The grades are in for National League centerfielders, and some of them may surprise you.
Using Win Shares (courtesy of The Hardball Times), I ranked teams according to their production at the centerfield position. For teams like the Cardinals, Braves and Mets, win-share output in center is synonymous with players like Jim Edmonds, Andruw Jones and Carlos Beltran, who account for 90%+ of their team's totals. But for others, like the Pittsburgh Pirates, who employed a "centerfielder by committee" approach, finding a regular at the position is about as easy as spelling "Mackowiak." Since THT lists win shares at only one position per player, I assumed an equal distribution of a player's win shares by innings played at each position. For guys like Edmonds, who played all of his innings in center, all of his win shares fall under CF. But for players such as the versatile Brad Wilkerson, who earned 23 win shares playing all three outfield positions (plus first base), we had to realize that he played only about 60% of his innings in center, and thus, the Nationals reaped only roughly 14 of those win shares at centerfield. But they also get some of Wilkerson's shares at the other positions, as well. One more word about the methodology: I graded on a bell curve, using one standard deviation, and the average as the cutoff between a B and a C.
So, for the surprises: You might've figured the Cardinals, led by Edmonds, topped the league in CF win shares and earned an A. But who was second? (Hint: It wasn't the Braves.) If you guessed the Phillies, with their platoon of the aging Kenny Lofton, who's not ready to be put out to pasture just yet, and Jason Michaels, you're either an astute baseball follower, or a good Phillies fan (presumably that's not a contraction in terms). And speaking of those Braves -- and their MVP hopeful Jones -- they weren't even third. That honor went to the Reds, with their Phoenix-like performance of Ken Griffey, Jr. and a supporting cast of the fleet Ryan Freel and Wily Mo Pena. For the underperforming students, the Marlins move to the back of the class with Juan Pierre's paltry 14 win shares, and the Cubs, who never solved their CF problems, barely escape a failing grade.Matt Philip is a member of the Bob Broeg (St. Louis) SABR chapter and contributes to their chapter blog, Fungoes. He claims to be a friend of the Cardinals, but a fan of the Mets.