August 20, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Cleveland Indians right fielder Drew Stubbs (11) runs the bases after hitting a two run home run in the fourteenth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In Defense of Drew Stubbs

Drew Stubbs has become a bit of a polarizing figure for the 2013 season. I’m not sure how it happened, but it would appear that somewhere along the way expectations for the Indians everyday right fielder reached unobtainable levels. And that’s fine. Expecting a lot out of players is not unusual, but understanding what’s real and what’s a pipe dream needs should go along with it.

From a statistical standpoint, Stubbs has not been spectacular in 2013. In fact, he’s been rather ordinary. He is currently batting .243/.309/.378 with nine home runs and 41 runs batted in while also sporting his customarily awful 29.1% strikeout and 7.6% walks rates. However, barring a drastic turn of events, this will be the first time in his career as full-time player that he will not have at least 30 steals in a season. Much like Michael Bourn, Stubbs’ stolen base numbers are down as he has swiped only 15 bases all season long.

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For what it’s worth, all of that has resulted in Stubbs posting a 1.1 fWAR thus far in 2013. In other words, Stubbs has basically been league average for the better part of the 2013 season. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who has watched the Indians with any sort of regularity this season. Stubbs has rarely stood out or made you say, “Wow!” In fact, Stubbs has simply gone about his business doing the little things that everyone said he would do when he was acquired this offseason.

Stubbs’ value has primarily been the result of his speed. In the outfield he has covered more range in right field than we have seen in quite some time. That’s not to say that Shin-Soo Choo wasn’t a competent right fielder, but he certainly took some interesting routes to balls. Stubbs, meanwhile, has shown what speed and taking a proper path to the ball can mean, posting a 9.4 UZR/150 in right field for the Indians.

On the base paths, Stubbs has not stolen bases with the same regularity as in years past, but he has still found ways to demonstrate how speed kills. He has put pressure on opposing defense a countless number of times, especially in late game situations. He has single-handedly begun rallies because his speed has led to critical errors or infield singles.

Now in this past week, Stubbs has been responsible for what would turn out to be two game winning home runs. The first came on Tuesday in the top of the 14th inning in Anaheim. The other came in the bottom of the eighth inning yesterday afternoon against the Twins. Do the Indians win those game without him? Possibly, but because of him the Indians head off to Atlanta trailing in the AL Wild card race by a mere 1.5 games.

Could this past week serves as the catalyst to get Stubbs going offensively? It’s certainly possible. He has displayed at other points throughout his career with the Reds that when he gets hot and makes good solid contact he can be next to unstoppable offensively. Sure, he’s never going to hit for a high average or get on base at a high rate, but Stubbs has serious power potential and enough speed to be dangerous in nearly any situation. Combine that with his stellar defense and Stubbs is a player who is not easily replaceable, despite what his fWAR value may suggest.

So is Drew Stubbs the reason for the Indians potential lack of success in 2013? The answer to that is absolutely not. Stubbs has done what he needs to do and has performed well in line with his career averages. With the exception of stolen bases, he has been everything one could expect from him entering into the 2013 season. Would it have been nice to see him out perform realistic expectations? Certainly, but don’t let all the numbers sway you in one direction. Stubbs has value and should remain a member of this team moving forward.

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Tags: Cleveland Indians Drew Stubbs Michael Bourn

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