also available at www.SethSpeaks.net –
- At 10:20, I will be on KFAN and its affiliates and KFAN.com, talking Twins with Paul Allen.
- At about 1:00, I will be a guest on one of KFAN’s affiliates, 740 The Fan in Fargo. I’ll be on The Jack Michaels Show around 1:00 to discuss Twins prospects
- And as of right now, I will be hosting Twins Minor League Weekly podcast at 10:00 tonight.
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:
|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.