guys for the Bucs were Pedro Alvarez (two hits, including a solo homer), Russell Martin (three singles and a stolen base), and -- of course -- Gerrit Cole (two singles in three plate appearances). Cole's basically functioning as a Stephen Strasburg-lite at this point, right down to the efficacy with the stick.

Meanwhile, Taylor Jordan was efficient, but not exactly effective in seven and two-thirds innings of work. He was charged with all of the Pirates' runs on nine hits and a walk. Wilson Ramos homered to give the Nats their only run, but also made an error. Everyone else was pretty "meh".

More on the Pirates at: Bucs Dugout More on the Nationals at: Federal Baseball

Dodgers 10, Blue Jays 9

The Blue Jays continue to troll Blake Murphy, blowing yet another game with our resident Jays fan in attendance. Things were going okay for Toronto until the bullpen came into the picture, then the wheels came off entirely. Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier hit big-time homers in the eighth to turn a two-run deficit into a two-run lead. Just assume that with a score like this, everyone else on the Dodgers got some hits too. (Except for Nick Punto. Poor Nick Punto.)

Darren Oliver gave up the two critical homers to Gonzalez and Ethier, and this gave him a WPA for the game of -.689. That's not a meltdown, that's an epic meltdown. On the positive side, the offense was working for the Jays, as Jose Reyes hit another homer and a double, Jose Bautista and Mark DeRosa hit bombs, and the Jays' 7-8-9 hitters (Rajai Davis, J.P. Arencibia and Brett Lawrie) combined for seven hits.

More on the Dodgers at: True Blue LA More on the Blue Jays at: Bluebird Banter

Rays 2, Red Sox 6

Jon Lester was pretty terrific in a battle for AL East supremacy, as he went six and one-third innings, giving up two runs on solo homers while striking out eight. After Lester left, the duo of Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara put on a show, striking out five of the seven Rays they faced to seal the win. The Sox were able to manufacture runs through timely hitting and audacity ... Shane Victorino scored on a successful double steal in the third, and the team scored in half the innings where they batted.

On the Rays' side, Wil Myers had a nice day at the plate, going two-for-four with a double and a homer, while Evan Longoria bashed a homer of his own. Unfortunately, those were the only extra-base hits the team could rack up against Lester, and Roberto Hernandez couldn't out-duel the Sox lefty, giving up three runs over five innings.

More on the Rays at: DRays Bay More on the Red Sox at: Over The Monster

Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports

Braves 1, Mets 4

Carlos Torres made a very good spot start for the Mets, striking out six Braves in six innings of work, and only allowing one run in this New York victory. The Mets rode a rally in the sixth, fueled by an Ike Davis double, to score four runs on Atlanta. David Wright and John Buck both had two hits as well. On a down note, Eric Young was caught stealing for the eighth time already this season, as he attempts to suck away all value from his speed by getting caught far too often.

Andrelton Simmons hit a solo home run off of Torres for his 10th bomb of the season (wow, that's a lot for a slick-fielding shortstop), perhaps indicating that his future production might be more J.J. Hardy than Brendan Ryan. Dan Uggla had two hits and a stolen base, while starter Kris Medlen gave up four runs on seven hits over five and a third innings.

More on the Braves at: Talking Chop More on the Mets at: Amazin' Avenue

Tigers 6, White Sox 2

The Tigers don't need Miguel Cabrera to beat their division rivals in Chicago -- all they need is a nice start by Rick Porcello, and maybe some of their usual offensive guys to do what they do. Porcello was strong, only striking out one, but limiting the Sox to four hits, three walks, and no runs in seven innings of work. Jhonny Peralta homered for the Tigers, and second baseman Hernan Perez had an exciting play where Hernan Perez hit a ball into left field, and scored as Dayan Viciedo bobbled the ball, recording a a triple while scoring a run.

The White Sox made every possible effort to actually beat themselves, committing four errors over the course of the game. The culprits: Viciedo, Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Conor Gillaspie. Paul Konerko did all right for the Sox, knocking a two-run double in the ninth to salvage some of Chicago's dignity, and also drawing a walk earlier in the game.

