Strikeout Stubbs: A Counterpoint


In 2005, a speedy 25 year old was patrolling center-field for the Detroit Tigers. He would go on to lead the American League in strike outs that season. The tools were there, as he showed the ability to hit for power (19 HR) and steal bases. Yet fans in Detroit were discouraged by his all-too-frequent strikeouts and pedestrian .260 batting average. Sound familiar Reds fans?

That player was Curtis Granderson. Fast forward five years and the once frustrating, yet promising outfielder is now a 30 year old veteran, leading the mighty New York Yankees offense. Granderson currently leads the American League in home runs, runs scored and RBI. He must have cut down on his strikeouts right? Well, not really. Back in 2005 when young Granderson was the AL strikeout leader, he was striking out in 25.6% of his plate appearances. In 2011, the MVP candidate is striking out in 24.1% of his plate appearances.

If you look at Drew Stubbs’ player page on you’ll find a section titled “Similarity Scores.” Guess who comes up as Drew Stubbs’ most comparable player by age… You guessed it: Curtis Granderson.

In a recent post, Steve commented on “that ugly stat,” (strikeouts) specifically referring to Drew Stubbs. While he makes plenty of good points throughout his post, there are a couple statements I must take issue with. So let’s get to it… This will be my first attempt at an intra-blog debate.

One comment in particular that I wanted to address. Steve stated:

"Last year, it was moving into the 7th spot that seemed to get him going. No pressure to get on base."

Let’s take a look at his splits from 2010.

When he moved to 7th in the order his strikeout rate increased and his walk rate declined.

It should be noted that Stubbs’ batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage all improved when he moved to the 7th spot. However, the increase was merely the result of “luck.” One only has to look to BABIP (batting average on balls in play) to demonstrate this point. As a reference, Stubbs’ career BABIP is .337. As a lead-off hitter in 2010, his BABIP was .298 compared to a BABIP of .347 when hitting 7th. In other words, Stubbs was a victim of bad luck early in the season (when he was hitting lead-off) and the beneficiary of good luck later in the season.

Even if you don’t want to get into BABIP, two things are undeniable: Stubbs was drawing more walks and striking out less often as a lead-off hitter in 2010.

What about this year? Since being moved out of the lead-off spot, Stubbs has hit 6th in the lineup far more than any other spot. Let’s compare.

Once again, Stubbs’ 2011 splits show that he draws more walks and makes better contact as a lead-off hitter than down in the order. In addition, Stubbs’ on-base percentage was a respectable .333 when hitting lead-off. Since he’s been moved down in the order, his OBP is a miserable .283 when hitting 6th.

If we look at the career totals for Drew Stubbs, the argument becomes even stronger.

Needless to say, there is no reason to believe Stubbs is a better hitter down in the order compared to hitting lead-off. In fact, the exact opposite is true.

One final point before I wrap this up. Steve concluded his piece by stating:

"Going into 2012, I don’t believe the Reds should even toy with the idea of putting him back into the leadoff role."

I ask: why not? Do the Reds have a better option? Brandon Phillips? No thanks. Sure, he’s been great over the last couple of weeks hitting lead-off. However, for his career Phillips has produced a .329 OBP in the lead-off spot and a .320 OBP overall, both of which are below Drew Stubbs’ career numbers. In addition, Phillips no longer represents a threat on the bases. In the last two seasons, BP has stolen 25 bases while being thrown out 20 times, not exactly the ratio you’re looking for. Likewise, Drew Stubbs works the count better than Phillips. Yes, you read that correctly. For his career, Drew Stubbs sees 3.97 pitches per plate appearances, well above the league average. Meanwhile, Brandon Phillips is below league-average, managing to see 3.60 pitches per plate appearances.

In short, Stubbs walks more often, reaches base more often, sees more pitches, and steals bases more effectively than Brandon Phillips. Aren’t those the most important qualities for a lead-off hitter?

It is time to stop focusing on Drew Stubbs’ one glaring weakness and ignoring the other facets of his game where he excels. He’s not the best lead-off hitter in baseball, but he is most certainly the best lead-off hitter the Reds have on their roster.

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