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  • The Five Best Left Fielders in Brewers History


    Harold Hutchison

    Left field sometimes gets a bad rap – often being compared to where the crazy ideas come from. For the Brewers, though, left fielders have included some dominating defense and outstanding offense from players who locked the position down for years, many of whom were superb sluggers.

    Image courtesy of © Rick Wood via Imagn Content Services, LLC

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    The top five served as the primary starters for 33 seasons – out of 54 in Brewers franchise history, showing that even in the doldrums, left field was rarely a worry for Brewers fans.

    So which left fielders were the best for the Brew Crew? Let’s take a look.

    5. John Briggs
    .258/.358./441 with 80 HR and 259 RBI in 5 seasons with the Brewers

    Briggs was the primary starter in left field for three seasons and part of two others with the Crew. He delivered some power from the left side of the plate, saw time at first base, and did so over four decades before Eric Thames did the same. Briggs was traded to Minnesota for Bobby Darwin, who went to Boston for Bernie Carbo, who the Brewers dealt back to Boston with George Scott for Cecil Cooper, who ranked third on the list of best first basemen for the Crew.

    4. Greg Vaughn
    .246/.333/.459 with 169 HR and 566 RBI in 8 seasons with the Brewers

    Greg Vaughn held down left field for six seasons – and lived up to his first-round draft status. He made two All-Star Game appearances as a Brewer but was dealt in 1996 while having one of his best seasons, with the Brewers receiving Bryce Florie, Ron Villone, and Marc Newfield in return. While he spent a lot of time in left field and at DH, Vaughn made occasional appearances in center and right field.

    3. Geoff Jenkins
    .277/.344/.490 with 221 HR and 733 RBI in 10 seasons.

    In the doldrums of the late 1990s and early 2000s, Geoff Jenkins spent eight seasons as the primary left fielder. Injuries cost him a lot of games from 2001-2003, depressing his numbers some, but he and Ben Sheets carried the Brewers during a hard time, and Jenkins made the All-Star Game in 2003. He left as a free agent for the 2008 season and won a World Series with Philadelphia later that year.

    2. Ben Oglivie
    .277/.345/.461 with 176 HR and 685 RBI in 9 seasons

    Acquired in a trade after the 1977 season, Ben Oglivie ended up being a steal for the Brewers (especially after Jim Slaton returned to the Crew as a free agent before 1979). Almost immediately, he forced his way into the lineup and was the primary left fielder for six seasons (but also saw a lot of time as designated hitter and in right field). He also served as the primary DH in 1986, where he was solid. He made three All-Star Game appearances, won a Silver Slugger, and had one top-15 MVP finish.

    1. Ryan Braun
    .296/.358/.532 with 352 HR and 1154 RBI in 14 seasons

    Ryan Braun was the primary starter in left field for ten seasons, the most of any Brewer, but he also held down right field for two seasons, served as the primary DH in 2020, and won Rookie of the Year at third base in 2007. The all-time franchise leader in home runs, he also topped the team in some sabermetric categories, most notably the power-speed number and adjusted batting wins. Braun has some what-ifs (an injury that affected him after 2013, the move to left field instead of sticking at third), but he was a superb player.

    Honorable Mentions
    Khris Davis delivered offense for two seasons as the primary left fielder before an ill-advised deal to Oakland. Carlos Lee was acquired for Scott Podsednik and held down left for almost two seasons before he was dealt in a deal that flopped for the Crew. Christian Yelich is entering his fourth season as the primary left fielder, and while not at his 2018-2019 offensive performance, he was a Gold Glove finalist in 2022.

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    Yelich played the majority of his games in LF when he was MVP, RF when he was second in MVP the following year. Splitting hairs a bit classifying him as a RF/LF but you should consider his whole scope of work as a Brewers when ranking him as one or the other. If you include him in the RF rankings then fine but if you exclude him from RF as well it is pretty ridiculous.

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    I loved Briggs as he was my first favorite Brewer and an underrated player because OBP was under appreciated in the 70's.  I'll never forget being there the night he took Nolan Ryan early in his prime into the bullpen twice including a grand slam.  Darwin did next to nothing as a Brewer after he was acquired for Briggs, who didn't adjust well either and his career ended pretty abruptly not long afterwards.

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    Just now, JohnBriggs12 said:

    I loved Briggs as he was my first favorite Brewer and an underrated player because OBP was under appreciated in the 70's.  I'll never forget being there the night he took Nolan Ryan early in his prime into the bullpen twice including a grand slam.  Darwin did next to nothing as a Brewer after he was acquired for Briggs, who didn't adjust well either and his career ended pretty abruptly not long afterwards.

    True, but the trade tree for Briggs ended up bringing the Brewers one of the three best first basemen they ever had.

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    16 minutes ago, clancyphile said:

    Well Carbo was just a deal sweetener for Boston.  The fact that the Brewers got anything for Darwin was surprising so your point has some validity.    Briggs didn't do a lot of damage for Minnesota but he did have a .370 OBP

     

    Edited by JohnBriggs12
    Made an erroe
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    2 hours ago, Outlander said:

    Yelich played the majority of his games in LF when he was MVP, RF when he was second in MVP the following year. Splitting hairs a bit classifying him as a RF/LF but you should consider his whole scope of work as a Brewers when ranking him as one or the other. If you include him in the RF rankings then fine but if you exclude him from RF as well it is pretty ridiculous.

