For the last two years, I have been ranking every starting player in the MLB by position in a system I’ve dubbed The Determinator. I don’t worry about projection systems, I look only at how well a player did that last year, analyze the data, and showcase who was and will be the best for the upcoming season.
Welcome back to The Determinator.
Today we continue with the #10-6 Center Fielders!
The Determinator: My General Methodology
The Determinator is a ranking system that is built upon the analyzation of 16 carefully chosen stats through a very simplistic system of comparisons. Some of these stats are more classical (Games Played, Home Runs, etc.), others are more advanced (wRC+, WAR, etc.). From this come 7 offensive stats, 4 defensive, 2 baserunning, and 3 general stats, set to contribute towards the importance of each part of the game.
The Offensive stats are: AVG/OBP/SLG, wRC, wRC+, HR, and Off (Fangraphs)
The Defensive stats are: Fielding, DRS, UZR (or Framing for Catchers), and Def (Fangraphs)
The Baserunning stats are: Stolen Bases and BsR (Fangraphs)
The Overall stats are: Games Played, Innings at Position, and fWAR (Fangraphs)
After determining this list of statistics, I then had to input each into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet I sorted how each player did in each statistic from best-to-worst. If you were top 5 in a category, you got ranked as a ‘Green’. Top 6-10 was a ‘Yellow’. And, Top 11-15 was labelled as a ‘Red’. The number of each ranking was counted- so it was possible to come out with a score of zero- and given values of 5, 3, and 1 respectively.
Key Note: If player/s across a statistic had the same numbers across a border- for example the 5th and 6th players with the most Home Runs- then they would both be counted as the better ranking- in this case both ‘Green’ or 5 points- and replace one spot from the following ranking- in this case a ‘Yellow’ or 3 points. This could also stretch some statistics to include more ‘Red’ players who had equal stats to the 15th best.
Additionally, if no stats were recorded in a counting statistic that could fit into a ranking- as is seen with Catchers and Stolen Bases- then no ranking is given to those players. This would greatly increase the number of points given out, and lessen the value of each point. This is not true for advanced metrics that can produce negative values- as also is seen with Catchers and BsR.
The results were then tallied, sorted from greatest to least, and a ranking was created.
Finally, player age, 2022 salary, and contract status, were all not considered in this experiment. This is entirely statistic-based.
In order to quality for ranking by The Determinator, a player must’ve had at least 250 plate appearances during the 2021 season and at least 500 innings played at the position in question.
Number 9 (Tied): Luis Robert, Chicago White Sox
Top-5: AVG, OBP, SLG, wRC+, Off
Top-15: HR, wRC, DRS
Total Score: 31
After the hyped built up greatly for Luis Robert, he had an underwhelming 2020 campaign and then started off the 2021 season by quickly landing on the 10- and than 60-Day- IL. He landed on the IL at the end of April and it took until mid-August for his return.
However, in the time that he played, Robert put up some of the best offensive rate-metrics and we have to give him considerable credit for ranking Top-10 in fWAR while playing the 2nd least amount of games of qualified players by The Determinator.Embed from Getty Images
Number 9 (Tied): Michael A. Taylor, Kansas City Royals
Top-5: Fld, Innings, DRS, UZR, Def
Top-10: Games, SB
Total Score: 31
From a player who had a really high WAR relative to his games played, we have a player who managed a Top-10 finish without a Top-15 placement by fWAR. Welcome to having Michael A. Taylor around.
He’s one of the better defensive outfielders in the game and played his way to his first career accolade this year: an AL Gold Glove for Outfield. However, he does leave a lot to be desired with the bat and baserunning. Embed from Getty Images
Number 8: Adolis Garcia, Texas Rangers
Top-5: Games, HR, Fld
Top-10: SLG, SB, wRC, WAR, UZR, Def
Total Score: 34
2021 was Garcia’s third stint in the Majors (2018, 2020) but his first as a full time player and he received a lot of consideration for the AL ROY (including three 1st place votes!).
Garcia is an all-or-nothing hitter, where he is dead-set on going for the home run. He struck out nearly 200 times last season and had less than 40 walks. It’s a hard profile to be valuable with, but it helps his value is made mostly by defense. However, by defensive metrics he didn’t rank overly valuable. If he’s a true Top-10 player is up in the air, but he could manage it given the density of “good, not great” center fielders in the game today.Embed from Getty Images
Number 7: Harrison Bader, St. Louis Cardinals
Top-5: Fld, DRS, UZR, Def
Top-10: SLG, HR, WAR, Innings
Top-15: AVG, SB, wRC+, BsR, Off
Total Score: 37
Defense, defense, defense. It’s a common theme amongst these 5 players for center field and it makes sense. Center field is one of the few positions where teams are willing to substitute offensive production for great defense (as with shortstop and catcher), so as long as fit that mold while being an average player with the bat you’ll do well by The Determinator.
Harrison Bader is exactly that type of player. He’s a great defender (he won an NL Gold Glove for the Outfield in 2021) and he hits to a slightly above average clip. There’s not else you can ask for, especially because Bader did miss a good amount of time in 2021 with a rib fracture. He’s comfortably a Top-10 center fielder.Embed from Getty Images
Number 6: Enrique Hernandez, Boston Red Sox
Top-5: HR, wRC, WAR, DRS, UZR, Def
Top-10: Games, Off, Fld
Top-15: OBP, SLG, wRC+, BsR, Innings
Total Score: 44
In my mind, Enrique “Kiké” Hernandez is a yearly .270 hitter. I don’t know why because he’s only bested that mark once in his career (2019 over 76 games). Regardless, I was expecting more out of the Boston utility player-turned-center fielder from last year.
He’s a fine hitter who found his way into a near career best home run number (20 vs 21) this past season while learning about the joys of being in the AL East. He’s a similar player to Bader as a slightly above-average bat and a good-to-great defender, but Hernandez comes out ahead with his power output and potential. He’s a good-to-great player, but I’d be shocked to see him have to manage center field again in 2022 as he’s supposed to be a super utilityman for the Red Sox going forward.Embed from Getty Images
The Determinator is a way I used to determine the best players at each position. Like any metric or formula, I am sure it has flaws. No statistical compilation is perfect. That being said, The Determinator, seems pretty effective at assigning player values. I’m pleased with what I have found using this method and hope this is a conversation starter for many.