Position Review: Right Field

This is the eighth of a nine part series, detailing my personal opinion on the best retired players at each position in the “Modern Era”, or 1960’s – Present.  Next, Right Field.

“The triple is the most exciting play in baseball. Home runs win a lot of games, but I never understood why fans are so obsessed with them.” – Hank Aaron

There are few positions that are more demanding on a players arm than right field.  Often underrated in the defensive scheme of things, the requirements to play the position on the field are staggering, and it’s not exactly a position where a manager is ready to sacrifice a bat either. It is one of the ultimate “tow the line” positions, between the plate and the grass, where too much of either side isn’t good enough, but not enough of either can find a player on the bench.

BEST FIELDER: Roberto Clemente

WHY?

  • 266 OF assists leads all eligible RF
  • 12 Gold Gloves leads all Right Fielders

Anyone who has watched Roberto Clemente play right field will tell you that he had one of the most powerful arms in the history of the game.  He had a knack for catching baserunners rounding first base too aggressively on a single, and preventing extra bases by firing the baseball into 2nd base, putting his entire body into a throw.  In his career, he accumulated 369 “Runs above replacement level” for right fielders, and added 12 Gold Glove awards to his mantle, which ranks among the most all time regardless of any position.

  • Honorable Mention: Larry Walker
  • Closest Active Comparison: Jason Heyward

 

BEST HITTER: Frank Robinson

  • 586 Home Runs 3rd among qualifiers (behind Aaron, Sosa)
  • Only player to win MVP award in both leagues (Orioles/Reds)

Probably one of the most criminally overlooked players in the history of the game, Frank Robinson could make a strong case to be considered one of the best hitters to ever play the game.  His numbers often rival names that get much more recognition, such as a higher OBP than Hank Aaron (.389/.374), more home runs than Reggie Jackson (589/563), a better fielder than Dave Winfield, and more hits than Gary Sheffield (2,808/2,574).  He led the Orioles and Reds to the World Series, winning two of them with the Baltimore Orioles.  He holds his own against the best ever, however doesn’t always get the recognition he deserves.

  • Honorable Mention: Vlad Guerrero
  • Closest Active Comparison: Nelson Cruz

BEST OVERALL: Hank Aaron

  • 755 Home Runs 2nd all time (1st, depending on who you ask…)
  • All time leader in RBI (2,297) and Total Bases (6,856)

“Hammerin’ Hank” was the ultimate in reliability for 23 seasons.  Over that time, he hit no less than 10, but no more than 49 home runs ever year, and led the league four times.  He played no less than 145 games from 1955 until 1970, and managed to drive in over 100 runs eleven times.  He held his own in Right Field as well, posting mostly positive fielding metrics.  He won the MVP in 1957, the same year he led the Milwaukee Braves to their first ever World Series title, batting .322 and hitting 44 home runs.  His most notable stat, however, is his home run total, reaching a staggering 755 home runs in his career, and all while never posting a 50 home run season.  He was not a man that craved the spot light, and in fact shied away from it for the most part, given that while he was chasing Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1973 and 1974, the spotlight mostly brought racist rhetoric and death threats.  All the while carrying himself with grace and class, he may be one of the most important baseball players in the history of the game, whether he would ever admit it or not.

  • Honorable Mention: Tony Gwynn
  • Closest Active Comparison: Giancarlo Stanton

 

 

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