If you’re an Astros fan, I’m not about to tell you anything you don’t already know, but sometimes it’s nice to have your prejudices confirmed by facts.
I mean, you already know that George Springer has eleven home runs, second in the league. That he, Michael Brantley, and Josh Reddick are all three between 130 and 150 wRC+ and having career years so far. That means that each of our top three outfielders are hitting between 30 to 50 percent better than league average. All three.
The Astros have the best outfield trio in the American League right now. That’s right, move over, Mookie, JD, Beni, sit down Judge and Giancarlo (oh yeah, they’re already sitting). Meet your new masters.
But before we look at the trio, let’s just look at overall outfield statistics. The Astros as of May 7th have the highest WAR rating for all outfields, 4.0, followed by the Rays, Rangers, Yankees, Royals, Angels and Twins. Their outfielders have the highest rated wRC+, 133, and among the teams listed above, the second highest DEF rating, behind only the Byron Buxton Twins.
Now let’s look at the trios.
To make this list a team needs three outfielders who made the AL top 30 in fWAR as of May 6th. Sorry Angels, Mike Trout and two guys doesn’t count. (But they wouldn’t beat the Astros anyway)
The qualifying teams are:
Astros, George Springer 1.4, Michael Brantley 1.4, Josh Reddick .5, Combined fWAR, 3.3
Rangers, Joey Gallo 1.6, Shin-Soo Choo 1.0, Hunter Pence .4, Combined fWAR 3.0
Rays, Austin Meadows 1.0, Tommy Pham 1.0, Avisail Garcia .8, Combined fWAR 2.9
Red Sox, Mookie Betts 1.1, Andrew Benintendi .9, J.D. Martinez .7, Combined fWAR 2.7
Twins, Byron Buxton 1.0, Eddie Rosario .8, Max Kepler .5 Combined fWAR 2.3
You might be surprised to find out that I could substitute the Astros’ fourth outfielder, Jake Marisnick, and the Stros would still be first, since Marisnick is also a top 30 outfielder and has the same WAR rating as Reddick. The Rays also have a fourth outfielder, Kevin Kiermaier, who qualifies.
Of course, with regression we should expect improvement from the Red Sox, and the Yankees are anticipating the return of Giancarlo Stanton. But for now these are the ratings.
Since fWAR is influenced a great deal by defensive statistics, and some are skeptical of their accuracy, just for the sake of argument let’s isolate these trios by their hitting stats.
I will rate them by a combination of their counting stats and averages. I will add their run production, runs scored plus RBI, for their counting stats, and use their average wRC+ for the average number.
Hitting Statistics for the best outfield Trios
|Trio||runs scored + RBI||avg wRC+|
|Trio||runs scored + RBI||avg wRC+|
This table gives mixed results when we look at the outfield trios solely on the basis of hitting. The Astros lead in run production, mostly on the strength of George Springers 26 runs and 29 RBI (as of May 7). Next on this list is Gallo, 25 and 26, and Rosario, 22 and 28. Mike Trout has 21 and 20 respectively for comparison purposes. Brantley has 20 and 24.
The Astros are third in terms of wRC+, which was calculated by simply averaging the averages for the three players. This does not take into account that these players have varying numbers of PA’s. This was a factor in the Rays occupying first place, as Austin Meadows has a 189 wRC+, but he only has 83 PA’s, about half the number of George Springer. If I counted Kevin Kiermaier, who is more the everyday outfielder than Meadows, his wRC+ of 93 would depress the Rays average below that of the Astros. In terms of counting numbers the Rays came in last.
The Rangers’ wRC+ is also somewhat inflated by the inclusion of Hunter Pence, who is also a part-time player, and many of whose at bats are as a pinch-hitter or DH. If I included other Rangers outfielders with far more outfield plate appearances, such as DeLino DeShields (wRC+ 71) or Nomar Mazara (wRC+ 88) then the Rangers’ average would be less than the Astros’ as well.
So there you have it. If you want to argue with a Red Sox fan or a Mall Cop fan about who has the best outfield, it’s the Astros. Here’s the proof.
(Warning, arguing with a Mall Cops fan can be hazardous to your mental health)