2009 Replacement Level: Center Field

As most of you know, the Win Values we present here on FanGraphs are wins above a replacement level player. Replacement level, essentially, is the expected performance you could get from a player who costs nothing to acquire and makes the league minimum. That’s the baseline that players add value over – performance over their no-cost substitute.

However, I know examples can be extremely helpful, so starting on Monday, we began looking at some players who currently personify replacement level, and what their respective organizations should expect from them in 2009. We’ve already covered catcher, first base, second base, shortstop, third base, and left field and we’ll move on through all of the positions the rest of this week.

Center Field

Unlike the LFs, these guys are mostly the same skillset – flycatchers with range and questionable bats.

Reggie Abercrombie, Houston, .301 wOBA
Corey Patterson, Washington, .304 wOBA
Chris Duffy, Milwaukee, .313 wOBA
Jason Ellison, Philadelphia, .298 wOBA
Ryan Langerhans, Washington, .330 wOBA
Scott Podsednik, Colorado, .305 wOBA
So Taguchi, Chicago (NL), .291 wOBA

Besides Langerhans, pretty similar projections for most of these guys, and the group gets a .306 average wOBA projection for 2009. That’s quite a bit better than the C/SS, just slightly better than 2B, and not that much worse than 3B. For a premium defensive position, this is a decent level of free offense.

((.306 – .330) / 1.2) * 600 = -12

This group is -12 offensively, and considering they’re mostly above average defenders, we might have our first deviation from the norm. With a +2.5 position adjustment for CF, these guys would have to be something like -10 defenders in center field to be two wins below average. But there’s no way to make that argument – Patterson, Abercrombie, Duffy, Ellison – these guys are good defenders. Using their historical UZRs, we’d conclude that they’re probably +5 with the gloves.

-12 offense, +5 defense, +2.5 position adjustment = -4.5 runs.

Half a win. The CHONE projections suggest that you could get a center fielder who is half a win worse than league average for free.

What’s going on here? Are teams really undervaluing this skillset? Is our position adjustment off? Is this just a banner crop of freely available center fielders? I don’t know, honestly. This is definitely an area that needs more research.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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15 years ago

Interesting. The deviation is on the offensive side, not the defensive. My first thought was that teams are overvaluing defense in CF (while still undervaluing it in the corner OF spots) but a glance at the starting CFs suggests that’s (mostly) not the case. Still, you’d think some of these guys would get looked at as corner OFs.