It doesn’t quite fit the meter, and in any case, I can’t see Walt and Dusty wearing matching habits, but I think Drew Stubbs is starting to cause some Julie-Andrews-level frustration in the Reds fandom (given, that’s not so much a demerit as a badge of pride occasionally). It’s not that he’s the team’s biggest problem right now, but he and Scott Rolen have the lowest OPS’s of all the current starters.
Scott Rolen, at least, is a problem that makes sense, logically. An infielder in his 30s who is struggling to produce at the plate isn’t a surprise, it’s a cliche. Stubbs on the other hand, is just 27, and should be entering the prime of his career. He should be improving, and so far, he was worse in 2011 than in 2010, and so far he’s been worse in 2012 than in 2011. He’s also too old to send away from the convent to AAA. At this point, you’d have to put him on waivers, risking him falling in love with a member of the Austrian nobility and running away to Vermont to escape the Nazis.
The well-worn, and well-justified, adage at this point in the season is ‘small sample size’, but when have I ever let that stop me?
First let’s look at what always gets him in trouble with the fans – the strikeouts. Stubbs has been striking out a lot, but only at 26.8%, compared to 30.1% last year, so while that’s maybe not sustainable, it doesn’t seem like strikeouts are the reason that he’s been worse than last season. He’s also barely walking, at just over 4%, when he’s generally walked about 9% in MLB. This means that he’s putting a lot more balls in play, which some would consider a plus, given his excellent speed. However, his BABIP right now is just .311, which seems high for other players, but it’s a lot less than what Stubbs has sustained over the two previous seasons.
That could mean that he’s just getting unlucky, and will improve as the season continues, but his batted ball profile has changed dramatically. Right now, he’s hitting over 60% groundballs, which is way over his usual levels, and his line drive and flyball rates have dropped accordingly. Take a look at Drew’s spray charts for this year, and the same period from last year:
My first thought was just that even the fly balls just don’t seem like they’re going as far this season as compared to last. That would definitely be bad. On the other hand, what I’m actually picking at is a difference of maybe five or six balls, which is not necessarily meaningful. It still doesn’t look good.
Interestingly, Stubbs’s overall swing profile is pretty similar. He still swings at about 45% of pitches, it’s just that this season, he’s making about 5% more contact…and it’s not helping him. It does seem that he may be swinging at a few fewer balls that are inside the zone, but his out of zone swing percentage is pretty much the same.
I do think there may be some truth to the idea that pitcher are learning how to pitch to Stubbs – the % of fastballs he saw from 2010 to 2011 to 2012 decreased from 38% to 36% to 29% this season, which is sensible considering that Stubbs doesn’t tend to do well with breaking balls. This may mean that Drew Stubbs might want to be more aggressive on fastballs – as he’ll be seeing fewer of them – when right now it seems like he’s tending to look more at fastballs this year.
So what’s my conclusion? I don’t have one. That’s why I’m so frustrated, remember? All I know is that right now, with a hot streak sandwiched by crap before and after, Stubbs isn’t looking good right now – and he might get better. Or he might not.