Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Cardinals' center field dilemma

The St. Louis Cardinals have struggled thus far at the plate. They are currently twelfth in the National League in runs scored and eleventh in team OPS. That recently led to the demotion of Kolten Wong and the call up of Randal Grichuk and Greg Garcia. Grichuk can play center field and was hitting well in the minors, which is attractive to the Cardinals because neither Jon Jay or Peter Bourjos have been hitting. But are the Cardinals overreacting?
After last night's loss to the Brewers, the Cardinals are five and a half games out of first place. But it is way too early to panic. The team has had slow starts before in seasons past and still found its way to the World Series. While I can see the team wanting to kick start its offense with these call ups, it seems to me a better decision to stay the course.
First of all, this team is going to hit better. Allen Craig and Jhonny Peralta have track records and will near their career numbers before all is said and done. You get those two going and with how well the rest of the lineup can hit, the Cardinals' offense will be fine.
The biggest concerns are at second base and in center field. Mark Ellis is 37 years old. Perhaps he has hit a wall as he is not hitting at all. Kolten Wong was not hitting either, but he is the much better defender. It remains to be seen if Greg Garcia can help. I would have stayed with Wong because of his defense. But if you are going to bring up Garcia, you might as well give him a shot and not just keep him on the bench.
Center field is another animal. I thought the Peter Bourjos deal in the off season was brilliant. Jon Jay is limited offensively and he is not the defender that the Cardinals need in center. But as brilliant as the move seemed to bring in Bourjos, the Cardinals are waffling on sticking with him. The Grichuk call up is one telling sign along with the fact that Jay has played more games and has more at bats than Bourjos.
But here is the deal. While Bourjos has not hit (yet), he still scores as more valuable to the Cardinals than Jay because of his defense and his base running. Add in the fact that his BABIP is an abnormally low .242 and you have a guy who should hit better as the season goes along.
Baseball-reference.com has Bourjos as 0.1 better in rWAR than Jay despite the lack of hitting and Fangraphs.com has him at 0.4 better in fWAR. That is almost half a win better if you go by Fangraphs. Either way, both sites say that Bourjos is more valuable.
And he is. He is a much better base runner and a much better fielder. And his fielding in center is completely important with the slug-like range of Matt Holliday and Allen Craig on either side of him.
I have looked at Grichuk's range factor from the minors and it does not come close to Bourjos. Jon Jay is not in Bourjos' league either in that category.
The bottom line for me is that Garcia can be just as rangy at second as Wong and has a chance to hit better. I am mostly okay with that decision as long as Garcia plays and doesn't caddie for Ellis. But Peter Bourjos should be the Cardinals' every day center fielder for the rest of the season. And nothing will convince me otherwise.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I am really excited to see Grichuk and would love for him to get alot of playing time and see what he can bring. A potential lineup of
Thats pop at every single position could be great.
Bud Voegtlin