Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Jason Kubel - Obscure Baseball Player

Those wacky Twins of Minnesota have been alternatively flirting with contending and disaster all season long. Trust this Fan on that one as trying to figure out in the nightly game picks what they are going to do has been impossible. If you asked one hundred casual baseball fans (who don't play fantasy baseball) to name a few of the Twins' players, they would all come up with Joe Mauer, this year's MVP (anyone else would be stupid), Justin Morneau (the perennial all star first baseman), probably Joe Nathan and maybe Cuddyer because he has been there forever. But Mauer and Morneau have a third musketeer in that lineup. His name is Jason Kubel.

The Twins are rarely on national television. So people aren't as familiar with their every day players like they are with the Yankee or Red Sox players. Kubel has never made an all star team and as far as this Fan has seen, he rarely if ever makes it to a national news media outlet either. But the some time outfielder and nearly full time DH is fourth in the American League in OPS+ with 145 and happens to be ahead of Morneau (who is fifth). That's pretty heady stuff for a guy who doesn't get a lot of notice.

Just like all the obscure players in this mini-series, we have to do the obligatory check of Wiki to see who the guy is. From his http://www.baseball-reference.com/ page, we know that he is 27 and bats left and throws right. He was born in South Dakota of all places and was drafted by the Twins in the 12th round during the 2000 draft. The 12th round! His Wiki page (here) tells us his nickname is, "Wolfman." It also tells us that he did well in his cup of coffee in 2004 but hurt his knee and missed all of 2005. For the rest of what Wiki tells us, you'll have to look him up as there is no sense in plagiarizing for the sake of a longer post.

His stats show us that he is getting better and better every year at the plate. His OPS+ numbers have improved every year since he came back from his lost year: 72, 109, 118 and his current 145. The biggest improvement at the plate this year has been his walk total. He has been much more patient and already has more walks than last year with a month to go. After batting .272 and .273 the last two years with identical .335 OBP tallies, his line this year is a spiffy: .306/.380/.537. His splits indicate that he doesn't fare well against lefties as his .672 OPS against them testifies. As such, he does get pulled in the lineup when lefties start for the other teams. But against righties, he hits them all, whether they are fastball pitchers or junk ballers.

The splits also indicate that most of his homers have been to centerfield, which is pretty impressive since he has hit 22 of them and 13 of those have gone to centerfield. He is also very impressive when he leads off an inning, which is interesting.

Kubel is a liability in the field. His RTOT scores are terrible out there. But the caveat is that he seems to hit better when he is in the field rather than as a DH. His OPS as a DH is .200 points lower as a DH than when he is in the field. His Wiki page said Kubel has a strong arm and we'll have to take their word for it. He doesn't have a large amount of assists despite that fact.

Jason Kubel seems to be coming into his own as a hitter and he is approaching what should be his peak years. Along with Mauer and Morneau, any starting pitcher has a tough task getting through the middle of the Twins' lineup. And when the pitcher gets past Morneau, Kubel is no small consolation prize. And that's the way it should be for a few years to come.

1 comment:

Josh Borenstein said...

Hawk Harrelson has always been high on Kubel. Last year he kept saying, "This guy is going to be a monster." Of course, he says the same thing about Alex Gordon, and that hasn't panned out yet...