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The Dodgers’ No. 3 Outfielder Isn’t Who You Think It Is



Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

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Surely he doesn’t play because he lacks Crawford’s “speed” and Ethier’s “Gold Glove” defense, though, right?

Well, it just so happens that Van Slyke is also the best defensive option of the three. In 2014, Van Slyke he a dWAR of 0.1 — marginally better than one could expect a replacement-level outfielder to perform.

Nothing special, sure, but did you know that both Crawford and Ethier posted negative dWAR scores in 2014? Ethier’s “Gold Glove” defense earned him -0.9 dWAR and Crawford’s “speed” earned him -0.4 dWAR. (And don’t even get me started on Guerrero’s defense)

Obviously none of these players are adding value the way Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson are, but Van Slyke is the only one actually providing positive value.

Well, surely Van Slyke’s numbers are better because he only platoons against favorable pitching match-ups, right? Think again.

In 2014, Van Slyke faced a right-handed pitcher 108 times and a left-handed pitcher 104 times, with a better split against lefties (.315/.415/.630), but a nonetheless respectable split against righties as well (.279/.353/.413).

Crawford’s splits against right-handers are about the same (.296/.330/.415), but his lefty-splits are noticeably worse (.321/.381/.500). Ethier was noticeably worse against both sides.

Obviously, I understand that Crawford and Ethier are owed over $120 million (through 2017 and 2018 respectively), and I suppose benching both of them in favor of a player making $500,000 (and under team control through 2019) is difficult, but don’t the Dodgers have to consider it at some point?

This isn’t an overreaction to 20 games in 2015, it’s simply an honest question asked in response to what the 2014 numbers are saying. Vn Slyke is better on offense, he’s better on defense and he’s probably the only one whose career is on the rise.

Yes, Guerrero has become the sexy pick, but remember that we’re comparing him to players who put up impressive numbers over the course of an entire season. Yes, Guerrero has potential — and he might even be the best hitter of the bunch — but when it comes to a combination of hitting and fielding (and facial-hair-growing), I’m driving the #StartVanSmash bandwagon.

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Written by Staff Writer

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