On Center Field

This article was inspired by great friend of the blog, and all around great person, @SherriPizza.

There was an article on ESPN yesterday–which I will not link to because I don’t want to give clicks to an article with a poor premise–about how Curtis Granderson leading the Yankees in home runs and RBIs is both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a good thing because, well, I don’t know how it’s not. It’s a bad thing because it wasn’t, according to the author, the plan. She argued that someone like Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, or Alex Rodriguez should be leading the team in HRs/RBIs. That’s certainly what we expected coming in to 2011, but just because that’s not happening doesn’t mean there’s something bad going on. In fact, it’s great that Curtis Granderson is leading the team offensively.

Why is it so great? It’s so great because of the position Curtis Granderson plays. Center Fielders are not, historically, offensive minded players. While there have been standouts–like the ones pointed out by Joe Pawlikowski at FanGraphs yesterday–it’s traditionally been a defense first position and any offense you get from that position is, as they say, gravy.

Before last night’s game against the Blue Jays, the average AL CF was OPSing .725. The median wOBA among qualifying CFs was .3245, the average of Denard Span‘s .321 mark and Melky Cabrera‘s .328 mark. Curtis Granderson was OPSing .942 with a .407 wOBA. Both of those should be higher this morning after his three walk performance last night. Curtis Granderson is absolutely killing it at a position that doesn’t put up a lot of offense. How anyone could think that isn’t valuable is beyond me. Center field is an up the middle position, a premium position. Those spots are where you want the productive players. Is it unexpected when one of these guys gives you great offensive value? Yep. Is it ever even remotely bad? No. It may not be great that the Yankees aren’t getting power production from their corner outfield spots in Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner, but it’s a damn good thing that Curtis Granderson is raking.

I’m going to gush a bit now because I like to gush about players I like. Curtis Granderson is awesome. He’s a nice guy, he’s incredibly well spoken, and he’s a fantastic baseball player. He hits, he walks, he chases down everything that’s even remotely near him. I’m glad the Yankees traded for him. After what has felt like an eternity, the Yankees finally have a true replacement for Bernie Williams in center field.

This article was originally going to be something comparing those two, but I couldn’t quite find a proper angle to do it, so I’ll just throw some stuff about them out there. Now, none of this is to disparage either player because I love them both. We definitely think of Granderson as one of the top offensive CFs in baseball, but Bernie was obviously no slouch himself. He’s the owner of a .371 career wOBA and 125 wRC+ compared to Granderson’s .358 and 118. Both are solid but compared to position, they’re even better. If we count this year, Granderson’s .407 wOBA would be a career high; Bernie Williams topped that twice and matched it once. 1997-2000 for Bernie featured wOBAs of .407, .423, .412, and .403. His defense may never be what Curtis’s is, but Bernie made for quite the formidable foe at the plate. Perhaps, as one other friend of the blog likes to put it, he was feared.

Bernie Williams is the player who most makes me hate the term “Core Four” that referred to Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera. Obviously, it was easy to do that since those guys were playing and Bernie wasn’t. But let’s not forget that Bernie was an incredibly important part of that team. Jorge may’ve somehow lasted longer, but Bernie was right on pace with him until he stopped playing and was closer to Jeter than most people remember.

From now on, when we talk about those Dynasty Years, let’s remember to keep Bernie in there. He was a great hitter at a premium position and was just as big a part of those championships as Jeter, Pettitte, Posada, and Rivera were. And as we remember that, let’s also remember how great it is to once again have a stud hitter manning center field in the Bronx.

About Matt Imbrogno

A native and resident of the Mean Streets of Southwestern Connecticut, Matt is a narcissistic, misanthropic 20something English teacher who lives by a simple creed: Yankees Only.

8 thoughts on “On Center Field

  1. Actually, Teixiera, Rodriguez, and Cano, the heart of the order, should be having better HR and RBI numbers than Granderson because they are being paid considerably more than him (Cano) and alot more than him (Rodriguez and Teixiera) to do so. It’s still early thus I could see any two or all three finishing with more HR and RBI than Granderson, but it doesn’t look like it. I will say the article needs to lay off of Granderson.

    With that said, the Yankees did not give Teixiera $160M to be a Gold Glove version of Jason Giambi: HRs and high OBP but batting .25X shit.

    The Yankees are not paying A-Rod $30M a year or close to it / did not give him a record contract to finish with less than 30 HR and less than 100 RBI. or even 32 HR and 105 RBI which are very solid numbers, but he’s making money where most fans including myself expect 42 HR and 125 RBI. Hey, he got top dollar, he should put up top dollar numbers. You can’t say “Give me a record contract” then post up numbers you could get from someone else for half or a little more than half the price.

    The Yankees are not paying Cano to finish with .287/.345/.436 16 HR, and 84 RBI. Nice numbers, but he’s shown he could do alot better.

