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The All-Time MLB Team, left field: nominations open

Now, the choices get REALLY tough

File photo of San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds taken at the batting cage at Dodger Stadium p Photo by Vince Compagnone/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

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

Player bWAR From To G PA R H HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
Player bWAR From To G PA R H HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
Barry Bonds 162.7 1986 2007 2986 12606 2227 2935 762 1996 2558 1539 .298 .444 .607 1.051 182
Ted Williams 122.1 1939 1960 2292 9792 1798 2654 521 1839 2021 709 .344 .482 .634 1.116 191
Rickey Henderson 111.2 1979 2003 3081 13346 2295 3055 297 1115 2190 1694 .279 .401 .419 .820 127
Carl Yastrzemski 96.5 1961 1983 3308 13992 1816 3419 452 1844 1845 1393 .285 .380 .462 .842 130
Ed Delahanty 69.6 1888 1903 1837 8402 1600 2597 101 1466 742 439 .346 .411 .505 .917 152
Tim Raines 69.4 1979 2002 2502 10359 1571 2605 170 980 1330 966 .294 .385 .425 .810 123
Manny Ramirez 69.3 1993 2011 2302 9774 1544 2574 555 1831 1329 1813 .312 .411 .585 .996 154
Al Simmons 68.1 1924 1944 2215 9520 1507 2927 307 1828 615 737 .334 .380 .535 .915 133
Fred Clarke 67.9 1894 1915 2246 9860 1622 2678 67 1015 875 511 .312 .386 .429 .814 133
Goose Goslin 66.4 1921 1938 2287 9830 1482 2735 248 1612 949 585 .316 .387 .500 .887 128

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!