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


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. (Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports)

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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