Lyle Spencer Is Probably Really Wrong

A while ago, ESPN.com churned out a bunch of columns touting the best units (outfield, bullpen, infield, etc.) in baseball. One writer (who I strongly suspect was Jayson Stark) said the Angels had the best outfield in the majors. I cringed, made a mental note to post, and then forgot about it completely. But then I saw this, and I could not let it go a second time.

To be fair, the headline is says the Angels’ outfield could be the best. Upon further statistical analysis, however, I think even “could” is a stretch.

“Gary’s going to make a difference in center as far as our consistency is concerned,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “The key in the corners with Garret and Vlad is health. When Vlad’s knees feel good, he covers ground. When Garret is healthy, this guy can be the best left fielder in the league. He’s going to control the running game from the corner.”

I’m not even sure what the first sentence means – Gary Matthews will consistently play CF, unlike his predecessor who would only go out there sporadically? Baseball is not a game of consistent results. The word “slump” pretty much exists because of baseball. What matters are a player’s final numbers at the end of the year, and Matthews’ are usually not good. Matthews broke out at age 32 last year (cough cough steroids + hitters’ park cough cough), posting a 119 OPS+ with a 5.8 WARP1. This is compared to his career 83 OPS+ and 1.2 WARP1 before 2006. He had a freaking career year. He will probably never do that again (without steroids).

The rest of Scioscia’s comment cracks me up. Garret Anderson hasn’t been good for a few years now, and only has two distinctly above-average years in his career (2002, 2003). Anderson has even been healthy recently – which completely contradicts Scioscia’s statement – and has continued to be average. So now he has no excuse. Bottom line: he’s 34 and he ain’t getting any better than average, which is his current skill level.

If they match their offensive numbers from 2006, Anderson, Matthews and Guerrero would combine to hit .308 with 69 homers and 280 RBIs. That’s not out of the question, either. Anderson had a somewhat substandard season by his standards in 2006 and Guerrero was banging his way through knee pain as Matthews was having his career year in Texas.

Please stop using batting average and RBIs as a measure of a player’s offensive value, and no they won’t match their offensive numbers from 2006. Anderson is old and declining. The reason he had a substandard season is because of this. And you’re right Lyle, Matthews was having a career year at 32 years old when he had never done anything remotely close to that before because he wasn’t on steroids before last year. Vlad is fine.

Matthews played in the All-Star Game for the first time — and marked the occasion with a single in his only at-bat.

Sweet.

I don’t think the Angels’ outfield will be bad. It will probably be about average. The point is that the Angels’ outfield will definitely not be among the best in baseball. The premise that both Gary Matthews and Garret Anderson will improve at this point is nuts. An outfield comprised of two below-average players and one above-average cannot, by definition, be among the best. Better choices include: the Red Sox, Yankees, Rockies, Tigers, Devil Rays (!) and Blue Jays.

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