Position Review: Center Field and Drew Stubbs


The words “Reds” and “center field” bring about a couple of names, at least to me. One is Cesar Geronimo. I could watch him play all day long. Covering the outfield with those long strides and having a tremendous arm. The other is Ken Griffey, Jr. Yes, he had his shares of knocks during his time in his hometown, but what a sweet swing he possessed.

Well, current Reds center fielder Drew Stubbs might be somewhere in the middle of those two. The one aspect where Stubbs is above both is the speed as we have witnessed over the last two and a half seasons. He’s accumulated 80 thefts in that time. That’s where his “advantages” end.

I’ll get this out of the way right now. Some Reds fans look at that 205 strikeout number and cringe. They call for his benching and we hear a couple of familiar refrains: “Let Chris Heisey play” or “Free Heisey”. Well, not everyone is on that page

The supporters of Stubbs will point at those steals (40, T2 in the NL) and his runs scored (92, 11th in the NL) to prove that he should be the guy. They may also politely tell you where to go. Maybe not so politely…

Here’s a snapshot of Stubbs and his first two full seasons as a Red.

I actually see two flaws, one big, one, maybe not so much as it is improving, and it’s not reflected in stats seen here.

The one is clear and it’s the K’s. But here’s something we all need to realize. Stubbs has always held a rather high strikeout rate. Even in the minors, the lowest (I repeat, lowest) rate he had was 22.0% (104 SO/472 PA). That was in 2009 before he was promoted from Louisville. That rate will always be on the high side. But to see it at 30.1% for 2011 does earn Stubbs some of the criticism.

Along these lines, I’ve read where fans feel his pitch selection will need to improve. He swung at 25.7% of pitches outside the strike zone last season. That’s a slight increase of 25.1% from 2010. Add that he saw less pitches inside the strike zone in 2011 (48.0%) compared to 2010 (45.1%). You don’t have to throw a strike to get Stubbs to swing.

But let’s compare a couple other numbers. Stubbs improved his overall contract rate from 72.3% in 2010 to 72.8% last season.

The other where Stubbs receives a fair amount of Reds fan’s venting is the ability (or lack thereof) to bunt. I would imagine that will be worked on massively this winter. In fact, I believe two guys that could aid with Stubbs’s growth as a hitter as well as his approach at the plate are Joe Morgan and Delino DeShields.

But in comparing 2010 and 2011, you will also see the dip in home runs. Again, this could be traced to the extended period in the leadoff slot, but that could actually be wrong. When Brandon Phillips insisted (or so it seems) to be placed in the leadoff sopt, Stubbs was dropped in the order. In 2010, that worked a bit and Stubbs found a swing. I stress, a swing. For 2011, a swing never really developed. After the All-Star break, Stubbs only hit 4 home runs. He also didn’t crack one after August 8th.

A point I heard mentioned a number of times on Reds broadcasts were that Stubbs is pulling off the ball and not showing a willingness to drive a pitch the opposite way. That was why his power was throttled this past season. Depends on what you look at, I guess. In observing a chart from all the home runs Stubbs hit in 2010 and 2011, I see it differently. Check out those charts and see what you think.

Defensively, Stubbs can cover as much ground as any center fielder in all of baseball. One thing that does help him is the GABP isn’t the most cavernous of parks. Still, I think he could cover the position at Minute Maid Park as well, Tal’s Hill and all. He could at Coors Field, too. He is gifted with both his speed and a strong arm (8 assists). If you look at the defensive stats, you don’t get that impression.

The only knock on his defense might be that he doesn’t dive for balls when it appears that he could make a catch if he had dove. Surely his speed and athleticism permits it, but I’m not always convinced it’s a necessity. Sometimes keeping the ball in front of you is more important if it keeps runners from advancing an extra base or two. And yes, there were a couple of balls hit to him where he should have made the catch. I don’t know of too many players regardless of position that do not have that occur. Stubbs is no different.

Grade: C-. Last year, it was a B- and the downgrade is not completely related to the K bug as I hope I have spelled out for you. It did figure prominently in it though.

I do expect Stubbs to bounce back in 2012. He might not be the 30/30 guy some of us imagined, but he does have the ability to go 20/40. He did hit over 20 home runs in 2010 and steal 40 bags in 2011. To see an increase in batting average to around .260 to .265 would be a goal…at least. His career batting average in the minors was only .269.

To read any of the prior reviews, click on the position within the grade card.

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