Pat Andriola on the fourth outfielder fallacy

The other is what I’d like to call the “Fourth Outfielder Fallacy.” This is the fallacy that just because a player can play all three outfield positions, he is best served as a fourth outfielder. Most of the time, said outfielder did come up as a bench player who rotated around the outfield positions, but after a good time of solid play, still couldn’t shed the title of “fourth outfielder.” Fans are human, and humans love consistency and purpose. Fourth outfielders make them comfortable. It also causes people to doubt whether or not a fourth outfielder could ever be a real starting outfielder, because, well, I don’t know if there’s a real logical reason as to why, but people still say it anyway. Angel Pagan may become the latest casualty of the Fourth Outfielder Fallacy. If so, we can only hope he’s the last.

- Pat Andriola, Fangraphs.com.

Andriola makes this interesting point at the end of a solid post arguing for Angel Pagan to get more playing time than Jeff Francoeur once Carlos Beltran returns, a topic I’ve touched upon with some frequency.

But I link Andriola’s piece here because it deals with the labels fans — and sometimes teams — seem to assign to baseball players somewhat arbitrarily.

Jeff Francoeur is an “everyday player” even though he has been a comfortably below-average Major League right fielder for several seasons. Certainly he deserves to be praised for his impressive durability, but he has been an everyday player for his entire career only because the Braves were amazingly patient with his development.

Angel Pagan, like Andriola suggests, is a “fourth outfielder,” even though he has been a better player than Francoeur for the past year. Francoeur is a power hitter even though Pagan has a higher career slugging average.

Labels are meaningless; teams should play their best players as frequently as possible.

It’s all immaterial if Pagan doesn’t get healthy, of course. An injury is the only thing that should keep him from being an “everyday player,” at this point.

I brought this up in Spring Training in regards to Mike Jacobs and Chris Carter. Mike Jacobs was a Major Leaguer; Chris Carter was a Minor Leaguer. Sometimes these things have a way of sorting themselves out.

4 thoughts on “Pat Andriola on the fourth outfielder fallacy

  1. I don’t think the fallacy is about fourth outfielders; it is more general than that. It’s the same argument as “Takahashi shouldn’t be moved to the rotation; he has been so valuable out of the bullpen!” and “So-and-so shouldn’t be put in the starting lineup; his bat is so valuable off the bench!” That is, that if a player has been very successful in a lesser role, it would somehow hurt the team to move him to a greater role because he would no longer be in that lesser role.

  2. I think in this case, the way you get the most out of every outfielder is by Pagan who can play each position doing that, give Bay a spell once a week perhaps, Beltran likely a couple days to begin and Francouer sits three days a week. Whereas the other guys rotating into the other positions would not be adequate.

    Moot anyway one, Pagan of course once again in his career is hurt and Beltran is still in A ball.

  3. I think the problem is that they don’t realize they can move Pagan over (or whoever the “4th outfielder” is) when they want to. Of course, Francouer’s not filling in at CF off the bench, but you could move Pagan there and put Frenchy in at right. Instead, they see it as “no CF on the bench”, and will go sign GMJ.

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