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NL Central Positional Throwdown: Centerfield Edition

Every dog has their day. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut. The Pirates have a player top The Throwdown.

Pittsburgh Pirates Centerfielder: Nate McLouth

It's not llke the Central is full of superb centerfielders, but at the same time, McLouth had a fine 2008 season. He was never overly impressive in any of previous seasons and he was at the point last year where if he was ever going to put it together, then was the time. Well, he came through for the Buccos, to say the least. He was worth nearly a win above a replacement player on the basepaths alone. An All Star candidate for the foreseeable future is how I see McLouth. Way to go, Steel City. Points Awarded: 6


Milwaukee Brewers Centerfielder: Mike Cameron

This is a guy who does a lot of things well, and a lot of things not so well. Among the things he does well, is amass a tidy OPS, run the bases and play defense. Among the areas of the game where he struggles are making contact, hitting for average (although this isn't a huge concern), striking out a ton as a result of the low contact rate. He also struggles with growing older, but that's more a result of being human than any baseball-related trait. He has a full season to go to work this time around with Milwaukee, after missing the first 25 games of 2008 with his suspension for using a banned stimulant. He's 36, but he seems to be a young 36- so a better season in 2009 wouldn't surprise me. Points Awarded: 5

St. Louis Cardinals Centerfielder: Rick Ankiel

The former pitcher made good on his switch to the outfield, slugging a prodigious .506 in 2008. What will probably hamper his quest to equal that kind of production again is a low contact rate of his own. His walk rate did jump quite a bit, but that could have something to do with his getting a full season's worth of major league ABs under his belt. Even then, like Cameron, his OBP still was only .337. His defense is good, and he has an arm like few centefielders (go figure!). Despite his inability to steal bases, Ankiel doesn't kill the Cards on the basepaths, and Baseball Prospectus has him pegged to contribute .1 runs above a replacement level player to the cause this season. It's effect will be negligible, but the fact remains that the Cardinals took a lost cause and turned it into a plus for the team. Houston and Brian Bogusevic should be watching this. Points Awarded: 4

Chicago Cubs Centerfielder: Koskuke Fukudome/Reed Johnson

Fukudome-san came in like a lion in 2008, showing great patience at the plate, while playing a superb right field. Then, something happened, and he finished the season with a nice OBP (.359), but that's about it. He was only slightly better than a league average player. A hefty contract means he's here to stay. On the other hand, is Reed Johnson. It's not as if he's going to be a huge improvement over Fukudome, but he will be able to lighten the load and form a nice platoon when it's all said and done. He does nothing well, but he's not terrible at anything either. Very ho-hum on the northside of Chicago. Points Awarded: 3

Houston Astros Centerfielder: Michael Bourn

Michael Bourn has trouble both hitting for extra bases and getting on in the first place. He walked more in his winter league stint, so perhaps there's hope. An improvement in his SB% would be great, but he's by far the best Astro threat on the basepaths. His walk rate does just enough to push him ahead of Willy Taveras in my mind. A season of not batting him leadoff should help him and the Astros. Unfortunately, batting him second still puts him in a lot of important situations offensively. His speed should eliminate many double play scenarios, however. If he struggles, Brian Bogusevic is waiting in the wings. Points Awarded: 2

Cincinnati Reds Centerfielder: Willy Taveras

Oh, Willy.

You came, and you stole lots of bases.

But we sent you away, Oh Willy.

Now you're back with the Reds, and I say "Hey!".

Can you improve your EqA? Oh, Willy?

(Probably not. That's why he's last in The Throwdown.) Points Awarded: 1

Total Points through 8 comparisons:

Chicago Cubs-37

Milwaukee Brewers-37

St. Louis Cardinals-28

Houston Astros-27

Cincinnati Reds-23

Pittsburgh Pirates-18