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On Carlos Gomez and "Average"

In the comments of yesterday's Mug we had a somewhat interesting conversation taking place regarding Carlos Gomez and whether he is or isn't a "league average" player.

The debate got sidetracked a little bit by a definition issue, but I think it's worth bringing back up. WAR numbers would suggest that an "average" major leaguer is worth roughly two wins per season, and that's roughly what Gomez has been worth over his career per 600 plate appearances.

So, when you compare Gomez to all major leaguers, he's around average. But comparing him to his peers (regular starting center fielders) tells a somewhat different story. Here's a quick table I threw together showing how many plate appearances Gomez has received in each of the last three seasons, and where he ranks in rWAR and fWAR among other center fielders who received at least that many opportunities. In each case, the percentage is the portion of qualified players he outperformed.

Season PAs rWAR % fWAR %
2010 318 0.0 12.1% 1.1 21%
2009 349 -0.1 15.2% 0.6 23.8%
2008 614 2.1 10% 2.4 15.4%

There's a couple of things to take away from this table:

  • First of all, your personal preference between rWAR and fWAR may swing your opinion a bit here. The difference in value between the two is over two wins between the last three seasons.
  • Even if you take fWAR's more optimistic approach, though, you're left with numbers showing that Gomez has spent every season of his career as one of baseball's least valuable players to receive the volume of playing time he's received in center field.

So, while we can debate until the cows come home about the definition and relevance of league average, I honestly don't see an argument against this point: If the Brewers use Carlos Gomez as their primary center fielder this season, there's reason to believe he'll be one of baseball's least valuable regulars at the position.