Kube Cred

12 May

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

People ask me all the time why I keep watching the Twins, and why I remain positive. My only response right now is, “What else am I going to do?”  I mean, I’m a Twins fan. I’m going to watch the games. I’ve seen the Twins come back from deficits in the division so many times in recent years that it’s impossible for me to completely write the team off on May 12. My hope is simply in that at some point, Joe Mauer, Delmon Young, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Jim Thome, and Jason Repko will come back and at some point they will hit. I hold hope that Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan can return to form because I see bad mechanics as opposed to fear and confusion. My hope is that Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano can’t be this bad.

Frankly, it’s hard for me to remember watching a worse baseball team. Since 2001, the Twins have been a very good team. What we are watching right now is a very bad baseball team. They are 12-23. However, even when things are at their worst, and I can’t believe it gets worse than this, for me it’s fun to watch because even within bad baseball, there is generally some positive. For me, the positives have been Scott Baker, Brian Duensing, and Nick Blackburn who all have ERAs below four. Glen Perkins has been tremendous, posting a 0.51 ERA.

When it comes to hitting on this historically bad offense, there is one name that stands head and shoulders above everyone else! Jason Kubel has been incredible throughout the season. Look at yesterday’s game alone. Early in the game, he had a terrific at bat that led to a two-out RBI single. In the 7th inning, the Twins were down by two runs with two outs. The Tigers brought in a left-handed reliever to face Kubel with runners on 2nd and 3rd. With the open base and a struggling Justin Morneau on deck, the Tigers chose to pitch to Kubel. Kubel responded, as he has all spring, with a huge hit. This time, it was a 460 foot blast over the right centerfield wall that gave the Twins what proved to be only a temporary lead. Kubel has been clutch in many two-out situations.

Here is where he ranks among Twins hitters in several categories:

  • Games Played – 35 –  Kubel and Danny Valencia are the two players who have played in all 35 games.
  • At Bats – 124 – Tied for 3rd with Michael Cuddyer, behind Valencia and Denard Span.
  • Runs Scored – 14 – 2nd, Span has 18.
  • Hits – 44 – 1st, Span is next with 40.
  • Doubles – 10 – 1st, Morneau is next with 8.
  • Home Runs – 4 – 1st, Valencia and Cuddyer have 3.
  • RBI – 20 – 1st, Valencia has 18.
  • Total Bases – 66 – Span is second with 49.
  • Walks – 13 – 2nd – Span has 15. Valencia also has 13.
  • Batting Average – .355 – 1st,  Span is second at .285.
  • On-Base Percentage – .414 – 1st,  Span is second at .357.
  • Slugging Percentage – .532 – 1st,  Thome is at .375, Span is at .357.
  • OPS – .947 – 1st, Span is at .710 (in other words, Kubel has been 33% better – by OPS – than any other player on the team)

Here is where Kubel ranks in the American League in a few statistical categories:

  • Batting Average – .355 ,2nd to Matt Joyce (Rays, .358)
  • On-Base Percentage – 414, 3rd behind Jose Batista and Miguel Cabrera
  • OPS – .947 – 7th, behind Jose Batista, Curtis Granderson, Miguel Cabrera, Matt Joyce, Victor Martinez and Mark Teixeira

Can Jason Kubel maintain this pace? That’s a tough question. I don’t think he can maintain a .355 batting average. Right now his BABIP is at .404, so it is likely that his batting average will drop some. Can he maintain a .947 OPS? I think so because he has just four home runs and ten doubles. He can actually hit more extra base hits as he goes forward.

We saw it in 2009 when he hit .300 with 28 homers and 103 RBI. When he rose through the Twins minor league system, he was described as being a guy who could hit for average like Mauer and hit for power like Morneau. Twins fans like myself are left with a bit of “What-If” with Jason Kubel. What if he would not have played in the Arizona Fall League after the 2004 season and had his knee torn to pieces by the Tigers Ryan Raburn. The knee surgeries cost him the entire 2005 season, and as we saw, it look him a couple of years to get back to what he was.

