Over at Baseball-Reference, it is very easy to find league average offensive numbers broken down by position. This is convenient if, for example, you would like to see how a fringe everyday player such as Garrett Jones compared to the average production of MLB first basemen in 2011 (Jones: .753 OPS, Average 1B: .797 OPS). However, these numbers can be misleading when trying to determine whether a player is an acceptable full-time starter.
Throughout a given season, numerous bench and replacement level players see sporadic bits of playing time for every team, and those plate appearances usually weigh down the overall league average numbers. For example, Bobby Crosby, a shortstop by trade, made five starts at first base for the Pirates in 2010, meaning his lousy production in those games was included in the overall league average line for first basemen. That might seem like a small and inconsequential number of plate appearances, but these situations add up around the league and affect the final stats. In reality, the average major league regular produces better numbers than those found on the league splits page at Baseball-Reference.
I decided to attempt to determine the average numbers for each position, using only the starting nine for each team. This is a bit trickier than it sounds, as it is not always easy to identify the starter at every position for each team around the league. The least complicated method would be to use the player who received the most playing time at each position, and that was what I did for the most part. However, I made some subjective changes based on each particular situation. For example, the Astros traded Hunter Pence to Philadelphia at midseason, so he could not be treated as either team’s full-time right fielder. In this situation, I split Pence’s season stats with Brian Bogusevic’s for Houston and split Pence’s stats with Ben Francisco’s for Philadelphia. I did the same with a few other players around the league. Also, in a few situations that were pretty clearly straight platoons, I combined the stats of multiple players for that position. The Reds’ catching situation is a good example, where Ryan Hanigan and Ramon Hernandez received mostly equal playing time. Otherwise, I kept it as simple as possible and used the player with the most playing time at each position. You can see which players I used for each position here, with all changes highlighted.
Anyway, here are the results. Remember that these positional averages are just estimates, and are affected by the subjective decisions I made.
For comparison’s sake, here are the Pirates players that received significant playing time at each position in 2011.