Welcome back to my regular scheduled posts that explore the fine line between optimism and depression in baseball. While regular subscribers are familiar with the format, this time we're going to change it up a little and I will actually post something.
This week we'll focus on a struggling DH,
David Ortiz Jason Kubel. Most of you are familiar with the roller coaster of a career that has had us on a 'laugh or cry' track nearly every season; flashes of promise and power (laugh) with inconsistent performance at the plate and poor D in the field (cry). Last year we were all lucky enough to witness a serious 'laugh out loud like an evil supervillain' type of performance from Kubel. And while it is still only the end of May, this season Jason Kubel's performance has been pitiful enough to cause Deepak Chopra to drown his rice based cereal cornflakes in tears of frustration.
In 151 AB Kubel has amassed an offensive line of .215 .340 .314 .654 and a defensive UZR rating of -1.5 and a UZR/150 of -22.5 good for a total WAR of -0.2. According to fangraphs, Jason Kubel has been worth about $700,000 in salary this year which is slightly less than the $4 million or so that we are paying him.
Of course the optimistic side of the coin states that the Twins are still winning even with a contribution from our primary DH which (as Jesse pointed out) is worse than Alexi Casilla's and as bad as Ortiz in 2009. Kubel is a professional hitter and he will bounce back. Kubel has started slow before and/or has had significant slumps. He'll right the ship soon and is capable of carrying our offense.
Normally, I would count myself in the 'laugh' category by realizing that Kubel's lack of production so far is just a slump and it is pretty well timed because Morneau is so hot. As Morneau starts to cool down a little it is likely that Kubel will start heating up and our offense will continue to chug along.
Unfortunately there are at least a couple of reasons why this Kubel slump is more painful than slumps past and why I find myself in the 'cry' category (I know, big surprise right?):
Young and Thome. Young has shrugged off the criticism this year (or more accurately has responded to it) by shedding excess weight, playing passable defense, and has provided some serious offense this Spring. Thome ... well enough said. When you have a DH the likes of HOF Thome sitting on the bench so that Jason Kubel can slg .314 even optimistic 14 year old girl Punto fans can get so frustrated that they end the month of May looking like 'Fish' from Barney Miller.
Bonus Content 'Laugh or Cry': Prince Fielder
Man that guy can hit. Some people don't care how fat their first baseman or pitcher gets because overweight players in those positions continue to get it done season after season.
Then again, Fielder is so fat he has lost what little flexibility and dexterity that he needs to be a productive fielder at any position. It's one thing to be 50lbs overweight, or even 150lbs if you are an offensive lineman battling head to head against a strong opponent. Its a whole 'nother thing when your only opponent is gravity; and you are losing.