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.

Year Player AVG OBP SLG OPS
2007 Jacque Jones 285 335 400 735
2006 Juan Pierre 292 330 388 718
2005 Corey Patterson 215 254 348 602
2004 Corey Patterson 266 320 452 772
2003 Corey Patterson 298 329 511 840
2002 Corey Patterson 253 284 392 676
2001 Gary Mathews Jr. 217 320 364 684
2000 Damon Buford 251 324 390 714
1999 Lance Johnson 260 332 337 669
1998 Lance Johnson 280 335 352 687
1997 Brian McRae 240 329 372 701
1996 Brian McRae 276 360 425 785
1995 Brian McRae 288 348 440 788
1994 Tuffy Rhodes 234 318 387 705
1993 Sammy Sosa 261 309 485 794
1992 Doug Dascenzo 255 304 311 615
1991 Jerome Walton 219 275 330 605
1990 Jerome Walton 263 350 329 679
1989 Jerome Walton 293 335 385 720
1988 Dave Martinez 254 311 348 659
1987 Dave Martinez 292 372 418 790
1986 Bob Dernier 225 275 312 587
1985 Bob Dernier 254 315 316 631
1984 Bob Dernier 278 356 362 718
1983 Mel Hall 283 352 488 840
1982 Leon Durham 312 388 521 909
1981 Jerry Morales 286 343 339 682
1980 Jerry Martin 227 281 419 700
1979 Jerry Martin 272 321 453 774
1978 Greg Gross 265 323 349 672
1977 Jerry Morales 290 348 447 795
1976 Rick Monday 272 346 507 853
1975 Rick Monday 267 373 446 819
1974 Rick Monday 294 375 467 842
1973 Rick Monday 267 372 469 841
1972 Rick Monday 249 362 399 761
1971 Brock Davis 256 335 312 647
1970 Cleo James 210 298 324 622
1969 Don Young 239 343 371 714
1968 Adolfo Phillips 241 320 399 719
1967 Adolfo Phillips 268 384 458 842
1966 Adolfo Phillips 262 348 452 800
1965 Don Landrum 226 300 334 634
1964 Billy Cowan 241 268 404 672
1963 Ellis Burton 230 311 398 709
1962 Lou Brock 263 319 412 731
1961 Al Heist 255 337 383 720
1960 Al Heist 275 339 412 751
1959 George Altman 245 312 383 695
1958 Bobby Thomson 283 351 466 817
1957 Bob Speake 232 299 404 703
1956 Pete Whisenant 239 292 414 706
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Comments

FWIW, Jimmy's numbers with the Cubs this year are right inline with his career averages.

I am still amazed he doesn't suck. I though Hendry was nuts for signing him, but I was wrong. Let's hope he keeps up a good pace, and doesn't crash to earth.

I will feel better though with Reed Johnson back healthy, as a fall-back option.

Well, from 1973 on they were looking for a new third baseman.

for the win....

maybe he will get a rest today
so he is ready for 3 in a row
in st louis.

Was there not a time, under the Hendry/McFail regime, when Edmonds was a FA? And, they let him fall to the Cards while instead signing Kenny Lofton, Ben Grieve, Todd Walker, Jerry Hairston, or "Holly".

The cards traded for him and never let him get away.

Thanks for the analysis, WISCGRAD. I always thought of Rick Monday as a misfit leadoff man given how often he struck out, but looking at those OBP numbers, it is hard to reach that conclusion. The thing is, his power was also excellent which leads one to wonder if the team wouldn't have ultimately benefited from his hitting further down in the order (the Soriano question).

I'll forgive the disparaging remarks about Cleo James.

Thanks again.

My bad. After further investigation, apparently Edmonds signed as a FA originally in 2000 with the Cards. Under the McFail regime at the time, we sported a terrific OF of Henry Rodriguez, LF, Damon Buford in Center, and Sammy as RF.

This complimented the team's fearsome starters other than Gracie, including: Eric Young, Girardi, Willie Greene, and Ricky Gutierrez. And of course, Augie, Rosie Brown, Glenallen Hill, and "OH NOOO! HE DROPPED THE BALL!!!!!!!!", Brant Brown

Edmonds was never a free agent, traded to the Cards in the infamous Kent Bottenfield deal and then re-upped a few times over the years. I don't believe he ever hit the open market until he was cut by the Padres earlier this year.

Have to give mucho credit to Hendry for this addition - I thought it was another Jimbo special off the scrap heap, glad to be quite wrong in my assumptions.

"I always thought of Rick Monday as a misfit leadoff man given how often he struck out..."

Monday was also a good defensive CF, the best one the Cub's had during that awful decade. I still remember Larry Bittner manning that post for awhile - especially when he lost a flyball in his hat. Good times.

Why did you have to dredge up Cleo James??? One of the nice things of getting a little older is that I tend to forget things. But no. You gotta bring up Cleo James. The 1970 team was the very definition of Cubs baseball. Mediocrity in its purest form.

Your memory is out of whack. We're talking the Durocher years here. The Cubs Renaissance. The 1970 team finished in 2nd place.

We should also give Hendry credit for not signing Andruw Jones, who was having a terrible 1st half, and now he's injured. Less is more in some cases, and that salary would be looking like a black hole right about now.

Brewers up 5-0 already. The D-Backs have absolutely tanked lately (as has my fantasy team, for which I stupidly only have their pitching staff).

Brewers blow the 5-0 lead by giving up 6 in the ninth without recordnng an out!

A center fielder that doesn't suck and cubbieland has an orgasm. How about this... a lot of teams have a center fielder that doesn't suck, the Cubs just thought it would be amusing to experiment with guys like Juan Pierre and Felix Pie. Is Felix still swinging the bat like he's chopping down tall weeds in the Dominican, btw? I'll say this... it was a BAD plan to expect Pie to perform and Hendry LUCKED out that Edmonds still has something left in the tank.

I would have tried to trade for David Dejesus. BTW, before the season started I bet someone around here some virtual bucks that Dejesus would outperform Matt Murton, that is... and I'm quoting myself, "if Murton even gets big league at-bats this year"... lol

Let's get an update on that...

Murton (Only 16 AB) - 257/297/314/0 HR
DeJesus (260 AB) - 323/382/496/9 HR

Btw... DeJesus's career high in home runs for a season is 9. DeJesus... bet on it.

Well that really doesn't demonstrate a whole lot.

DeJesus, career line: .287 .361 .424
Murton, career line: .295 .362 .450

It just means that DeJesus plays for the crappy Royals and Murton plays for a team in first place, and thus gets no playing time. If Murton had been put in LF for the Royals since opening day, was getting paid $2 million, and had no fears of losing his job, he'd probably be putting up similar stats offensively.

But the Padres could have kept him and then 28 other GMs could have tried to pick him up. He had to take the chance to even have the chance to luck out.

You should have gone back to the 40s and 50s. Andy Pafko hit for average and for power, was the Cubs' cleanup hitter, and was an excellent center fielder.

Everybody talks about the 30 year gap between Santo and Ramirez at 3b. It's been nearly 60 years since the Cubs have had a cf'er as good as Pafko.

I would have gone all the way back but I couldn't find position breakdowns (LF-CF-RF) for any years prior. Everyone is just listed as OF. I would have had to do some more secondary research to figure that out, and I just didn't have the time. But I agree, 3B has been pretty bad for a while, but CF I think is worse.

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