Dec
29

By the Deki-ade: Left field strengths

By

Throughout the latter half of the 1990s, the Yankees won without a true left field solution. They used Tim Raines and Chad Curtis, Ricky Ledee and Shane Spencer to try to fill the hole. It was not until 2003 with the arrival of Hideki Matsui that the Yankees had a true left field solution.

Now, as the Aughts came to a close, the Yankees’ left field position is again up for grabs. Johnny Damon is gone, and someone will step in to fill the hole. That is a concern for other posts. Today, as we continue our Yankees By the Decade retrospective, we come to toast the left fielders. The table below is those who made at least 10 appearances in left from 2000-2009.

  AB Hits 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB HBP K GDP BA OBP SLG
Hideki Matsui 2080 605 122 8 82 357 265 18 9 293 54 .291 .371 .475
Johnny Damon 974 293 61 6 35 146 109 1 2 142 12 .301 .372 .484
Melky Cabrera 569 157 32 3 11 64 58 2 3 65 14 .276 .345 .401
Chuck Knoblauch 424 104 14 2 7 27 45 1 8 52 9 .245 .329 .337
Rondell White 410 101 19 0 12 55 21 1 7 75 9 .246 .292 .380
Shane Spencer 387 106 22 1 14 67 26 1 3 76 8 .274 .320 .444
David Justice 201 67 13 0 17 42 25 1 1 25 1 .333 .406 .652
Xavier Nady 176 47 8 0 9 30 11 1 4 39 5 .267 .323 .466
Tony Womack 160 36 0 1 0 7 7 0 0 22 1 .225 .256 .237
Juan Rivera 160 38 12 0 2 15 9 1 0 21 10 .237 .275 .350
Ricky Ledee 148 41 11 1 6 27 22 2 1 28 6 .277 .370 .486
Luis Polonia 57 17 3 0 1 4 7 0 0 3 1 .298 .375 .404
Brett Gardner 56 8 1 0 0 6 4 0 1 17 0 .143 .210 .161
Ruben Sierra 51 17 8 1 0 9 2 1 0 9 1 .333 .358 .529
Karim Garcia 46 18 1 0 3 5 2 0 0 10 1 .391 .417 .609
Glenallen Hill 41 15 1 0 5 10 2 0 0 8 1 .366 .395 .756
Ryan Thompson 34 8 1 0 1 7 5 0 0 9 0 .235 .333 .353
Bubba Crosby 31 8 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 5 0 .258 .281 .355
Jerry Hairston 27 4 1 0 2 3 3 0 0 3 0 .148 .233 .407
Clay Bellinger 21 2 0 1 1 3 1 0 0 6 0 .095 .136 .333
Gerald Williams 16 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 7 0 .062 .118 .062
Totals 6303 1743 346 25 214 912 649 30 42 977 137 0.277 0.346 0.441

By virtue of playing time alone, Hideki Matsui is the left fielder of the decade. For a few years from 2003-2007, before his knees gave out, Matsui brought stability to the spot and man, did he hit. Over his 2080 left field at-bats, he hit .291/.371/.475 with 82 home runs and 357 RBIs.

Even with this gaudy counting stats, I’m a little hesitant to flat-out proclaim Matsui the best of the decade. The simple truth is that Matsui’s fielding in left was, for five years, atrocious. He never once put up a UZR better than -1.6, and his combined left field UZR for his time in the Bronx was -57.8. Without Matsui’s big bat, the Yanks would have been in deep trouble in left.

For the 2000s, though, the trend for the Yanks in left focused around a big bat with less emphasis on fielding. Johnny Damon, the successor to Matsui in left, put up nearly identical numbers to Matsui. He hit .301/.372/.484 and sported a better OPS out of left than Matsui did. For the first two seasons, Damon put up positive UZR totals in left, but in 2009, that figure dipped to -9.2. It was ugly for sure.

Before these two stalwarts of the late 2000s, the Yankees tried everyone. The Rondell White era was a misguided attempt to plug a hole left by the end of the Paul O’Neill era. Never able to stay healthy, White signed a multi-year deal with the Yanks, put up some atrocious numbers and was traded for Bubba Trammell. The two-year, $10-million deal White signed was one of the worst of the early 00s.

As the early years of the decade wore on, others came and went. The Yankees tried to put Chuck Knoblauch in the left field spot in 2001 after he couldn’t throw from second to first. They tried Melky Cabrera when Matsui went down with an injury in 2006. They even gave Ruben Sierra 51 at bats in the field during the mid-decade years.

Now, though, the era of Matsui and Damon is over. The Yanks’ DH went west, and the Yanks’ incumbent left field is trying to find some team willing to overpay him in both years and dollars. Maybe Damon will return; maybe Brett Gardner will fill the void. For the Yanks, that left field hole is nothing new, and as the decade ends, we will be Matsui, the man who received just 33 percent of all Yankee LF at-bats, as the position’s best.

Categories : Analysis
  • Doug

    Glenallen Hill OPSed 1.151 and he only got 41 ABs?

    Maybe he’s still available to fill our LF void ;-)

    • Nady Nation

      Roids.

    • Steve H

      Didn’t he hit a ball like 475+ feet in Wrigley?

      • Thomas

        Yeah I think so. I also believe he broke his bat checking his swing.

      • http://threequarters.cementhorizon.com/archives/kool%20aid%20man.bmp The Honorable Congressman Mondesi
        • Steve H

          Coudln’t find it in HD for me?

          • http://threequarters.cementhorizon.com/archives/kool%20aid%20man.bmp The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            You ungrateful little…

            I don’t think they broadcast Cubs games in HD in 2000.

