Cameron is one of the brightest baseball analysts in the country for my money, but I found this take to be a rare whiff for him. His logic was flawed in so many ways that I immediately took the opportunity to write up my own column refuting his points. The takeaway:
The reward, which Cameron seems to believe doesn’t exist, is that the Twins have locked up a young, improving, in-house slugger to fill a position that has been a huge liability for them historically, and they’ve done so at a very reasonable price.Cameron's column seemed completely silly after Kubel broke out last year with a monster campaign in which he posted a .907 OPS while homering 28 times and driving in 103 runs. It was precisely the type of season that many Twins fans (including myself) had long been hoping for.
With Kubel taking a step back this season, Cameron took the opportunity today to pat himself on the back with the following tweet:
Jason Kubel: .335 wOBA, 0.4 WAR. Eric Hinske: .333 wOBA, 0.6 WAR. Maybe I'm not crazy after all...If I were Cameron, I'd be trying to forget I ever wrote that terribly misguided article, but now he's defending it? After Kubel emerged as one of the league's best designated hitters last year while Hinske posted a mediocre .780 OPS in limited duty between two clubs? Oh, never mind last season... according to Cameron, that was a fluke.
He positions the standout campaign as an anomaly based on the fact that Kubel's 2010 numbers look quite similar to the ones he posted in 2007 and 2008. The thing is, those numbers aren't bad. Kubel's current .774 OPS rates better than the average DH and also ranks him fourth on a Twins offense that has been one of the league's very best this year. This type of performance has essentially been established as Kubel's baseline, and his numbers in 2009 were no more a fluke than Mauer's '09 or Justin Morneau's 2010 (prior to injury). Sometimes good hitters have really good years, and the Twins -- like myself -- were of the belief that Kubel was a good hitter.
My main issue with Cameron, then and now, is that he looks at issues such as this through an isolated, statistical scope while failing to account for any contextual factors. Never mind that Kubel was a minor-league monster who spent several seasons working his way back to form after a devastating knee injury, leading to the underwhelming numbers that Cameron used as a basis for his Hinske comp. Never mind that Kubel's production, even before that breakout '09 campaign, was especially valuable to a Twins club that had often struggled to find legitimate power hitters in years past. (If Kubel hits one more home run this season, he'll become the team's third player to have three straight 20-HR seasons in the past decade.) Never mind that, in spite of Cameron's assertion that competent and inexpensive designated hitters can easily be found each year on the scrap heap, the position had been a liability for the Twins ever since David Ortiz's departure.
Cameron's core point was that a team could potentially get cheaper DH production from a free agent found on a one-year deal, and there's some validity to that. In hindsight, I'm sure you could find a less expensive option with similar production to what Kubel's given the Twins in three of the past four years. But it's awfully hard to predict how players -- especially those who haven't been in your organization -- are going to perform and Kubel seemed like a safe option, having put together two straight strong seasons and having shown the potential for more.
Adam Lind led all qualifying designated hitters in OPS last year and this year he ranks last. There's a reason that Hinske, Cameron's suggested alternative, has not been able to stick with any club for more than a year since 2006. It's a volatile game, and the Twins made a safe bet on Kubel that -- at this point -- looks awfully smart to everyone except Cameron in light of the fact that they would have likely had to pay Kubel quite a bit more this season based on last year's production had they not already locked him up for $4 million.
Perhaps I'm overreacting to this whole situation because I've always been bullish on Kubel and because I find Cameron extremely aggravating to engage in debate because of his blatant air of condescension. But it stuns me that, at this point, a person so intelligent can still try to smugly defend an article that featured this statement as its central premise:
"In what world is Jason Kubel a significantly better player than Eric Hinske?"
The real world, Mr. Cameron, which apparently is not the one you live in.