Breaking Down the NL Central Division – Part 3
This is the third segment of an eight-part series handicapping the NL Central based on a position by position analysis of teams using a variety of projection systems.
Part 1 (Intro, C-1B) | Part 2 (2B, 3B, SS)
Were not talking rocket science here, just a quick look at offense and a cursory glance at defensive whizzes (or dunces). Im using ZiPS as my projection base, but I have CHONE and Marcels around here as well if you find fault in a particular players numbers. Feel free to call me out in the comments; Ill do my best to explain my reasoning.
Now, the outfields:
- Duncan: 455 AB, .266/.346/.457, 21 HR, 65 RBI, 2 SB
- Lee: 600 AB, .288/.344/.485, 28 HR, 99 RBI, 13 SB
- Dunn: 556 AB, .259/.382/.536, 40 HR, 98 RBI, 4 SB
- Jenkins: 477 AB, .260/.338/.434, 17 HR, 64 RBI, 1 SB
- Bay: 530 AB, .279/.378/.521, 30 HR, 88 RBI, 9 SB, + Def
- Floyd: 360 AB, .261/.350/.469, 18 HR, 61 RBI, 6 SB
For the record: Jason Bay’s not a standout defender. Thing is, though, compared to the rest of these guys, he looks like Roberto Clemente. Without checking fielding percentages, my guess is Jenkins would be next best.
The optimal way to rank these sluggers? I suppose OPS. Again, the players separate themselves into classes. Dunn, Bay. Lee, Floyd. Duncan, Jenkins. And that’s the order. Now, to weight them.
All six guys should be solid hitters near the middle of the order; obviously some will be better than others. Red Hot Mama will be impressed with my ability to rank a Red first (especially over one of my own, and a 2006 All-Star starter). ZiPS says that Adam Dunn will have a better year at the plate than Bay. It’s close, though, so the difference in the rankings won’t amount to much.
Carlos Lee should perform well in a lineup with Lance Berkman, and the fact that he puts up his line in 240 more at bats than Cliff Floyd leaves him in third. Floyd drops off a bit to fourth (despite a similar OPS to Lee) because of durability concerns. Chris Duncan will be embarrassing in left field for the Cardinals, so he’ll need to hit to stay in the starting nine. Geoff Jenkins is at the top of the pack in Milwaukee’s crowded corner outfield for now, but a lot could change in the early part of the season.
CIN=10 | PIT=9 | HOU=8 | CHC=6 | STL=5 | MIL=5
- Edmonds: 401 AB, .262/.372/.516, 24 HR, 76 RBI, 4 SB, + Def
- Burke: 398 AB, .269/.336/.407, 9 HR, 38 RBI, 17 SB
- Griffey: 423 AB, .270/.342/.506, 26 HR, 77 RBI, 0 SB
- Hall: 512 AB, .268/.334/.496, 24 HR, 72 RBI, 11 SB
- Duffy: 409 AB, .274/.326/.389, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 22 SB, + Def
- Soriano: 642 AB, .265/.324/.498, 36 HR, 86 RBI, 27 SB
The aging superstars. The converted middle infielders. And Chris Duffy. Center field isn’t that strong in the Central despite the presence of some big names.
Jim Edmonds is projected to be the best of the bunch, surprisingly enough. His OPS wins out by a considerable margin. His defense isn’t what it once was–he’s lost a step from recent injuries–but he’s still solid with the glove. You might be able to make an argument for Chris Duffy as the top defensive center fielder, but not here, not now.
Second: Griffey or Soriano? I’ll take the Cub because he’s projected to play a full season and because he’ll contribute in the running game. I wouldn’t count on either one being in center in September. I think the Reds would be satisfied to get .270-26-77 out of Griffey.
Bill Hall fourth? ZiPS doesn’t love him as much as the pundits do. His OPS is better than Soriano’s, but he won’t run as much and he’s a year behind him defensively in the outfield. I wouldn’t be upset if someone made a case to put the Brewer in second.
Duffy or Burke? Neither excites me. Since both project to be offensive on offense, I’ll give the (slight) edge to Duffy’s speed and defense.
STL=10 | CHC=8 | CIN=8 | MIL=8 | PIT=4 | HOU=4
- Encarnacion: 442 AB, .265/.315/.405, 12 HR, 58 RBI, 3 SB
- Scott: 479 AB, .259/.340/.501, 26 HR, 79 RBI, 4 SB
- Freel: 441 AB, .265/.361/.376, 6 HR, 26 RBI, 30 SB
- Hart: 463 AB, .263/.333/.462, 17 HR, 62 RBI, 19 SB
- Nady: 407 AB, .280/.341/.467, 16 HR, 57 RBI, 2 SB
- Jones: 520 AB, .263/.320/.456, 24 HR, 77 RBI, 9 SB
What a sorry lot this is. Nady’s the most entrenched as a starter, but that’s only because Dave Littlefield paid a hefty price to bring him to Pittsburgh. That doesn’t make him the top dog here, though.
Luke Scott? It has to be. I’m not thrilled, but ZiPS has him putting up an .840 OPS. I’m married to the system, so Scott gets the 10.
Xavier Nady’s second, which says a lot. I’m sure the Pirates are hoping to get more than 400 at bats out of him. If he only knocks in 57 runs, it’ll be another long year in the Steel City.
Corey Hart finishes third, barely eking out Jacque Jones. There’s not a lot I can say. They’re serviceable, but they surely won’t carry a team.
How is Ryan Freel not the worst right fielder in the National League? Because Juan Encarnacion is starting for the Cardinals. At least Freel can run.
HOU=10 | PIT=8 | MIL=7 | CHC=7 | CIN=5 | STL=5
Part four (the benches) will come on Tuesday. Stop by tomorrow for PPR #16.