I believe I’m about to embark on what some around St. Louis might call heresy.
Still reading? Ok, then let’s continue…
Today’s WAR Graphs compare the most recent Cardinal center fielders of significant tenure – Jim Edmonds, Ray Lankford, and Willie McGee – all three with over one-thousand games played in center for the Redbirds. Oh yeah, and the incumbent – Colby Rasmus.
Wait, wait…WAIT! Where are you going?
No contest, you say? Well, that argument obviously has some merit just based on longevity:
Colby’s just a young pup! Barely any historical data to go on! He did get a one year headstart on the group and hasn’t embarrassed himself yet, eh? To be fair, Edmonds wasn’t a full-time starter until his age 25 year, and Lankford started full-time at age 24.
One benefit of getting started early, at age 22, is that Colby has plenty of time to possibly put those early seasons that already compare well to the others more toward the middle of the pack on the following graph, rather than the front:
Rasmus’ 2010 would already be McGee’s third best season in WAR. That’s pretty heady stuff for a guy just now playing his third season, no?
Young Colby still has some work to do, obviously, but now let’s get on to the interesting stuff…
*** WILD SPECULATION AND ASSUMPTION ALERT ***
Look at those peaks for Willie, Ray, and Jim at ages 25/26. Any reason to think that Colby can’t continue to improve as a big-league hitter and fielder into the next season or two and match those peaks in WAR? With his age 24 season showing his output to-date already this season, there’s reason to believe he may well be at or above the age 25 seasons of the other three by the end of 2011 already. Wow.
Obviously Colby is going to have to take some major steps to continue developing as a player – maturing both in the field and at the plate – but that sort of thing only comes with time, right?
To be clear, I’m not saying Colby is on his way to eventually eclipsing Jim Edmonds or even Willie McGee in career WAR. I know too well that Rasmus’ career could be turned on its ear at any moment, and there is far too little data provided to make a REAL comparison.
But since all we have to go on is a short-time trend and the promise of Colby’s – at least in my opinion - still untapped potential, it’s fun to speculate on while we’re ignorant of what the future holds, isn’t it?
[All graph images courtesy FanGraphs.]