Stubbs in Center


It was pretty much a given from the start of the regular season that Dusty Baker was going to trot Drew Stubbs out to the center field position. He realistically didn’t have many others options considering the talent Stubbs possesses. And Baker saw a glimpse of what could be toward the end of 2009 and decided Stubbs was the guy…for 135 games. A lot to place on a guy that had only 42 games of MLB experience coming into the season.

So when Stubbs was inserted in the leadoff spot at the beginning of this past season, I held some optimism. In 2009 Stubbs showed us some pop, a lot of speed and not a bad glove with a ton of range. Well, that didn’t quite work.

After the Reds struggled to a 7-11 record, Baker revamped his lineup and Stubbs was dropped to seventh in the batting order. That didn’t really seem to bring the kid out of a slump. Every time it looked like Stubbs was breaking out of it, he slipped. His lowest batting average of 2010 was .143 in mid-April. Ouch.

But with the drop in the order also came a bit of a power surge. Sure he hit 8 homers in 2009 in those 42 games. Could have been an illusion. A mirage. It wasn’t as Stubbs was able to develop more of a power stroke hitting seventh. With that came one of the two biggest weaknesses in Stubbs offense, the strikeout. He finished the 2010 campaign with 168, sixth in the National League. That huge number led to speculation that Stubbs was not educated in the art of the bunt.

Come to find out, he wasn’t. I posed a question when this broke. How could a guy so gifted with speed not know how to properly bunt? All speed guys do. Michael Bourn, Juan Pierre (the best in my book), Chone Figgins (not so much in 2010) and even Nyjer Morgan use their speed to their advantage. They open up the infield just with the threat of a bunt hit.

And I believe that gives Stubbs an even greater advantage is he can learn to utilize the bunt. He has the pop. This would place opposing defenses at an even bigger disadvantage. Cut down the strikeouts and learn to bunt effectively and Stubbs would greatly increase his 2010 OBP of .329. For all the talent Stubbs has, the bat actually is the one thing he must stringently work on going into 2011.

The glove, arm and range are there. They need to come together a bit. Stubbs made 5 errors last season, but that’s not all that bad even though people think outfielders should never make errors. They can and do. Ask Ichiro and Griffey, Jr. The main issue to correct will be repositioning Stubbs. It appears that he doesn’t pick up the ball as easy when it’s hit directly at him. That can be an easy fix. I do envision a Gold Glove in his future.

For the most part, Chris Heisey was the “fill-in” for Stubbs. He played the position in 21 games, starting in 16 of those. And did he ever produce in those 21 games, going .344/.419/.484.

Center field is covered for years unless something dire happens to either Stubbs or Heisey. But improvement is needed…especially with Stubbs harnessing his ability to punish opponents when in the batter’s box.

Overall Grade: B-