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Astros: Two GREAT Centerfielders

Since 2021 Astros fans have seen several players play centerfield. This has inspired passion and strong opinions on who is better? Today- per a request from a Twitter friend let's focus on the defensive skills of our current centerfielders.


The first version of this article took you down memory lane of 2021 until today where so many in this fan base and the manager himself have expressed strong opinions on one or the other of our primary centerfielders. I have tried to admire both often questioning why the team itself has seemed to not appreciate Chas McCormick. I know firsthand that people very close to Chas feel this way too. THEY SAID IT TO ME.


I REALLY want this fan base to ENJOY and SUPPORT BOTH Meyers and McCormick. It does not have to be a zero sum game. BOTH CAN be good- even great. I would argue this team has actually had four great defensive centerfielders since 2021.


We are about to go deep into the defensive metrics rabbit hole. First, a few disclaimers:

  1. Defensive metrics can be challenging in that they are notoriously unstable. A player can measure to be good for a month and then terrible for a month. That's why I try to only use these metrics over a full season and ideally more than a season. Today we are going to look at 2021-2023 metrics. That is a better sample size.

  2. Even with 2021-2023 sample sizes both Meyers and McCormick have missed time and shared time in CF with each other and others. Frankly, I do have concerns of how representative this data is yet.

  3. Chas has played more time in LF and RF (combined) than he has in CF. For the purpose of THIS exercise, I am ignoring that data. If one were to believe the data from each position, one might conclude he is a better RF than CF and a better CF than LF. I am just going to focus on the CF data.

  4. I am not as familiar with some of the more niche defensive data I am about to show you. I am going to try to do my best. I am very confident in the defensive metrics I often discuss (in red below), but today I wanted to bring you the entire Fangraphs.com advanced defensive metrics here so we can see some differences between McCormick and Meyers. If I get something wrong, please let me know constructively.

  5. Most of the stats I am about to share are counting stats in nature. The more defensive plays one has the better (or if a player was bad the worse) these numbers would be. Many of these are like WAR. The best way to compare player to player is by setting a basis. I am going to set the basis at 1000 innings played. The raw data is at the end of the article. The data set to the basis will be in the core of the article.

Here are the titles for the defensive metrics we will be analyzing. The detail of this data is available here on fangraphs.com.


Defense: rARM – Outfield Arms Runs Saved runs above average rGFP – Good Fielding Plays Runs Saved runs above average rPM – Plus/Minus Runs Saved runs above average DRS – Defensive Runs Saved runs above average ARM – Outfield Arm runs above average RngR – Range runs above average ErrR – Error runs above average UZR – Ultimate Zone Rating UZR/150 – Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 defensive games (this is not adjusted to 1000 innings)

OAA- Outs Above Average- Savant data available on Fangraphs

RAA – Runs Above Average

Def- Defensive WAR- this probably best summarizes all of the other metrics.


Here are all of the 44 Centerfielders that have played more than 800 innings in CF since 2021.

You will notice that Meyers (5th) and McCormick (6th) are near the top of this list and AHEAD of some of the players with gold gloves in CF during the last five years.


You might notice how good the Astros have had it defensively in CF with Straw and Siri also high on this list.

Let's compare our two current CF. Who is better defensively?

Remember we are looking at the data per 1000 inning played in CF.

You should notice that the Defensive WAR is the same. Even. If anyone demands one of these CF is better than the other, just tell them their defensive WARs are the same when weighted to the same number of innings. They probably will have no idea what you said. At that point, just send them the link to this article.


Let's see if we can learn anything by going through the other defensive metrics.

rARM – Outfield Arms Runs Saved runs above average- only one run difference.

rGFP – Good Fielding Plays Runs Saved runs above average- only one run difference. rPM – Plus/Minus Runs Saved runs above average- Meyers with slight advantage here. I think this is indicating he makes more difficult plays more often.

DRS – Defensive Runs Saved runs above average- This will be the number the Meyers crowd would point to as a differentiator. It is fair to say thin number would lead one to believe Meyers is better. Meyers is 5th in DRS. McCormick is 13th in DRS. Both are at least good. Meyers might be considered great here. ARM – Outfield Arm runs above average- Neither arm is great. Meyers' arm is below average. McCormick's arm is right on average. Meyers' arm is better this year than it was last year, so that may have been the shoulder issue. I think teams that are challenging Meyers have not incorporated this year's data into their strategies.

RngR – Range runs above average- Even and great ErrR – Error runs above average- Chas makes less errors UZR – Ultimate Zone Rating- Both good - Chas is better. This would be the number that the McCormick crowd would point to.

UZR/150 – Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 defensive games (this is not adjusted to 1000 innings)- Same as UZR. Chas is 6th. Jake is 10th.

OAA- Outs Above Average- Savant data available on Fangraphs- Both elite. Meyers 3rd, McCormick 5th.

RAA – Runs Above Average- Both elite. Meyers 4th, McCormick 5th.


What does it all mean?


Folks, we have two REALLY GOOD Centerfielders in Houston.


I will repeat what I said here.


YES, it is probable that one of them will need to be traded. Not because they suck, but because they are so VALUABLE that trading them will get the Astros something they need like pitching.


Until they are, APPRECIATE BOTH Meyers and McCormick.


Let me know what you think.


As promised here is the raw data not weighted to 1000 innings played.


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2 Comments


I have always favored Chas. Have never liked the look of Jake’s swing so very specific preference to me. This was extremely helpful. They ARE both very good.

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Thomas
Thomas
May 18, 2023

Love this article Larry! I'm a huge defense guy, and Chas and Jake are both really good, as you illustrate. We really have had a glut of talent over the years. I was actually a really big Myles Straw fan, and wish we could have held on to him for a bit... which is ironic considering I'm a huge Yainer Diaz fan too.

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