    In fairness to all three I could see any two or all three of them not collecting 100 or more RBI each because Jeter and Swisher are such bums for table-setters, but I don’t know if Jeter and Swisher sucking is enough of an excuse for that to happen. If Jeter doesn’t get on base, you have to hit more so you get on base for everyone behind you to drive you in or swat a homerun more. You can’t command that, but where one guy isn’t getting it done, you have to pick up the slack. It’s not fair, but maybe it’s not about fair and unfair. It’s baseball. But the heart of the order cannot be streaky like the 2011 Yankees HOTO has been.

    It is incidental Granderson is the starting CF.

    And who really cares that the CF is posting big HR and RBI numbers when the DH, the RF, the LF is posting ok at best numbers, and the SS are posting shit numbers, and the heart of the order is underachieving? Gardner is one 0 for 20 slump away from being a super fourth outfielder masquerading as a bad ninth-place hitting everyday LF. How long will Martin hit like prime Posada?

    The article seems to be saying guys making more money than Granderson and who make up the heart of the 2011 Yankees batting order should be posting up better HR and RBI numbers than Granderson, I agree and think that is a fair thing to say. The article is also implying what I say here:

    Teixiera, Rodriguez, and Cano are underachieving while Granderson and Martin are overachieving. Time for the heart of the order to be so good I don’t think Granderson, Martin, and Gardner are more likely to produce a big inning than them, and let’s be honest folks:

    Yankees down 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, Teixiera/Rodriguez/Cano or Granderson/Martin/Gardner. Which one is more likely to tie the game or hit for a walkoff win nowadays? I’d have to say the latter. That’s not good or what the Yankees are paying Teixiera/Rodriguez/Cano for.

    • In fairness to Alex his hip has taken a lot of his production in the last few years, and he has played through pain in all of the last 3 seasons (including this year) in a very important part of the body.

      In 2008 Alex hit 35 HRs with a triple slash line of .302/.392/.573 with a wOBA of .413, and a WAR of 6.3 in only 138 games.

      In 2009 he hit 30 HRs with a triple slash line of .286/.402/.532 with a wOBA of .405, and a WAR of 4.4 in only 127 games.

      There are not many players alive who could put up those kind of numbers while dealing with the injuries he had, and missing that many games.

      Last year was the first real human year Alex has had as a Yankee and he still posted a triple slash line of .270/.341/.506, with a wOBA of .363, and a WAR of 3.8 in 137 games.

      When you look at this season he has already posted a WAR of 2.1, and a wOBA of .384, so he is going to have a better season than last year. He may not get back to the .400+ wOBA of the past but if he puts up a 5+ WAR you can’t really degrade the guy in my opinion.

  2. Thanks Matt! Enjoyable! As I’ve been watching Curtis Granderson play this season (and what a joy that’s been!) I’ve been reminded of Bernie, and it’s definitely nice to have an excellent center fielder playing for the Yanks again.

  3. there was a time when he was a contender for the batting title every year. Bernie should not be overlooked, he batted cleanup for a legendary Yankee dynasty.

  4. Bernie was as important to those teams as anyone. He was a grinder before the term came into vogue.

  5. I enjoyed this article. I am a big Curtis fan and was happy to see him come over from Detroit, I think the Yankees’ assessment that AJax MIGHT one day BECOME Curtis light (i.e., Curtis with more BA and less SLG) was dead on.

    All the talk pre-trade of Curtis’ slide in defense was way overblown, based on a month or two of poor play in Detroit; Curtis has been, IMHO, awesome in the field, and the tandem of GGBG in left and Curtis in center has saved many XBH and runs already.

    If GGBG or DJ were leading the team in HR, I would say the Yanks are in trouble. To say the Yanks are in trouble because the CF, a position not typified but sluggers (although Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey Jr, Willie Mays and many other HOF sluggers who patrolled CF might disagree) leads the team in HR is silly, so long as the other “normal” slugging positions – 3B, 1B – are carrying their load. The corner outfield spots on the Yanks are clearly not carrying their load, but the Yanks have bonus production at 2B and C to make up some of the lost production from the corners. Sometimes there is way too much analytical BS on the net.

  6. one thing people forgot when they were talking about Granderson’s defensive slip was that he suffered an injury in 2008 to his legs and he played through it. He then was re-injured in 2009, in fact the data supports that he wasn’t allowed to get fully healthy until late into the 2009 season. Which is why many were confident his defense was going to come back to gold glove caliber with the Yankees.

    “Sometimes there is way too much analytical BS on the net.”

    I actually think the opposite is true, I think there are way too many people that don’t analyze the numbers, and instead go off of surface numbers or worse yet no numbers and just what they think they see. Many times the peripherals will tell you much more than the average, or errors, or ERA will.