More on the Tigers at: Bless You Boys More on the White Sox at: South Side Sox

Orioles 2, Royals 3

We always knew that the Orioles would rue the day that Bruce Chen returned to haunt them. Well, yesterday was that day. Chen threw six good innings, giving up just one run on three hits and no walks. For the Royals, Mike Moustakas hit two doubles, including one that drove in a run -- and Chris Getz reached base twice and stole two bases.

Manny Machado hit a solo shot for the Orioles, and Adam Jones hit a run-scoring triple late in the game to make it close. Nevertheless, All-Star closer Greg Holland buckled down and retired Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and Henry Urrutia after that Jones triple, in order to end the Orioles' hopes at a win.

More on the Orioles at: Camden Chat More on the Royals at: Royals Review

Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports

Padres 6, Brewers 2

To make matters worse for the Brewers, who are a bad team dealing with the suspension of their best player, they got soundly throttled by the San Diego Padres yesterday, taking a four-run loss at the hands of Tyson Ross and Nick Hundley. Ross pitched six one-run innings, striking out six, while Nick Hundley hit a critical two-run homer in the sixth, and a run-scoring single in the seventh. Will Venable also homered, and Yonder Alonso had two stolen bases to pair with his two singles and walk.

In the loss, Khris Davis not only claimed Ryan Braun's roster spot, but also his power, hammering his first big league home run during a pinch-hit plate appearance in the eighth. Starter Donovan Hand left the game in the fourth after being hit by a ball on the hand during a plate appearance, no, seriously, I can't make this up.

More on the Padres at: Gaslamp ball More on the Brewers at: Brew Crew Ball

Athletics 4, Astros 5

The Astros' youth movement paid dividends on Tuesday night, as Jonathan Villar raced from second to home in the ninth inning to win the game for the Astros. Villar, who three-for-four with two doubles, took advantage of a passed ball and errant throw to walk it off, and support fellow rookie Jarred Cosart. Cosart went seven innings, and only gave up two runs to go with four strikeouts and three walks. Matt Dominguez also added a home run to tie the game prior to Villar's hustle heroics.

The opposing Jarre(o)d -- Jarrod Parker -- pitched pretty well too, though he threw two wild pitches and hit a guy. Parker went seven as well, gave up two runs, struck out four, and walked two. For the A's, unfortunately Grant Balfour gets charged with a WPA of -.918 -- almost a full negative win! -- despite Derek Norris passing the ball and making the poor throw to first on the ensuing fracas. And Brandon Moss put the A's up in the third with a double play, then again in the eighth with a two-run homer. Still, Brandon Moss can't do everything himself (I think).

More on the Athletics at: Athletics Nation More on the Astros at: The Crawfish Boxes

Lineouts

  • The Orioles acquired reliever Fransisco Rodriguez from the Brewers in exchange for infield prospect Nick Delmonico. Delmonico's a solid prospect, so that's a pretty decent return for the Brewers here.
  • Jason Grilli, perhaps the best reliever in baseball this year, hit the DL in a totally Pirates turn of events. In an exceptionally non-Pirates turn of events, the next man up to close will be Mark Melancon, who might be the second-best reliever in baseball.
  • Alex Rodriguez might get a lifetime ban from baseball, which seems extreme. But hey, that's just me.

Photo credit: Tom Szczerbowski

Puig Watch

Opposing Starter: Todd Redmond, Toronto Blue Jays

Daily Stat Line: Two singles and a walk (a walk!) in four plate appearances ... with a stolen base! He's back, baby!

2013 Season Stat Line: .369/.409/.571 -- 8 HR -- 177 wRC+

Today's Puig Status: Using his legs. Using your love.

Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports

Satin Watch

Opposing Starter: Kris Medlen, Atlanta Braves

Daily Stat Line: DNP

2013 Season Stat Line: .348/.471/.522 -- 18.8 BB% -- 185 wRC+

Today's Satin Status: Even eyebrows need a day off.

So that's it! Don't forget to follow up with feedback, and we'll see you tomorrow!

. . .

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.

Bryan Grosnick is the Managing Editor of Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @bgrosnick.

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