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News Roundup: Nate McLouth Wouldn't Move From Center

Dejan Kovacevic has a point regarding the blackouts. It's frustrating because I'm in Morgantown right now and have time on my hands to watch the games on a nice TV for once. They're not on, and I can't watch them on either because you get blacked out of watching the game if you're in the viewing area. So, short of going to a bar (which, when the games start at 10:00, doesn't seem to be the best place to watch a game few of the other patrons would care about), I can't watch the games. On top of that, I just got a directive from SBN to put up a postgame thread for every game, and it's obviously difficult to comment intelligently on games I don't see. This wouldn't be so bad if it only happened for one game, but when it's day after day... well, anyway, that's enough complaining.

Anyway, I don't generally care what Doug Mientkiewicz thinks about much of anything, but the revelation that Nate McLouth refused to move to a corner (also covered in the fanposts) is pretty interesting. Having McLouth in center was one thing when the other two starting outfielders were Nyjer Morgan and Brandon Moss--by 2009, it probably wasn't optimal, but you could see why the Pirates might not have minded. In the 2007-2008 offseason, the Pirates had a video person compile footage of all the plays McLouth and Morgan made in center in 2007, and the Bucs determined that McLouth was the better centerfielder. Based on what I saw at that time, I can see why they felt that way--McLouth was nothing special, but he got good reads, played intelligently and had good hands, while Morgan got awful reads and ran to the ball in bizarre stairstep patterns that made routine plays seem like an adventure.

Morgan made substantial defensive improvements in 2009, though, and that was probably completely obvious to the Pirates by the time they traded McLouth. PNC Park has a big left field, and while I think the difficulty of playing left field there is somewhat overstated, it certainly isn't the worst thing in the world to have a capable centerfielder playing there. With Andrew McCutchen banging on the door, though, and McLouth refusing to move to a corner, the Bucs would have had two good defensive centerfielders playing the corners and a below-average centerfielder playing center. That's just silly, probably to the point that, if McLouth was really going to be stubborn about it, the Pirates would probably have been justified to just sell him off to the highest bidder. I know that UZR says that McCutchen has only been an average centerfielder this year, but we all know that isn't true. There's probably about a 15-run difference between McCutchen as a CF and McLouth as a CF over the course of a season, and that barely makes up for the extra runs McLouth provides on offense. Also, I would have rather had McCutchen in center, if only because that's the position he'd likely be playing in a couple years regardless of what happened to McLouth.

Of course, the Pirates later traded Morgan too, making some of this moot. They probably could have mitigated some of the loss of baseball talent they would have suffered by keeping McLouth in center by moving McCutchen to left. But I'm not sure they realized they'd get something interesting for Morgan.

By the way, McLouth eventually will have to move to a corner. He's not a very good defensive centerfielder, and most front offices know it.

UPDATE: Dejan Kovacevic says that McLouth might have been willing to change positions at some point, but did not want to "forfeit" center right away.