Sep 4, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds right fielder Jay Bruce (32) makes a catch to put out the Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Nate Schierholtz (not pictured) during the second at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Will the Real Cincinnati Reds' Center-Fielder Please Stand Up?

The Reds’ acquisition of Shin-Soo Choo from Cleveland, shined a bright light in the darkness that was the leadoff position. There is little doubt that the 30-year old Korean will provide a big spark into the offense, which was a pitiful display at the top of the order last year.

The question that remains is his contribution in the field. Reds’ GM Walt Jocketty was looking for a center-fielder to replace the now departed Drew Stubbs. The middle of the outfield was roamed very nicely last season with Stubbs playing 129 games there. Chris Heisey was a more than adequate reserve in his stead. Stubbs couldn’t hit and that was the rub.

Choo, as it has been well chronicled has played only 10 games in center-field since being in the major leagues. While playing those 10 games his offense suffered miserably. While playing there his career line is .036/.182/.071, his only hit being a double in 28 times at bat. That is a microscopic sampling I must concur, but it does make you wonder if the different position made him think too much and handicapped his offense. Just sayin’.

The reason for this article is that Jay Bruce played 63 percent of his minor league games in center-field. He was playing that position for the Louisville Bats when he was called up in 2008, but was switched to right because the middle was already manned by Ken Griffey, Jr. Since that time he has played 35 games in center-field, over three times the amount that Choo has played there.

It has been said that Bruce told Dusty Baker he would be happy to play center-field if he wanted to keep Choo in right. Both Bruce and Choo have rifles for arms and Bruce probably has the defensive edge in right as well.

The big question then is why move Choo from his familiar ground to a place where Bruce lived for most of his minor league career? Either place they stick him will work itself out I am sure. Another thing, with Choo, the Reds have three left-handed outfielders, and that is a true rarity.

In an article on Fangraphs by Jeff Sullivan, entitled The Shin-Soo Choo Experiment, the author says, “Choo is 30 years old, and he’s played in the middle for all of 83 innings. He hasn’t done it once since 2009.And oh, by the way, last year Choo’s UZR was godawful. That was in right, and anecdotal evidence backs it up, for whatever that might be worth.” In explaining that a one-year glimpse is not adequate he goes on to say,

“Over three years, Choo comes out at -4 by Defensive Runs Saved, and -9 by UZR. That’s in right field, and it’s not catastrophic. Of course, Choo is also only aging, and thus getting slower.”

So, again I ask, why move a man who supposedly played an awful right-field to center-field when you have a man who has played 240 games there? Tamper with a man’s comfort zone and you could be asking for trouble. That is all I am saying.

Oh yeah, is there a metric for comfort zone departure, maybe ‘cZD’?

Who would you rather see in CF?

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Tags: Jay Bruce Shin-Soo Choo

  • Josh Bresser

    Dusty wouldn’t want to make things too easy now.

    • Cliff@RedsToTheBone

      You know I thought Choo was a decent glove with a cannon arm. If those numbers are right Bruce should move post haste.
      Thanks friend

      • Josh Bresser

        Well, his UZR was a joke last year (-17, that’s unbelievably awful), and his range value seemed to follow (-16.8), even his outfield ARM above average was -1.1. His DRS was -12, meaning he cost 12 more runs than the average RIGHT fielder.

        All of this seems to point to the move to center field being…well, terrible. The worst right fielder in baseball statistically isn’t going to make a good center fielder. However, even with those terrible numbers, there’s a relative bright side- those numbers seem to be an aberration. While his UZR and all that wasn’t much to write home about (except for his 8.5 ARM in 2010), but at least they were positive and not negative. As long as he plays defense like his pre-2012 self, then the move to center should only be bad, and not disastrous.

        Bruce even offered to play center, but was shot down by Baker.

        • Cliff@RedsToTheBone

          Yeah you have to think he will have time to rethink his position and put Bruce in CF.

  • Steve O’Red

    The defensive aspect is why the trade shocked me. Walt and Dusty love their defense and Walt had to know he was taking a hit defensively (with either Choo or Bruce in CF) by dealing Stubbs. Won’t have the whiffs, but there will be more “adventures” out in CF this season.

    • Cliff@RedsToTheBone

      You are right about that Steve. If Stubbs could only have had more hits than strikeouts, he could probably have stayed. I don’t know how good Bruce is in CF as I never say him play at Louisville or Cincy. I know he was a CF when he came up but was moved to right because of Junior.

      Thanks my friend.

  • metalhead65

    Bruce made the offer and was turned down so you live with choo and if he proves to be that bad then you give Heisey his chance. but you can’t switch Bruce once the season has started as he needs time to adj. to being out there. stubbs was god but I always thought he was overrated. he liked to play shallow and make regular catches look harder because he was out of position but made up for it with his speed. if choo is in position to begin with he should be able to do the job.

    • Cliff@RedsToTheBone

      Stubbs was good but he wasn’t Paul Blair, playing shallow like that. I would be surprised if Dusty doesn’t change and put Bruce in CF.

      Thanks my friend.