    I might know a guy who can see into the future (ie. read unpublished pieces in the hopper) and your concern will definitely be addressed in the RF piece. 

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    What made you select Oglivie higher than Jenkins?  Seems like Jenkins has a slight edge if you consider WAR and bigger edge if you use OPS.  Just curious what your reasoning is.

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    10 minutes ago, ClosetBrewerFan said:

    What made you select Oglivie higher than Jenkins?  Seems like Jenkins has a slight edge if you consider WAR and bigger edge if you use OPS.  Just curious what your reasoning is.

    Oglivie's highs were higher, and given the era, I gave him the edge. You could go either way - but Oglivie had three All-Star Game appearances and a Silver Slugger, Jenkins just had the one All-Star Game appearance and that and the eras ultimately tipped it for me.

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    11 hours ago, Miller Park Minute said:

    Yelich deserves mention in this piece

    Clancy decided to treat Yelich as a right fielder for the purpose of this series and that publishes tomorrow morning.

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    Honestly, Yelich is probably going to have more WAR in 1.5 years as a RFer than he will as a LFer in half a decade. To think we were going to have our next HOFer after Braun ruined his career *punches wall*

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    I think I'm putting Briggs ahead of Vaughn for the #4 spot.  

    He produced a 131 OPS+ for the Brewers while Vaughn's was 111.

    Vaughn took a long time to finally produce, and didn't really get going until after he was traded away.  I don't have any memories of Briggs' defense--both have stat lines that are pretty dismal--though I do recall Vaughn struggling to even throw the ball overhand (??).  Did he have a chronic shoulder problem during his time with the Brewers?  

    Left field really demands a player with a productive bat, and Briggs was a consistent producer while Vaughn had several seasons of lesser play.

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    On 1/25/2023 at 7:00 PM, ClosetBrewerFan said:

    What made you select Oglivie higher than Jenkins?  Seems like Jenkins has a slight edge if you consider WAR and bigger edge if you use OPS.  Just curious what your reasoning is.

    Jenkins has the edge in raw OPS, but he also played in a more hitter friendly era and stadium.

    Once that is accounted for, Oglivie (124 OPS+) comes out a decent bit ahead of Jenkins (116 OPS+).

    I’d agree with @JimH5 on flipping Briggs/ Vaughn too. Their WAR totals with the Brewers are similar, but Briggs did it in like 300 fewer games / 1,500 less plate appearances on account of being all wheat & no chaff during his time in Milwaukee.

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    10 hours ago, MrTPlush said:

    Honestly, Yelich is probably going to have more WAR in 1.5 years as a RFer than he will as a LFer in half a decade. To think we were going to have our next HOFer after Braun ruined his career *punches wall*

    Yeah, it’s pretty close. Splits so far with the Brewers…

    LF: 1489 PA | 123 wRC+ | 8.2 WAR
    RF: 854 PA | 173 wRC+ | 10.6 WAR
    DH: 207 PA | 78 wRC+ | -0.3 WAR

    GET THIS MAN BACK IN RF WOAH SOLVDD

    • WHOA SOLVDD 1
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    12 hours ago, sveumrules said:

    Yeah, it’s pretty close. Splits so far with the Brewers…

    LF: 1489 PA | 123 wRC+ | 8.2 WAR
    RF: 854 PA | 173 wRC+ | 10.6 WAR
    DH: 207 PA | 78 wRC+ | -0.3 WAR

    GET THIS MAN BACK IN RF WOAH SOLVDD

    That would be one way to get Frelick in the OD lineup....

    Frelick - LF

    Mitchell/Taylor - CF

    Yelich - RF

    I bet it won't happen tho.

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    Or I guess Mitchell could go back to AAA... Frelick could easily beat out Mitchell for the CF job, there's nothing guarantying the CF spot for Garrett... According to all the prospect rankings, Sal is the better player, prospect. 

    Yelich - LF

    Frelick - CF

    Taylor - RF

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    On 1/25/2023 at 12:13 PM, JohnBriggs12 said:

    I loved Briggs as he was my first favorite Brewer and an underrated player because OBP was under appreciated in the 70's.  I'll never forget being there the night he took Nolan Ryan early in his prime into the bullpen twice including a grand slam.  Darwin did next to nothing as a Brewer after he was acquired for Briggs, who didn't adjust well either and his career ended pretty abruptly not long afterwards.

    When I was a little kid, I was at a game and Briggs made a catch against the wall right in front of me. He seemed huge.  Baseball Ref. has him as 190#, but I can't imagine him being that light.

     

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    8 hours ago, DR28 said:

    That would be one way to get Frelick in the OD lineup....

    Frelick - LF

    Mitchell/Taylor - CF

    Yelich - RF

    I bet it won't happen tho.

    It's the worst possible outcome. Frelick, Mitchell, and Taylor would all be better options in RF.

     

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