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Grading the NL Corner Outfielders (Win Shares)

Win-share grades are in for the corner outfield positions, and Phillies earned straight A's.

That's right, Phillie fans -- your team is at the head of the class of National League outfield production, according to my bell-curve using win shares. The Phils' outfield eminence wasn't a surprise to everyone (including Sean Forman), though some others may still wonder.

Unlike the eye-opening success of their centerfield cadre, the prowess of the Phillies' left- and right-fielders was fairly predictable. Pat Burrell showed he is no Bret Saberhagen by putting together back-to-back seasons of productivity, while Bobby Abreu was simply himself. Other than those two boppers, the Phillies didn't get much additional contribution in the corners, but then again, they didn't need to. Jason Michaels, in addition to his 11 centerfield win shares, chipped in at both left and right, and since-departed Placido Polanco did a salutary stint in leftfield.

But as the Phillies experienced, playoff teams need more than just productive corner outfielders. And this year, anyway, they didn't even need that -- the four NL playoff teams had only one player in the top five of either leftfielders or rightfielders in win shares. More specifically, what playoff teams did have was top centerfielders, though the Astros didn't even really have that.

That's not to say that the Cardinals, Astros, Padres and Braves didn't recieve good output from the corners; they actually did. But they did it with combinations of players (not true platoons) due to either extreme inexperience (as with the Braves' rookies) or extreme age (as with the Cardinals, on whom injuries forced backups into the fore). For example, all four teams had at least three different players contribute win shares in left field and at least four in rightfield in 2005. The Pirates couldn't even claim to have done that.

Oh, and for all of you "F"-happy fans (and I know you're out there), the Cubs have satisfied your desire. You know its bad when your first baseman has as many win shares as your entire outfield combined.