Thursday, May 20, 2010

No Hook Needed for Cuddyer

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.


Anonymous said...

Cuddyer is killing the twins. Young has to be moved up. Give the kid a chance. Cuddy has always been average.

Dave said...

Common Delmon, that anonymous tag doesn't fool anyone...

Anonymous said...

Cuddyer is the most overrated player, who thrives in mop up situations. The guy has a May line stat line of .203/.292/.344, hell the last time he had a hit with a man in scoring position was May 3! It's not even just the double plays, look at that OBP, the man might as well never step up to the plate. What you fail to mention is that Cuddyer is supposed to offer Morneau (who btw has 0 GIDP)protection in the lineup. Have you noticed the last few days what Morneau has been swinging at? I have and I think he knows what most Twins fans and other team's scouts know, that he's a walking out machine.

torgo23 said...

The previous commenter hit the nail on the head I think without realizing it. The Twins offense had teams running SCARED at the beginning of this year, and now they are realizing the lineup is a bunch of easy outs.

There is no fear, no trepidation just throw the ball off the plate the fearsome Twinkies will swing away. Keep those pitches low, low low and the mighty Twinkies will pound those balls right into the dirt.

The best hitter in the lineup has no protection because the rest of the lineup is garbage. Even Mr MVP Joe Mauer has been striking out and looking miserable at the plate.

Nick N. said...

Cuddyer is the most overrated player, who thrives in mop up situations.

I'm sorry, was last September a "mop-up situation"?

The guy has a May line stat line of .203/.292/.344, hell the last time he had a hit with a man in scoring position was May 3!

And he had an April line of .309/.346/.479, delivering plenty of big hits with runners in scoring position. The guy's streaky, this is nothing new. It doesn't make him a bad player.

There is no fear, no trepidation just throw the ball off the plate the fearsome Twinkies will swing away.

Uhh, you realize the Twins rank third in the majors in walks and second-to-last in strikeouts right? By no means is your criticism of this lineup a valid one. This has been one of the most disciplined teams at the plate in all of baseball. Some guys are just slumping right now with the bat.

Anonymous said...

the thing that bothers me about the DPs is when there is a runner on third and all we need is a fly ball to get a run in and he hits a tailor made DP grounder. he has to know that pitcher is trying to induce a grounder.

Dave said...

And it is so easy to lift a ball at your knees into the outfield... Lets be honest, hitting for a sac fly is about pitch selection, and if a pitcher doesn't give you a ball you can elevate you aren't doing yourself any favors trying to do just so. Unless your name is Vlad or Alfonso no ammount of pitch guessing proficiency will allow you to get under a low and away fastball.

Andrew said...

Is it just me or has Mauer been hitting into the twin killers a lot too?

Anonymous said...

"And it is so easy to lift a ball at your knees into the outfield... "

#1 a lot of times he does it early in the count. he should jump on the first pitch he can hit in the air, but instead he usually goes after the first pitch he can reach.

#2 it's not that hard to lift a pitch at your knees. these guys are major leaguers. it is pitches that are even lower than the knees that are difficult.

he really does need to wait for better pitches in these situations. i'm not saying he is a bad player, but doing so would make him even better and make us all a lot less frustrated.

Dave said...

This year Cuddy is hitting .450/.700/1.150 on first pitches. While I agree that the first pitch should usually be taken, its hard to argue with those numbers.

Lets look at Young's numbers in comparison. Cuddy has 20 pitches put in play off the first pitch in 158 AB's, Delmon has 22 in 112 AB's. By my calculations that is a 7% difference in first pitches put into play by Delmon. Delmon is no slouch hitting first pitches either, though, batting .409/.682/1.091.

Now I don't know if your argument is solely based on double play situations, but overall it doesn't hold water.

Abe said...

Beyond all the stats you can toss out there's what you can actually see with your own eyes. I'm going to assume that just about everyone on this board is a rube like me and watches every game. The guy has largely been brutal this year and brutal in clutch situations. You can toss out his stat line from the end of this year and some number on how many double plays he actually hits into--- I'll just go with what I'm seeing and what I'm seeing is the fact he's killing the club over and over in tight situations. Everyone likes to rip on Delmon, why not give him a chance? Cuddyer sure the hell isn't earning the clean up hole. I can't fathom how many RBI's a guy like Pujols would have right now if he came up with as many people on as Cuddyer. 50?

Anonymous said...

Cuddyer has never been a particularly good player. He generates RBI's because of his spot in the lineup. He has a reputation as a decent defender because of the outfield assists.

With that said, he is not all that bad of a player either. He is extremely streaky and usually plays well towards the end of the season.

We can win with him in there, but I don't think his talent level is worthy of his never getting a day off to be quite honest.

Bowie said...

Cuddy is the the true heart and soul of the Minnesota Twins! The M&M boys get all the headlines, but Cuddy is a pro and a gamer! Keep him and his bat and glove in the line-up!!!!

Bowie said...

Cuddy is the heart and soul of the Minnesota Twins. The M&M boys get all the headlines and big bucks, but Cuddy keeps this team going. He's a pro and a gamer! Keep him and his bat and glove in the line-up. We need him for goodness sake!!!

Anonymous said...

"This year Cuddy is hitting .450/.700/1.150 on first pitches."

Early in the count doesn't only mean the first pitch. And we were talking about early in the count in high leverage situations and not just overall, so it is your comment that doesn't hold water.

Ed Bast said...

This should be every pitcher's approach to Cuddyer:

Throw him sliders outside. Watch him flail.

Simple as that.

Anonymous said...

OK, Cuddy-humpers. Now that we're halfway through July, and he is STILL an abject failure at the plate, are you more willing to admit that he needs to be moved down in the order (or perhaps even play as part of a platoon rather than every day)?