Commentary

The vanishing left field slugger

You used to see home run hitters out in left, but that's no longer the case

Updated: May 6, 2011, 11:31 AM ET
By Dave Cameron | FanGraphs
Juan PierreAP Photo/Tony GutierrezJuan Pierre-type players are all the rage in left, and that's a big reason fewer runs are being scored.

It's no secret that offense in baseball is down over the last several years. While 2010 was declared The Year Of The Pitcher, run scoring is even lower so far in 2011 than it was a year ago, and the trend of moving back towards the style of baseball played in the mid-1980s is showing no signs of slowing. There are a lot of theories about why offense has disappeared from the sport so rapidly -- a lot of them involving the crackdown on performance enhancing drugs -- but, regardless of the reasons, there's one position that has been driving the change more than any other. For years, left field was the land of lumbering sluggers, but that stereotype seems to be dead and gone in 2011.

How dramatic is the change? In 2009, American League left fielders hit .267/.338/.442 and combined for 313 home runs; only first basemen and designated hitters left the park with more frequency. This year, AL left fielders are hitting .226/.298/.340 and have hit just 29 home runs, the fewest of any position on the field other than shortstop. In fact, the rate of home runs being hit by AL left fielders is almost exactly half of what it was just two years ago, as they are now going yard only once every 62 plate appearances, as opposed to once every 31 trips to the plate in 2009.


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