A position-by-position OPS breakdown

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A.k.a.: American League left fielders really stink this year.

Earlier this month, I looked at what positions were producing worst on a team-by-team basis (here’s the AL and the NL).  This time, I’m going through the positions for each league as a whole and breaking them down by OPS:

NL RF: .796
AL 1B: .786
AL RF: .783
NL LF: .769
NL 1B: .768
AL DH: .744
AL CF: .733
NL CF: .730
NL C: .725
AL SS: .702
NL 3B: .691
NL 2B: .689
AL 2B: .681
NL SS: .677
AL 3B: .676
AL C: .670
AL LF: .648
NL P: .337

What really stands out is just how terrible American League left fielders have been. The Royals, using Alex Gordon, are the only AL team getting even a .750 OPS out of their left fielders. They’re at .817. The Yankees, with Brett Gardner, are second at .747. The A’s, with Josh Willingham, are third at .713. After that, it drops all of the way to Baltimore at .668. The Twins, with Delmon Young, are getting a .503 OPS. The Mariners are at .570. The Red Sox were down there too until Carl Crawford suddenly got hot last week.

Last year, AL left fielders had a .768 OPS.

Some other points of interest:

– AL shortstop had largely been a black hole of late, but it’s actually besting the NL with Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Reyes and Stephen Drew right now. The Indians and Asdrubal Cabrera lead the way there with an .897 OPS, but the Angels, Tigers and Blue Jays are also getting fine performances.

– The shortstops are also beating the second basemen and third basemen in the AL. AL third basemen are getting dragged down by horrible performances from the Mariners (.483) and Blue Jays (.495).

– When I did the aforementioned NL team-by-position list earlier this month, I noted that NL catchers had matched first basemen almost exactly for five weeks. There’s a significant split now, but it’s still not nearly what one would expect. That’s because there are still four NL teams out there getting sub-.650 OPSs from first basemen: the Nationals, Padres, Giants and Dodgers.

Of course, it should increase further as time goes on, especially with Buster Posey down. One would always expect catcher OPS to decrease as the season progresses, given that catchers deal with more injuries than other positions and tend to wear down anyway.

– One more oddity: AL pinch-hitters are actually hitting better than the league as a whole, coming in with a .730 OPS. Last year, they had a .631 OPS, and in 2009, it was .622. NL pinch-hitters have a .572 OPS this year, down from .641 last year.

Evan Longoria: ‘I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base’

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.