We’ve been examining the best three-year peaks of defensive play by Giant players, as measured by baseball-reference.com’s rfield. I explained my methodology here, and we’ve previously looked at catchers, first-, second– and third basemen, and shortstops. Today we turn our attention to left fielders. We all know left field is a hitter’s position. A team can hide a poor defender here and he will do minimal damage to them. A weak hitter with a great glove (see Gregor Blanco) will not play left on the prototypical good team.
|Years||3-year Defensive Runs/150||3 Year Defensive Runs|
Before Barry Bonds became a controversial, divisive figure, before he was “conserving energy” in left field, he was a tremendously talented five-tool player. His great first step, speed and knowledge of the tendencies of his own team’s pitchers and opposing hitters allowed him to get to everything hit his way. (Bonds routinely sat in on the pitchers’ pre-game meeting where they discussed how they were going to pitch to that day’s opponents.) He made up for a relatively weak throwing arm with a very quick release and a patented spin move down the left field line to hold runners to a single. As his speed declined, his defense faded. Relying on positioning and reading hitters proved inadequate to maintain the standards he’d set.
Before he was the first baseman on the Giants’ pennant-winning teams of 1951 and 1954, Whitey Lockman was an outfielder, and a good one, too, but by 1951 Leo Durocher had him trade positions with Monte Irvin. In Jo-Jo Moore and Gary Matthews we see the conventional wisdom about left field come to the fore. While good fielders, neither is known primarily for his defensive skills. Moore was installed as the Giants’ leadoff hitter by Bill Terry in one of his first acts after taking over for John McGraw in 1932. Matthews, too, was primarily a good hitter. The adequate fielding was a bonus.