Monday, February 25, 2008

Know Thy Enemy: Centerfield

Next up in our position by position debate, we are going to review centerfield. If you are just catching on we have been doing a debate on who has the better player at each position between the Red Sox and the Yankees. To be clear, this is not a debate on who has the better team, just the better player at each position. A debate on who has the better team would require much more than a position by position evaluation.

Red Sox Centerfield

The Red Sox have two players vying for centerfield and arguments could be made for both players to be used at that position. Coco Crisp is a very strong defensive candidate who has developed a case of bat lethargy since coming from Cleveland. In limited play last season, Jacoby Ellsbury impressed quite a bit. He batted .353 with 3 homeruns, 18 RBI's and 9 stolen bases. He also smoked in the world series going 7 for 16 for a .438 average with 3 RBI's and a stolen base. I haven't seen enough of him to judge accurately, but from what I've seen, he's a pretty good fielder as well. The question with Ellsbury is how will he do in his first full season of big league ball? He has some amazing numbers in limited play but going a whole season is a completely different challenge. How many at bats he'll get is a big question as well. Right now the Red Sox project Ellsbury behind Crisp in the depth chart, but I can't imagine that will last long.

On the other side, Crisp has been a bit of a dissapointment for the Red Sox. After 4 productive seasons with the Indians, he hasn't quite met his expectations in Boston. He was hampered by a thumb injury his first season, but his second season didn't improve much. He batted .268 with 6 homeruns 60 RBI's and 28 stolen bases. Speed is his best weapon, but you have to get on base to get to use it.

Yankees Centerfield

Melky Cabrera has been an absolute fan favorite since coming up and sticking with the Yankees in 2006. Despite the trade rumors that have floated around about him in the two off seasons he's been with the Yankees, he's still here. Melky has good speed for the outfield, but his biggest strength is his arm. He has an absolute canon. Although Damon may be faster than Melky, and Abreu may be able to compete with his arm, Melky is the all around best outfielder the Yankees have. His offense has been the only drawback to Melky. He's not horrible by any means, and his defense makes up for a lot, but the Yankees have certainly had better hitting outfielders. He ended last season with a .273 average, 8 homeruns, 73 RBI's and 13 stolen bases. He doesn't hit for enough power to have the kind of average he does, but on the other side, he's only 23 years old. The question for him will be how he does with his bat this season. If he improves and starts flexing some muscle at the plate, he could make things interesting for the Yankees.

Winner: Even. Melky has been better than Crisp whose picked as the starting centerfielder, but there's no way Ellsbury stays as a back up for long. I think Ellsbury will end the season with good numbers, and will probably have a hotter bat than Melky, but he needs to complete a full season before I can legitimately say he's better than Melky. Too many rookies look good in small samples. A full season is the real test.


Anonymous said...

No argument here. But, its funny how much Crisp's production has dropped since he came to boston. He hit for good average and power when he was in Cleveland, but when he came here it all dropped off. I think it has to do with when he broke his hand when he got hit by the pitch a few weeks in the season. Up till that point he was off to a hot start, and after that he just doesnt seem like the same hitter. Almost like when Nomar got hit in the wrist by an Al Reyes fastball and hasn't been the same since. Also I think the power dropoff might be because he is hitting lefty mostly at fenway and with one of the longest right fields in the league, that might be another cause for the dropoff, because unless your David Oritz and hitting no doubters left and right, I think its hard for a lefty to drop bombs out in right field at Fenway.

-Fred Trigger

Fernando Alejandro said...

The weird thing with Crisp is that he improved in every season he was with the Indians. I thought he would at least do decently his first year, and he didn't. I then figured he would have a much better second season and he didn't. Its hard to call it with some players.

You're right about that left handed power in Fenway. I just wonder how much damage Ortiz could do if he was a Yankee with that short porch in right.

anonymous number two said...

The larger the sample the greater the regression toward the mean. It is inevitable for Ellsbury and Melky.