Edmonds Redefining Centerfield for Cubs
About a month or so back, a discussion arose in the comments about the Cubs futility at the center field position. Faithful reader "WISCGRAD" took it upon himself to take a look at the situation.
After hitting just .178 with one homerun in 90 at-bats to start the season, the 38-year old Jim Edmonds was released by the Padres on May 9th. He was signed just five days later by Jim Hendry and the Cubs and started the following day against his former team, going 1-4 in 4-0 win. In 100 at-bats since in Cubbie Blue, Edmonds sports a .290 batting average, .374 on-base percentage, and a .580 slugging percentage, having already blasted six doubles, a triple, and seven home runs. His on-base + slugging percentage is a robust .954, which would place him seventh in the National League (just ahead of Matt Holliday) if only his Chicago stats were counted and he had enough at-bats to qualify. (Ed Note: Numbers were for games played before Tuesday, July 1st)
Edmonds’ performance has been a pleasant surprise in the first half of the season, and is most certainly an upgrade offensively over the Felix Pie-Johnson combination that began the season. But how does Edmonds stack up to the production the Cubs normally get from the centerfield position? I decided to find out.
Baseball Reference records the number of games played at each position for each player on every team. A primary player is designated for each position, which is normally the player who has played the most games at that position during the season. In rare cases it may be the player with the second most if the player with the most played more games (and the most on the team) at another position. Below is a list of the primary centerfielders for the Chicago Cubs for each season from 1956-2007 (prior to 1956 the LF-CF-RF designation was not made). The statistics – batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and on base plus slugging – are for the entire season, not just those games played in centerfield. Many fans have lamented the lack of a true centerfielder in a great while for the Cubs. The findings below are striking.
Leon Durham’s amazing 1982 season, in which he split time between right and center (71 games started at each), stands out as by far the best season put up by a centerfielder for the Cubs. In all four statistical categories this represents the best performance in a half-century. Remarkably, it also represents the ONLY season in which a centerfielder had a BA over .300. The best overall stretch was Rick Monday’s reign from 1972-1976. He owns four of the top seven on-base-percentages on the list. Monday is also one of only three players, along with Durham and Corey Patterson (2003 short season), to slug over .500. In only ten seasons has the centerfielder achieved an OPS over .800 – Durham, Monday (four times), Patterson, Adolfo Phillips (twice), Mel Hall, and Bobby Thomson.
On the other side of the spectrum, Cleo James (1970), Corey Patterson (2005), Gary Mathews Jr. (2001), and Jerome Walton (1991) all hit below .220 for the season. Patterson’s OBP of .254 in 2005 also brings up the rear, in fact a full .14 below the second lowest. Doug Dascenzo, better known for his defense than his hitting, slugged just .311 in 1992. Bob Dernier holds two of the four worst slugging seasons, with .316 and .312 marks in 1985 and 1986. Dernier’s 1986 season is perhaps the worst overall, having the lowest OPS at only .587. Although Patterson’s 2005 season (.602), Walton’s 1991 season (.605), and Dascenzo’s 1992 season (.615) have to also be mentioned as being particularly terrible.
Edmonds current line would place him seventh in BA, fourth in OBP, first in SLG (by a wide margin), and first in OPS (by a wide margin). He may not keep up this pace for the remainder of the season – he is after all 38 and banged-up physically – but it is time to recognize that this type of production is quite uncharacteristic for a Cubs centerfielder.
|2001||Gary Mathews Jr.||217||320||364||684|