Originally Posted by jojo
That said, assuming he's a -10 defender in CF over the course of a full season (on average a corner outfielder gets dinged 10 runs for moving to center and he's been a slightly minus defender in the corner so this is a conservative estimate that gives him benefit of the doubt for his speed)
Choo makes the Reds significantly better despite the defensive problems his addition seem to present for the outfield. The calculus works on this one. I'm a huge proponent of defense but the goal is to get better and there are a gazillion ways to skin a cat. I think this move makes it more likely that the Reds play in a WS this season.
I'll start with the last part first: I agree. The bat upgrade is kind of huge. I actually think this is a very Moneyball move. If you look at the CFs who've been signed or traded this winter - Upton, Pagan, Span, Revere - none of them is a true impact bat. They have some moderate offensive ability, but they aren't game changers. Choo is. The market inefficiency in CF is big bats. If you can find a Choo-like bat who can handle the defensive duties well enough, then you're talking about some real separation from the pack. Moving Choo to CF strikes me as the kind of crazy that moved Scott Hatteberg to 1B.
That's probably a fair guesstimate on his defense. One thing I'll add is a RF to CF shift probably isn't all that linear. The reality is very few RFs make a full-time switch to CF. It usually works the other way around and it usually happens while the guy is still a fair defender in CF. Andre Dawson shifts to RF. Vlad Guerrero doesn't shift to CF. So the standard metric adjustment is based largely on a rightward defensive spectrum shift.
I think you touched on something key when you mentioned Choo's speed. Dude is fast. Fast conquers a lot of imperfections in CF. When you look at who the RFs are that can make any kind of permanent shift to CF, the answer would seem to be "the fast ones." This is why I brought up Sr.'s 1981 CF shift earlier in the thread. He wasn't an outstanding RF, but he was fast. As it turned out, he was pretty much the same fielder in CF that he was in RF. He got the job done well enough.
If you're looking for a modern equivalent, Alejandro De Aza seems to be that kind of guy. It doesn't seem to matter where he plays in the OF, you get the same forgettably competent defense out of him. He's a real wherever man. His teammate Alex Rios might be the same sort of cat. Mind you, it's tough to say anything definitive about Rios because he's one of the most maddeningly inconsistent ballplayers of modern times. Some seasons he forgets how to play baseball. Yet in 2010 he was a perfectly acceptable CF.
And there's an argument that CarGo is actually better in CF than he is in the corners.
So the question, and we have no way of knowing the answer, is whether Choo's cut from that mold. Complicating matters is getting a fix on what kind of fielder Choo is in RF. According to his numbers, he was solid from 2009-2011 and then had a dog of a 2012. Was that a tipping point? Was it an anomaly? Do you take his three-year average or should you do four since he was banged up in 2011? His defense is a bit of an ink blot test.
Projecting him as a moderately poor CF is a reasonable starting point. He could be a disaster out there or he could turn out to be furiously average. For now, somewhere in between strikes me as a decent placeholder.