Recently, I was watching a Tigers game and marveling at how quickly Curtis Granderson has become an all around threat, and possibly the best center fielder in baseball.
That got me wondering, how does Granderson's early career compare to some of the best of all-time?
I found a list of the top 50 center fielders published on the baseball page and thought it would be a good starting point.
The next step was finding a consistent statistical measure to compare players from different eras. I chose to look at four statistics and to take their career averages based on a 162-game season.
The four statistics I chose were the total number of doubles, triples, home runs, and stolen bases. I chose these stats because, unlike statistics like runs scored and RBI, they are solely dependent on the player to produce.
For example, scoring a run is reliant on a teammate getting a hit and knocking the base runner in. Sure, if somebody is a good base runner they are more likely to score, but ultimately someone else must come through.
So, in analyzing the list I pulled up, I found the following former players in the top 10 all-time: Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Kirby Puckett. Pretty nice list, right?
I don't know about you, but with the exception of Puckett, I never saw any of these guys play. I sure would have loved to. The fact is, there are four players playing right now that are equally good.
Grady Sizemore is on pace to be the second best center fielder of all-time. Some traditionalists may have a problem with this assessment, but look at the numbers.
Over a 162-game season, Sizemore has averaged 40 doubles, eight triples, 27 home runs, and 28 stolen bases. This gives him a total of 103, trailing only Ty Cobb (109) in this production profile.
Similarly, Carlos Beltran has put up numbers that would make him the third best center fielder of all-time.
Yeah, better than Willie Mays.
Beltran, in a full 162-game season, has averaged 35 doubles, seven triples, 29 home runs, and 30 stolen bases.
You may not be surprised to learn the next current player on this list is Ken Griffey Jr.
The baseball page has him ranked third all-time amongst center fielders. I've got him ranked sixth, tied with Joe DiMaggio, and one other current center fielder, Curtis Granderson.
Granderson may just end up being the best all around center fielder of all-time. It may seem insane, but he's already one of the best eight ever to play in the big leagues at center. Over a 162-game season, he has averaged 32 doubles, 15 triples, 23 home runs, and 15 stolen bases.
When he learns to become a better base stealer and harnesses his power, his profile will only get better, especially playing in triple-friendly Comerica Park.
So enjoy today baseball fans, because you're watching four of the best center fielders of all-time.