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Hamilton Shouldn't Start in Center Field

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Hamilton Shouldn't Start in Center Field

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Believe it or not, there are actually questions about the 2011 Rangers that have nothing to do with the best way to use Neftali Feliz.

Chief among them is what to do about Julio Borbon in center field. There aren't many players who could keep their jobs after showing Borbon's sustained inability to catch the ball and none of those that could are in the major leagues chiefly because of their defensive prowess. The Rangers would like to limit Josh Hamilton's exposure to the bumps and bruises that come with playing center, but they'd like to do it without hurting themselves in the lineup or in the field.

Right now, Borbon hasn't shown he's capable of doing that. His arm isn't good, he takes terrible jumps on balls and, as mentioned, his attempts to catch fly balls look like they come from the early season montage in "The Bad News Bears." Offensively, Borbon is posting a good batting average, but it seems clear that the Rangers would be more potent with David Murphy in the lineup.

Speaking of Murphy, there's been some calls for him to play center which would be a truly bizarre reaction to Borbon's struggles. Murphy hasn't played much center in his career, but he's played enough to show that he isn't a center fielder. Seeing as how defense is a major consideration, Murphy isn't an option to be the regular center fielder.

With all that being true, how can the Rangers even consider not reverting to last year's outfield?

For the very same reason that they turned to Borbon in the first place. Hamilton battled more than one injury over the course of the 2010 season. There's very little reason to believe that he won't be slamming himself into fences and diving after balls this year, which means you'll be gambling every night that Hamilton will come out of the contest able to play the next day. 

That's not a gamble you're likely to keep winning over the course of 162-game seasons and, it should go without saying, the Rangers aren't going to achieve what they want if Hamilton isn't in the lineup 140 times. There will always be a greater than zero chance of a Hamilton injury, but the Rangers have come up with the best way to manage that risk without hurting the team.

The operating principle behind the Borbon decision was sound. The early returns have been poor, but they are hardly persuasive against the evidence used to make the decision in the first place. It may come to a point where the rewards involved with benching Borbon outweigh the risks involved with playing Hamilton in center, but that point will never be in March.

Related Topics josh hamilton, center field
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