Like I did last year, I'm going to spend the few two weeks discussing the top ten players at each position based on 2008 performances. This year I'm using Justin's stats, which have all the nice features of the home-brewed stats I calculated last year, but with the added benefit of making Justin do all the work:
- BaseRuns-derived offensive linear weights, with park adjustments.
- League-adjusted replacement-level, since AL pitching is stronger than NL pitching.
- Proper position adjustments using the CA - SS - 2B/3B/CF - LF/RF - 1B - DH spectrum.
- Combined STATS and BIS zone ratings converted to runs to measure fielding.
Players are listed at the position they played the most, but the defensive numbers from all positions are included, and players' contributions to multiple teams are combined. For the top ten players at each position, I've listed their offensive contribution above replacement level and their defensive contribution (position adjustment plus fielding relative to position) compared to average. Position and fielding are broken out in the table at the end. If you add offense plus position, you'll get a number with the same use as VORP, but better.
To help you put the Total Value number in perspective, here are some benchmarks given a full season of playing time:
- League-average is about 20 runs above replacement.
- The cut-off for true All-Stars is in the 40 run range.
- Top 5 MVP candidates are worth at least 70 runs above replacement.
- MVP winners have been in the 90-100 run range the past few years.
Without further ado, here are the top ten left fielders of 2008 (2007 numbers here):
10. Shin-Soo Choo (36 off, -3 def, 33 tot) -- Adam Jones is a name that kills Mariners fans, but Choo's should be right up there, too. He crushed the ball to the tune of a .309/.397/.549 line over 370 plate appearances this year and played above-average defense. All for (next to) free.
9. Vladimir Guerrero (40 off, -7 def, 33 tot) -- I'm actually a bit surprised to see Vlad this high, as I was under the impression that he fell off a cliff this year. Must have been fooled by the slow start.
8. Alex I Rios (31 off, 4 def, 35 tot) -- As much derision as JP Ricciardi deserves for his long-term extension of Vernon Wells, he deserves as much credit for locking up Rios, who has the talent to be an even better hitter than he showed this year.
7. Andre E Ethier (45 off, -9 def, 36 tot) -- Sometimes the young hitters just force you to play them no matter how much you don't want to. Any chance the Dodgers let Ethier go in return for some young Rays pitching and/or Reid Brignac?
6. Ichiro Suzuki (39 off, -1 def, 38 tot) -- Cue the debate: do the advanced fielding metrics consistently underrate Ichiro or do the fans consistently overrate him? And while we're beating dead-horse topics, does Bert Blyleven belong in the Hall of Fame?
5. Randy Winn (33 off, 5 def, 38 tot) -- Do the Giants even know what they have here? If so, why is he still in San Francisco instead of already traded for younger pieces that will help the organization towards the playoffs in 2010?
4. Jayson Werth (32 off, 9 def, 41 tot) -- Last year the Phillies had two good-hit, good-glove right fielders splitting time. This year, they were the starting center- and right-fielders. And the team won the World Series. Connect the dots.
3. Nick Markakis (59 off, -12 def, 48 tot) -- His defensive reputation is better than a -5 run guy, but hey, if I were to tweak things based on my subjective opinions, Mark Ellis would be the AL MVP. Markakis is still an underrated beast.
2. Ryan Ludwick (57 off, -7 def, 51 tot) -- I recently had a long debate with a Cardinals fan that Yadier Molina was the second most valuable player on St. Louis this year. My first counter-argument was that it was the fielders that made the pitchers look so not-horrible, not Molina. My second was Ryan Ludwick.
1. Brian Giles (49 off, 7 def, 56 tot) -- Most underrated player in the game? He posted a .400 OBP and slugged .450 in the cavernous dimensions of PETCO. He was one of the best fielding corner outfielders in the majors. And people are wondering if the Padres will pick up his $9MM option for 2009. Uh, that sort of production is worth $27MM on the free agent market.
Here's the list of the top twenty-five most productive right fielders in 2008:
|7||Andre E Ethier||45||-6||-3||36|
|8||Alex I Rios||31||-3||7||35|
|12||Denard D Span||27||-3||5||29|
|17||Franklin R Gutierrez||6||-4||21||23|
|18||Elijah D Dukes||24||-3||2||22|
|20||Nelson R Cruz||15||-1||5||19|
|21||Ryan J Sweeney||15||-2||3||16|
|22||Gabe J Gross||13||-4||5||15|
|23||Brad B Hawpe||30||-6||-24||14|
|24||Ryan M Church||12||-4||6||14|
Regarding Abreu and Hawpe, remember that these data are capping any player's defensive value on the low end at what he would have earned as a DH. I go back and forth on whether that's a smart move (and it really depends on the specific question you're asking), but the nice thing is that all the numbers are there for you to make your own decision. If you remove the cap, Abreu was a 10 RAR player and Hawpe was exactly replacement level.
By the way I sliced and diced Justin's data, Adam Dunn's numbers with the Reds and DBs were not combined, because he was a left fielder for the Reds and a right fielder for the DBs. In total, he produced 31 runs more than replacement-level, which would have snuck him onto the left field top ten list. Oh, well, sorry Adam. His new paycheck should make up for my (unintentional) lack of respect.
Here's the bottom of the right field barrel:
|Wladimir R Balentien||-9||-1||-6||-17|
|Jeff B Francoeur||-8||-7||0||-14|
|Alexander R Romero||-5||-1||1||-5|
|Gary Matthews Jr.||5||-3||-6||-5|