Stubbs and his Funk


A couple of days ago, John Fay reported that Reds manager Dusty Baker was not going to send center fielder Drew Stubbs to the bench due to his current offensive funk. Then we see today’s lineup. Who’s in center? Chris Heisey, that’s who.

Maybe this is another case of Dusty letting Stubbs clear the cobwebs. With yesterday’s day off added to taking tonight off, it could be just the elixir Stubbs needs.

And make no mistake about it. The Reds need a clear-headed Stubbs heading into the September drive. One thing I have noticed is that Baker has not been playing Stubbs for extended stretches. Since Stubbs returned from the disabled list, Dusty has yet to play Stubbs more than eight consecutive games. Previous to hitting the DL, Stubbs had three stretches where he played more than eight games in a row.

August has not been kind to Stubbs. For the first week of the month (Aug. 1-7), Stubbs was hitting .259. Not a stellar average, but slightly above where Stubbs and his batting average usually dwell. Stubbs posted a career high of .255 in 2010. The highest it has been at any point this season (not considering any numbers from the first month of the season) is .262 which occurred on May 7. I’m sure we would all take that. All seems on level there.

Oddly enough, in those seven games, the Reds were 4-3.

The last weeks of August have seen Stubbs post a BA of .163 with 34 strikeouts and only 4 walks. During the same period, his on-base percentage has been a ghastly .212. In a strange twist, the Reds are 14-6 during Stubbs epic drought. The explanation? It is obvious that the offense is being handled by others. That’s not a bad thing, but an offensive Drew Stubbs make the Reds offense more potent. A lot more potent.

He has nice pop. His 14 home runs this year is only one shy from last year’s total of 15. We all know he’s threat to steal a base. What gives then? I give you a few things to ponder.

You have to put the ball in play, correct? I mean it’s the main thrust of the game. Hit the darn ball. Good things may happen. This season, Stubbs hasn’t had the success when he does put the ball in play. Yes, I’m referring to Stubbs and his BABIP (batting average on balls in play). Look here…

2009: .325
2010: .330
2011: .343
2012: .293

For the record, the perceived norm is around .300.

As you look at these numbers, you could say a couple of things. Stubbs is hitting into a higher percentage of outs this season. Another way some view this is that Stubbs is having less luck at the plate when he does put a ball in play. Baseball Prospectus states the luck factor is more involved with a pitcher’s BABIP than a hitter’s. A hitter’s BABIP is more related to skill.

You say tomato…

I know what you’re saying though. “I just want him to get on base!” Ponder this for a moment.

What would you say if I told you that Stubbs is striking out at a lower rate this season compared to last season? It’s true. May not seem like it at times, but it is honestly true. We all know about last season, too. It’s not a whole lot, mind you (30.1% last year, 29.4% this year).

The issue could be partially tied to the fact that Stubbs is walking less (9.3% in 2011, 7.9% in 2012). Overall, Stubbs SO/BB ratio is 0.27, the lowest of his brief career. For every 4 whiffs, Stubbs will draw a walk, just to put this into a little perspective.

His minor league SO and BB ratios indicate nothing like this either. He never had a SO% higher than 25.4% which was his first season in organized ball. His BB% was lower than 10.0% only once, a 7.1% in 2008, the season before he made the Reds 25-man roster later in ’09.

Another thing. Baker said this about Stubbs that opened my eyes a little more.

"“He gets in funks,” Baker said. “I’ve tried to figure it out. He gets a little passive early in the count. That puts him in a hole. Then you foul off a pitch and you’re two strikes down. You can’t hit unless you swing.”"

Dusty’s right. You heard me. Dusty’s right. Stubbs is swinging at less pitches this year, the least in any season.

2009: 41.6%
2010: 42.5%
2011: 42.7%
2012: 40.7%

So it’s 2%, big deal. Consider that Stubbs has seen over 1,800 pitches this season (1,825 according to Fangraphs), it could be. It does seem a minute detail until you see this.

Opposing pitchers see that he’s being more passive. Here’s the percentage of first pitch strikes.

2009: 60.2%
2010: 62.1%
2011: 61.5%
2012: 63.5%

Pitchers are not afraid to pound the zone with their first pitch because of a higher chance Stubbs will not swing. Percentages are in the pitcher’s favor.

The problem is not related to any of his contact rates either. They don’t vary greatly from year to year except for his first season. In order, you will see contact rate outside the strike zone, contact rate within the strike zone and overall contact rate.

2009: 62.9%/84.0%/78.0%
2010: 46.0%/81.8%/72.4%
2011: 47.9%/82.8%/72.8%
2012: 48.5%/83.0%/73.6%

Take away 2009 (Stubbs played in 42 games that season), and most are within 1.5%. Actually, as you can see, Stubbs has the highest rates in his career.

This is extremely perplexing. Stubbs doesn’t hit, and you win at a .700 clip? When he hits close to his norm, you barely scrape above the .500 mark? But a Drew Stubbs that is hitting makes Cincy more dangerous?

With all the talk about Todd Frazier and his playing time being the topic of discussion, the other will eventually be where Stubbs hits in the lineup upon Votto’s return. I believe Brandon Phillips will assume the top spot in the order.

Will Stubbs bat second or will Dusty put him down in the lineup? We’ll see Monday.

(Note: All statistics from Fangraphs)