Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Outfield

By Soup

A couple of the local journalists have suspected/assumed/expected/guessed that Delmon Young will be available for the right trade this off-season. We must trust them. They are credible. They work for newspapers, people.
But we know that these unsubstantiated assumptions for why the Twins would trade Young and not Michael Cuddyer are rooted in something real. Young has "character issues" and Michael Cuddyer volunteers at orphanages when he's not nursing unicorns back to health.
Seriously Twins front office, knock it off. We want baseball players. We don't want you looking for gentlemen to marry your daughters. Yeah, I get the whole locker room chemistry thing. I, too, think it's important. But Young was hardly a locker room cancer. The only real issue with Young off the field this year was his lack of zeal for advice on his swing. A part of me says, "good." Anyone wish this conversation would have taken place?
Twins hitting instructor: Uh, David. I was...uh...wondering if I could, uh, have a word with you about yo...
David Ortiz: Go away. Papi busy.
I like Cuddyer, but I agree with the opinion of many that he's overrated. He is now 29 and has only one above average season, 2006. Let's talk about 2006. We all remember that he batted fourth behind the AL batting champion, Joe Mauer, and the MVP, Justin Morneau. Mauer had 602 plate appearances batting third, Cuddyer had 449 batting fourth, and Morneau had 433 batting fifth. The benefits to Cuddyer of this lineup positioning are obvious and often discussed. But it should be pointed out that on top of this tremendous benefit is the fact that Mauer and Morneau are both left-handed while he is right-handed.
Cuddyer's right handedness bookended between two formidable lefties would have only a small impact on the approach of a starting picture or a closer. They have to pitch to everybody. His lineup position has been especially beneficial thanks to the increasingly specialized bullpen creation of the left-handed specialist, or LOOGY (Lefty One Out GuY). It's difficult to quantify Cuddyer's added production from facing more LOOGys as a result of his batting betwixt lefties Mauer and Morneau, but I gave it a shot.
First, without looking at the numbers, we can understand why this would be an added benefit. Bullpens rarely have more than two left-handed set up men. Some only have one. Left-handed bullpen specialists are typically terrible at getting right-handed batters out. So due to scarcity of bullpen lefties, managers could not afford to pitch a lefty to Mauer, a righty to Cuddyer, and a new lefty to Morneau every time. So, in theory, Cuddyer would have more opportunities to mash lefties that don't know how to get righties out.
The numbers support the theory. In 2006 35 percent of Cuddyer's PAs were against lefties. That is up from 31 percent in 2005 and 29 percent in 2007. So, southpaws were forced to pitch to him about 5 percent more in 2006 than in typical years.
In 2006 Cuddyer also was a much more effective hitter in the later innings where a LOOGY is more likely to be used. He had a slugging percentage of .547 in the sixth through ninth innings compared to .474 in the first 5 innings. This is almost the opposite of what he did in 2007 where his slugging percentage was .352 in the sixth inning and later and .533 in the first five.
To get more specific in identifying the LOOGY factor I took all the lefties where Cuddyer had 3 or fewer PAs. Then the starters, closers, and long relievers were removed. I didn't go through every game of 2006, so this number is not completely scientific, but it's pretty close. I was left with 27 PAs. I know. It's a very small sample size. Just think of this data as au jus for your French dip Cuddyer is overrated sandwich. In those 27 PAs (21 ABs) he hit .380 with 2 HRs and 8 RBI. So if all his at bats in 2006 were against LOOGYs he would have hit .380 with 47 HRs and 188 RBI. I'm just sayin'.
Then again, he does do magic tricks.


haasertime said...

yeah. Agreed Cuddy is technically over rated and his best days are probably behind him. But we don't have much in right handed hitting, and he was injured last year so his trade value isn't awfully high. And besides, he does magic tricks.

i wonder if he's ever tried to play third base?

Rays in 6

Pills said...

I think they would love to trade Cuddyer but they know no one would take him, let alone get anything in return for him because of his combo of large contract and mediocre play.