What A Centerfield Class!

Earlier this week we saw that the class of free agent rightfielders was quite small, at just six players, two-thirds of whom have options on their contracts for 2009 likely to be picked up. Then, moving over to leftfield showed that there are several potent offensive threats, all of whom, well stink defensively and should not be playing leftfield anymore. Today, our trip goes up the middle to centerfield, the much tougher defensive position in the outfield. Unfortunately, this year’s free agent class is not very impressive, so yes, the title to this post has sarcastic connotations.

Mike Cameron is the cream of the crop, so to speak, and is 36 years old. He played in 120 games for the Brewers this season, missing some time due to a performance enhancing related suspension, but was worth just about 1.5 wins above an average hitter. He posted an impressive .243/.331/.477 slash line, complete with 25 home runs and a career high ISO of .234. In the field, Cameron ranked 8th amongst centerfielders at +8 in John Dewan’s system. He has a 10 mm option for 2009 but can be bought out for $750,000. I would tend to think Cameron’s option will be exercised as he was productive both offensively and defensively and would be available for the entire season.

The next best free agent centerfielder, via 2008 WPA/LI, is the 39-yr old Jim Edmonds, who was worth just over one win above an average hitter. In 111 games split between San Diego and Chicago, Edmonds hit .235/.343/.479. His .244 ISO was closer to his power prime with the Cardinals, and his walk rate rose above the percentages from the previous two seasons. He was always lauded for his fielding and is even considered by some to be the best defensive centerfielder in the last few decades, but this is no longer the case. His +- system numbers have drastically declined since 2006, going from a +2, to a -11, to a -26 this season. He handled righties quite well and the declining defense was not exploited as much in Wrigley Field, so he could still be productive for at least another year, but he should be used in a platoon as opposed to full time starting duty.

After Cameron and Edmonds, we have Mark Kotsay, Corey Patterson, and Scott Podsednik, none of whom should be starting regularly. Kotsay and Podsednik are both 33 years old, but had seasons going in different directions. Kotsay was slightly better offensively, with a .276/.329/.403 line, compared to Patterson’s putrid .205/.238/.344, but Patterson was tied with Cameron at +8 while Kotsay registered a -16. Both were below average offensively, with Kotsay posting a WPA/LI of -0.85 with Patterson at -1.63.

I do not understand why Patterson is still given regular playing time, but hopefully this year was the final straw. Even his base-stealing has gotten worse, going just 14/23. If there is anything positive to take away from his season it would be that his strikeout rate dropped, but he rarely walks and rarely hits. A defensive replacement scenario would make sense, or a pinch-running capacity, but nothing more.

Podsednik only played 93 games this season for the Rockies, posting a .253/.322/.333 line. Scottie Pod has a -0.45 WPA/LI but a +3 in centerfield. In the previous two seasons, he played leftfield and posted a +8 and +7, respectively. His base-stealing has dropped off recently as well, meaning he is likely to be better suited for a defensive replacement role than a full-time starter. The pickings are slim in centerfield this year, especially given the likelihook of Cameron’s option being exercised. Perhaps we will see some trades this offseason or some prospects promoted to full time duty.

Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

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13 years ago

To be fair to Corey Patterson, last time he had a horrible season like this, he bounced back and hit .279 with 16 homers, 45 stolen bases and a .6 WPA. At the age of 29, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to bounce back again.