Corner Outfield Recap

This offseason has been particularly interesting, as seven, count them, seven, corner outfielders with similar skillsets hit the open market. Bobby Abreu, Garrett Anderson, Pat Burrell, Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey, Raul Ibanez and Manny Ramirez all became free agents, all looking to hit a big payday. To date, only Ibanez has signed, and that deal has been largely lampooned.

With a surplus at the position, the market price has seemingly been driven down. After all, why pay an exorbitant fee for Burrell if Abreu could be had for slightly less? Or, replace either of those two names with any of the aforementioned others and the rhetorical question still works. Anderson is a better fielder than hitter, but the remaining players can all be classified as good-hitting, bad-fielding players.

If we want to include Anderson in the mix, this classification can be adjusted to show that these seven players are all one-dimensional.

Going along with the idea of positional adjustments that Dave has written so much about this week, I thought it would be interesting to show the production levels and dollar valuations for everyone sans-Ibanez at both the corner outfield position and designated hitter spot.

Before examining the results, let it be known that the positional adjustments are -7.5 runs per 162 games for LF, and -17.5 runs per 162 games for DH. Short of 162 games, these are prorated. The value above replacement is +20 runs per 600 PA, prorated below that number. Here are the results if they signed on as a leftfielder:

Name        PA/GP    wRAA   UZR    Pos.   Adj.  WAR
Abreu      600/159   16.0  -14.0   20.0  -7.4   +1.46
Anderson   540/140   -6.0    5.0   18.0  -6.5   +1.05
Burrell    600/157   19.0  -12.0   20.0  -7.4   +1.97
Dunn       600/159   23.0  -12.0   20.0  -7.4   +2.36
Griffey    550/130    2.0  -13.0   18.0  -6.0   +0.10
Ramirez    580/150   35.0  -12.0   19.0  -6.9   +3.51

As a corner outfielder, Ramirez is still the cream of the crop, with Dunn coming in over one win less valuable. Griffey is essentially the definition of a replacement player, and the rest project as below average players. In Burrell’s case, he projects as an average player next year, but at his age, a sharper decline isn’t out of the question. How about if they were to serve as designated hitters instead of outfielders?

To convert to designated hitters, we prorate the -17.5 positional adjustment per 162 games and get rid of the UZR projections. This bumps up the value of Burrell, Abreu, Dunn, Manny, and Griffey. Anderson, who projects to be below average offensively, loses value.

Burrell shifts from +1.97 to +2.20. Abreu from +1.46 to +1.88. Dunn from +2.36 to +2.58. Manny from +3.51 to +3.70. And Griffey from +0.10 to +0.60. Anderson digresses from +1.05 to -0.30, becoming a below replacement level player if he signs as a designated hitter. Translated to dollars, here are the discrepancies between being a LF and DH:

Name       LF WAR   LF FMV    DH WAR    DH FMV
Abreu      +1.46    $7.30     +1.88     $9.40
Anderson   +1.05    $5.20     -0.30     $0.40
Burrell    +1.97    $9.85     +2.20    $11.00
Dunn       +2.36   $11.80     +2.58    $12.90
Griffey    +0.10    $0.50     +0.60     $3.00
Ramirez    +3.51   $17.55     +3.70    $18.50

These results suggest that everyone but Anderson would better serve their team as a designated hitter than leftfielder. For teams, perhaps the most financially interesting dilemma is how much to offer these players given how many of them are on the market. If teams can sign these players for their leftfield fair market value and play them at DH, they will get a steal of sorts. But, if the Ibanez signing is a sign of things to come, teams still do not understand the value of defense.

Still, the calendar year is almost over and these six players are yet to find new homes. A couple may get the paydays initially sought, but others may have to substantially lower their requests to garner a full year’s worth of playing time.

Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

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13 years ago

I believe that Tango & MGL found that DHs hit about 5 runs worse (over the course of a season) than they would be expected to if playing the field, so I don’t think it’s correct to simply assume that these corner outfielders would hit the same at DH. I think Tango’s -17.5 for DHs is really a -22.5 positional adjustment combined with a +5 to account for the “DH penalty” that will be seen in the actual offensive stats.