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2005 Brewers Preview Part 2: Center Field

As many Brewers fans realized last year--even if the rest of baseball didn't notice--Brady Clark is a heck of a player.  Versatile, good on-base guy, seems like a good guy to have around the clubhouse, no complaints there.  Once Ben Grieve was relegated to bench duty, Clark did a fine job, though didn't produce the kind of numbers you'd like to see from a corner outfielder.  

I'd say the consensus after 2004 was: Brady Clark is a great 4th outfielder, and we're lucky to have him.

And then Podsednik got traded!  It looks like, as soon as that trade went down, the plan from the beginning was for Brady Clark to be the 2005 starting centerfielder, with prospect Dave Krynzel serving as the 4th OF, or returning to AAA to get more experience.

Brady has looked solid in spring training; at the very least, he's a competent center fielder, and he proved last year he can get on base, even showing a bit of power, with 7 home runs and 18 doubles in 353 at-bats.  He won't be Ichiro Suzuki in the lead-off spot, but barring a major setback, he'll outperform the numbers Podsednik put up in the #1 spot last year.  

The number Doug Melvin and Ned Yost always point to with Brady is the on-base percentage, which is clearly an important indicator for lead-off hitters.  Clark had an OBP of .385 last year, which would've been good for 3rd best among lead-off hitters in the NL central, behind Jason Kendall's .399 and Tony Womack's freakish .415.  It would've been the highest among starters on the Cubs.

But Brady's career OBP is .353.  Not embarrassing, in fact way above the 2004 league average of .329, but not quite what you'd like to see from the lead-off spot, or from any light-hitting starter, for that matter.  

Another concern is Clark's facility on the basepaths.  He stole 15 bases--not bad for someone who hit all over the lineup--but was caught 8 times.  If it's true that stolen bases only have a positive impact on run scoring if the success rate is 70% or better, Brady was costing the Brewers runs.  His 2003 numbers, 13 steals and caught just twice, are more appealing.  Given the green light from the lead-off spot, that 13/15 year indicates he could be quite a threat.  

I haven't said much about Krynzel because I'm going to be talking about him a bit with John Sickels, and my Q&A with him should be posted to this site later today or early tomorrow.  But Brady knows that there's a solid player waiting in Nashville if he gets off to a slow start.  

I'll ask the same questions I asked about Jenkins.  What numbers would you consider a successful year from Brady?  I'd say .275/.375, with 20 doubles and 30 SBs at a decent success rate.  How soon do you expect to see Krynzel?  Do you figure Krynzel will be starting on Opening Day 2006?