The Determinator: Left Fielders: #6-10
Before every season, baseball minds across the sport test their skills with crunching numbers, diving deep into analytics, and reviewing game footage in order to determine who the best players are in the game. Often times they give their analysis fun names; one of the most notable being The Shredder from MLB Network.
Sometimes the results astound people- like in 2015 Hanely Ramirez was rated the top Left Fielder in the MLB before ever playing there. Other times, the results are unsurprising- spoiler alert, but Mike Trout was probably the best CF in baseball, and most likely will be again.
Every weekday at 4:00 PM throughout the next few weeks, I will be posting my own analysis on who the top players at each position truly are.
Welcome to The Determinator.
Today I will reveal the #6-10 Left Fielders in the MLB, as well as explaining my methodology for these rankings. Tomorrow, will be the #1-5 Left Fielders in the MLB, plus honorable mentions.
The Determinator: My General Methodology
The Determinator is a ranking system that is built upon the analyzation of 16 carefully chosen stats through a very simplistic system of comparisons. Some of these stats are more classical (Games Played, Home Runs, etc.), others are more advanced (wRC+, WAR, etc.). From this come 7 offensive stats, 4 defensive, 2 baserunning, and 3 general stats, set to contribute towards the importance of each part of the game.
The Offensive stats are: AVG/OBP/SLG, wRC, wRC+, HR, and Off (Fangraphs)
The Defensive stats are: Fielding, DRS, UZR (or Framing for Catchers), and Def (Fangraphs)
The Baserunning stats are: Stolen Bases and BsR (Fangraphs)
The Overall stats are: Games Played, Innings at Position, and fWAR (Fangraphs)
After determining this list of statistics, I then had to input each into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet I sorted how each player did in each statistic from best-to-worst. If you were top 5 in a category, you got ranked as a ‘Green’. Top 6-10 was a ‘Yellow’. And, Top 11-15 was labelled as a ‘Red’. The number of each ranking was counted- so it was possible to come out with a score of zero- and given values of 5, 3, and 1 respectively.
Key Note: If player/s across a statistic had the same numbers across a border- for example the 5th and 6th players with the most Home Runs- then they would both be counted as the better ranking- in this case both ‘Green’ or 5 points- and replace one spot from the following ranking- in this case a ‘Yellow’ or 3 points. This could also stretch some statistics to include more ‘Red’ players who had equal stats to the 15th best.
Additionally, if no stats were recorded in a counting statistic that could fit into a ranking- as is seen with Catchers and Stolen Bases- then no ranking is given to those players. This would greatly increase the number of points given out, and lessen the value of each point. This is not true for advanced metrics that can produce negative values- as is seen with Catchers and BsR.
The results were then tallied, sorted from greatest to least, and a ranking was created.
Finally, player age, 2020 salary, and contract status, were all not considered in this experiment. This is entirely statistic-based.
The Determinator: Left Field-Specific Information
To easily work through and cut-down the list of 248 different players who played any amount of time at left field during the season, I set-up two separate boundaries for left fielders:
They must’ve had at least 250 PA’s during the 2019 season.
They must’ve had at least 500 innings in left field during the 2019 season.
This limited the number of left fielders down to 24.
However, without further ado, let’s get to numbers 6 through 10:
If a player led a statistic for their position, it will be bolded.
Number 10: Alex Gordon, Free Agent
Top-5: Games, Fld, Innings, UZR
Top-10: OBP, wRC, DRS, Def
Top-15: AVG, SB, WAR
Total Score: 35Embed from Getty Images
Alex Gordon, over the past decade (2010-2019) took home the AL Left Field Gold Glove in 7 years, made 3 All-Star games, and received MVP awards in two of those seasons. However, as he remains on the free agent market going into the 2020 season, it seems as though his reign of dominance on the position may finally be over. He was still productive in 2019, but most of that value- as has been true for the past few seasons- has come because of his tremendous ability to field the ball, with a Top-5 Fld (3.2) and UZR (3.2). However, with his last 2+ WAR season being in 2015, it seems as though a 1-Year deal to return to Kansas City is his most likely choice for sticking around for his 14th season.
