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2016 Update

2016 Update, Left Field

ryan-braun-siFor no reason that I can specifically pinpoint, positions tend to go through cyclical ups and downs. For example, there are some great veterans at second base right now. And there are some great kids at shortstop. Left field isn’t completely barren, but there’s not a lot there today. Maybe that’s because a few of the all-time greats retired in the last decade or so: Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, and Tim Raines all have the credentials of Hall of Famers, yet are on the outside looking in for reasons of PEDs, eligibility, and insanity, respectively. And let’s not forget Rickey Henderson either.

Today makes the fifth in our series of post-season update posts going through the game position by position. We’ve already seen 1B, 2B, 3B, and SS. Still to come are CF, RF, C, RP, LHP, RHP, and managers.

Let’s get to our underwhelming list.

Ryan Braun
2016 BBREF WAR:
4.4

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 38
Eric: 39

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 35
Eric: 36, tied with Jim Rice

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Lou Brock, Kim Rice, and George Burns
Eric: Carl Crawford, Matt Holliday, and Mike Smith

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Mike Smith, Charlie Keller, Brian Downing, and Luis Gonzalez
Eric: Rice, George J. Burns, Charley Jones, Ken Williams, Kip Selbach, Luis Gonzlez, and possibly George Foster

Current career trajectory:
Braun has come back nicely from injury and infamy with two years of solid above-average performance. He’s made himself into a decent fielder, had his best offensive season in years, and despite playing the outfield corners retains at least average base running ability. The MVP years are over, but there’s some life left in his career.

HoME Outlook:
Not as bad as you might think. A graceful decline into his late thirties could get him to the borderline. If there’s a big year left in that bat, he could be a dark horse candidate.

Matt Holliday
2016 BBREF WAR:
0.3

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 40
Eric: 37

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 39
Eric: 38

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Charley Jones
Eric: Nada

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Nobody.
Eric: No dice

Current career trajectory:
Aside from hitting his 300th home run and posting his 2000th hit, it would seem that the book on Holliday is largely closed. He’ll turn 37 about when the calendar does. Also, he’s sure to get bought out by the Cards for $1 million rather than giving him $17 million to play, so he’s going to be a man looking for a team. He’ll reach his milestones, but as a player two years removed from his last 1-win season, I wouldn’t expect much more.

HoME Outlook:
He’s already topped Chick Hafey and Heinie Manush among Hall left fielders. With a little push, he can get past Lou Brock too. Without the connections of Hafey and Manush or the bases of Brock, he stands little shot of ever getting into the Hall. And as far as the HoME goes, there’s no shot.

Carl Crawford
2016 BBREF WAR:
-1.0

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 40
Eric: 38

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 41
Eric: 39

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: He fell behind Charley Jones.
Eric: Yeah, no

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: If someone allowed him to keep playing, he’s fall behind Augie Galan too.
Eric: Error: dividing by lousy. Unable to compute. Not enough system resources. Excel shutting down.

Current career trajectory:
Is laying broken on the ground a trajectory?

HoME Outlook:
Of course, no. But I want to take a moment and ask, What the hell happened here? Crawford seemed like an odds-on favorite for 3,000 hits and a decent shot at the HoME borderline just six years ago. He’d come off a huge season at age 28, signed a gigantic contract with the BoSox, and after nine years in the league had racked up 38 WAR (my adjusted version). In the six years since, he’s earned 4.2 WAR, been hurt a lot, and completely lost all his skills. This is one of the most stunning collapses we’ve seen in a long time, in part because it started at age 29 and happened to one of the most athletically gifted players in the game. The beginning of the end happened somewhere in the ill-fated 2011 season. He had a lot of nagging owies that year, and ultimately required wrist surgery. Sox fans know that wrist injuries can decimate a hitter because that happened to Nomar. Yankee fans saw it happen to Jesse Barfield. The injuries kept coming, and the one-time athletic specimen has been reduced to a AAA or AAAA player. Sad considering how much talent and natural ability he showed in the first act of his career.

Alex Gordon
2016 BBREF WAR:
0.8

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 43
Eric: 50

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 43
Eric: 49

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Nobody.
Eric: Moises Alou

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Again, nobody.
Eric: Dusty Baker and maybe, just maybe, Del Ennis

Current career trajectory:
Alex Gordon was a very, very good player from 2011-2014. Nobody can ever take that away from him. But much of that goodness was based on his defense, something at which he no longer excels as he enters his age-33 season. And this past year he was just an atrocious hitter too, especially for a corner outfielder. Just 16 doubles in 445 at-bats. That’s pretty shocking for a guy who once led baseball in two-baggers. Nothing much is going to become of him.

HoME Outlook:
He doesn’t have a real prayer. If there’s something to which he can aspire, it’s passing Brock and Jim Rice on the all-time list. That will have to be Gordon’s personal Hall/HoME.

Carlos Gonzalez
2016 BBREF WAR:
2.2

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: 64
Eric: 62

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 61
Eric: 58

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Topsy Hartsel, Bob Meusel, and Chick Hafey
Eric: Lefty O’Doul, B.J. Surhoff, Hafey, and Meusel

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Tip O’Neill, Lefty O’Doul, and B.J. Surhoff
Eric: Tip O’Neill

Current career trajectory:
Carlos Gonzalez is a nice player. He turns 31 in October, so there’s a chance that he can keep things up for a few years. The good news is that the last two years are the only two of his career that he’s reached 150 games. The bad is that he’s only played like an All Star once or twice ever.

HoME Outlook:
He stands just about no chance.

Brett Gardner
2016 BBREF WAR:
3.4

Rank at the position after 2015:
Miller: Not on the board, but ahead of guys at the bottom.
Eric: 61 at best, but my LF rankings stop there, though he was better than Greg Luzinski

Rank at the position after 2016:
Miller: 65
Eric: Pretty much the same

Who’d he pass in 2016?
Miller: Nobody on my board.
Eric: Next question

Who’s next with the same season in 2017?
Miller: Topsy Hartsel, Bob Meusel, and Chick Hafey
Eric: Topsy Hartsel (they don’t name ‘em like that anymore)

Current career trajectory:
Gardner’s career prospects looked awfully bright after a wonderful age-26 season in 2016. Since then he’s been more of an above-average plugger. He appears to be slowly declining as his foot speed ebbs and what power he had begins to dissipate. But I’m sure he’s a True Yankee™.

HoME Outlook:
Nonexistent.

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