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Best of 2005: Center Fielders

In case you were wondering how I had the audacity to state that Jim Edmonds is "unquestionably the best center fielder in baseball," you can view the stats that back up the assertion. 

We've got the Top 25 Center Fielders in 2005 posted over at RotoAuthority - plenty of surprises in these rankings.

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A) Winn's WARP must be based purely on his SF stats. His total 2005 stats would not put him in the top 5

B) I'd still take Andruw over Edmonds anyday of the week

WARP is additive, so playing time is a big factor. If Milton Bradley had 600 ABs he'd be top 5.

Edmonds does everything Andruw does, plus draw walks.

It has been my opinion for quite some time that those who think Andruw Jones is the best CF in baseball are those who simply haven't seen Jim Edmonds play often enough - on BOTH sides of the ball. It's nice to see the numbers bear that out.

If Edmonds played on either coast instead of 125+ games per year between the continental divides, his Hall of Fame plaque would already be cast, and rightfully so, as one of the Top 10 CF's of all-time (http://baseballanalysts.com/ Scroll down to Bullpen Box on left menu bar, click link for The most under-over-under-rated player in baseball). Andruw may end up in the Top 10 list eventually as well, but he'd still be no Jim Edmonds.

I've seen a great deal of both (more Andruw though).

A) Jim Edmonds does not have the speed Andruw has in the OF. He makes great reads and as a result can make some great catches, but those same catches would be routine for Andruw

B) He is a bit flashy in the OF, while I don't deny he is a great defensive player, many of his dives are unnecessary

C) He has the benefit of often hitting in front or behind of Albert Pujols


Edmonds is indeed one of the best, but Andruw is a better player right now and has just touched his abilities finally. He's still in his prime and has many years to improve and refine his game.

As for Bradley, he got a lot of at-bats last year and was not a top 5 CF, although the ability is certainly there

A) I'm not so sure about that. I saw Andruw about a dozen times this year at the Ted (and probably 50 more on TV). I can't say that he's lost speed, but when you turn your head to follow the ball, then turn back to watch Andruw, he doesn't seem to be as far down the line or afield as I've come to expect. This was something I first noticed during a game at Vero Beach in spring training(where he incidentally mashed an absolute monster home run with his new batting stance, and you just knew he was gonna have a huge year - it was exciting to pick up on that before the major media noticed it) and picked up on throughout the year. Just odd. Something I'd like to see quantified.

1A) This is something you won't pick up on TV, and that is that Edmonds plays a very shallow centerfield. A lot of those routine plays for Andruw won't cover the same amount of real estate that they do for Edmonds. On balls on and around the wall, Andruw is great, and Edmonds is legendary, and the reverse is true on balls in the gaps. But I see Edmonds make plays behind second that Andruw can't get to.

B) Part of that flashiness would logically derive from the long runs from shallow center just to get to deep balls, a la 2nd inning, Game 7 of the 2004 NLCS, but I can honestly say I've never seen Edmonds, who has a history of shoulder trouble, make what I would consider an unnecessary dive for a ball. I've heard it before, and it's been my feeling that this opinion of Edmonds is nothing more than the blog equivalent of urban legend that withers under scrutiny, since I can't seem to find anyone who has seen a recallable unnecessary dive from Edmonds either, they've only "heard" or "read" that it happens. With respect, if you can recall a specific instance in a specific game that you can point to as an unnecessary dive, you'd be the first I've heard of.

C) Granted, Pujols is Pujols, but hitting in front of or behind Chipper Jones and his .968 OPS isn't exactly like hitting in front of the pitcher's spot, either.

Andruw is a great and gifted player, and it's been a long time waiting for his potential to come to fruition. He's not quite there yet, though, (.206 RISP?) I think in 2006 a healthy Jim Edmonds will have enough left to hold Andruw off another year. On my dream team, my centerfielder is still #15.

Not that it's germane to the discussion, but still interesting, I've never seen anyone, ever, that can as quickly judge the flight of the ball, put his head down and run to the spot, and look and pick up the ball again as well as Edmonds does. Simply amazing. Or maybe it's that my Dad always tried to teach me to do that, and I consistently failed miserably. :-)

Anyway, I know this, living in south Georgia and being a fan of both teams, I'm just gonna enjoy watching them both.

Edmonds does play shallow, but as a Braves fan you must agree no one in the game today plays as shallow as Andruw.

You can't go wrong either way, but I'd take Andruw over him everyday of the week

I still don't think we've seen the best of Andruw either

Andruw indeed plays very shallow, and is better than Edmonds going to the sides. Edmonds is better to the wall and coming in, though, and his slight advantage in range factor shows that evens out for the most part.

I also agree that we're essentially discussing 1 and 1A here, I just think Edmonds, for now anyway, still has the edge over Andruw as the complete package.

Due to his young age(28), I would expect Andruw to improve also, but as I indicated before, he seems to show some signs of getting old prematurely. We'll see.

The interesting question to me is: Jim Edmonds is 35 years old. Will we be able to present this strong a case for Andruw as baseball's best current CF when he's at the same age?

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