Michael Cuddyer has a notorious reputation around the Twins clubhouse as an amateur magician. This season, though, his only trick has been creating two outs in one at-bat. Cuddyer leads the league in double plays grounded into with 12, and is currently on pace to shatter the all-time record of 36 set by Jim Rice back in 1984.
Double plays create more misdirected anger amongst fans than perhaps any other play in baseball. Yes, the twin killing is a frustrating outcome for an offense, as it wastes base runners and murders rallies. But, unlike a strikeout, the double play is not an obvious and blatant failure by the batter -- typically these are hard-hit balls that happen to roll right into an infielder's glove. Since batters can't really control exactly where a batted ball is going to go, the difference between a rally-extending hit through the hole and a morale-crushing DP is often a matter of luck. Cuddyer's luck this year has not been good.
Certainly, there's nothing in his numbers to suggest that the spike in double plays is a direct result of anything Cuddyer is doing wrong. He's not hitting the ball on the ground more; in fact, his 41.4 percent ground ball rate would be the lowest of his entire career. He's not even hitting into double plays at an astonishingly high rate; as Aaron Gleeman noted today, Cuddyer does not even rank among baseball's top ten in ground ball rate.
The chief culprit for Cuddyer's huge GIDP figure is abundant opportunity. When you happen to hit behind Justin Morneau, who leads the American League in on-base percentage and ranks second in walks, you're going to be batting quite often with a runner on first base. The GIDP bug would likely be biting anyone hitting behind Morneau with even a remote penchant for putting the ball on the ground. As such, the increasingly popular suggestion that Delmon Young -- who had been swinging a pretty good bat recently -- should be moved up to the fifth spot in the order to cut down on the double plays is flawed. Young is a far more GB-heavy hitter than Cuddyer and if he were hitting behind Morneau you can believe he'd be racking up the twin killings as well.
Ultimately, regardless of their recent trends, Cuddyer is a better hitter than Young and is the best right-handed hitter in the Twins lineup. His historical success against left-handed pitching makes him a good fit between Morneau and Jason Kubel (or Jim Thome), so there's no reason to believe Cuddyer should be moved out of that spot just because he has been slumping for a couple weeks. Let's not forget that in April, he posted a strong .825 OPS while leading the team in RBI. Clearly he can succeed in this role and shifting him down in the batting order would be nothing more than an overreaction to a slump.
With that being said, there's no denying that Cuddyer has been having a tough time lately, and it sure seems like he could stand to take a day off.