Scouting the Corner Outfielders

added 11/10/2005 by Scott Barzilla

I could divide right and left fielders, but they are so interchangeable that it doesn’t make much sense. If we assume that Jeff Bagwell will not be able to play everyday, the Astros could sign a left fielder or sign a right fielder and move Jason Lane to left field. Either way, we are concerned primarily concerned with the performance of left fielder of the month club last season. At any one time you could have had Chris Burke, Todd Self, Luke Scott, Mike Lamb, or Lance Berkman.


         Hits EBH   HR   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS 
Pirates	  185  84   30  .309  .408  .559  .967
Marlins	  212  75   28  .330  .392  .543  .935
Reds	  162  80   36  .274  .394  .534  .928	
Phillies  167  61   32  .274  .376  .480  .856
Mets	  165  64   35  .272  .358  .497  .855
Cardinals 174  65   31  .281  .344  .489  .833
Giants	  178  62   23  .294  .357  .460  .817
Brewers	  165  74   32  .264  .324  .484  .808
Rockies	  186  58   23  .290  .342  .465  .807
Dbacks	  169  63   24  .265  .355  .441  .796
Padres	  161  49   21  .262  .360  .411  .771	
Cubs	  161  55   17  .265  .319  .418  .738
Braves	  157  50   16  .260  .337  .401  .737
Nats	  153  59   14  .251  .321  .404  .725	
Astros	  149  54   14  .244  .310  .388  .698
Dodgers	  124  42   10  .212  .279  .324  .603

I think I’m detecting a trend here. We have looked at three positions and the Astros are 15th in all three. If people point to the outfield as the key spot in the off-season they do have some cause. The Astros are further away from the median in left field than they were at shortstop and catcher. Like with the catchers, there are two categories of outfielders we can look at: the elite and the bargains. Unlike the shortstop position, there is no need to look at the current cast of characters on the roster. We know what we have going on there.

The Elite

On the free agent front, we have the likes of Brian Giles, Bernie Williams, and Johnny Damon. On the trade front we know that Manny Ramirez is available. Before we go over the multitude of issues we should take a look at what the four players have produced the last three seasons. Manny Ramirez has a fixed salary (20 million a season) and would demand quite a bit in return, but we’ll include him in the exercise anyway to demonstrate talent.


               Hits   BB  EBH   HR   AVG  OBP  SLG   OPS
Johnny Damon    552  197  162   42  .298 .364 .440  .804 
Brian Giles     484  313  184   58  .294 .407 .489  .896
Manny Ramirez   522  259  237  125  .309 .404 .598 1.002	
Bernie Williams 385  209  119   49  .258 .350 .406  .756

Johnny Damon and Bernie Williams are not really elite outfielders according to the numbers, but someone will be stupid enough to give them huge dollars. This leaves us with Brian Giles and Manny Ramirez. We know Ramirez is better, but how much better is he than Giles? Let’s compare their home and road numbers from last season to see how much effect ballparks have.


               Hits  BB  EBH  HR   AVG  OBP  SLG   OPS
Giles Home       71  49   23   6  .267 .381 .417  .798	
Ramirez Home     78  41   35  22  .307 .403 .618 1.021

Giles Away       93  70   38   9  .333 .467 .545 1.012	
Ramirez Away     84  39   41  23  .280 .363 .573  .936

Manny Ramirez can hit anywhere and that is why the Red Sox pay him twenty million a season. Yet, we see that Giles goes from Clark Kent to Superman on the road. Is this a fluke? Petco Park has had a park factor of 92 and 80 in the two seasons it has been open. Conversely, Minute Maid Park has had a park factor of 100 and 95 the last two seasons. In other words, his numbers should come closer to the road numbers than the home numbers almost anywhere else. Before we decide, let’s take a look at their peripheral offensive numbers and defensive numbers.


