Back from the frozen wastes that are a Scottish February, so apologies for any typos - my fingers are still thawing out... But now I’m back in the warmth of Arizona for a bit, we can get on with our efforts to assemble an All-Time Team. We move into the outfield and, as we discussed before, things get a bit tricky, with positional qualifications. I want to thank everyone for chipping in their thoughts on the topic, which was very helpful. So, with regard to coming up with the usual list of top players by bWAR, I’ve decided to abandon any specific percentage requirement for outfielders, but to qualify, players must simply have appeared most at the spot in question, over their careers.
For example, in left-field, they just need to have a “7” as the leftmost number on this table from Baseball Reference, under the position column. That’s it. However, in this case there’s only one of the top ten players, who failed to play at least half of their games in left field. That would be Manny Ramirez: of his 2,302 total games, he played left in 1.039 of them, right 904 times and played designated hitter on 332 occasions, plus a sprinkling of appearances as a pinch-hitter. Using that 50% criteria - so not including Martinez, but I’m trying to be consistent! - here are all the stats, so you can see if there are perhaps any worthy candidates outside the top ten. But here are those leaders:
Best LF ever
A couple of things stand out. Firstly, how crappy most of the all-time players in left are seen defensively, by dWAR. Of the top ten, only Barry Bonds and Carl Yastrzemski are in positive territory - the latter just, at +1 over a 23-year career. The others go all the way down to Ramirez, at -21.7, which makes him the seventh-worst fielder by career dWAR, in baseball history. Corner outfielders take up six of the top ten spots on that list, with three designated hitters (which is impressive, considering you can’t get negative dWAR playing DH!) and one first baseman (Willie McCovey). The LFs include the all-time lowest dWAR, which would be former Diamondback Adam Dunn at -28.4. Explains the nickname “Big Donkey”, to be sure...
Broadly, among the top ten there appear to be four obvious candidates, then a big drop-off after Yastrzemski. He is #22 all-time, but you then have to go down fifty more spots to find the next ranked man, Eddie Delahenty. There’s then a sudden surge, with the rest of the top ten all bunched up between positions #72-90. And you don’t have to go an awful lot further past Goose Goslin to find a rare Diamondback. Luis Gonzalez comes in at a respectable nineteenth best all-time among left-fielders (using the 50% bar), having posted 51.6 bWAR - the majority of it during his time in Arizona. And right now, Brett Gardner is the active leader (44.1), the only LF above 35. At +12.9 dWAR, he’s also the best defender in left ever...
As usual, we need to narrow the candidates down to five or thereabouts, for the final poll. This will be done largely on the basis of recs in the comments, though the decision of the judging committee i.e. me, will be final in this regard. Just identify the player in the subject line, and make your case in the body of the comment. If you agree with a choice already made, give it a rec. If you don’t see your choice, post a new comment. I will delete subsequent top-level comments about the same player. Poll to follow on Friday!