Michael Cuddyer is slugging .517 and has an OPS of .873, good for 7th and 8th among AL outfielders. He's on pace to hit 27 homers and drive in 90 runners. He's sporting what would be a career high wOBA of .374. And yet he has received unending scorn and derision from Twins fans.
Why is this? There seem to be 3 main arguments: 1) people are stuck on his injury-plagued season in 2008, when he posted measly totals in every stat; 2) he has not performed well in clutch situations; and 3) he is in the middle of a 3-year, $24 million contract that makes him totally overpaid.
Obviously the first one can hardly be considered an argument. Yes, Cuddyer was dreadful, but his season was riddled with injuries, and the broken foot especially was a freak occurence. And I can understand if you still don't accept that as an excuse for his bad performance, but the fact that that was last year and now he is performing should be enough to get you off his case.
The frequent comments about Cuddyer's lack of 'clutch' ability are, to my surprise, accurate, at least for this year. Cuddyer's tOPS+ (definition below) with runners in scoring position and 2 outs is 56 (actual OPS is .638), and in "close & late" situations his tOPS+ is 70 (.705). That's why his tOPS+ is 84 (.694) in high leverage situations but is 154 (.948) in low leverage situations .
So it's definitely true that Cuddyer has been bad at key junctures, which is why his WPA is -0.15 despite his otherwise good year. But the thing is: who cares?! Studies have repeatedly shown that clutch skill does not exist, and thus this bad performance should even out over time. And if you don't believe that? Consider that for his career, Cuddyer's tOPS+ is: 98 (.780 OPS) with 2 outs and RISP; 115 (.852) in C&L situations; 114 (.849) in high leverage appearances; and 94 (.772) in low leverage appearances. So, if you believe a player can be clutch, there's no way you can be upset that Cuddyer is having one bad season in that regard.
The last argument, that Cuddyer is being overpaid, is the one I would think would be the strongest. According to Fangraphs' value rating, however, Cuddyer's 1.4 wins above replacement thus far equal a salary of $6.5 million already, only a little short of the $7.67 million he will be paid for the whole year. While that needs to be adjusted since Fangraphs' entire salary system is on a different scale (8 players were worth over $30 million in 2008), even cutting it in half would mean he's on pace to fall just a little shy of his actual contract.
I've just thrown a laundry list of stats at you in an effort to convince you that Michael Cuddyer is having a very good year, and should not be suffering anywhere near the amount of criticism he is getting. He's having his best season--better even than 2006--so give him a break, would you?
**tOPS+ is a statistic used at baseball-reference.com. It measures a player's OPS for that split relative to his overall OPS. A tOPS+ greater than 100 means he did better than usual, while a tOPS+ less than 100 means he did worse than usual. A 100 tOPS+ means he performed exactly in line with overall OPS.
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