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Friday Rockpile: What can we expect from Drew Stubbs?

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Drew Stubbs will probably fit best into a platoon role for the 2014 Rockies, but at least one teammate thinks he's capable of achieving even more.

Jason Miller

When the Rockies first acquired Drew Stubbs for Josh Outman earlier this month, one thing stuck out immediately in my mind - His splits. More specifically, his splits against righties and lefties.

Without going too far down that road, I'll just bring up his OPS against for reference here.

Stubbs career OPS vs. righties = .652

Stubbs career OPS vs. lefties = .796

Cincinnati and Cleveland did not take advantage of these numbers while he played in their uniforms. For the most part, he's been an every day player as both Ohio teams allowed his plate appearances against righties to pile up and sap his overall value. In a world of absolutes, Stubbs is a prime platoon candidate.

However, yesterday we were treated to a different perspective we don't often get to view when Patrick Saunders got some quotes from Troy Tulowitzki on Stubbs.

"I have high hopes for Drew," said Tulowitzki, who befriended Stubbs when they were teammates on USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team in 2004. "For me, he's got to come to our team and try to be the starting center fielder. That's my opinion.

"I know they have talked about CarGo being our center fielder, but for me, I think we are a better team if Drew can grab that position and run with it. That way, we can leave Carlos in left."

"Drew would be the first one to tell you that he needs to make adjustments," said Tulowitzki, who said he's planning to invite Stubbs to his offseason home in Las Vegas before spring training to work in the batting cages and get in shape. "Drew needs to cut down on his strikeouts and put the ball in play a little bit more in order to make his speed work.

"I think he would be the first one to tell you that he needs to take the next step. If he can, he will be a real find. If he can do that, he can match up with any center fielder in the league because of that speed."

And Stubbs didn't disagree....

"Actually, the last two years have been a little subpar for me offensively," admitted Stubbs, who hit .213 with 14 homers for the Reds in 2012. "I have been a player that when times have gone well, they have gone really well, and when they go bad, they go really bad. I want to be more even-keeled and even things out. I want to be a more consistent offensive player."

I love when players are candid like this because it gives us a vantage point that's different from the stat sheet we're often chained to without an eye in the clubhouse, or better yet, it forces us to go back and look for things we maybe didn't see the first time around.

Tulo clearly doesn't think Stubbs has squeezed as much production out of his talent as he's capable of over the past few seasons, and he's probably not wrong. Like Tulo, Stubbs was born in October of 1984. Like Tulo, Stubbs was drafted with a top ten pick (Eighth in 2006 compared to seventh for Tulo in 2005), and like Tulo, Stubbs was ranked as a top 100 overall prospect by Baseball America two years in a row while in the minors. Their stories take very different paths from there, but Stubbs did have one excellent season at the major league level before falling into the "best fit for a platoon" narrative he exemplifies now, and that was 2010.

He hit both lefties (.789 OPS) and righties (.765 OPS), launched 22 home runs, played solid defense in center field, swiped 30 bags while only being caught six times, and posted an fWAR of 3.6. When Tulo says Stubbs needs to try and come to the Rockies and grab the starting center field job, he means that Stubbs needs to do everything in his power to get back to being this player, and I'm sure he plans on helping him with whatever he may need to get there when they work together in Las Vegas at "Camp Tulo" later this off season.

Digging deeper, there's not much that stands out in the peripherals that says Stubbs should have been much better in 2010. His K% was still high, his BB% didn't jump, and his plate discipline was similar to other years when his production tanked. However, if we look at the Pitch Value section of Stubb's fangraphs page, we find two interesting tidbits.

One is that over the body of his career, Stubbs has struggled against curve balls more than any other pitch, which is a good thing because Coors wrecks curve balls more than any other pitch - And two, Stubbs was exceptional against sliders in 2010 and has been terrible against them ever since. According to fangraphs, Stubbs was worth a positive 14.8 runs while hitting sliders in 2010, and -16.2 runs while hitting them since.

It's also worth noting that before Tulo changed his batting stance in June of 2009, he was awful against sliders and has since been able to neutralize that advantage pitchers once had, so maybe he sees something in his own game that he can pass along to Stubbs and help his new teammate recapture the success he had earlier in his career. With a guy like Stubbs, anything is worth a try. You don't strike out 30% of the time and still post positive vales as an overall player unless there's some pretty serious talent there.

If he can make the right adjustments, he absolutely deserves a shot at the everyday center field job, but if he can't, he's still a nice addition to the club because he fits perfectly into the platoon strategy the Rockies have set up this off season.

Personally, I think what we've seen the last few seasons from Stubbs is what we're probably going to get. At 29, it's very hard to make adjustments that transform your game. Not impossible but very hard. People in the know though say that Tulo is very optimistic about Stubbs, and the Rockies in general going forward.

Let's hope our shortstop is right.


The bidding war begins for Japan's Masahiro Tanaka. It would be much easier to root for a destination here if I knew for sure how well his game will translate to the U.S. If the Yankees or Dodgers sign him, I hope his stint in the states is about as successful as the Hindenburg landing.

Scott Lindholm looks back on some predictions Bill James made regarding the state of the game many years ago. Once you read them, you'll quickly realize that even the best just can't predict baseball.

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