A three year Indians review: Left Field
By Jeff Ellis
August 18, 2013
It is time to continue with the three-year comparisons for the Indians. At this point, it is too late in the year to do half-season comparisons, so I will be doing full season versus this year. Since there's only about 40 games left in the year this comparison will be close but not perfect.
Both slash lines and wRC+ are rate-based stats, so this comparison should be fine. WAR is a bit of an issue though as I will be comparing a stat which builds based on play. In order to make the comparison, I am going to add a 25 percent increase to the current total since the season is three quarters done. I will show both numbers though just for thoroughness.
This time I will look at left field, which is a spot that has primarily been manned by the same player since 2011, and this will allow us to see the growth of one Michael Brantley. A corner outfield spot is viewed as a position that needs to be a run producer, and that has not been the case for the corner position over the past few years for the Indians dating back to the team's last playoff run in 2007.
2011 Michael Brantley .266/.318/.384 496 PA
2012 Shelley Duncan .203/.281/.388 264 PA
2013 Michael Brantley .281/.331/.395 463 PA
Brantley has given the Indians solid production. In fact, compared to the two-headed monster of terrible that was Duncan and Johnny Damon last season, he has been fantastic. The issue is at the end of the day he is basically a below average player for a corner outfielder. His numbers are passable but nothing to really get excited about in left field. There is not much power in his bat, and his OBP is okay but really seems to be maxed out as well. There is not a lot of development left, and he basically is what he is: a solid player.
For this stat remember anything below 0 is below replacement level, 2+ is a starter, 5+ is an All Star.
2011 Michael Brantley 1.3
2012 Shelley Duncan -.2
2013 Michael Brantley 1.4 current (1.75 projected)
I know it might seem weird that in spite of a better slash line, Brantley's WAR has not improved that much. The reason is that his defense has actually gotten worst the past few years by ratings. I know everyone is thinking about all those outfield assists, but that unfortunately doesn't balance out the other issues. His WAR is below average for a starter and this year, he is rated 20th among left fielders in terms of WAR. While his production would work for centerfield, it just has not lived up to what teams expect out of the corner outfield position. He is in the bottom half of most metrics for his position.
For this, remember 100 is average and 120 is great; it means the player produces 20% more runs than your average starter.
2011 Michael Brantley 95
2012 Shelley Duncan 87
2013 Michael Brantley 104
Again, we see solid improvement here, and a guy who is about a league-average hitter. The production at the position is a big improvement, but it is still not what is expected for the position. Frankly, going forward this is a position the team should look to improve. I know Dr. Smooth is a big deal to Indians fans, but his production just hasn't justified making him a part of the long-term plans for the Indians.
In spite of everything I have written though, this is still the best production this team has had at the position and it's a clear win for the 2013 Indians. For the record, it's now 4-2-1 for the Indians line up this year against the previous two years.
Also, here is the compiled WAR and wRC+ for this team vs. 2011 and 2013.
2011 vs. 20013 WAR +3.25 wRC+ +83
2012 vs. 2013 WAR + 3.45 wRC+ +54
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I've been watching Brantley make running catches on the warning track and in the gap all year that Duncan and Damon would have waved at. How many runs has that saved?
Offensively, I think there should be more emphasis put on at-bats with RISP in close games than on overall numbers, which also takes into account meaningless at-bats late in games that have already been decided.
Some at-bats are just WAY more important than others and Brantley has excelled in those at-bats this year.
IMO, a two-out single with a runner on 3rd is just as good as a bases empty HR. Especially if the single comes late in a tie game while the HR comes in a lost cause.