All-Time All-Mariner Roster: Left Field
Phil Bradley, 1985, the best year in a three-year run from 1985-1987. Now, Bradley was no great shakes defensively, but this 1985 year… .300/.365/.498. That doesn’t look all that impressive on its surface, but in 1985, the league batted .261/.327/.406. Bradley, in raw stats terms, was a top-ten hitter in the league that year. Even docking him a little for the park, he was one of the best hitters in baseball that year, and the best left fielder in the AL. A huge, huge year.
Defensively, eyeballing the ill measures we have, Bradley comes out as average/slightly above average during his prime compared to his peers.
And it doesn’t take all that much with the M’s have had such bad left fielders for so long. Not a ton of competition. Offensively, Raul Ibanez is a long ways back and he’s terrible defensively which wipes him out. You might argue the total 2003 Winn package, or 1981 Paciorek, I guess… actually, I should let you pick instead of assuming you’re with me on this one.
Bradley’s been largely forgotten because he only played eight seasons, bouncing around for the last part of his career after toiling in the obscurity of Seattle, but he did great work over that three year span here.
Thanks to the mid-season strike that wiped out two months of the 1981 season, Tom Paciorek’s performance that year won’t jump off the page in raw totals, but it’s the best LF season the M’s have ever gotten. He hit .326/.379/.509, finishing second in batting average, tenth in on base percentage, fourth in slugging percentage, and fourth in OPS. In 104 games, he was worth about 27 runs over an average hitter, which tied him for the fourth best mark in the A.L. that year.
Bradley was a top 10 hitter in 1985, but Paciorek was a top 5 hitter in 1981. Even with the shortened season leading to lower counting stats, Paciorek’s relative value that season was just a bit higher than Bradley’s was in 1985. 27 runs in 104 games for Paciorek works out to .26 runs per game above average, while Bradley’s 30 runs in 160 games rates out to .18 runs per game above average. Even if we factor a regression into Paciorek’s season line to account for the smaller sample of games, the difference between their two performances on a per game basis is too large for Bradley to close the offensive gap.
Unless there’s compelling reason to believe that Bradley swamps Paciorek defensively, I think it has to be the 1981 season here. Phil Bradley was definitely an underappreciated player who had a nice run as the M’s LF in the mid-80s, but he never had a season as good as Paciorek’s final year in Seattle. And, as Derek noted, there isn’t really any competition beyond these two – the LF spot has been a black hole for this franchise for a long, long time.
1981 Tom Paciorek. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Yup, you’re right. Plus, Paciorek played for Maury Wills, so you have to give him some credit for that. Good catch on the strike season, I didn’t consider that enough. Looking at his rate stats relative to the rest of the league is persuasive. I think I’d give defense to Bradley over Paciorek, but there’s not enough for me to say it overcomes the difference in their hitting.
My only concern, and you touched on this, is that in shortening seasons we would increasingly look at smaller and smaller sizes — and I think this is backed up in a way by Paciorek’s career. He never came close to replicating 1981’s brilliant performance. But like Brady Anderson’s monster season, it’s there, and for that year, he was more valuable to his team than Bradley was, relatively, over a longer season.
Interestingly, both players in the years we’re talking about displayed a level of versatility that would be curious today.
Paciorek, 1981, started 78 games in left, 11 games in center, and 14 games in right.
Bradley, 1985, started 124 games in left, 27 games in center, and 10 games in right.
When you look at recent Mariner teams, for instance, there’s almost no regulars starting that often at another position. I wonder how much of that is the increasing calcification of rosters: almost no manager today goes in for the kind of situational and matchup roster-flexing that used to be common (and quite effective). Even platooning’s looked down on now.
Anyway — if we picked Bradley, I think we’d be fine, it’s a perfectly defensible choice, but Paciorek was indeed more valuable in that season, even if that season was shorter.