Baseball people look at Drew Stubbs‘ strikeout totals for the 2011 season and they cringe at the idea that this seemingly all-around talented Cincinnati Reds centerfielder could have fanned 205 times. The number led not only the National League, but the majors. And it is hard to fathom.
I never had the sense that Stubbs, who just finished his third season in the big leagues didn’t know the strike zone. It seemed almost as if he needed a vision exam because of the frequency with which he swung and missed. You strike out 205 times and you might find work as a substitute windmill or one of those alien-like wind generators in fields in the middle of nowhere that pump out the energy.
Yes, the guy is 27 and he should be past this stage in accommodating his swing to Major League pitching. But I still think Stubbs will be an All-Star, sooner rather than later. Look closely at him and his body screams ballplayer. He is 6-foot-4, weighs a lean 200 pounds, has speed and is a good fielder.
Despite whiffing that ridiculous 205 times, Stubbs stole 40 bases and scored 92 runs and he even hit 15 homers. So he wasn’t a complete zero out there. But any way you cut it, 205 Ks is unacceptable and Stubbs must better identify the strike zone in 2012 or he won’t play the 158 games he did for the Reds in 2011.
Maybe I’m being a sucker here, but I still think Stubbs will become a bigger contributor to Cincinnati than he was in 2011. For one thing he was better in 2010 when he cracked 22 homers with 77 RBIs and 30 stolen bases and perhaps 2011 was an aberration. As a whole the Reds underachieved last summer whereas most people felt they overachieved in 2010. Maybe Stubbs went with the flow both times.
When I think of Stubbs I picture him at his best, making smooth catches in center, swiping bases, and making big hits. I also remember young Mike Schmidt, who ended up in the Hall of Fame and is considered one of the greatest third basemen of all time. Few remember that Schmidt batted under .200 as a rookie. The Phillies rode with him until he adjusted to big-league pitching.
I’m operating on the assumption that Stubbs was demoralized by his swing-and-a-miss habit and is working his butt off this off-season to fix the problems with his over-anxiousness at-bat or his inability to recognize the difference between a curve, a slider, and a fastball. And I’m operating on the assumption that the Reds are monitoring the work that is being put in.
This doesn’t mean I am suggesting that Stubbs is going to break out so dramatically that he will be Schmidt revisited. I’m just saying that sometimes it happens that guys who start their careers slowly do keep maturing and improving. While Curtis Granderson had his moments with the Tigers, he didn’t have nearly the type of season that he did with the Yankees in 2011.
Reviewing Baseball-Reference.com’s comparisons to other major leaguers and what it refers to as similar batters, Stubbs is listed as being similar to Will Venable, Andres Torres, Colby Rasmus and Cliff Mapes. Checking out similar batters through age 26 he is compared to Larry Hisle, Mack Jones, Mike Cameron, and Adolfo Phillips. Although some of those players have done some notable things they, like Stubbs, would be characterized by inconsistency.
Is that how Drew Stubbs wants to be remembered? I don’t think so. And I don’t think he will be.