I thought taking a look at some of the Rays outfielders through the Gameday data would be neat and insightful. Although I am not capable of producing pretty graphs, metrics, or intuitive insight on why Burrell should not take the field in left. The hyped up Carl Crawford should do nicely.
To make it easy, I am only looking at Crawford's Gameday data at Tropicana Field so we don't have to deal with different ballpark dimensions and that I have a consistent base for analysis.
As for some metrics, UZR is not split by ballpark but Total Zone is at Baseball Reference. And Crawford has had the best Total Zone for a left fielder at home for the past two seasons in the Majors. Yet surprisingly, he had the worst home TZ in the Majors for a LF in 2007 (More on that later).
Very good. Let's check out Crawford's range using the Gameday data. Once again, these aren't exceptional graphs.
This is a closeup of left field with the dark circles representing all outs made by every left fielder not named Carl Crawford at Tropicana from 2007-2009. One can see the range Crawford has towards deep left center, which is amazing since that he be would catching the ball across his body on those harder hit balls. Also note that Crawford's orange circles out number the rest in shallow left field, which I would think everybody can attest to.
Now concerning his year by year range as noted in the Total Zone numbers, I can split all the outs made by Crawford by season.
If you can squint (or click the image for a blow up) it is somewhat noticeable that the black dots (2007) is not as scattered and dense as compared to the other seasons. But this is a somewhat limited view since I only took all the outs made Crawford and not possible plays that could be made by Crawford. So I took all flyballs fielded by Crawford (exclude line drives) and plotted the outs in white and the non-outs appearing red.
Not sure why Crawford missed those flyballs right in the middle of his position in left. They could be in fact harder hit balls that were labeled flyball instead of a line drive, or more easily said as a stringer issue. But that is likely why Total Zone and UZR rated him so badly. Now on to 2008.
A great improvement has CC made all outs near him.
Crawford caught the flyballs in front of him and missed a few more going behind him to his right (glove side). If someone can confirm for me but didn't Crawford complain about the fieldturf in 2007?
Now for a more realistic view.
Notice the out made by Crawford at the top of the graph in 2009 and in the first graph of all outs made by a left fielder (87.35,-44.2 to be exact). That would be one of the longest distances traveled by a left fielder for an out in the Trop from 2007-2009. This wasn't a highlight play for Crawford's catch. In fact, it was the play where Crawford and B.J. Upton convened and Upton went down with a leg injury. I took a clip from the video and placed a dot for Crawford's and Upton's approximate starting position and a dot where the catch was made.
Apparently no other left fielder made a catch close to that in those three years.
And a lot of people
would should agree with me that Crawford is the best defender in left field in baseball.
That is all I got. I wish I could get some heat maps but this is the best I can do. I figure a Upton analysis would be next and take a year by year look like I did with CC to see how Upton's range and ability progressed.
Data and image from MLB.com.