As most people know by now, Jim Edmonds did not even play in the major leagues last season. He last played in 2008, splitting time between San Diego and the Cubs. He hit .235 that season, and although he showed solid power, slugging 20 HRs, his inability to get hits along with a lost step in the outfield (-14.5 UZR) resulted in all 30 major league teams shunning him come spring of 2009.
Come 2010, and the Brewers need a 5th outfielder, and Jim Edmonds still wanted a job. The move made sense to me – Trent Oeltjen and Norris Hopper aren’t exactly players that anybody would want on a Major League roster – but at the same time, I felt that Edmonds was out of baseball for a reason. However, after seeing Edmonds play in spring training and then taking a deeper look at his stats, I was more on board for an Edmonds signing, especially given the dearth of outfield talent on the roster in March.
Now, of course, Edmonds is showing all the doubters that he can still play. He’s made some impressive catches in the outfield, and more surprisingly, is just hitting the cover off of the ball. He hit his first home run yesterday, a 396 foot line drive off of Joel Hanrahan. His 4-6 day brought his season line up to .341/.431/.568. He’s taking a lot of walks – 11.8% – and that’s even a low number for his career. He’s hitting for power in the form of doubles, and the shot of Hanrahan shows that he certainly has the power to hit 20 HRs like he did last season.
Currently, Edmonds has recorded a .435 wOBA (click the link for stat explanation), and a 171 wRC+, wOBA’s analog to OPS+. The last time Edmonds recorded a 171 wRC+ was in 2004, when he hit 42 HRs and posted a .301/.418/.643 en route to a season worth 8.3 wins above replacement. In most seasons, 8.3 WAR is an MVP caliber, but 2004 contained Barry Bonds‘s .362/.602/.812 season, Adrian Beltre‘s ridiculous 48 HR, +22 UZR, Scott Rolen‘s 34 HR, +21 UZR season, and J.D. Drew‘s best career season, .305/.436/.569 with a +16 UZR in RF.
Edmonds isn’t going to continue to hit at MVP levels. His BABIP of .424 will soon regress toward his career BABIP of .323. However, it’s also likely that he starts hitting more fly balls soon and that a higher percentage of his fly balls will leave the park. Edmonds is only hitting fly balls at a 30% rate this season, well below his career mark of 43%. So, even as we can expect fewer hits to drop in, we can also expect Edmonds to start hitting for more home runs as the season goes on.
As this balances out, a wOBA around .345-.355 is probably what we can expect out of Edmonds this season. That’s roughly at a Mike Cameron-type offensive level, and a bit below Casey McGehee‘s line from last season. That makes Edmonds an upgrade over Corey Hart, and it also adds a level of depth to Milwaukee’s bench that was unexpected coming into this season. It certainly looks as though Jim Edmonds will be a major part of any playoff push we see out of Milwaukee this season.