I have to admit that when the Colorado Rockies signed Michael Cuddyer this offseason I wasn’t very excited. I don’t think I was truly disappointed either. I was sort of blah-blah on the subject and my biggest complaint about the signing were the number of years, Cuddyer’s age and the salary given.
At the time I thought there were better options that might come cheaper than Cuddyer like Carlos Beltran. Beltran certainly plays a better defensive outfield and being that he was healthy in 2011 I thought it was worth the risk to sign him and hope to get his power and defense rather than sign Cuddyer for more money and potentially less benefit.
Of course if Beltran gets hurt this year then the Cuddyer signing will look brilliant.
Many believed that the Rockies would be better off staying with Seth Smith and finding him a platoon mate in right field. When comparing Cuddyer and Smith (as I touch on below) there isn’t a lot of difference in the two statistically.
At this point I am not sure that matters; I like me some Cuddyer!
*Let’s get one thing straight, first. I like me some Cuddyer, but not as much as I like me some CarGo and Tulo. Cuddyer is like my fresh cut potato fries to my CarGo freshly made In’N'Out burger.
How many players today run out every groundball, no matter how routine the play? Not many. I see Carlos Gonzalez jogging up the line time and time again, same with Todd Helton. Not Cuddyer. That guy hustles up the line every single time he puts the ball in play. He doesn’t drop his parachutes until he is through first base. I like that. A lot. That shows he cares and is truly interested in the game. I know that some may view this as trivial but if a player starts jogging on routine ground outs then it takes pressure off of the defense. How many times have you seen a player jog up the first base line and the shortstop or third basemen throws wide or high and the defensive team still records the out because the batter wasn’t hustling? It happens. More than it should in a game filled with guys making millions upon millions of dollars.
Teams know that when Cuddyer is in the box they better make the routine plays routine and the no-so-routine plays they better get the ball and gun it to first. I believe the only other players on the Rockies that run out every ground ball is Eric Young Jr. and possibly Dexter Fowler. When I saw Jason Giambi run and step on first base on Monday night in his pinch hit attempt on a routine ground ball I was amazed. I expected him to run about 50 feet and turn right into the dugout. He wasn’t exactly laying smoke behind him, but to run all the way to first!? I have seen Helton not make it to first before, many times.
But that isn’t the only reason I am really starting to like Cuddyer: his bat is hot. He already has seven doubles on the season and I don’t think the new home ballpark will turn into 30 bombs for him like some people believe but 20 home runs and 40 doubles would sure be nice! Cuddyer is wearing out the spacious gaps at Coors Field and if he keeps driving the ball to the deep corners of the park the team will score runs.
Cuddyer has never had a season in which he had an OPS+ higher than 124 or slugged more than .520 (currently slugging .651 with an OPS+ of 171) so there will be a bit of regression coming, that is obvious. But what would an OPS+ of about 125 equate to for Cuddyer at Coors Field? OPS+ factors in the park that the player plays in so we aren’t just going to inflate his numbers because he is at Coors Field but in 2009 Helton had an OPS+ of 127 and that equated to 38 doubles and 15 home runs and a super great on-base percentage of .416. Cuddyer hasn’t had an OBP higher than .350 since 2007 so he isn’t posting an OBP above .400 for sure. Last year CarGo had an OPS+ of 126 with 26 homers and 20 doubles and a .363 OBP. Last year Seth Smith had an OPS+ of 112 with 32 doubles, 15 bombs and an OBP of .347.
This is far from scientific but I think if Cuddyer posts an OPS+ of near 130 assuming his OBP is about .340 he can slug near .500 and that means a lot of doubles and home runs. Heck, maybe even the new stadium, team and contract will motivate him slightly more and he slugs over .500 and hits 40 doubles and 20 dingers.
Add to this Cuddyer’s fan friendly persona, his incredible photography skills (check out his Google+ page for his pictures) and if he is as good in the clubhouse as reported I think I will most definitely enjoy watching him over the next three seasons.