Scott Miller on a brewing mini-controversy in Orange County (via CBSSports.com):
With each step that Peter Bourjos takes toward his projected June 10 return from a hamstring injury, a growing chorus zeroes in on Mike Trout.
And Mike Scioscia puts in his ear plugs and carries on with his day.
No, the Angels manager said Thursday. Trout will not remain in center field when Bourjos returns.
After a slow start this season, Trout has recaptured his 2012 lightning since moving over to center field.
In 33 games playing center this season, Trout is hitting .331/.401/.654 with eight home runs and 25 RBI.
In 22 games in left field, he's hitting .247/.327/.412 with two home runs and 12 RBI.
"Mike is a center fielder. We've said that," Scioscia says. "At times, his versatility, we need to tap into that. Peter is just an incredible center fielder, and that takes some pressure off of some of the guys if you're able to play a corner."
Bourjos is a fantastic center fielder, probably even more fantastic than Mike Trout. But the difference here is almost irrelevant, because range plays really well in left field, too. The notion that left field's not important is a result of the players who have played left field -- Lonnie Smith, Greg Luzinski, Manny Ramirez, Delmon Young, etc. -- rather than the actual importance of the position. You don't play Manny Ramirez in left field because it doesn't matter; you play him there because he can't play first base and you've got David Ortiz.
This wasn't obvious to me until I realized how many runs Carl Crawford saved for the Devil Rays, and Brett Gardner for the Yankees, in left field. Sure, you could move them to center field ... but could they save significantly more runs there? Probably not. Defensively, you'd love to essentially have two center fielders in your outfield, and that's effectively what the Angels have.
Now, the other considerations ... Given two center fielders, you probably want the stronger arm in center field. Oddly enough, Trout actually does not throw well. Bourjos does. Over the course of a season, this might save the Angels two or three runs. Scioscia seems to believe that playing left field is easier on the legs, and will keep Trout fresher than if he were playing center field. I have no idea if that's true, but you figure it can't hurt.
Now, there are a couple of other things. One, Trout's hit better as a center fielder than as a left fielder. This probably doesn't mean anything. Two, Trout reportedly wants to play center field, and there's something to be said for keeping your best player happy.
This is a manager thing. Before this season, everybody said Mike Scioscia was among the game's very best managers. Which doesn't mean he's perfect. But if you said that, too, then you have to sort of assume he knows who belongs in center field, and who doesn't.
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