Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Cards Over The Last 32 Seasons - Left Field

I finally made a single choice for Torre Era 2nd base, so that post has been updated. On to left field. It's not a position that's had much long-term stability. Lots of people for 3 or 4 seasons, most of them average players at best. Only a few standouts.

Herzog Era: 4

Best: Vince Coleman may have the longevity, but Lonnie Smith's got the performance. Coleman, over 6 years, averaged 1.7 WAR/162. Most damning, for a guy who hit leadoff anyway, is his .322 OBP. The average of 116 strikeouts per 162 games isn't great either, since a guy with his speed is always a threat to get on, but not if he isn't making contact.

Lonnie, on the other hand, was a 4 WAR/162 guy for three seasons. Most of that is his outstanding 1982, but that doesn't make it count for less. Lonnie had a bit of power (117 points for his ISO), an OBP of almost .370, and while he can't match Coleman's stolen base totals, 61 steals per 162 games is nothing to sneeze at.

Worst: For some reason when Herzog took over in 1980, he opted to use his backup catcher in left field frequently. Maybe Bobby Bonds was hurt a lot, or Herzog didn't like him, I don't know. Either way, Terry Kennedy was exactly replacement level that season.

Torre Era: 2

Best: 1990 actually was one of Coleman's better seasons overall. But it's only a third of a season under Torre, and it isn't appreciably better than Bernard Gilkey's average from 91-95. Gilkey's average isn't as good, but his walk rate is high enough to give him the superior OBP, and his ISO beats Coleman's by 40 points. Gilkey was also usually a fair defender,

Worst: I'm not giving this to Coleman, because his performance is too good to merit it.

LaRussa Era: 8

Best: The best performer is Albert Pujols. His average of 8.6 WAR/162 is a full 3 wins better than the next guy. But it seems wrong to count him as TLR's first baseman and left fielder. Besides, he was only there two seasons. What are the other options? Ron Gant was starter for three years, averaged 2.4 WAR/162 (accompanied by a .332 OBP and 149 strikeouts). Ray Lankford was starter for 4 years, at 2.2 WAR/162 (with 157 strikeouts, but a .363 OBP). The best answer is Matt Holliday (though Gant should probably earn points for feuding with LaRussa during and after his time in St. Louis.)

Anyway, Holliday's been the starter for 3 years now (really 2 and one-third if we consider when he arrived), has a 5.6 WAR/162, good offensive numbers, slightly above-average defense. There's really no one else with the combination of time served and performance. Except Albert, of course, but I already explained that.

Worst: It's either So Taguchi or Chris Duncan. They were each starter for one season. They were each worth about 0.4 WAR/162. Taguchi had mostly lost his starting job to Duncan near the end of '06, but Duncan mostly lost his due to injury and Skip Schumaker in 2007. Taguchi's worth is from his defense, because it sure isn't going to be that .686 OPS. Duncan's value is entirely based on his offense, and he was actually a fairly valuable hitter in 2007. It's just that he was an abysmal fielder. Worse than Lance Berkman was last year, actually. I don't think the Cardinals really planned for Taguchi to be such a prominent player in their outfield in 2006, so I'm giving the nod to Chris Duncan.

Next time we move to center field. A position that's not had too many starters over the years.

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