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NL West in Review: Center Fielders

Matt Kemp was a beast this season, but that doesn't mean the Dodgers had the best CF spot last season.  For the second straight week, Los Angeles surprisingly gets pushed to second place by a team without a primary starter.  

San Diego started the season with Scott Hairston and Jody Gerut platooning in center field, but by the All-Star break, both had been jettisoned, with the only returning position player being their new center fielder who had been in AAA all season to that point.

But don't let Petco Park and the constant new faces fool you.  The Padres were strong in center field last season.










1. San Diego









2. Los Angeles









3. San Francisco









4. Colorado









5. Arizona









Hairston saved almost all his San Diego offense for his CF starts, posting a ridiculous .458 wOBA in 148 PA.  His eventual replacement, Tony Gwynn Jr, had the best OBP in the division outside of Hairston matched with fantastic defensive play.  That was enough to supersede the Dodgers, who had neutral defense and just a 13 point wOBA* edge.  This can teach us two things - it is indeed a team game, and don't discredit the Padres' offense, as Petco Park can mask a lot.

All the proof and stats are under the fold.

Here's your visual breakdown, with the CF positional RAR set at +2.5.  The Dodgers' team UZR is indeed included; however, it is equal to exactly zero:


The bottom three slots of the NL West's 23 center fielders are occupied by Diamondbacks.  For the full player rankings, click here.  

For the raw data and calculations, check this Google Docs link.

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2009 in Review

Chris Young was supposed to be an anchor to a Diamondbacks lineup with visions of a division title.  Instead second worst defensive CF in the division (via UZR) and battled the Mendoza line most of the season.  Given his performance in recent years and underwhelming showings from his replacements, Young was given a long leash, one in which he finally turned into a strong(er) finish, highlighted by a 3 HR performance at Coors Field. 

Chris Young

#24 / Center Field / Arizona Diamondbacks





Sep 05, 1983

2010 in Preview

In reality, Young's disappointing 2009 didn't come out of left field. He might have been one of the more overrated hitters in the game before the season; taking park adjustments into account, he has just as many above league average (wRAA) hitting seasons as I do - zero.  His OBP marks in his three seasons plus 2006 callup are as follows:  .306, .295, .315, .311.  He is an ultimate hit or miss hitter, and the reality is he might not be longterm answer.  Unfortunately for Arizona, he just finished out the first year of a 5-year $28mil extension expiring after the 2013 season.  The 26 year old will make $3.25mil next year and will be given a shot to show he can be more consistent and effective. 

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2009 in Review

As expected, the Rockies appear to have a pedestrian showing due to Dexter Fowler's epicly low UZR score.  This is a good time to mention UZR's apparent disdain for Rockies' CFers, as Willy Taveras has two seasons with a UZR lower than +8.  Both came with the Rockies, and both were below negative two.  Fowler had an uneven but nonetheless impressive season for a prospect who surprisingly leapt from AA to start Opening Day.  Carlos Gonzalez put up big numbers in CF, much coming when Fowler was injured late in the year.  Despite far less PA, CarGo produced more overall for the Rockies than Fowler (remember the UZR thing).  

Carlos Gonzalez

#5 / Center Field / Colorado Rockies





Oct 17, 1985

2010 in Preview

Fowler was pegged as a great defensive player in the minors, so it will be interesting to see how UZR treats him in the future.  While some of his poor score may be typical UZR hootenanny, he did have his uneven moments that could be improved.  As it stands now, he will get the majority of reps in center, but if Brad Hawpe isn't traded, Carlos Gonzalez could cut a good portion of ABs from Fowler with Smith starting in left.

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Los Angeles

2009 in Review

Matt Kemp should have been an All-Star.  He earned the NL Silver Slugger and Gold Glove for center fielders, so unsurprisingly he trounces the division individually.  He is truly a five tool player, and he could easily post a .300-30-100 season with 30+ SB's next year.  An absolute beast, or Bison, as he is called.  It really makes you wonder what Joe Torre was looking at when penciling him in the bottom three spots in the lineup 70 times last season.

Matt Kemp

#27 / Center Field / Los Angeles Dodgers





Sep 23, 1984

2010 in Preview

Kemp will be in center field nearly every day next season, probably higher than seventh in the lineup.  He just missed being arbitration eligible via being a Super Two, so he will be quite the bargain again in 2010.

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San Diego

2009 in Review

As outlined above, a tag team of Scott Hairston in the first half and Tony Gwynn Jr in the second half made the Padres quite formidable. Will Venable also raked the ball to the tune of a .468 wOBA over 53 CF PA.

Tony Gwynn

#18 / Center Field / San Diego Padres





Oct 04, 1982

2010 in Preview

In my opinion, the Padres made a trade for Gwynn that put them in a difficult spot, a la Dan Hawkins.  How do you get rid of the son of a Hall of Fame franchise hero if he doesn't cut it?  Luckily for San Diego, Gwynn did cut it last season, and the Friars should be confident putting him in center full time in 2010. The 27-year old barely has a year of MLB service time, so he is still under complete team control for cheap.

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San Francisco

2009 in Review

Aaron Rowand was an All-Star and received MVP votes in 2007 with Philadelphia. Brian Sabean promptly overpaid to bring Rowand in.  He has been overwhelmingly average in his tenure by the bay - in fact, Fangraphs crowned him the third most average hitter in 2009.

Aaron Rowand

#33 / Center Field / San Francisco Giants





Aug 29, 1977

2010 in Preview

With three years and $36million remaining on that bad contract, Rowand is sufficiently entrenched in center field in the near future.  He had a complete no-trade clause last season, but has a "limited no-trade clause" each of the three years.  I'm fine if he stays in San Francisco until 2012.