Sunday, February 27, 2005

Who's in center?

Sure, there’s been crap about speed and defense. And there’s been crap about guys being competitive and throwing at each other because of a silly miscommunication in early inter-squad games. But there hasn’t been really a lot of notable news coming out of Sox camp. Which is fine, because no news is good news right now. Nobody’s blown out a knee or elbow, and nobody’s been caught with drugs and prostitutes.

But there is something that’s been touched on a few times by the papers, and that’s whether Scott Posednik or Aaron Rowand will play centerfield.

Who should get the nod? Here’s what the numbers say:

’04 ZR

‘04 RF

’04 F%

’03 ZR

’03 RF

’03 F%

Rowand

.921*

2.63

.980

.960*

2.54

1.000*

Podsednik

.881

3.11*

.990*

.876

2.63*

.991

Looks pretty even to me, although I have more faith in Zone Rating, in which Rowand really wins out. Ultimate Zone Rating would really be better, but you use the tools you have, and this is what I have.

If there’s one thing to be happy about, it’s that both guys are such good defenders that there isn’t really a wrong answer.

So what is Ozzie Guillen going to do? I don’t know, and from what you can read in the papers, it doesn’t sound like he knows either.

There are two schools of thought. The first is that moving Rowand to left will help keep him injury-free because left is a less-demanding position. Ok, that makes sense since you want his bat to stay in the lineup.

But, the other school of thought is that it’s hard to move a player to a corner OF spot, and then back to center later in his career. That’s presumably why Carlos Beltran is displacing Mike Cameron in center for the Mets. Beltran inked a long-term deal. Cameron’s only there for a couple more seasons, if he isn’t traded first.

So do the Sox want to keep Rowand in center to keep his defensive skills sharp? He is the one with the long-term contract, while Posednik is likely a short-timer in a Sox uniform, bound to be traded or non-tendered in a year or two.

This is a serious question that I don’t think any prognosticator can answer with any certainty. If you stick Rowand in center, and he gets hurt… well, you should have done it the other way. If you stick him in left and he gets hurt anyway… well, you wasted his better D while he was healthy.

My gut instinct tells me – yes, you just heard a would-be sabermetrician refer to his gut intinct – it would be a good idea to move Rowand to left. Better to err on the side of caution, especially since the Sox OF/DH situation is already looking pretty thin.

Posednik could make it a moot point if he can’t get on base. We still don’t know if the 2003 version (.379 OBP) or the 2004 (.313 OBP… ugly) will show up this year. If Posednik plays himself out of the lineup, the obvious solution is to put Rowand in center and Carl Everett in left.

But I doubt that’s how the White Sox want this quandary to be solved.

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