It’s easier to get overlooked when playing for some teams than others. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is. It’s also easier to get overlooked when you’re having a career year well into your career.
Michael Cuddyer fits both of those profiles, though the fact is that he is ripping the ball all over the yard this season for the Colorado Rockies, a team that often fits into the non-descript category. It’s doubtful that any player in baseball is having more fun than Cuddyer in 2013. He is a career .274 hitter, in his 13th season in the majors and his best average in a season is .284.
Except right now, 57 games into the campaign, Cuddyer is batting .341. Wednesday versus the Boston Red Sox he smacked two home runs. That gives him 11 for the season, along with 43 runs batted in. If he was doing this in New York instead of Denver, he would be featured on the back page of the tabloids more than A-Rod. In the baseball world anything that happens west of the Mississippi (unless it’s in L.A.), tends to get less attention.
Talk about being in a zone. Cuddyer, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound outfielder best known for his work over the years with the Minnesota Twins, is riding a 23-game hitting streak for the Rockies. He has also reached base in 42 straight games. How do you explain stuff like this? Cuddyer is no neophyte. He is a long-term veteran, yet suddenly he is playing better ball than he has ever played in his life. Not for a weekend, not for a week, not for a month, but for months straight.
It’s not as if Cuddyer did so much off-season homework that he came upon a Eureka! moment that provided him with all of the answers at the plate. He didn’t become a batting genius overnight. Yet there is no better explanation for his surge than something as ambiguous than that. Once upon a time he struggled at the plate more than 70 percent of the time. Now he has reduced that to 66 percent of the time.
Quizzed after his two-homer game Wednesday, as part of his explanation of why when he hits the ball it so often lands safely, Cuddyer said, “I’ve also gotten lucky.” Probably a good idea to throw the concept of good fortune into the mix since after 12 other Major League seasons without this type of accomplishment he’s probably worried that when the clock strikes 12 he might wake up from his dream and discover that none of it is real.
Another Cuddyer comment was no more illuminating than the first. “It’s just one of those things,” he said.
We all want answers. We all seek logical explanations for any phenomenon we don’t comprehend. But really, there probably isn’t a very concise, crisp answer for why Cuddyer is one of the best players in the National League right now. Why is he so much better all of a sudden at 34 than he was at 24? Cuddyer has no way to quantify this season any better way than the numbers themselves explain it. In his 12 previous seasons, Cuddyer made the All-Star team once, in 2011.
Maybe this is a once-in-a-lifetime year for the guy. Maybe he is at the absolute apex of his career right this minute, hitting .341, getting on base every game, and yes, playing at an All-Star caliber. Michael Cuddyer definitely deserves a spot in July’s All-Star contest.