          SO   BB   Ratio   GIDP   SAC   SF
Giles	 202  313   0.645    38     0    21
Ramirez	 337  259   1.301    59     0    18

       FRAR  FRAA
Giles       13   -15	
Ramirez      1   -31

This is why the Red Sox are trying to trade Manny Ramirez. No one would say Giles was a better player than Ramirez, but when you add in the peripheral offensive numbers (particularly a very impressive SO/BB ratio) and the defense can we say that Ramirez is eight or ten million dollars better? Of course, we will get to the same question when we look

The Bargains

In addition to finding cheaper options here you will also notice that there are many more of these players. Included in this list are the likes of Jeromy Burnitz, Juan Encarnacion, Reggie Sanders, Preston Wilson, Rondell White, Jacque Jones, and Matt Lawton.


               Hits EBH   HR   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
Burnitz        420  181   92  .261  .327  .492  .819
Encarnacion    421  156   51  .265  .320  .434  .754
Sanders        325  151   74  .272  .333  .530  .863
Wilson         354  153   67  .268  .332  .487  .819 
White          379  130   53  .289  .341  .476  .807
Jones          428  146   63  .268  .322  .443  .765
Lawton         384  123   48  .262  .357  .412  .769

All of these guys have warts. That is why they are in the bargain bin. In fact, with the exception of Matt Lawton (who will spend the first ten games suspended for steroids) all of these players had OBPs between .320 and .341. However, all but three of these guys had OPS marks above .800 over the last three seasons. If we assume that Brian Giles is a .900 OPS player we have to ask the question: how much is 100 extra OPS points really worth?

When you travel in sabermetric circles you get the opportunity to meet a lot of very intelligent people. One of those is Sandy Hemenway. Hemenway noticed that clubs pay as much as five, six, or ten million more for a player with a 900 OPS over a player with an 800 OPS, yet the cost of going from 700 to 800 may be only a million or two. Many of us would love to have Brian Giles, but the Astros have budget concerns (as we have heard over and over). If Drayton McLane came forward and said we could have ten million dollars to spend on free agents (he would pick up the tab on Clemens and arbitration raises) would you rather have only Brian Giles or one of the above outfielders and Bengie Molina? You could even throw in a veteran reliever into that equation.

The pure fan in me would rather see Brian Giles in an Astros uniform. Personally, I love watching hitters that have a full command of the strike zone. At least, I like watching them when they’re wearing my team’s uniform. Yet, I cannot deny my head in this case and it tells me that we are better spreading the wealth around to two or three players. Let’s see which one fits our clutch hitting concerns. We’ll eliminate Lawton because of his suspension.


             SO   BB   Ratio  GIDP   SAC   SF
Burnitz     345  150   2.300    24     1    9
Encarnacion 272  116   2.344    37    10   11
Sanders     303   99   3.061    23     1    7			
Wilson      336  116   2.897    50     1    6
White       204   87   2.344    34     0   12
Jones       342  112   3.054    39     5   10

Now, you see the source of the warts. Honestly, there isn’t much of a difference here in the grand scheme of things. All of them strike out too much and walk not enough. If I were forced to pick one from this chart it would be Rondell White because he didn’t strike out as often as the others, but he also didn’t draw as many walks. Before I make up my mind, I’m going to look at the defensive numbers.


             FRAR    FRAA
Burnitz        35      -6
Encarnacion    20     -16
Sanders        26       2	
Wilson         12     -26
White          10      -8
Jones          46      13

If I had to pick the top three candidates it would be Jacque Jones, then Reggie Sanders, and then Jeromy Burnitz. Who knows, maybe Burnitz would be willing to take a little less than five million to come back home and win a pennant. Jones could be on the outs in Minnesota and might fly under the radar. Reggie Sanders might get ushered out of Saint Louis if they go after bigger fish as well. He has played for nearly everyone, so maybe he’ll give Houston a try. What’s the point? In terms of value, there is very little difference between those three or even Rondell White below that. The one that takes the cheapest deal wins.