There’s a lot to like about Alex Gordon as a left fielder. He learned the position after flopping as a third base prospect, had a breakout season at the plate, and coupled that offensive production with 20 outfield assists, the most in the American League. He made just three errors.
But that doesn’t mean he was the league’s best defensive left fielder.
Most of the standard defensive statistics are limited at best — misleading at worst — but the fine folks at ESPN Stats and Information make a strong case for Brett Gardner as the league’s best left fielder. From the article:
Where Gardner is statistically strongest is in the area that is probably the toughest to fully understand — turning batted balls into outs. He makes catches that other left fielders don’t make. This is hard to fully evaluate using basic stats because if a fielder just misses a ball, he isn’t charged with an error. The batter is credited with a hit.
The ESPN article goes into the heavy statistical detail, and it’s overwhelming evidence. It’s statistical evidence that supports what those of us who watched Gardner every day already knew to be true: That it’s hard to imagine someone playing a better left field.
For what it’s worth, the Fielding Bible Awards agree that Gardner was not only the best left fielder in the American League, but the best left fielder in baseball.