Number 9: Andrew Benintendi, Boston Red Sox
Top-5: SB, BsR, Innings
Top-10: Games, OBP, wRC, WAR, Fld, UZR, Def
Top-15: AVG, Off, DRS
Total Score: 39Embed from Getty Images
Coming out above Alex Gordon is Andrew Benintendi of the Boston Red Sox, a very solid player across the board, who came out to be about an average hitter with a wRC+ (100) last season after an above average 2018 (wRC+ of 122). He is a great base-runner, leading all LF’er in BsR (2.7) with 10 SB as well. Outside of offense, Benintendi is also a decent defender, but again has no extremely special tools. Before breaking into the MLB, Bentintendi was a highly valued prospect coming out as high as #2 in the league in 2017, but has yet to live up to that hype. It will be interesting to see if his stock increases after a down third year in the big leagues and as he plays into his first year of arbitration.
Number 8: Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs
Top-5: Games, SLG, HR, wRC, Innings
Top-10: wRC+, Off, WAR, Fld
Top-15: OBP, DRS, UZR, Def
Total Score: 41Embed from Getty Images
This offseason, there has been lots of talk about the New York Yankees having acquired their ‘white whale’ in RHP Gerrit Cole. However, it seems as though the Yankees and the Chicago Cubs are always in talks about a trade involving Kyle Schwarber, the Yankees true White Whale. The left-handed hitter led all Left Fielders in games played (155) and HR’s (38) in 2019, and had solid advanced metrics of wRC+ (120), Off (13.8), and fWAR (2.6) to support his value. Outside of base-running (BsR of -2.3), Schwarber does provide above-average value in hitting and average value as a defender, in relation to other primary left-fielders. He is also the only left fielder who can also play catcher, as he has done in a pinch, totaling 26 games in his 5 year career so far, which is an interesting combination.
Number 7: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Top-5: AVG, SB
Top-10: Games, OBP, SLG, HR, wRC, wRC+, Off, WAR, Innings
Top-15: BsR, Fld, DRS, UZR, Def
Total Score: 42Embed from Getty Images
Another player that is towards the end of his career comes Ryan Braun, who in 2019 had a solid season across the board, being only one of two LF’ers to rank in every metric (the other being announced tomorrow). But, over the past 5 seasons has been far from what he used to be, with only one All-Star appearance (2015) and one year with any MVP votes (2016). In 2019 however, Braun did see an uptick in performance, from his 2017 and 2018 seasons, providing enough value to be consistently above-average in most ever offensive statistic. He was tops amongst Left Fielders in AVG (0.285) and above average in OBP (0.343) and SLG (0.505), as well as HR’s (22), wRC+ (117), Off (10.5), and fWAR (1.9). Still under contract for the 2020 season, it’ll be interesting to see if Braun sticks around for 2021 in Milwaukee as he has a $4 Million buy-out after this upcoming season.
Number 6: Marcell Ozuna, Free Agent
Top-5: SB, BsR, Fld, Innings, DRS, UZR, Def
Top-10: HR, WAR
Top-15: OBP, SLG, wRC, wRC+, Off
Total Score: 46Embed from Getty Images
The season before he was traded out of Miami, in 2017 Marcell Ozuna was seen as one of the best players in the National League, recording an All-Star appearance, a Top-15 MVP vote (2% Share), a Gold Glove, and a Silver Slugger. He looked to be a complete player, but after going to St. Louis has yet to hit that hype again. Ozuna has still been a solid player, but instead of flashing brilliance with the bat has taken to be a defense-first player, coming out on Tops amongst Left Fielders in all 4 defensive metrics, Fld (5.7), DRS (2), UZR (5.7), and Def (0). His 2.6 fWAR in 2019 was also nothing to sneeze at, nor where his 29 HR’s, but in order to regain that premier status, Ozuna will need to increase his triple-slash across the board, which was 0.241/0.328/0.472 last season.
The Determinator is a way I used to determine the best players at each position. Like any metric or formula, I am sure it has flaws. No statistical compilation is perfect. That being said, The Determinator, seems pretty effective at assigning player values. I’m pleased with what I have found using this method and hope this is a conversation starter for many.
Check back in tomorrow at 4:00 PM to see the #1-5 Left Fielders in the MLB.