            • Steve H

              Get in the Delorean and invent HD before 2000 so that I can see that juice-aided bomb. I’ve been to Wrigley, seeing it in person makes that even more impressive.

  • thurdonpaul

    i think thats a no-no

  • danny

    “Throughout the latter half of the 1990s, the Yankees won without a true left field solution.”

    the yankees were able to win without an all star left fielder? amazing.

    • Evil Empire

      Pfft that like has any relevance whatsoever in regards to the current roster

      ;-)

  • JMK aka The Overshare’s Excessive Back Hair Complex

    Buh bye.

  • Salty Buggah

    1.Glenallen Hill (1.151 OPS)

    2.David Justice (1.058 OPS)

    3.Karim Garcia (1.026 OPS)

    4.Ruben Sierra (.887 OPS)

    5.Ricky Ledee & Johnny Damon (.856 OPS)

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      I like that this is your thing.

      How about ole Brett the Jet? He seems to love LF.
      (ignoring all SSS screams)

      • Salty Buggah

        Heh yea, I find this ignoring sample size thing to be kinda amusing.

        Brett loves LF so much that all he did was dream about getting back there while batting.

  • pat

    Hmm Ryan Thompson is the only one I don’t remember.

    • Thomas

      I don’t remember the name either, but according to Wiki he is the Yankees who hit Bryce Florie in the face with a line drive (which I definitely remember watching).

      • http://threequarters.cementhorizon.com/archives/kool%20aid%20man.bmp The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        I was at that game, the sound was sickening. Obviously the sight was awful, too, but I swear I’ll never get that sound out of my head.

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    Deki-ade
    I get it. A play on the word “decade”. Good one.

    • Salty Buggah

      Yea, I just got it too. It sounds like some Japanese energy drink.

    • http://threequarters.cementhorizon.com/archives/kool%20aid%20man.bmp The Honorable Congressman Mondesi
      • Salty Buggah

        Hah, now this is a meme? That’s cool but kinda sucks at the same time.

        • JMK aka The Overshare’s Excessive Back Hair Complex
        • http://threequarters.cementhorizon.com/archives/kool%20aid%20man.bmp The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          We’re laughing with you, not at you. Really, it’s all in good fun.

          • Andy in Sunny Daytona

            Definitely. Salty, you’re the best.

          • Salty Buggah

            I don’t mind it. Like I said, while it kinda sucks, it’s pretty cool that I’m a meme on RAB.

  • thurdonpaul

    i would have thought gary shefield would have been on that list too

    • Nady Nation

      I can’t recall him playing any games in LF for the Yanks.

      • Thomas

        For the Yankees Sheff only played RF, 3B, 1B, and DH. He never appeared in LF.

  • Beamish

    Louis Polonia and the Jai-lai Cesti FTW!

    Largest glove I have ever seen – it was bigger than his torso.

    • JMK aka The Overshare’s Excessive Back Hair Complex

      Yeah, it was like unlocking some of the ridiculous cheat codes in the old Triple Play series.

  • http://sportsspyder Kevin

    When are you people going to come to the realization that Curtis Granderson is the new Yankee Leftfielder and will be batting 5th. Brett Gardner is the now the Yankees Centerfielder, and will be batting 9th. I can’t wait to watch these two perform. Its going to be a lot of fun.

    • pat

      What do you mean “you people”?

      • http://threequarters.cementhorizon.com/archives/kool%20aid%20man.bmp The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        (golf-clap)

      • Steve H

        nicely done

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph Pawlikowski

      This is a totally unnecessary comment and only tangentially related to the post. Don’t do it again.

      • Andy in Sunny Daytona

        Pwlnd. Being pwned by Pawlikowski.

        /Salty Buggah joke explanation’d

        • http://threequarters.cementhorizon.com/archives/kool%20aid%20man.bmp The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          You = Pippen

  • Dan2

    wow, SSS and all, but David Justice’s SLG is absurd!

  • Steve H

    Another shot at Melky by Kabak by posting his poor stats.

    /Bo’d

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      I know you were just joking, but I would be quite pleased with that production this year from left field.

      • Steve H

        If it’s from Gritner hell yeah. If that came from an unappealing defensive LF, then it would suck.

        • Andy in Sunny Daytona

          Yeah, I was assuming a Jet-Hoffman LF.

    • JMK aka The Overshare’s Excessive Back Hair Complex

      I was going to talk down to you and then call you by your first name but…well, it’s just not as fun in certain cases.

  • Tom Zig

    Are we going to get a “by the decade” for Starting Pitchers?

    I’m not going to ask about relief pitchers because to track down every relief pitcher to pitch for the Yankees over the past decade would be lunacy.

    Btw: I think these by the decade things are awesome, and if you tell me to stop being greedy, I’ll understand.

    • JMK aka The Overshare’s Excessive Back Hair Complex

      By the decade: Concession food items, bench players.

      The best possible by the decade: players’ wives and girlfriends.

      • Steve H

        With Jeter the WAG’s would be a longer list than relievers. Hell, it might even be a longer list than ranking all of the people who went to a game in the 2000′s.

  • jim p

    I love this “decade” series. Brings back so much I’d forgotten.

    Whatever happened to Glenallen Hill after he left us?

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      He became a gospel singer.

    • Thomas

      Went to the Angels sucked for a year (BA below .200) and retired.

    • JMK aka The Overshare’s Excessive Back Hair Complex

      He was bitten by a radioactive spider and acquired unbelievable quickness and strength, which rendered him capable of hitting balls 500 feet with a wooden bat.

      Oh, after, you said. He became a 1st base coach with the Rockies.