A return to the Twin Cities seems to have done Kubel a world of good, and injuries to Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia have converted Kubel from a platoon player into a full-timer. The fun isn’t going to last forever, but as long as Kubel is swinging a hot bat he is fine as a mixed league play in the outfield. Your best bet is to try to make sure that the Twins are facing a right-handed heavy group of pitchers before setting your line-up for the week; losing Kubel two or more times a week or having Ron Gardenhire stick Kubel in there against a lefty isn’t the best use of a roster spot in mixed.
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The Rangers and Indians earn dramatic walk-off wins.
The Monday Takeaway
The Rangers left Cleveland on Sunday afternoon dogged by a four-game losing streak. The Indians, riding a four-game winning streak, stayed at home and welcomed the White Sox. Both teams emerged victorious in their final at-bats last night. These are their stories.
Ron Washington’s team was 2-8 since the All-Star break, 8-15 in July, and had not won a series against a team other than the Astros since the end of June. One of the Rangers’ two post-break victories came in Matt Garza’s debut with the club, a 3-1 win over the Yankees last Wednesday. They had not won since.
How worthy of your keeper slots are Jason Kubel, Corey Hart, and Coco Crisp?
Jason Kubel| Arizona Diamondbacks
Shallow (30 Keepers): No Medium (60 Keepers): No Deep (90 Keepers): No NL-only (60 Keepers): No Super Deep (200 Keepers): Yes
Owning Jason Kubel last year was a lot like being the aptly named (since this is a baseball article) Tom Hanson from 500 Days of Summer. If you jump between different days of his season, one day you’re running gleefully through IKEA but on the next you discover the sink is broken, all your sinks are broken. Moving from plumbing back to baseball, for Kubel this means his season was very bipolar. The week of July 15 he was the hottest hitter in the game while swatting five homers, yet in August and September he couldn’t manage to hit above .200.
Five older players on contending teams have defied the aging curve by having unexpected success this year. How have they done it, and can it continue?
Most players tend to peak in their mid-to-late 20s before declining after age 30. But not every player adheres to the typical trajectory. Several contending teams have benefited from unlikely resurgences or career years by players who’ve struggled in recent seasons and have already reached the point on the aging curve at which we would have expected their declines to continue. Who are they? How have they turned back the clock? And most importantly, can their surprising success continue?
Ryan Ludwick, Reds, 34
What he’s done: The Reds are 65-38 since their .500 April and 25-10 since losing Joey Votto to knee surgery in mid-July. No player has been more responsible for that run than Ryan Ludwick. Ludwick was a below-average batter with the Padres over the past two seasons even after adjusting for Petco Park’s pitcher friendliness, and when he hit .207/.289/.405 through June 6th of this season, Reds fans called for his playing time to be curtailed. Then he got hot. Ludwick’s .340 TAv since the start of June ranks 13th among all hitters with at least 200 plate appearances, and his .356 TAv since the start of July ranks eighth (min. 150 PA), behind only Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols. How he’s done it: Ludwick hit much better before and after his stint with San Diego, so it’s possible that Petco hurt him even more than it hurts the average hitter. Great American Ball Park, however, is a haven for right-handed hitters and the perfect place to restore his power. This is also the first season in which Ludwick has avoided the disabled list since his career year of 2008, so good health is also a factor. Can he keep doing it: Ludwick can’t keep producing like a perennial MVP candidate, so some regression is in store, but little about his line looks fluky. Any decline in his production should be more than offset for Cincinnati by Votto’s impending return.
The tater trots for July 23 (and the weekend): Mike Napoli hits a bomb, Carlos Gonzalez takes a stroll, and Chase Utley edges out Josh Rutledge.
It's been a few days since the last Tater Trot Tracker post. And though I was able to time each trot over the weekend, I missed highlighting a few special home runs. The biggest homers of note came on Saturday, when Cole Hamels served up a home run to Matt Cain in the top of the third inning and then, in the bottom of the inning, Cain returned the favor to Hamels. It was the first time two starters had hit home runs in the same inning since 1990. Hamels, who had never hit a home run before, won the race between the two pitchers, besting Cain's 21.51 second trot with a 21.13 second trot of his own.
Gerardo Parra might be making a push for more playing time.
The Monday Takeaway
All Gerardo Parra’s pinch-hit home run in the seventh inning of last night’s game did was push the Diamondbacks’ lead from 4-1 to 5-1. But in the mind of manager Kirk Gibson, it might prove more significant than a meaningless insurance run in a relatively comfortable victory over the Pirates.
The homer was the first extra-base hit in 19 at-bats for Parra, who was relegated to a timeshare when general manager Kevin Towers inked Jason Kubel to a two-year, $15 million deal this past winter. That move was widely considered a surprise, mostly because Parra—a 24-year-old coming off a 3.5 WARP season—did plenty to endear himself to the organization and little to warrant a demotion.
Torii Hunter fingers a teammate before checking Baseball-Reference.
If you ever needed proof that a narrative can be more powerful than human memory, consider Jon Heyman’s latest piece at CBS Sports. Heyman writes about the Twins’ repeated postseason defeats against the Yankees. Within, Heyman asks former Twins Torii Hunter and Michael Cuddyer whether it became mental, whether the Twins were “psyched out” by the Yankees. Hunter’s response raises eyebrows:
Several overqualified players might be riding the pine while a pricier, less productive veteran hogs their position on Opening Day, but they deserve to be starting.
Every year, major-league teams spend millions on evaluating and acquiring players from outside their organizations, whether they’re amateurs eligible for the draft, professionals in another system, or foreign or domestic free agents available to the highest bidder. Sometimes, though, a potential source of improvement is already in house and in uniform, overlooked in favor of a more experienced or higher-paid player who’s no longer the best man for the job.
Sixteen years ago, Brian Giles was one such player. Giles was blocked by Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez at the outfield corners in Cleveland, but at designated hitter, only an aging Eddie Murray barred his way. The 40-year-old future Hall of Famer had been productive a season before, but by ’96 he was a year away from retirement and had little left. Giles was ready to replace him. At age 25, he was beyond the age at which most promising players get a long major-league look, but he had only a September cup of coffee to show for his two successful seasons in Triple-A.