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Cincinnati Reds 2019 Positional Recap - Left Field

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Let’s take a look at how left field performed in the 2019 season.

MLB: AUG 12 Reds at Nationals Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2019 season is just about a wrap, with just two teams remaining in the postseason. Since the Reds are decidedly not one of those two teams, now is a good a time as any to start taking a look at just how the 2019 season broke down for the Reds.

To do this, I’ve decided to separate out the performances at each position and look at them relative to the rest of Major League Baseball. We’ll also list out the performances of each player at the position, and then pontificate about, well, whatever I find particularly noteworthy. Maybe we’ll even try to fix something along the way.

Today, we start with left field.

Reds LF - Team

WAA (MLB Rank) wRC+ PA AVG OBP SLG ISO wOBA BB/K
WAA (MLB Rank) wRC+ PA AVG OBP SLG ISO wOBA BB/K
-1.8 (26) 100 (16) 673 (24) 0.268 (12) 0.336 (13) 0.446 (17) 0.179 (17) 0.331 (14) 0.4 (15)

Here’s the Wins Above Average note, courtesy of Baseball Reference: WAR and Wins Above Average are computed at the team/position level by prorating the players’ team-season totals by time played at the position, so they may not represent exactly what the player did at that position, but rather it assumes they were equally valued at each position. Fielding Runs is based on actual time at the position.

So with that out of the way, Reds left fielders ranked pretty low in Major League Baseball in WAA. As you can see relative to the rest of the rankings, it has to do mostly with the poopy defense that the Reds collectively play out there, but we’ll have a bit more on that in a second.

Offensively, Reds left fielders rank right about in the middle of the pack. Their collective wRC+ was exactly league average at 100, and the rest of the relevant statistics put them at or around 15th of 30. Interestingly, despite Jesse Winker’s somewhat unexpected power binge and dip in what we expected his OBP levels could reach, Reds left fielders on the whole were a touch below average in the power department while being a bit above average in on base percentage.

Granted, Winker only accounted for 35% of the plate appearances at the position, but he was the primary player there.

About that.

Reds LF - Players

Player PA AVG OBP SLG ISO BB/K wOBA wRC+ UZR/150 Innings (Defense)
Player PA AVG OBP SLG ISO BB/K wOBA wRC+ UZR/150 Innings (Defense)
Jesse Winker 237 0.283 0.359 0.491 0.207 0.5 0.354 116 -3.5 487
Phil Ervin 137 0.320 0.365 0.496 0.176 0.3 0.360 120 -10.7 313.2
Josh VanMeter 132 0.217 0.311 0.400 0.183 0.6 0.304 83 -3.1 270.1
Jose Peraza 59 0.393 0.424 0.589 0.196 0.4 0.426 162 -14.2 135
Matt Kemp 58 0.196 0.207 0.286 0.089 0.1 0.207 19 -30.9 124
Derek Dietrich 35 0.111 0.314 0.259 0.148 0.1 0.279 66 -21.2 71.1
Brian O'Grady 10 0.111 0.200 0.222 0.111 0.3 0.191 9 110.5 23
Scott Schebler 3 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0.000 -100 0 4.1
Michael Lorenzen 1 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0 0.000 -100 N/A 9

Jesse Winker, Phil Ervin, and Josh VanMeter accounted for almost exactly 75% of all plate appearances in left field, which is to be expected. Though, when I see the numbers, I was a little surprised that VanMeter nearly matched Ervin’s total out there, though that’s mostly due to Jesse Winker missing the last month and a half of the season to injury.

A couple of things: 1. Can we all just forget that Matt Kemp, Cincinnati Red, existed? He played nearly everyday in left field after the Reds broke spring training and it went, well, poorly. Nearly as poorly as you would’ve expected, really. At least he was really bad on defense!

Never forget that Matt Kemp in LF and Jesse Winker/Scott Schebler in CF was the grand master plan to keep Nick Senzel in AAA until he was “ready,” AKA until his service time was sufficiently manipulated. Senzel ended up being injured to begin the season, so there wasn’t much the Reds could’ve ended up doing... but this vague hand waving was the plan from Day 1.

Yikes.

2. I remember Jose Peraza getting some run in left field, but I didn’t guess it didn’t really feel like, essentially, three weeks of the season worth of run. And look! He was pretty good at the plate when starting out there, sample size be damned!

Turns out he was exactly as bad on defense as I remember, though.

About those defensive numbers: these are liable to be really, really wonky. UZR is fickle as hell, and doesn’t start to normalize until something like a year to three years worth of innings out there. Even then, defensive metrics on the whole are less exact than some of their offensive brethren. I’ve included them here, not necessarily because they say anything, but just because I think they’re generally interesting to see.

To that point; hoo boy look at all those negative values. I think at this point that it’s worth noting that Winker, who’s obviously had the most run out there, is getting better as far as UZR goes.

UZR is a counting stat, so it’ll build (or decline more) based upon the amount of time the player logs. Jesse Winker by URZ:

2018: 244.2 innings, -4.5 UZR
2019: 487 innings, -1.1 UZR

The sample size here is still incredibly small for the stat, but it did rate him better in a not-small way in more innings in 2019. So... neat!

Anyway, Jesse Winker and Phil Ervin are the names to focus on if we’re looking at all toward 2020. They received 55% of the plate appearances at the position, and it would’ve been much larger than that had it not been for Matt [REDACTED] and the injury to Winker.

And they were used together in a very specific way. For a non-insignificant part of the season when Ervin was with the big league club and Winker was healthy, they played in a platoon together, with Winker getting the majority of plate appearances vs. right handed pitchers and Ervin getting the chances against left handed pitchers.

Why?

Jesse Winker (2019 season vs. RHP, regardless of position): 334 PA, .285/.368/.519
Phil Ervin (2019 season, vs. LHP, regardless of position): 95 PA, .349/.411/.628

That’s a pretty small sample for Ervin vs. LHP...

Phil Ervin (MLB Career vs. LHP): 197 PA, .313/.371/.536

Ah, still really small, but we’re on to something here!

Look, if I had my druthers, I’d really like to see how Jesse Winker could progress when it comes to batting against left handed pitching. His approach at the plate and offensive instincts are too good for him to automatically be pigeon-holed into the left handed portion of an outfield platoon after 855 plate appearances.

Still, the Reds are talking the talk about being competitive, seriously competitive, in 2020. The time for seeing what you can get in development have passed. There’s an entire offseason left, of course, and Spring Training next March. And maybe Winker can show enough between now and then to carve out a bigger role in that platoon. Regardless, they need to put the players out there that will win, and to do that, they need to be in the best situations.

As the roster stands, the best situation is to let Jesse Winker take right handed pitching and Phil Ervin take left handers. There are things that could be added the roster, of course, and the Reds may or may not be interested in adding Marcell Ozuna to the mix.

Is it worth it? Or is the best course just using two players to field a good left fielder?