Baseball Player Won-Loss Records
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Are All Positions Created Equal? Hitting Positions v. Fielding Positions

One way to compare Player Won-Lost records across defensive positions is to normalize Fielding Winning Percentages so that they are based around a 0.500 average across all defensive positions, as opposed to being based around a 0.500 average at each individual position. Doing this produced the following normalized winning percentage for average fielders by fielding position, excluding pitchers and catchers:

1B 0.472
2B 0.502
3B 0.504
SS 0.512
LF 0.488
CF 0.517
RF 0.499


Combining these results with average offensive winning percentages by position yields the following average winning percentages by defensive position:

1B 0.519
2B 0.494
3B 0.506
SS 0.492
LF 0.511
CF 0.514
RF 0.515


Looking at total player game points by position for non-catchers reveals an interesting contrast. First basemen and outfielders turn out to be better than 0.500 on average (0.515 to be exact) while second basemen, third basemen, and shortstops turn out to be slightly below average as a group (0.497). So, is this a mistake? Not necessarily. One possible explanation for this that I have seen suggested is the fact that, in major league baseball, left-handed throwers are only employed as pitchers, first basemen, and outfielders. Because other defensive positions are limited to those who throw right handed, however, these positions draw from a more limited pool of candidates. Is this really a sufficient explanation?

One way to think about it is that, if you were to add average members of the 1B/OF pool (0.515) to the infielder pool (0.497), you would have to add enough 1B/OFers such that 15% of the combined pool were 1B/OFers to get a combined winning percentage of .500. The percentage of the population that is left-handed is approximately 10%. If 10% of the combined 1B/OF and 2B/3B/SS pools are also left-handed, this would suggest that approximately 17% of the 1B/OF pool are left-handed (given that 0% of the 2B/3B/SS pool is left-handed*). If 15% of the 1B/OF pool was shifted to the infielder pool (which, as noted above, would bring the overall winning percentage of the infielder pool up to 0.500), this would raise the percentage of the infielder pool that is left-handed up from 0% to 3%, which is certainly closer to the overall proportion of the population in general.
*The term "left-handed" is somewhat fuzzy. Really, the requirement for non-1B infielders is that they throw right-handed. Brooks Robinson, as one example, does everything left-handed except for batting and throwing a baseball during his 23-year Hall-of-Fame career at third base.

To be honest, I'm not sure if that necessarily makes complete sense, but, it seems to make at least some sense to me.

That said, in terms of "value" as opposed to talent, the fact remains that a team has to play a 2B, a 3B, and a SS, and (right or wrong), these players have to throw right-handed. This is why I evaluate player value relative to positional averages rather than attempting to estimate whether some positions are, in fact, more "valuable" than others.

All articles are written so that they pull data directly from the most recent version of the Player won-lost database. Hence, any numbers cited within these articles should automatically incorporate the most recent update to Player won-lost records. In some cases, however, the accompanying text may have been written based on previous versions of Player won-lost records. I apologize if this results in non-sensical text in any cases.

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