McCutchen starts in left, McLouth in center

Just a quick thought while I have a few minutes. At the risk of making far too much out of a spring training lineup, I found it somewhat interesting that Andrew McCutchen is starting in left today while Nate McLouth is in center. I think we can all agree that if Nyjer Morgan is in the opening day lineup, he is simply a placeholder until McCutchen is ready to join the club. Would the Pirates be better off putting Nyjer in center and McLouth in left now, in order to make that transition a bit smoother later in the year?

The Pirates seem determined to keep McLouth in center for the near future, making it McCutchen’s job to force him to a corner. By all accounts, McCutchen is the better fielder of the two. As such, it would seem that moving McLouth is a no-brainer. I don’t think McLouth is as bad a center fielder as the numbers showed last year, but it is unlikely that he could match the defensive value of McCutchen. Take these  stats with a grain of salt, but minorleaguesplits.com has rated McCutchen well above average defensively in each of the last three seasons.

However, it sometimes seems as if the Pirates are undecided on what they will do when McCutchen is ready for Pittsburgh. It might be interesting to keep an eye on the defensive alignments in the upcoming season. Maybe management is considering easing McCutchen into the major leagues by initially playing him in left field.

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4 Responses to “McCutchen starts in left, McLouth in center”

  1. Thunder Says:

    I’m convinced that the Pirates are planning on keeping Cutch at Indy the entire season.
    I’ve been a proponent of preparing for the future.
    Unfortunately, I question the ability of Nyjer Morgan to play CF on a long term basis, due to the lack of a strong throwing arm…and the Arctic Circle route he takes to most fly balls. And we haven’t seen whether he’s actually learned how to profitably steal bases (Need a 80% steal rate, currently more like 66%). Or whether he can hit major league pitching in a month other than September.

  2. God Loves Says:

    Hi Matt,
    My guess is that Nate will play center as long as Cutch is in the minors, and I think he’ll be in AAA until he’s sure not to use up a year of the 6 before free agency (1.5 months minimum). It all depends on how Nyjer plays. When Cutch comes up for good, Nate will move to left.
    If Nyjer does not perform, which is what I expect will happen, the Pirates may go to Hinske or Jeff Salazar in the interim if Cutch is struggling. I’d don’t like Craig Monroe, but he’ll probably make the team, which means Salazar will have to make it through to AAA short term. Salazar has been flashing nice leather so far this spring and I think he’ll hit more than Nyjer.

  3. Rob Says:

    I’m sure you are the expert, but I’m a bit offended at the statement that Nate may not be “as bad a center fielder as the numbers showed last year”. I was under the impression that gold gloves were given for REALLY GOOD defensive players. Did I miss something? Thanks.

  4. Matt Bandi Says:

    Unfortunately, reputation and offensive production seem to be just as important to Gold Glove voters as actual defensive performance. I’d contend that McLouth won the the award based on his excellent season at the plate, his perfect throw in the All-Star game, and his extremely low error total (which is a poor method of measuring defense).
    Virtually every advanced defensive metric had him as the worst, or close to the worst, defensive center fielder in baseball. Of course, no current defensive metric is perfect. It’s usually a good idea to obtain at least three years worth of data before coming to a conclusion.
    From my personal observation of McLouth’s fielding, I would say he’s closer to an average center fielder. That is why I say that the numbers seem to underrate him a bit. But it’s not a good sign when all the different stats say the same thing.


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