Two or three weeks ago, I wrote an article that ranked every Center Fielder in the history of MLB, offensively. A letter grade was given to each player, and they were also put in order from 1-236.
I will do the same thing in this article, defensively—every Center Fielder in the history of MLB that played in at least 800 games.
At a later date, I will rank them overall, combining offensive and defense.
Defense is an area that respected historians seem to disagree on, in general. Offensively speaking, historians are generally on the same page. The same is certainly not true defensively.
My formula for ranking players is very complicated; it is as thorough as my offensive formula. Most historians all have a fairly complicated formula.
Here's what I like about rating defense: All Historians put a HUGE weight on players offensively that had long careers. But they don't seem to care defensively. I like that. It's the way it should be offensively also, but unfortunately, it usually doesn't work out that way.
My point: historians generally agree that Bill Lange was a better defensive Center Fielder than Andy Van Slyke, even though Lange had a short career. They just don't care about the short career when it comes to defense.
That's the way it should be; Lange was either better or he wasn't. And he was, of course, though Van Slyke was a heck of a defensive Center Fielder also, by the way.
But offensively, they will rank Van Slyke over Lange because of Lange's short career. The problem: Lange was also better than Van Slyke offensively, no question what-so-ever. Again, Van Slyke was also a heck of an offensive player for a Center Fielder, just not as good as Lange.
But that's what I like about rating defense, they generally tell you how it really was defensively, unlike they do offensively. But again, historians seem to disagree more defensively than they do offensively, because of the lack of statistical defensive stats, compared to offense.
So here it is. The best defensive Center Fielders in the history of MLB—the way it really was—unblurring history.
1. Tris Speaker (1910s) 2. Andruw Jones (2000s) 3. Bill Lange (1890s) 4. Kirby Puckett (1980s) 5. Jim Edmonds (2000s) 6. Sam West (1930s) 7. Eddie Milner (1980s) 8. Willie Mays (1960s) 9. Vince DiMaggio (1940s) 10. Curt Welch (1880s) 11. Fielder Jones (1900s) 12. Max Carey (1920s) 13. Johnny Mostil (1920s) 14. Curt Flood (1960s) 15. Otis Nixon (1990s) 16. Terry Moore (1940s) 17. Mike Griffin (1890s) 18. Carlos Beltran (2000s)
19. Dom DiMaggio (1940s) 20. Paul Blair (1970s) 21. Lenny Dykstra (1990s) 22. Tommy Leach (1900s) 23. Jim Piersall (1950s) 24. Ty Cline (1960s) 25. Richie Ashburn (1950s) 26. Irv Noren (1950s) 27. Solly Hofman (1900s) 28. Doug Glanville (2000s) 29. Pop Corkhill (1880s) 30. Willie Wilson (1980s) 31. Jimmy Barrett (1900s) 32. Darren Lewis (1990s) 33. Amos Otis (1970s) 34. Kenny Lofton (1990s) 35. Devon White (1990s) 36. Garry Maddox (1970s)
37. Jim Landis (1960s) 38. Gary Pettis (1980s) 39. Lloyd Waner (1930s) 40. Joe DiMaggio (1940s) 41. Ken Berry (1960s) 42. Steve Brodie (1890s) 43. Omar Moreno (1980s) 44. Henry Cotto (1980s) 45. Marquis Grissom (1990s) 46. Dwayne Murphy (1980s) 47. Mike Kreevich (1930s) 48. Fred Schulte (1930s) 49. Jim Busby (1950s) 50. Andy Van Slyke (1980s) 51. Oddibe McDowell (1980s) 52. Taylor Douthit (1920s) 53. Cesar Geronimo (1970s) 54. Cy Seymour (1900s)
55. Darrin Jackson (1990s) 56. Bernie Williams (1990s) 57. Ira Flagstead (1920s) 58. Tony Scott (1970s) 59. Chet Lemon (1980s) 60. Pete Reiser (1940s) 61. Hy Myers (1910s) 62. Steve Finley (1990s) 63. Johnny Cooney (1930s) 64. Ty Cobb (1910s) 65. Bill Virdon (1960s) 66. Fred Snodgrass (1910s) 67. Ethan Allen (1930s) 68. George Gore (1880s) 69. Hugh Duffy (1890s) 70. Gary Geiger (1960s) 71. Earl Averill (1930s) 72. Jimmie Hall (1960s)