One thing that has hurt Kubel in his career has been his inability to hit left-handed pitching. This year, he has come up with some really big hits against lefties. Yesterday, it was the three-run homer off of Dan Schlereth. Earlier in the year, it was a big double off the wall against Rafael Perez. Even with some of those big hits, he OPS versus lefties this year is still below .700. (Update, check out this Twinkie Town article which shows that Kubel’s OPS vs LHP was .681 before yesterday’s game, and is now .820 after yesterday’s game! Ah, the beauty of small samples!) Meanwhile, he is again crushing right-handed pitching, hitting .381/.430/.571 with ten of his 14 extra base hits.

Against the AL Central so far this year, he it 18-38 (.474) with two home runs and 13 RBI. After yesterday, he is now 15-31 with runners in scoring position. Obviously that is not maintainable.

There are some additional numbers and trends that are certainly encouraging, at least is they continue as we go forward this year:

  2008 2009 2010 2011
BB% 9.1% 9.7% 9.6% 9.3%
K% 19.7% 20.6% 22.4% 18.5%
Line Drive % 19.5% 19.6% 19.2% 21.4%
Fly Ball % 40.6% 41.6% 43.2% 49.5%
Ground Ball % 39.8% 38.7% 37.6% 29.1%

 Of course, we are still talking about a 35 game sample in a 162 game season, so these numbers could all return to the norm. For a team that is so offensive-adverse, just imagine where they would be without the incredible and consistent performance of Jason Kubel! Scary!

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.


10 Responses to “Kube Cred”

  1. roger May 12, 2011 at 7:25 am #

    Don’t think I missed it above, but no mention of the most exciting play of the year? Revere scoring from first on the double and taking out the catcher with his head was flat out fun to watch. I don’t know what Ben’s future holds, however, I think he will stay up with the Twins for a bit. The best for his development is probably going back to Rochester when both Repko and Thome are off the DL and playing every day. But I expect he will be back before August. The question is what moves does Bill Smith make between now and next April to get Ben playing time with the Twins?

  2. mike wants wins May 12, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    Kubel is playing great baseball right now. I hope they find a way to sign him and play him full time.

  3. JA May 12, 2011 at 11:53 am #

    I tell my wife all the time, this run of dominance will not last forever. Every now and then a team will have an off year, this looks to be the Twins year. No white flag yet, but by mid-June we will know how the future will look, and who will be with us in 2012. If we get to that point, hopefully we can be on the positive side of a few trade deadline transactions.

  4. Sean May 12, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    Why do people ask you why you keep watching the Twins? Are they White Sox fans? Just because the Twins suck this year after 8 great seasons and you are supposed to stop watching games? Those fans are total bandwagon chumps. It makes me sick. If any of those fans came up to me I’d tell them to go cheer for the White Sox. They shouldn’t be fans. They aren’t wanted.

    • mike wants wins May 12, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

      There is no right or wrong way to be a fan.

    • Ed Bast May 12, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

      Aren’t wanted by whom? I wasn’t aware there was a committee that decided whether or not a person could be a fan.

  5. R Hobbs May 12, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

    If you were going to teach a kid to swing a bat; point to Kubel. His stroke is short, compact, hole-free and he has terrific balance. I like too that when he swings that he lets it rip. No guessing; no check swings. It is easy to see why he was more heralded by insiders in the minors than Morneau, who God bless him, is presently just a fundamental nightmare at the plate. Every positive that I listed for Jason is absent for Justin right now. I really feel for him.

  6. jimbo92107 May 12, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    Kubel’s improvement is all about his left foot. This year he has shifted the weight more to the ball of the foot, allowing him to get longer transfer of power to his hands, which increases the dwell time of his bat (especially the barrel) in the hitting zone. Notice that his belt buckle now travels almost in a straight line towards the pitcher.

    What’s interesting is that it might be possible to increase his power even more, if he dropped his left foot back about and inch, further increasing the rotation of his back leg when he pushes off. Or it might just screw up his balance. Probably we’ll never know.

  7. gobbledy May 12, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    kubes is making himself a lot of money, down the road, hope this makes him a type a free agent. the way he is hitting it’s an easy choice to offer arb. so win-win he either accepts and comes back or you get the draft picks. the rest of the free agent guys, cuddy, nathan, capps i can’t see offering them for fear they’d accept. kubes has been a good player for the twins not a super star but a nice player over the years and good player to have on your team. never hurts you and gives you an honest effort all the time.

    • DH in Philly May 13, 2011 at 9:03 am #

      Never hurts you as long as he is a platoon DH

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