Chicago Cubs: Fowler and Heyward are good for each other
The Chicago Cubs signing Dexter Fowler to go along with Jason Heyward will benefit on many levels–especially for each other in the Cubs outfield.
Every team enters a new season with high hopes and belief that their team can win it all. For most Chicago Cubs’ fans, we made the best of it in recent years by believing that a Darwin Barney or Tyler Colvin were going to be stars–and that things weren’t as bleak as we thought. Truth was, it was that bad–but it was a calculated bad. And those few years of struggles could possibly lead to a decade of success.
When the Cubs signed Jason Heyward the center field situation was unclear. Javier Baez was going to see some innings out there in winter ball, and Albert Almora could be the “future” of the position but he isn’t ready to take the reins yet. Heyward’s addition looked to displace the young Jorge Soler from right–until the team said that Heyward would get the nod in center.
Suddenly, some saw the Gold Glove winner as less of a force in center. Indeed, right field and center field are different, and there’s a reason the corner outfield spots are used to hide defensive inadequacies while getting a bat in the lineup. But Heyward didn’t seem to be that type of player, yet many felt the Cubs were putting him in a role he wouldn’t flourish in.
I personally had faith that J-Hey could get it done–even if it was for just this season. But either the Cubs had this plan all along or it just fell in their lap, but bringing back Dexter Fowler will be good for the team on so many levels–including for each other.
In Heyward’s career, he’s spent a total of 233 innings playing center field with a UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 defensive games) of +11.1. Great is generally rated at a +10, with Gold Glove caliber at +15. With 6756 1/3 innings in right field, Heyward has logged a UZR/150 of +18.4. The Gold Gloves he has seem to fit in accordingly. So using those numbers it’s not hard to think he could have managed center field with ease.
Fowler on the other hand in his career has logged a UZR/150 of -12.1 in 7280 innings. On the ability overview that sits him in between poor and awful. Watching Fowler play, it doesn’t seem THAT bad, but the numbers don’t lie–he isn’t a great defensive center fielder. But the fact is the Cubs brought Fowler back for his bat, not his glove. And playing alongside Heyward should certainly help Fowler–even if he has a less than experienced Kyle Schwarber or out of place Jorge Soler in left field.
When it comes to OOZ (Plays made out of zone), Heyward has made 517 in under 7,000 innings (6989 1/3). Fowler has made just 418 in 7280 innings. What exactly does all this mean? Last season Fowler patrolled Wrigley with Soler in right field and a mix of players in left including Schwarber and Chris Coghlan.
Coghlan was an apt fielder and could handle himself. But Soler, less his cannon of an arm, struggled with routes and efficiency (-12.7 UZR/150 last season). So how does this help the outfield?\n
Fowler should be able to favor the weaker corner outfielder (minus defensive shifts) knowing that Heyward can get to most balls hit into the gap or otherwise. This should help Fowler’s OOZ as well as his UZR. Heyward is essentially going to take away concern to Fowler’s left and allow him to cover more ground between center and left field.
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Much of this is theoretical, and I may have taken some liberties with assuming that Heyward has no issues adjusting to right field in Wrigley. Even if it doesn’t fare out as well as I hope, the duo should still be very good patrolling the Friendly Confines this summer–and hopefully into the fall.