Cespedes is a Square Peg

I think it’s fair to say that Mets fans have been disappointed in this offseason. No matter how you look at it, the 2016 Mets are worse the the Mets team that lost the World Series. There are still some moves to make, but I agree with Sandy Alderson when he says Yoenis Cespedes isn’t one of those moves. 

The issue is Cespedes just isn’t a centerfielder. It’s the reason why Alderson said signing Cespedes is trying “to fit a round peg in a square hole.”  Cespedes was great for a stretch, but it was mostly with the bat. Be honest with yourself for a second and think about Cespedes’ tenure with the Mets. What was the great fielding play he made in center?  I tried racking my brain, and I couldn’t come up with one. The only thing I could think of was a throw:

Look, it was an awesome throw. He has an incredible arm. However, the throw was made possible because he played the ball poorly. No, I’m not saying he should’ve caught that.  I’m saying he was in poor position. Go watch it again. The ball splits the outfielders and goes to the wall. While the ball is rolling to the wall, Cespedes is still heading towards left field. Given the curvature if the Citi Field walls, it’s physically improbable that ball bounced towards left. Sure, Cespedes turn it into a remarkable play, but it doesn’t change the fact he almost misplayed a double into a triple. 

Here’s the part where many people will say I’m over-analyzing one play. That’s a fair critique. With that said, let’s look at his defensive metrics. Cespedes had a UZR of -3.2, which rates him as a below average centerfielder in a large outfield. It’s not a one year fluke as Cespedes’ career UZR in center is -12.6, which equates to an average UZR of -3.2 per season. 

If you don’t like UZR, let’s look at Cespedes’ DRS (defensive runs saved). Cespedes was a -17 in center last year!  That’s worse than below average. It’s flat out awful. It was the worst of his career. Typically, Cespedes averages a -4, which is still below average. There’s simply no reason to believe Cespedes is a good centerfielder.  He’s not even an average one. 

Typically, when I raise this argument, I’m told the eye test shows Cespedes is a good centerfielder. Are you sure:

Don’t know about you, but my eyes tell me that was a bad defensive play. He didn’t look like a great centerfielder there. It’s also not nitpicking just one play. Here’s another:

How many good centerfielders allow two Little League homeruns in one year?  The answer is none. By the way, you have to hate his lack of hustle going back for the ball he missed there. 

Ultimately, we remember Cespedes being better than he was defensively in centerfield because he has a canon of an arm, and we were distracted by his bat. It was a fun run with him, but the truth is it was nothing more than an insane hot streak. For his career, Cespedes is a .261/.319/.486 hitter. He has hit .236/.302/.491 at Citi Field. Those aren’t the types of numbers that can cover up bad defense at a position where defense is at a premium. 

Like all Mets fans, I appreciate what Cespedes did. However, let’s be honest his career statistics prove out he’s not a centerfielder. I’m not saying you need to be happy with Alejandro De Aza. I’m saying you need to be honest and admit Cespedes isn’t a centerfielder. He’s a corner outfielder on a team with two terrific incumbent options with Michael Conforto and Curtis Granderson

Cespedes is just a square peg that can’t fit the holes the Mets have.