This article was inspired by great friend of the blog, and all around great person, @SherriPizza.
There was an article on ESPN yesterday–which I will not link to because I don’t want to give clicks to an article with a poor premise–about how Curtis Granderson leading the Yankees in home runs and RBIs is both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a good thing because, well, I don’t know how it’s not. It’s a bad thing because it wasn’t, according to the author, the plan. She argued that someone like Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, or Alex Rodriguez should be leading the team in HRs/RBIs. That’s certainly what we expected coming in to 2011, but just because that’s not happening doesn’t mean there’s something bad going on. In fact, it’s great that Curtis Granderson is leading the team offensively.
Why is it so great? It’s so great because of the position Curtis Granderson plays. Center Fielders are not, historically, offensive minded players. While there have been standouts–like the ones pointed out by Joe Pawlikowski at FanGraphs yesterday–it’s traditionally been a defense first position and any offense you get from that position is, as they say, gravy.
Before last night’s game against the Blue Jays, the average AL CF was OPSing .725. The median wOBA among qualifying CFs was .3245, the average of Denard Span‘s .321 mark and Melky Cabrera‘s .328 mark. Curtis Granderson was OPSing .942 with a .407 wOBA. Both of those should be higher this morning after his three walk performance last night. Curtis Granderson is absolutely killing it at a position that doesn’t put up a lot of offense. How anyone could think that isn’t valuable is beyond me. Center field is an up the middle position, a premium position. Those spots are where you want the productive players. Is it unexpected when one of these guys gives you great offensive value? Yep. Is it ever even remotely bad? No. It may not be great that the Yankees aren’t getting power production from their corner outfield spots in Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner, but it’s a damn good thing that Curtis Granderson is raking.
I’m going to gush a bit now because I like to gush about players I like. Curtis Granderson is awesome. He’s a nice guy, he’s incredibly well spoken, and he’s a fantastic baseball player. He hits, he walks, he chases down everything that’s even remotely near him. I’m glad the Yankees traded for him. After what has felt like an eternity, the Yankees finally have a true replacement for Bernie Williams in center field.
This article was originally going to be something comparing those two, but I couldn’t quite find a proper angle to do it, so I’ll just throw some stuff about them out there. Now, none of this is to disparage either player because I love them both. We definitely think of Granderson as one of the top offensive CFs in baseball, but Bernie was obviously no slouch himself. He’s the owner of a .371 career wOBA and 125 wRC+ compared to Granderson’s .358 and 118. Both are solid but compared to position, they’re even better. If we count this year, Granderson’s .407 wOBA would be a career high; Bernie Williams topped that twice and matched it once. 1997-2000 for Bernie featured wOBAs of .407, .423, .412, and .403. His defense may never be what Curtis’s is, but Bernie made for quite the formidable foe at the plate. Perhaps, as one other friend of the blog likes to put it, he was feared.
Bernie Williams is the player who most makes me hate the term “Core Four” that referred to Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera. Obviously, it was easy to do that since those guys were playing and Bernie wasn’t. But let’s not forget that Bernie was an incredibly important part of that team. Jorge may’ve somehow lasted longer, but Bernie was right on pace with him until he stopped playing and was closer to Jeter than most people remember.
From now on, when we talk about those Dynasty Years, let’s remember to keep Bernie in there. He was a great hitter at a premium position and was just as big a part of those championships as Jeter, Pettitte, Posada, and Rivera were. And as we remember that, let’s also remember how great it is to once again have a stud hitter manning center field in the Bronx.
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