CF Options in D.C.

I'll admit right off the bat, things are not pretty in center field right now.

Nationals fans are disappointed with Nyjer Morgan's performance last year, and his dismal start this spring has everyone worried that there is going to be a black hole in D.C.'s outfield for the 2011 season.

Competing for the CF job are Roger "The Shark" Bernadina and Rick Ankiel, both of whom have limited experience at the position.  Tonight I am going to take a look at both the offensive and defensive experience of these three players to give ourselves a foundation on which fans can build objective arguments as to why one or the other of the three should be given the starting job come April.  Think of it as a "Choose Your Own Center Fielder Adventure" story.

Everybody is talking about offense, so let us begin there:

Player AVG
2010 Nyjer .253 .319 .314 .633 73
Shark .246 .307 .384 .691 86
Ankiel .210 .324 .328 .651 78
09 - 10 Nyjer .279 .343 .350 .693 87
Shark .246 .307 .384 .691 86
Ankiel .226 .295 .373 .667 78
Career Nyjer .283 .344 .360 .704 90
Shark .241 .306 .364 .670 80
Ankiel .247 .312 .439 .751 96


Take your pick of stats for career (Ankiel), 2 year average (Nyjer) or 2010 (Shark).

On to defense:

These stats are all for CF only, career and then 2010 only:

Player Innings
2010 Inn
2010 UZR/150
Nyjer 1906 18.0 1124 4.2
Shark 293 -14.0 178 -13.6
Ankiel 1896 -8.7
534 -1.5


Just to round out the picture a little better, Nyjer's 2010 Held% (runners held on single, double, fly out*) was 46.1% compared to Ankiel at 40.4% and Bernadina at 51.3%.

Can we just give this one to Nyjer by a mile already?  If Nyjer's above average defense in 2010 was dismal from your perspective, consider the following.  In 2010, Nyjer had the 8th best (out of 19) UZR/150 among center fielders with min 900 innings played in the majors.  In 2009 and 2010 combined, he was tied for 2nd in the majors.  Take a three year average and he drops down to 4th place.  Nyjer Morgan is the kind of guy you want patrolling center field.

It's up to you how much that defense is worth to you, though.

Lastly, let us look at the 2011 Spring Training stats (through Wednesday, March 23):

Player AVG
Nyjer .234 .333 .319 .652
Shark .267 .340 .378 .718
Ankiel .200 .250
.467 .717


Remember that ultimately OBP is worth more than SLG, so I wish I had a better stat than OPS handy, but I don't.  Bernadina is the clear leader here, with Nyjer close behind in OBP and Ankiel there for those who love power.

Time to put the pieces together:

Everyone should now have the basic tools to put together a solid argument for their own favorite candidate.  Basically, the Nats will have to make do with below average offensive production from the position, but how much below is up for debate.  Camp Nyjer will point to his glove and his decent OBP in recent years.  Camp Ankiel will point to his veteran experience and power.  Camp Shark will point to his almost exciting spring performance.

I hesitate to give my own opinion on the matter, but if I guess I can at least say this much:  With just a few weeks left before the regular season starts, the battle for center field features Morgan with a Shark nipping closely at his Ankiels.

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