Dodgers of the Decade: Left Field

With Rafael Furcal winning the shortstop competition handily, we now have a complete infield for our All-Decade team:

Dodgers of the Decade team:
C: Russell Martin (68%)
1B: James Loney (62%)
2B: Jeff Kent (88%)
3B: Adrian Beltre (80%)
SS: Rafael Furcal (87%)

As you can see, there wasn’t a whole lot of competition for those spots, but here’s where the real fun begins. You could make a case for the 2009 outfield of Manny/Kemp/Ethier being the best in team history and voting for all three. Who knows, maybe that’s how it will turn out. But before you do that, just keep in mind how great Shawn Green was at the beginning of the decade, how feared Gary Sheffield was while he was a Dodger, and how many fans have an eternal love for Juan Pierre which I will never understand.

Since outfielders tend to play multiple spots, a few of these guys are eligible at more than one position. I thought about doing just three “outfield” spots, but that’s no fun. So what I’ve done is chosen the one position the player is most known for as a Dodger - which means that even though today is left field, you’ll only see Pierre in center and Ethier in right.

Left field

Gary Sheffield (284 games, 2000-01)
Dodger stats: .318/.428/.612 1.040 79 hr 209 rbi
WAR: 11.6

Brian Jordan (194 games, 2002-03)
Dodger stats: .289/.349/.453 .802 24 hr 108 rbi
WAR: 4.5

Jayson Werth (191 games, 2004-05)
Dodger stats: .247/.338/.426 .764 23 hr 90 rbi
WAR: 3.1

Manny Ramirez (157 games, 2008-09)
Dodger stats: .327/.442/.605 1.047 36 hr 116 rbi
WAR: 6.6

Luis Gonzalez (139 games, 2007)
Dodger stats: .278/.359/.433 .793 15 hr 68 rbi
WAR: 0.0

Top three seasons
6.7 WAR Sheffield, 2000
4.9 WAR Sheffield, 2001
3.6 WAR Ramirez, 2008

This is going to be an interesting vote, I think. Manny is immensely popular and had a historic 2008 in Los Angeles, but he’s yet to play a full season with the Dodgers. Sheffield was reviled and since he played here so long ago casual and younger fans may forget him, but there’s no denying his production while he was a Dodger. Also, Luis Gonzalez!

Which enigmatic yet talented left fielder was the best the Dodgers saw this decade?

[polldaddy poll=2438914]'s 2007 In Review: Left Field

Right! Let’s get back on this, because the Rockies are sure doing a good job of making sure 2007 is getting over with ASAP.

luis-gonzalez.jpgLuis Gonzalez = B-

(.278/.359/.433, 15 HR’s, 68 RBI’s)

2007 recap: I know, I know… this grade might surprise you, but take a look at these numbers and it might make more sense:

Luis Gonzalez’s OPS Since 2001:

2001 (age 33-34): 1.117
2002 (34-35): .896
2003 (35-36): .934
2004 (36-37): .866
2005 (37-38): .825
2006 (38-39): .796
2007 (39-40): .792

O.K., so why do these past numbers matter? Because notice the downward trend in OPS (and, for the record, I only used OPS as a quick and dirty check; other numbers show the same trend) and the upward trend in age. Should we really have expected a man turning 40 to put up numbers close to his prime? Not unless you’re Ned Colletti! But the point is, based on his decline and shoulder surgery in 2004, he pretty much met “expectations” and, you know what? He didn’t have THAT bad of a year.

Let’s not forget the circumstances under which we signed Gonzo in the first place. Remember, going into 2007, the OF was in shambles. Ethier was in no way a sure thing; he’d taken a nosedive at the end of 2006. We all loved Kemp’s potential, but most fans agreed he could probably use some seasoning in the minors for a bit first. We needed Gonzo to come in and play some LF unless and until the following two things happened:

1) Ethier and Kemp proved they were ready to each handle a corner position.
2) Gonzo proved he was cooked.

And what can I say? Things worked out pretty perfectly. Ethier and Kemp both proved they could play every day, but it took nearly half the season to get to that point, thanks to Ethier’s slow start and Kemp’s losing battle with the right field wall. Plus, Gonzo was actually one of the team’s most dependable hitters in the first half when he put up a line of .294/.384/.471. He hit 11 HR’s, got on base and, outside of his defense, I couldn’t really complain, he exceeded expectations. I could go into more detail about his first half, but it was summed it up pretty well in the “Real Men Of Genius” article back in July.

However, in the true bipolar fashion that is the Dodgers, he just completely took a shit in the second half.

.251/.316/.368. Only 5 HR and 27 RBI, and a 171-point drop in his OPS. With his usual “stellar” outfield defense.

For an over-40 vet, that’s a pretty clear sign he’s past his expiration date, right? Yeah, he was pretty bad in the second half. Really bad. But I sort of felt like once Kemp and Ethier proved themselves, it wouldn’t really matter what Gonzo did, because he’d be pushed aside unless he was still lighting it up. Of course, I failed to take into account the fact we have a manager with the IQ of a peanut.

Oh, and there was there was the whole petty jackassitude (yep, still making up words) a few weeks ago bashing the kids, but which did lead to this great quote: “They were hitting .340, .350. Loney, Kemp, Martin, Ethier – they’re all great players, but we weren’t winning games. They’re getting three and four hits, but you’re not winning games.” Yes. That was EXACTLY THE PROBLEM! Damn those kids for getting three and four hits a game! They should have taken a nosedive just like you did!

So there you have it. A B-. He did was he was supposed to do for the length of time we needed him to do so, and it wasn’t his fault he kept getting playing time when he was long past his usefulness – that we can thank Griddle for.

2008 outlook: Well, you know the saying. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. Which he won’t be. Adios, Luis!

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg