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Sunday, March 09, 2014

Brown: How Michael Cuddyer’s chase of the NL batting title made him a better player

My 1969 Macmillan shocker: Debs Garms.

He batted .370 the rest of the way. Turned out, he batted .385 in September. He finished at .331, 10 points ahead of Johnson, 60 points higher than his career average, 47 points better than he’d ever hit. On the final day of the season, he could let it go again, free of the drama, the thrill, the achievement, the bouts of weirdness in the batter’s box. And it could just be glorious.

“Oh, it’s extremely special,” he said. “To have your name in the history books as a batting champion, it’s just extremely special.”

He loved the other names on the list. His boyhood hero, Don Mattingly, is on there. And his former teammate, Joe Mauer. Lots of Rockies, of course.

“And there’s names that aren’t on the list,” Cuddyer said, “that give you chills.”

That the batting title came from nowhere, and in the months after he turned 34, when it seemed we all had a pretty good notion of the ballplayer Michael Cuddyer was, seemed particularly satisfying to Cuddyer. He’d worked hard for this, and grew a little more into the game when he changed to a more aggressive two-strike approach, and started last season hot. Yes, it’s almost strange when a Rockie doesn’t win the batting title. And it was interesting that when one did, it wasn’t Carlos Gonzalez or Troy Tulowitzki. While the natural assumption may be that Cuddyer’s season was created by Coors Field, he did hit .311 on the road. Of the eight batting titles won by Rockies (Andres Galarraga at Mile High Stadium, Todd Helton, Matt Holliday, Gonzalez, Cuddyer and three by Larry Walker at Coors Field), Cuddyer’s home batting average (.356) is the lowest by 20 points.

Hey, it’s better to hit there. Just is. But it’s not everything.

“I didn’t hit .500 at home,” Cuddyer said with a smile.

Repoz Posted: March 09, 2014 at 10:05 AM | 31 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: rockies

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   1. eric Posted: March 09, 2014 at 12:13 PM (#4668576)
Michael Cuddyer won the batting title???
   2. BDC Posted: March 09, 2014 at 12:28 PM (#4668587)
A batting champion indeed in the tradition of Debs Garms, Freddy Sanchez, Bobby Avila, Harry Walker: they just had that one year.

But even those guys hit .300 in other seasons. Cuddyer's 2013 BA was 57 points higher than he'd ever hit before. I don't know if that's a record (for a qualifying season) but I can only find one other player who comes close, Darin Erstad, whose best BA season was 56 points higher than his second-best.

Good for Cuddyer! He always struck me as an excessively ordinary player, but he has kept himself in shape and kept studying the game. BABIP fluctuation or no BABIP fluctuation, he had to go out there and make contact with those baseballs, at an age when almost everybody is in steady decline.
   3. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: March 09, 2014 at 12:46 PM (#4668592)
Norm Cash: 1961: .361
next best: .286
   4. CFBF Is A Golden Spider Duck Posted: March 09, 2014 at 01:17 PM (#4668613)
I remember acquiring Michael Cuddyer in my first ever Baseball Mogul simulation and getting something like four straight .270/.320/.430 seasons from him. That's always colored my perception of him.
   5. BDC Posted: March 09, 2014 at 01:28 PM (#4668616)
Norm Cash, thanks Pasta!
   6. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: March 09, 2014 at 01:45 PM (#4668625)
NL hitting leaders:
WAR: Carlos Gomez
Hits: Matt Carpenter
Doubles: Matt Carpenter
Runs: Matt Carpenter
Stolen bases: Eric Young Jr.
Home runs: Paul Goldschmidt, Pedro Alvarez
RBIs: Paul Goldschmidt
Slugging: Paul Goldschmidt
Batting average: Michael Cuddyer
OBP: Joey Votto

At least the last one might have been predicted by more than zero people.
   7. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: March 09, 2014 at 01:47 PM (#4668631)
I don't think Alvarez tying for the lead in circuit clouts was a shock to baseball fans. But Carpenter and Goldschmidt were delightful surprises for sure.

Me, I'm still adjusting to the fact that you can lead the league with 36 home runs now. That wouldn't crack the top 15 ten years ago.
   8. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: March 09, 2014 at 02:24 PM (#4668643)
I remember Cuddyer being a fairly substantial prospect back in the days when I first had a fast internet connection and was getting into sabermetrics. Checking his stats now, this seems like it was warranted; he had a good batting eye and hit for power as a relatively young dude in the minors. I also remember drafting him in a flyer my first year playing scoresheet, and he hurt himself badly and didn't play in the bigs that year.

He never turned into the slugger I thought he'd be, though he did have a couple of pretty good years with the Twins eventually. The weird thing is that his on-base skills, which were excellent in the minors, deteriorated in the majors. I guess maybe that's to be expected, but it limited his value during his best seasons -- as did his defense, which has truly been awful. When he came up the Twins were trying him in the infield, which didn't work. The funny thing is that when they moved him to the outfield, that didn't really work, either.

I don't want to demean the guy, of course. But his career has managed to be both long, and not at all what I expected.
   9. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: March 09, 2014 at 02:29 PM (#4668647)
Ouch. After letting SI audo-draft my fantasy team this year, I found myself with too many OFs on my bench, so released Cuddyer before the season started. And kept the poisonously useless Josh Reddick. Not to mention the poisonously useless Josh Hamilton.

(Note to self: Never, ever keep a player named Josh.)
   10. Yoenis Cespedes, Baseball Savant Posted: March 09, 2014 at 02:32 PM (#4668649)
Michael Cuddyer was probably the best prospect in Baseball Mogul 2002. He would regularly win an MVP or two in simulations.
   11. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: March 09, 2014 at 02:49 PM (#4668654)
A batting champion indeed in the tradition of Debs Garms, Freddy Sanchez, Bobby Avila, Harry Walker: they just had that one year.

There was a player named "Debs Garms"? I assume he was the captain of the Latvian national team.

Pedro Alvarez led the league in home runs, strikeouts, and errors. I assume that has done before, but usually the leader in errors is a 3B, 2B or SS, so that rules out most of the legendary Three True Outcomes guys.
   12. zack Posted: March 09, 2014 at 03:05 PM (#4668662)
There was a player named "Debs Garms"? I assume he was the captain of the Latvian national team.


Ever since the Olympics, whenever I think of a player's name in my head I Latvian-ize it. Matts Harveys. Mikes Trouts. Bryces Harpers. Elvis Andrus.
   13. BDC Posted: March 09, 2014 at 03:08 PM (#4668664)
Garms is a Texas surname, and indeed Garms was from a place called Bangs, Texas, not all that far (as Texas goes) from Norm Cash's home town of Post. One assumes his parents were Socialists.
   14. puck Posted: March 09, 2014 at 03:55 PM (#4668690)
Good for Cuddyer! He always struck me as an excessively ordinary player, but he has kept himself in shape and kept studying the game. BABIP fluctuation or no BABIP fluctuation, he had to go out there and make contact with those baseballs, at an age when almost everybody is in steady decline


Seems like a good guy. Photography is a hobby, he likes to take photos of the stadiums or city scenery on road trips. True, an ordinary at best player, so the batting title is a nice career highlight to tuck away. He doesn't seem like a good defender. So it probably would have been better to move Cuddyer to 1st rather than trade Fowler to sign Cuddy's buddy Morneau.

Especially since they backed off their plan to move Carlos Gonzalez to center. They did this to "save" CarGo's legs. Left field in Coors is pretty big. Is it really that much more wear to play center than left?

   15. Walt Davis Posted: March 09, 2014 at 04:28 PM (#4668702)
Left field in Coors is pretty big. Is it really that much more wear to play center than left?

If LF is so big, what's the advantage of playing him in CF? :-)

Eric Young Jr. Who knew? I see dad led the league in 96 ... are they the first father-son duo to do it? Neither Bonds did and no other possible pair springs to mind.
   16. cardsfanboy Posted: March 09, 2014 at 04:32 PM (#4668704)
Pedro Alvarez led the league in home runs, strikeouts, and errors. I assume that has done before, but usually the leader in errors is a 3B, 2B or SS, so that rules out most of the legendary Three True Outcomes guys


First name to pop in my head was Mark Reynolds, but he never led the league in homerun(best year he was fourth) Howard Johnson led in homeruns and errors but was 6th in strikeouts... No luck on finding anyone else yet.
   17. BDC Posted: March 09, 2014 at 04:33 PM (#4668705)
Bump Wills was third in the AL in SB in 1978, for honorable mention.
   18. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: March 09, 2014 at 06:43 PM (#4668764)
Pedro Alvarez led the league in home runs, strikeouts, and errors. I assume that has done before, but usually the leader in errors is a 3B, 2B or SS, so that rules out most of the legendary Three True Outcomes guys.


My immediate thought upon reading this was that it should be called the Dick Stuart Triple Crown. Stuart was close every year--he led the league in errors every year--but never did win a home run title and only led the league in strikeouts once. But then he was only allowed to play every day for three years.
   19. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: March 09, 2014 at 07:30 PM (#4668781)
No luck on finding anyone else yet.


I don't think anyone else qualifies, though Dick Allen did the Errors/Strikeouts/Triples trifecta.

   20. Jose Canusee Posted: March 09, 2014 at 07:53 PM (#4668787)
Looked at batting leaders besides Garms and the wartime Snuffy Stirnweiss and found Dale Alexander 1932 Det/Bos. Holy Cow, the Chuck Klein era had crazier numbers than the Steroid era. That boy could mash. 5 years, 662 games, 129 OPS+, .331 lifetime BA for those who looked at stats in those days. Done in the bigs after age 30 (a mere .281 in 1933), so I figured he got hurt or was a PCL guy who got homesick. But there he is playing 145 games for Newark in 1934 with a 14/123/.336 line and 35 doubles. He continued hitting over .300 every year in the AA and Southern leagues and never got another call-up. More BB's than K's, no obvious Dick Stuartism with the glove at 1B. Could it be that the MLB clubs had to pay the MiLB club and the price was always too high for a midyear replacement? Seems like a worse system for the players than mere pre-free-agency reserve clause thru the 1970's.
   21. Walt Davis Posted: March 09, 2014 at 08:14 PM (#4668796)
Now that I think of it, how many father-son duos have led the league in the same (major) category? Bobby led twice in runs and Barry once. They both led the league in TB once as well.

I don't even know where to find league leaders in errors but, as noted above, it would seem to have to be an IF to pull it off. So Schmidt is probably the best bet -- he did lead in HR and Ks with 26 errors in 74. I doubt 26 errors led the league. Banks never led the league in Ks. Mathews led the league in Ks only in his rookie season when he didn't lead in HR. Hack Wilson probably gave it a good go in 1930, managing to accumulate 19 errors but that's only a lot for an OF, I assume an IF beat him.

Davey Johnson didn't lead the league in 73 and he didn't come close in Ks but did make an uncharacteristic 30 errors that year (gotta be the roids!).

Oh, I found the error leaderboard. No on Schmidt. A second no on Banks.

Perez in 70 came kinda close -- #3 in HR, #7 in Ks, #1 in errors.

   22. Monty Predicts a Padres-Mariners WS in 2016 Posted: March 09, 2014 at 09:03 PM (#4668815)
Now that I think of it, how many father-son duos have led the league in the same (major) category?


They're not really major categories, but I found these:

Ken Griffey Sr. led the NL in stolen base percentage in 1980, 16 years before Jr. led the AL. Sandy Alomar led the AL in PA in 1970 and 1971, then Roberto did it in the NL in 1989.
   23. BDC Posted: March 09, 2014 at 09:08 PM (#4668817)
how many father-son duos have led the league in the same (major) category?

Cecil and Prince Fielder in HR and RBI.

Can't think of others offhand. Steve Trout, Todd Stottlemyre, and Moises Alou never seem to have led the league in anything, though their fathers did.
   24. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: March 09, 2014 at 09:09 PM (#4668818)
I don't even know where to find league leaders in errors


The easiest way I know of is to go to the Leaders page, find most errors and then yearly leaders category. Eyeballing it, there are only a handful of error leaders who might have been in the running, but none that I could see who would have captured the Dr. Strangeglove Triple Crown (at least post 1900).

   25. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: March 09, 2014 at 09:10 PM (#4668819)
Buddy and Gus both led the league in Games Played (well, they both probably tied for the league lead).

   26. cardsfanboy Posted: March 09, 2014 at 10:14 PM (#4668842)
Ray and Brett Boone led in Rbi...(grandfather/grandson)
   27. Booey Posted: March 10, 2014 at 01:55 AM (#4668892)
Cuddyer's 2013 BA was 57 points higher than he'd ever hit before. I don't know if that's a record (for a qualifying season) but I can only find one other player who comes close, Darin Erstad, whose best BA season was 56 points higher than his second-best.


Man, someone even mentioned Hamilton in this very thread! ;-)

Josh Hamilton 2010 - .359
2nd highest - .304

The article also mentioned Galarraga:

Andres Galarraga 1993 - .370
2nd highest - .319
   28. Sunday silence Posted: March 10, 2014 at 02:30 AM (#4668897)
Looked at batting leaders besides Garms and the wartime Snuffy Stirnweiss and found Dale Alexander 1932 Det/Bos. Holy Cow, the Chuck Klein era had crazier numbers than the Steroid era. That boy could mash. 5 years, 662 games, 129 OPS+, .331 lifetime BA for those who looked at stats in those days. Done in the bigs after age 30 (a mere .281 in 1933), so I figured he got hurt or was a PCL guy who got homesick. But there he is playing 145 games for Newark in 1934 with a 14/123/.336 line and 35 doubles... Could it be that the MLB clubs had to pay the MiLB club and the price was always too high for a midyear replacement?


The story I always heard, both from Bill James and somewhere else, is that ALexander was badly burned in a primitive version of a whirlpool bath. Maybe that story was just some tall tale they told the public I dont know. But I never knew he turned up in the minors for a long time thereafter, so maybe there is more to the story that what I read?
   29. beefshower Posted: March 10, 2014 at 04:12 PM (#4669152)
Might be a little late on this thread but I pulled this from Wikipedia regarding Dale Alexander's career ending injury. Again I didn't know he played in the minors after his MLB career ended. This seems pretty reliable for Wikipedia but of course the usual caveats apply.

"On May 30, 1933, Alexander twisted a knee in a game at Philadelphia. He was given diathermy treatment ("electrically induced heat" used for muscle relaxation) in the clubhouse by Red Sox trainer, Doc Woods. Alexander's leg suffered third degree burns during the treatment, and gangrene eventually set in. "It was a new method of treatment and not too much was known about it," Alexander said, years later. "I noticed my leg felt awfully hot. I ended up with third-degree burns and a gangrene infection and almost lost my leg. I was finished in the Majors... I couldn't run and I couldn't field and when I got hurt, that was the end." Alexander attempted a comeback but injured his leg again in July 1933 and saw limited action for the rest of the season, mostly as a pinch hitter. Alexander wound up hitting .281 in 1933 and played his last Major League game was on September 23, 1933 against the New York Yankees."
   30. Ok, Griffey's Dunn (Nothing Iffey About Griffey) Posted: March 10, 2014 at 04:34 PM (#4669162)
Hugh Duffy: .440
next best: .363
   31. tshipman Posted: March 10, 2014 at 04:52 PM (#4669167)
I am blown away that Carlos Gomez led the league in batting WAR last year. I consider myself a baseball fan, a national league fan, and a stats fan, and I had literally no idea.

As I look at his BBREF page, I see why: 4.6 dWAR.

Wow. That ... that is tough for me to buy. All of a sudden at age 28, he turns out like an all time peak year for a defensive center fielder (A. Jones high is 3.9).

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