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.

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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

9 Responses to “2009 Replacement Level: Left Field”

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  1. Matthew A. says:

    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.

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  2. Jerry says:

    Great stuff, Dave. Keep it coming.

    On an aside, given the direction the Mariner’s new FO is headed, it may be time to consider changing your signature blurb… :)

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  3. alskor says:

    ((.315 – .330) / 1.20) * 600 = -7.5

    Where can I find an explanation of this formula…? Why is .330 the bench mark for wOBA. I would assume that’s default league scale it to match OBP.

    Was this formula explained and i missed it? I went back through each of these replacement level articles and all the Win value explained stuff… cant find the explanation.

    I thought I had it figured out, but if I take a players wOBA on their player page and run it through this formula I dont get the same “Batting” runs value as on the player pages. For instance, Youkilis, 2007: ((.373 wOBA – .330)/ 1.20) * 600 = 21.5… Yet his batting runs that year under the value section are listed as 19.2.

    Am I being dense here and missing something obvious…?

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      We’re using .330 because that’s the league average wOBA in the CHONE projections for 2009. .330 is just a stand in for whatever league average wOBA was in any given year.

      In ’07, league average wOBA was .331, and then the Batting Runs also include a park factor to adjust for Fenway. We talked about park factors a month or so ago, and listed the factors we’re using here on the site.

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  4. Trenchtown says:

    Dave I have a concern, exactly what are your qualifications for replacement level/freely available talent? What is to stop you from reverse engineering this by figuring that replacement level is about 2 wins below average and then cherry picking examples to come up with a group whose aggregate works out to be -2 wins? Please note I am not excusing you of this in any way I was just wondering what the counter to that argument would be and what your selection process is.

    Just a quick example I would give is that Guillermo Quiroz of the Orioles is a replacement level player in my opinion who has been freely available for the past several offseasons, but was not included in the catcher’s portion, or Michael Aubrey for first base? Are 6-8 guys really a large enough sample to draw conclusions from? I understand that there are time constraints, I am just really curious how you chose the players in the group samples

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    • NadavT says:


      Dave’s not drawing conclusions — he’s just providing illustrative examples. In the first post in this series, he explained that he’s choosing his examples from the pool of players who have signed minor league contracts. These are players who are no longer prospects and who have not been valued highly enough to merit a major league roster spot.

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      • Trenchtown says:

        OK I looked over the previous posts a couple times to see if I was missing something, I must have missed it regardless.

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