Differences in OPS by position
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including replacement level O+S for each position


Positional Differences


This just in from Baseball Prospectus’s Kevin Goldstein gives us a reasonable expectation for an average starting player at each position. By average he’s talking about the 30 MLB players at each position who have started the most games at each position over the past three seasons. That would make the player clearly better than average as it eliminates all the emergency call-ups and retreads as well as most of the players given a reasonable shot, but failed. I’ll combine leftfielders and rightfielders as we Scoresheet managers tend to ignore the difference.


Position    On-Base + Slugging

Catcher     .748

Shortstop   .749

Secondbase  .763

Centerfield .777

Thirdbase   .805

Corner OF   .819

Firstbase   .859


Too bad DH is not included in this study, but I can see a problem with that in how some teams do not have a regular DH, and the fact that only one league uses a DH makes comparing it to the other positions wonky. Still, it is a unfortunate cop-out, because there are DHs and we want to know what to expect from someone in that slot.


What Goldstein does include which is very useful, however, is a breakdown of the top 10 and the worse 10 at each position. Seeing the differences among the top 10 shows an exponential value from firstbasemen (.987), thirdbasemen (.958) and leftfielders (.959) among the elite hitters, while there is almost no difference among the elite of the four weakest hitting positions centerfield, catcher, shortstop, and secondbase (in order .851-.862).


These numbers must vary strongly from semi-decade to semi-decade. We happen to be having a spate of excellent offensive catchers and shortstops in recent years. I would be shocked if the top ten at those positions would have been comparable to the top 10 centerfielders during the 90s, 70s, 60s, 50s, 40s, 30s, 20s, or latter 10s.


You are probably surprised the average firstbasemen are out hitting corner outfielders by .040 O+S. This is also likely a historical aberration. The replacement hitting levels below are probably more stable relative to each position.


More significant are the ten worse regulars at each position over the three year period. This gives us an approximation of the replacement level for a typical Scoresheet League – or rather the expected value of the guy you will likely get stuck with if you are the last manager to pick a player at that particular position.


Position     O+S

Catcher     .666

Shortstop   .666

Centerfield .691

Secondbase  .702

Thirdbase   .718

Cornerfield .756

Firstbase   .758


That is dull hitting at the offensive positions compared to having one of the 10 best players at those positions (mid to high .900s). So, while you may worry less about having a keeper at an offensive position because it is easier to get a decent hitter, you are deeper in the hole if you do not have an impact player there. However much your player is better than this base level for his position, that is the impact your player will have. If two players have the same marginal impact, I would prefer the one at a defensive position because the odds of finding a player with an equal or greater impact at an offensive position (thirdbase, corner outfield, and especially firstbase) are much better.

John  Carter