The 5 (or so) Average-est Position Players of 2009

This June I posted a ranking of the “average-est” positional players in baseball (according to current WAR). R.J. liked it so much that he “borrowed” the idea for a post later in the summer. It’s just a toy stat, but a fun one. Simply subtract the “replacement” runs from a players contribution, and the absolute value of the remaining runs is the amount a position player is away from league average. (It’s not as straightforward with pitching.) Part of the fun is seeing the different ways one can get to be league average in relation to hitting, fielding, and positional value. So now that the season is over, who were the average-est position players of 2009?

The number after the player’s name is the players “absolute” difference from average according to stats here at FanGraphs (remember the usual qualifications and take this with grain of salt). Unlike earlier in the season, there are fewer players at the extremes of hitting and fielding value.

5) Clint Barmes (1.3). Maybe I just don’t follow the NL West closely enough, but am I the only one who gets this guy mixed up with Garrett Atkins? I shouldn’t, because despite being about as bad at the plate as Atkins this season, he’s a far better defender. I was surprised to see that Barmes has logged more career innings at SS than 2B, and has performed well there (+6.2 career UZR/150).

4) Magglio Ordonez (0.8). This is a shock, given just how public Ordonez’ struggles with the bat this season were. Well, at least the Tigers avoided triggering that massive vesting option for 2010. Oh, wait.

[Bengie Molina (0.7). It’s the Giants’ awesome cleanup hitter! Better than some might think… doesn’t take much for a catcher. However, I decided he shouldn’t count since FanGraphs WAR doesn’t currently incorporate catcher defense. If you do include one of the available measures for 2009 catcher defense, Molina’s clearly below average. Don’t worry Giants fans, your boys aren’t totally out of it…]

3) Aaron Rowand (0.7). I don’t think this is what the Giants were looking for when they signed him. Not horrible or great in any one area — slightly below average as a hitter, slightly above average as a defensive center fielder.

2) Jimmy Rollins (0.3). So close! Rollins had a dreadful year with the bat (although he rebounded in the second half), and a down year in the field (for him) according to UZR, but for a shortstop, that’s good enough to be a league-average player. I’ll be posting more on him in a few days.

1) Ryan Ludwick (0.0). At 18.1 RAR and with 18.1 replacement runs, Ludwick was a perfectly average positional player of 2009. While he was slightly above average as a hitter (5.3) and fielder (1.3), he played a less demanding corner outfield position for -6.4. It’s a far cry from 2008’s 5.6 WAR, and a lesson in regression to the mean, but he was still a bargain at $3.7M. Congratulations on your perfect adequacy, Mr. Ludwick! No wonder you made that cameo on Shaq Vs.

For Average-ness rankings of all qualified 2009 position players, click here.

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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

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