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Michael Bourn and other Indians center fielders near bottom of American League

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After a ghastly review of right field, how did center field stack up against the rest of the league?

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Previous entries in the series:

Catchers

Right Field

After the disaster that was right field, let's see how the backbone of the outfield performed in 2014. Michael Bourn started 104 games in center last year, while missing a good chunk of time again due to his hamstring. Michael Brantley filled in 40 times, mostly during July and August. Nyjer Morgan was the Opening Day center fielder and logged 11 starts. Tyler Holt and Chris Dickerson started 3 games each and Terry Francona started Mike Aviles there once.

Similar to catcher, Francona didn't sub out in center a lot. Holt and Brantley made six relief appearances, Aviles and Dickerson two, and Morgan and Bourn once each.

Here is how they individually performed as center fielders:

PA

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

wRC+

Bourn

485

258

315

362

677

94

Brantley

179

282

335

429

765

118

Morgan

48

297

400

324

724

117

Holt

16

429

500

500

1000

196

Dickerson

15

077

200

077

277

-10

Aviles

3

000

333

000

333

44

Brantley was pretty good during his 45 days in center, Bourn wasn't too bad, Holt was great in a very small sample, and Morgan did a little better than you might expect from a career fourth outfielder. Dickerson was awful in his limited shot and Aviles only netted three plate appearances (thankfully).

As before let's compare to the rest of the AL Central:

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

wRC+

Twins

278

352

394

746

113

Tigers

277

326

397

724

102

White Sox

276

336

366

701

96

Indians

265

327

373

700

101

Royals

283

329

367

696

97

Danny Santana led the way for the Twins (843 OPS in just 283 PA), and that was enough to beat the rest of the division. With the Tigers, Tribe, White Sox, and Royals were pretty even. Unlike the extremes for the catchers and right field, the AL Central was bunched in the middle of the AL, with the five teams all falling between fourth and tenth in wRC+.

Mike Trout and the Angels ran away with the traditional battle with a 919 OPS. No other AL team cracked 800, although the Astros (790) and Yankees (787) got closest. As poor as Bourn seemed to play, just be happy we didn't watch the Mariners all year, who finished at a combined 556 OPS. (Yes, 556.)

The Indians were league average in doubles (29), but led the league in triples (11).  They did score 86 runs (fourth) and drove in 56 (seventh).  The 327 BAbip was just a bit over the 317 league average for center fielders.

While over at Fangraphs let's see how the Tribe center fielders WAR panned out.

Batting

Baserunning

Fielding

Offense

Defense

WAR

Bourn

-2.9

-1.1

-9.4

-4.0

-7.8

0.4

Brantley

3.5

1.4

0.3

4.9

1.0

1.3

Morgan

0.9

0.7

-3.1

1.6

-3.0

0.0

Holt

1.7

0.0

1.0

1.6

1.1

0.4

Dickerson

-1.8

0.0

-0.1

-1.8

0.0

-0.1

Aviles

-0.2

0.2

0.0

0.0

0.0

0.0

That 1.3 in just a month and a half tripled what Bourn was able to accomplish. Those leg issues of Bourn really hurt him in on the base paths and in the field as that -7.8 in center which was fifth worst in the AL for players with over 250 PA. Morgan again didn't bring a lot, but Holt fares pretty well here, especially defensively. Surprisingly enough, only Dickerson finished with a negative WAR.

And again, here is how the Tribe stacked up with their AL Central foes:

Batting

Baserunning

Fielding

Offense

Defense

WAR

Royals

-2.3

7.6

24.3

5.3

26.4

5.8

Twins

9.8

2.7

-3.9

12.5

-1.6

3.6

Tigers

1.6

5.5

-8.7

7.1

-6.3

2.5

White Sox

-3.0

-1.0

-3.3

-4.0

-1.0

2.0

Indians

1.1

1.2

-11.2

2.3

-8.7

2.0

After the Royals finished last in traditional stats, they shot up to the top of the list WAR from the extraordinary defensive numbers from Jarrod Dyson (18.6) and Lorenzo Cain (11.3). They also netted a 4.1 and 3.4 baserunning number respectively as Ned Yost let them run at will.  The Royals finished second behind Mike Trout and the Angels 7.7.

The rest of the division was pretty below average with the Tigers, White Sox and Indians at ninth and eleventh. The Mariners fared no better at WAR, the only center field with a negative WAR (-1.2).

If Bourn's offseason regimen solves his leg woes, I can see him rebounding to be more league average, say 3.0 WAR or so. But the semi-elite days of his Braves tenure are long gone. He will be back in 2016 regardless, making $14M. There is an outside chance he could even return in 2017 at $12M. But it only vests if he reaches 550 PA in 2016. If he is still healthy and productive, that could happen as he would still be just 33 in 2016.

The Tribe does have some center field talent in the minors that might be ready by then. I don't suspect Tyler Naquin will still be around by then, but Clint Frazier and/or Bradley Zimmer just might.