Stubbs Looks for a Fresh Start in Cleveland
During Spring Training the DTTWLN staff will profile and examine the coaches and players that make up and are vying to be part of the 2013 Cleveland Indians—A Team With A New Direction. Today, we examine one of the 15 newcomers to the 40-man roster this winter and the role they can play moving forward.
By Ronnie Tellalian
Drew Stubbs is one of the newest additions to the Cleveland Indians. He made a mark in the Majors with his speed and glove, but his bat has been an inconsistent tool. Likely to spend his time in right field, the Indians are hopeful that he can continue to shine defensively as well as make strides at the plate.
Stubbs came over to Cleveland from the Cincinnati Reds. He was part of the three team deal that sent Shin-Soo Choo sent to Cincinnati and brought Trevor Bauer to the Tribe. Stubbs wasn’t too sure what to think when he got the news he was traded to Cleveland.
“There were some mixed emotions,” Stubbs said. “I was drafted by Cincinnati and have been with them my entire career and I’d developed a lot of great relationships.”
Coming to Cleveland, however, was not a bad thing in Stubbs’ mind.
“There was a lot of excitement on my part, getting a fresh start with a new team,” Stubbs said.
Stubbs brings speed, great defense, and a little power to the Indians lineup, three things this team has lacked in recent years. For the offense, Stubbs in among several new faces. The Tribe also brought in infielder Mark Reynolds and outfielders Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn. Stubbs recognizes what the Indians have done to make this team better.
“It’s going to be an exciting year for our team and for our fans,” Stubbs said. “The Indians have really made a statement.”
The addition of Bourn means the Indians now have a surplus of defense at all three outfield positions. Manager Terry Francona has confidence in his defense-heavy trio.
“We have three center fielders in our outfield, which is very exciting,” new manager Francona said. “We are going to have one of the better outfields in all of baseball.”
There is a relatively new statistic called Ultimate Zone Rating, or UZR, that is used to measure defense. UZR is becoming one of the premier tools to judge a player or teams defensive abilities. ESPN is beginning to use UZR extensively. The statistic compares the event that actually happened (hit/out/error) to data on similarly hit balls in the past to determine how much better or worse the fielder did than an average player.
For a bit of context on UZR, a score of 0 is average; a score of 15 is gold glove caliber. In 2012, Indians starting outfielders combined for a UZR of -24.1, far below average. With the additions of Stubbs and Bourn, the two new Indians outfields combined for a 27.3 UZR in 2012, or just short of two gold glove quality seasons.
With Bourn in the mix, Stubbs, who has played center field his entire life, slides to one of the corner spots in the Indians outfield. The position change doesn’t phase Stubbs, he’s a team player.
“I’ve played center my whole life but I’ll do whatever I need to do to help us win,” Stubbs said.
Francona seconds that sentiment, and knows exactly how good his new outfielder is.
“I think it will take him about 10 minutes to adjust,” Francona said of Stubbs. “He’s too good of an outfielder.”
Stubbs will no doubt shine in the outfield, but his demons remain at the plate. He struck out 166 times in 2012 for a 30.5% strike out rate, nearly on par with notorious whiffers Reynolds and Adam Dunn. He complimented all those swings and misses with a career low .213 batting average.
He is very aware of his poor season and is excited for a new beginning.
“I’m coming off the toughest year of my career,” the beleaguered Stubbs said. “One of the reasons I was so excited about coming to Cleveland was to get a clean slate and a fresh start and put all that behind me.”
His batting average and high strikeouts are the biggest concerns for Stubbs moving forward. He feels last season was a slippery slope that never allowed him to recover. He hopes his new uniform will offer some relief.
“Last year I hit a mental rut, I went into a downslide and I was never able to get my feet back underneath me,” Stubbs said. “Putting the ball in play more is the main focus. I’ve rededicated myself to being the best player I can be.”
Photo: Chuck Crow/Cleveland Plain Dealer