Monday, March 27, 2006

Garret Anderson made a surprise return to left field yesterday, possibly nipping in the bud all the fantasies we had of putting Juan Rivera in left field while Garret was DH'd or DL'd.

Garret, as you know, prefers to play in the field than to DH, and as he's a real person and not a character in a video game, that has to be respected to some degree. On the one hand, you would like to see the team put its best defense out there. On the other, you want to keep your best players happy and therefore (hopefully) productive, which can theoretically balance out whatever gain you could make by doing things the right way.

As much as I'd like to see Rivera in the field when he's playing, I'm pretty confident that there will be enough scrapes and bruises suffered by our outfielders over the course of this season that he'll get plenty of time out there. So we might as well accept the fact that as long as Garret is healthy enough to play the field (and we should also note that though he's no longer the outstanding defensive left fielder he once was, he is yet to be a real liability), he's going to.


Quick addendum to the above: another thing the media likes to point to is that Garret hits much better when he plays as a defender than as a DH. Using an offensive measure called Weighted On Base Average (wOBA) from The Book (a review of which I hope to have completed this week), which is basically Runs Per Plate Appearance scaled to OBP (so average is around .340), we see that last year Garret put up a healthy .353 wOBA as a LF and a horrific .217 as a DH. Going all the way back through 2000, we find that he's had a .353 while in the field (damn consistent) and .304 at DH.

This is not, however, any kind of evidence for him being a better hitter when he's not a designated one. For one, he's only had 414 AB as a DH since 2000, so that's a pretty small sample. For another, when is he DH'ing? Well, he usually DHes when he's dinged up, a little hurt, or coming back from injury. So of course he doesn't hit as well, because if he were fully capable physically, he'd be playing in the field!

(By the way, all the splits I refer to above come from David Pinto's most excellent database.)

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