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.
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
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.
Do early-season phenoms fade once the rest of the league learns to stop giving them pitches to hit?
Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
The Twins and Yankees meet yet again in the first round of the postseason but Minnesota has home field advantage this time.
As they did last year as well as 2003 and 2004, the Twins run squarely into the Yankee juggernaut in the first round. Unlike those other three meetings, they have home field advantage this time around, as they won the AL Central going away thanks to a league-best 48-26 second-half record. The defending world champion Yankees, who held the majors' best record for most of the season, were forced to settle for the wild card due to a sluggish 13-17 showing against a very tough schedule in September and October. Despite the relative temperatures of the two clubs, it's important to remember that late-season records aren't predictive of October success—or failure.
Last night's victors face a tall order in their Bronx confrontation.
The Yankees have been pretty sure they'd be playing in the postseason since not long after the All-Star break. The Twins didn't have much chance of doing so until about two weeks ago, and only found out for sure about 18 hours before the first pitch of the Division Series. That's just one reason of many why this AL Division Series matchup is one of the most lopsided in the 15-year history of the three-tiered playoffs.