A Look at MLB Offensive Production by Defensive Position

Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

On Monday, we looked at the Cardinals' offensive production by defensive position. In search of additional context, I put together a chart showing the sOPS+ by defensive position for every Major League Baseball club.

The idea of positional adjustments has always intrigued me. The level of offensive production of a typical shortstop is lower than that of a typical first baseman. Thus, a shortstop can be a good offensive player for his position even if he hits at a level below the average offensive production of a first baseman. This reality has been apparent to me since I was a kid with a binder full of Ozzie Smith baseball cards. It is also why I enjoy looking at Baseball Reference's sOPS+, which shows a player or team's OPS in a given split relative to the league's OPS in said split.

Last Hot Stove, we used sOPS+ to look at whether the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals would perform as well as the 2011 club relative to their peers at defensive positions. On Monday, we resurrected this analysis to evaluate how well-balanced the 2012 Cardinals' offensive production was by defensive position. For additional context, I used Baseball Reference to put a chart together that contains the sOPS+ by defensive position for every club in Major League Baseball. Designated Hitter is not on this chart because it isn't a defensive position and therefore is not used in the National League.

2012 MLB sOPS+ BY DEFENSIVE POSITION

2012

C

1B

2B

SS

3B

LF

CF

RF

STL

132

113

92

104

124

129

102

119

MIL

127

98

105

91

131

154

94

106

COL

106

103

91

131

105

129

131

106

TEX

97

80

110

110

129

137

131

106

NYY

77

112

158

116

117

92

120

100

ARI

122

124

145

101

79

109

105

107

WSN

84

129

99

143

110

81

120

93

DET

101

141

65

99

163

95

120

69

LAA

83

123

108

115

78

102

123

117

SFG

136

108

92

101

93

108

102

94

CIN

94

143

102

90

92

116

67

114

PHI

138

86

110

109

80

102

99

91

ATL

103

94

104

73

120

114

92

114

CHW

125

125

84

91

61

104

92

114

PIT

92

78

106

76

108

68

152

103

BAL

103

98

70

95

93

83

124

114

SDP

78

94

97

78

129

103

76

111

TBR

79

78

100

110

98

89

97

110

BOS

95

104

118

86

86

97

75

97

NYM

60

98

110

97

135

74

91

89

LAD

108

77

100

93

84

81

110

101

MIA

80

62

98

127

97

68

94

125

MIN

124

94

74

70

94

118

84

86

CLE

96

74

108

112

80

59

98

111

TOR

88

111

87

88

90

74

88

106

KCR

92

78

85

112

85

119

81

76

OAK

64

106

78

77

70

130

107

92

CHC

73

104

95

117

64

105

72

82

HOU

91

86

111

109

96

80

64

72

SEA

116

73

81

59

90

71

90

74

The chart plainly shows just how balanced the Cardinals were compared to other big league clubs. St. Louis was one of three clubs with only one position posting a below-average sOPS+. The other two were the Rockies and Diamondbacks. The Cardinals were also one of only three clubs with five or more positions with an sOPS+ of 110 or higher. Those positions were catcher, first base, third base, left field, and right field. The other clubs were the Rangers and Yankees. In terms of getting high levels of offensive production from multiple positions, the Cardinals were arguably the deepest lineup in all of baseball.

Another reason I like this chart is it illustrates just how good certain players are. The dark reds and maroons on the chart are due to an elite hitter receiving the majority of the plate appearances at that position. So we see that Robinson Cano is one of the most valuable hitters in baseball due to just how much better the Yankees' production at second base is compared to MLB as a whole. The same can be said for Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun, Andrew McCutchen, and Ian Desmond.

Whereas the deep reds show us the elite players, the deep blues show us the offensive black holes. One of those horribly offensive positions was shortstop for the Mariners, which was primarily played by former Cardinals shortstop Brendan Ryan. Another position where the offensive production was far below the league-average levels for that position was left field for the Indians. This was due primarily to the poor production from Johnny Damon and Shelley Duncan, the son of former Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan. There are others--such as the Mets catcher--but these are the worst.

Lastly, as the chart trends from primarily reds to primarily blues, it makes one thankful to be a Cardinals fan. The Mariners lineup was terrible, save the catchers. The middle infield was the loan bright spot in the Astros lineup. After making this chart, I'm against confounded as to how the A's won the American League West. It's also amazing to me that the Orioles made the postseason at all.

Please feel free to discuss any other observations you have regarding the chart in the comments.

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