I saw an interesting post over on Baseball Reference about how badly the AL left fielders were hitting based on OPS+. Going into Sunday night’s game with the Reds I thought I’d take a look at where we stand offensively position by position with the league. Personally I think OPS (on base + slugging) is an overrated stat that favors long ball hitters. I like to look at OBP because says a lot about the player’s ability at the plate. I also consider RBI and runs scored important stats; more important that slugging in many ways so I looked at runs produced. For those who aren’t familiar with the latter two there’s an article by TangoTiger that gets into detail. In essence runs produced is RBI+Runs-HR. I used the adjustment he suggests in his piece that takes RP and turns it into runs created. All a bit techy I guess but here’s what I found.
As you might guess, Chipper Jones, Brian McCann and Martin Prado are near the top in everything. Prado’s OBP is12th but the results of his contribution rank him higher than many with a better number. Dan Uggla is dead last in OBP and his contributions place him near the bottom as well in run categories. while Nate McLouth’s OBP is near the middle his run contribution numbers are nearer the bottom. Alex Gonzales hits are more timely than I remembered but he’s way behind Starlin Castro, Ronny Cedeno, Ryan Theriot and even the Astros Angel Sanchez. This of course doesn’t reflect the superiority of his defense this year over. His total zone fielding number is +10 softening the blow of his strike outs; he has the second most of all shortstops (39) behind Ian Desmond (52.)
Freddie Freeman holds his own in some pretty tough company at first base with Joey Votto, Prince Fielder, and Albert Pujols in the group to name but three. He matches Ryan Howard for OBP but behind the usual suspects for run contribution. I was a bit surprised that Carlos Pena and Brett Wallace were ahead of him in that area albeit on 4 runs or so each.
What’s all this mean? It illuminates what we already think we know. If runs are scored McCann, Jones and Prado are usually in the middle of it. If they don’t do it we struggle to score. It tells us as well that many of our regular starters (Jordan Schafer, Joe Mather and David Ross don’t have enough at bats to be significant) are playing like members of teams who have no hope of reaching the post season this year; San Diego and Pittsburgh to name two.
A winning team needs production from top to bottom of the lineup and not just in streaks against mediocre pitching. The recent addition of Jordan Schafer has given us life at the top and grouped the run producers so that once we get a man on it’s really hard to get us out. With Uggla struggling there’s gap between those guys and Freddie Freeman’s newly hot bat. Uggla admits to feeling the pressure of his contract and his slow start. The more he feels it the worse it gets he has to relax and stop jumping at the first pitch. Winning regularly could ease that pressure/
The word on Jason Heyward is that even picking up a broom hurts his shoulder. That’s some wear and tear alright and it means a bigger load on Eric Hinske and Joe Mather who have responded well so far. The question is, can they hold on to that to their hot bats? If they do we can put together a streak and give Uggla time to get hot. Lets hope that happens because a hot Uggla can carry a cold team.