73. Doc Cramer (1930s) 74. Barney McCosky (1940s) 75. Gerald Williams (1990s) 76. Ken Griffey Jr (1990s) 77. Willie Davis (1960s) 78. Baby Doll Jacobson (1920s) 79. Dave Henderson (1980s) 80. Cesar Cedeno (1970s) 81. Tommie Agee (1960s) 82. Dode Paskert (1910s) 83. Brett Butler (1980s) 84. Johnny Lindell (1940s) 85. Jackie Brandt (1960s) 86. Mike Cameron (2000s) 87. Ruppert Jones (1980s) 88. Lance Johnson (1990s) 89. Mickey Rivers (1970s) 90. Mule Haas (1930s) 91. Jimmy McAleer (1890s)
92. Mickey Stanley (1970s) 93. Marvin Benard (1990s) 94. Edd Roush (1920s) 95. Billy North (1970s) 96. Vada Pinson (1960s) 97. Sam Chapman (1940s) 98. Rick Miller (1970s) 99. Corey Patterson (2000s) 100. Jim McTamany (1880s) 101. Cy Williams (1920s) 102. Mike Kingery (1990s) 103. Benny Kauff (1910s) 104. Vic Davalillo (1970s) 105. Lloyd Moseby (1980s) 106. Cesar Tovar (1970s) 107. Bill Tuttle (1950s) 108. Jimmy Slagle (1900s) 109. Roy Thomas (1900s)
110. Ben Chapman (1930s) 111. Al Bumbry (1970s) 112. Mike Devereaux (1990s) 113. Nemo Leibold (1910s) 114. Jimmy Ryan (1890s) 115. Mookie Wilson (1980s) 116. Larry Doby (1950s) 117. Wally Berger (1930s) 118. Andy Pafko (1950s) 119. Clyde Milan (1910s) 120. Elliott Maddox (1970s) 121. Duke Snider (1950s) 122. Del Unser (1970s) 123. Bill Bruton (1950s) 124. Chick Stahl (1900s) 125. Stan Spence (1940s) 126. Johnny Groth (1950s) 127. Carl Everett (2000s)
128. Fred Lynn (1980s) 129. Brian Hunter (1990s) 130. Darryl Hamilton (1990s) 131. Jimmy Wynn (1970s) 132. Dave Martinez (1990s) 133. Don Lock (1960s) 134. Billy Hamilton (1890s) 135. Jay Payton (2000s) 136. George Van Haltren (1890s) 137. Tom Goodwin (1990s) 138. Paul Hines (1880s) 139. Ollie Pickering (1900s) 140. Brian McRae (1990s) 141. Milt Thompson (1990s) 142. Bug Holliday (1890s) 143. Dummy Hoy (1890s) 144. Harry Rice (1920s) 145. Randy Winn (2000s) 146. Eric Davis (1990s)
147. Harry Walker (1940s) 148. Tom Brown (1890s) 149. Ginger Beaumont (1900s) 150. John Shelby (1980s) 151. Gary Matthews Jr (2000s) 152. Danny Hoffman (1900s) 153. Ping Bodie (1910s) 154. Torii Hunter (2000s) 155. Don Demeter (1960s) 156. Amos Strunk (1910s) 157. Dave May (1970s) 158. Bobby Thomson (1950s) 159. Mickey Mantle (1950s) 160. Johnny Damon (2000s) 161. Roger Repoz (1960s) 162. Stan Javier (1990s) 163. Ray Lankford (1990s) 164. Vernon Wells (2000s)
165. Jose Cardenal (1970s) 166. Marvell Wynne (1980s) 167. Al Oliver (1970s) 168. Aaron Rowand (2000s) 169. Bobby Tolan (1970s) 170. Bob Dernier (1980s) 171. Dale Murphy (1980s) 172. Ron LeFlore (1970s) 173. Jerry Martin (1970s) 174. Mark Kotsay (2000s) 175. Gus Bell (1950s) 176. Ellis Burks (1990s) 177. Lee Mazzilli (1980s) 178. Johnny Frederick (1930s) 179. Rick Manning (1980s) 180. Lenny Green (1960s) 181. Roy Weatherly (1940s) 182. Jo-Jo White (1930s)
183. Tony Gonzalez (1960s) 184. Jerry Mumphrey (1980s) 185. Daryl Boston (1980s) 186. Rick Monday (1970s) 187. Gorman Thomas (1980s) 188. Ted Uhlaender (1960s) 189. Willie McGee (1990s) 190. Mitch Webster (1980s) 191. Ray Powell (1910s) 192. Albie Pearson (1960s) 193. Brady Anderson (1990s) 194. Jim Delsing (1950s) 195. Earle Combs (1920s) 196. Juan Pierre (2000s) 197. Johnny Bates (1910s) 198. Juan Beniquez (1980s) 199. Pete Hotaling (1880s) 200. Hal Jeffcoat (1950s)
201. Chad Curtis (1990s) 202. Rebel Oakes (1910s) 203. Myril Hoag (1930s) 204. Catfish Metkovich (1940s) 205. Ken Henderson (1970s) 206. Jose Cruz (2000s) 207. Whitey Witt (1920s) 208. Roberto Kelly (1990s) 209. Ned Hanlon (1880s) 210. Rowland Office (1970s) 211. Larry Hisle (1970s) 212. Matty Alou (1960s) 213. Gary Thomasson (1970s) 214. Herm Winningham (1990s) 215. Ken Landreaux (1980s) 216. Gabe Kapler (2000s) 217. Hack Wilson (1920s) 218. Jack Smith (1920s)
219. Pete Browning (1880s) 220. Hank Leiber (1930s) 221. Marty Keough (1960s) 222. Rube Oldring (1910s) 223. Johnny Grubb (1980s) 224. Cito Gaston (1970s) 225. Chili Davis (1990s) 226. Mike Donlin (1900s) 227. Charlie Hemphill (1900s) 228. John Cangelosi (1990s) 229. Quinton McCracken (2000s) 230. Tuck Stainback (1940s) 231. Burt Shotton (1910s) 232. Mack Jones (1960s) 233. Von Joshua (1970s) 234. Steve Lyons (1980s) 235. Preston Wilson (2000s) 236. Terrence Long (2000s)
There it is, history unblurred. The way it really is.