2009 Replacement Level: Left Field

As most of you know, the Win Values we present here on FanGraphs are wins above a replacement level player. Replacement level, essentially, is the expected performance you could get from a player who costs nothing to acquire and makes the league minimum. That’s the baseline that players add value over – performance over their no-cost substitute.

However, I know examples can be extremely helpful, so starting on Monday, we began looking at some players who currently personify replacement level, and what their respective organizations should expect from them in 2009. We’ve already covered catcher, first base, second base, shortstop, and third base and we’ll move on through all of the positions the rest of this week.

Left Field

Splitting up the outfielders who sign minor league contracts is somewhat arbitrary. An outfielder is an outfielder. They all do the same thing – chase fly balls and throw it back in. Now, because there are some differences between the throws between RF and LF, the guys with better arms end up in right field, while the fastest guys end up in CF to get the most opportunities to enhance their defensive value. However, the fundamentals of the positions are all the same, and anyone who can play one outfield spot could play all three. Not equally well, necessarily, but they really aren’t different positions in the way that the infield has different positions. I say all that because I don’t want people to fall into the trap that these are the only options a team had available to fill their LF hole. We’ll cover CF and RF tomorrow, but really, any of those guys could also have been acquired to play LF. Like with 2B, the pool of potential replacements also includes SS – the pool of potential LFs includes all CFs and all RFs as well.

Chip Ambres, Boston, .323 wOBA
Justin Christian, Baltimore, .299 wOBA
Jonny Gomes, Cincinnati, .354 wOBA
Nathan Haynes, Texas, .274 wOBA
Rob Mackowiak, New York (NL), .318 wOBA
Paul McAnulty, Boston, .339 wOBA
Craig Monroe, Pittsburgh, .315 wOBA
Dan Ortmeier, Colorado, .298 wOBA

Now this is a variety of players. Ambres has been tearing the cover off the ball in Triple-A for a few years, but at 30, he’s got the Quad-A bat label and his defense is pretty lousy. Haynes, on the other hand, can’t really hit much at all but is an outstanding defender. There are more okay bat/no glove types on the list (Gomes, in particular, should never be allowed to play the OF), but there are a mix of skillsets represented here. The average wOBA is just .315, though, not that much better than the average third baseman that we looked at. Converting to runs:

((.315 – .330) / 1.20) * 600 = -7.5

-7.5 runs on offense, -5 runs on defense, -7.5 run position adjustment gives us a -20 run total compared to average. That makes this group of replacement level outfielders -2 wins. The beat goes on.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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Matthew A.
13 years ago

If anyone’s looking for further examples of what exemplifies a replacement level left fielder, just look at whoever is playing LF for the Mets this season. You won’t be too far off.

13 years ago
Reply to  Matthew A.