Look, I need to say this right off the bat, of course I like Michael Cuddyer. Who doesn’t! Great guy, hard player, won the batting title last year. And he may have played the final role in the getting Justin Morneau here. But with all that being said…
He is now 35 years old. He was never a gold-glover in the OF. This year he is hitting .471 against lefties (.256 against righties). For his career the splits aren’t that bad (.272 BA/.780 OPS vs. RHP, .289 BA/.875 OPS vs LHP). In fact, last year in his title winning year, he had reverse splits, hitting .350/.954 vs righties and .276/.815 vs lefties. Doesn’t make sense but that is what happened.
Given that, you understand why they play him every day, regardless of side the pitcher throws from you are facing. But this team has an interesting mix of outfielders now. I think we can all agree (I hope) that CarGo should be playing save against guys he struggles with (like Cain), especially when he is healthy. So you have two spots for what has been four players – Stubbs, Barnes, Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson. We know that Stubbs cannot generally hit righties, but has great speed and power and great defense. Against lefties he should be playing in center until he proves that he is not a big league player anymore (again, this was a top 10 pick in 2006, so the talent is there and shows up at times). Brandon Barnes is a great 4th outfielder, who you give two days a week maybe of starts and you put in there in late innings as a defensive replacement (ever after his awful day Sunday against the Phillies). Then you have Charlie Blackmon who, as hot as he is right now, you just let play. Period. They talked in the post-game Monday after his first 2homer game against the Giants that he is more crouched in his stance. He has an explosive bat – last year he hit the longest homer of the season in Baltimore. He is probably not going to hit more than 10-15, even playing in Coors, but he has provided good ABs most of the year.
And then there is Corey Dickerson. Monday night he played in center, which I guess tells you what they think of Charlie’s defense in center? I think he is more likely a right-fielder, but Corey’s bat should, over the course of a season, give more value than Blackmon (do not here me saying that I don’t like Charlie, love Charlie, thought if he was ever healthy he would drive Dexter out of Denver…and he did). I think they see in his bat a little of Seth Smith – a young lefty whose bat can stay locked in even if he is on the bench. But is that the best use of his bat…saving it for late inning pinch-hit opportunities? Think I am overeacting? Going into Monday’s game these players had more ABs then Corey – Josh Rutledge (backup), Drew Stubbs (who can’t hit righties), Jordan Pacheco (backup catcher), and Brandon Barnes (4th OF defensive replacement). Really? Everyone agrees this kid’s bat is amazing. And he has fewer ABs then his other OFs (and going into Monday, even fewer than Charlie Culberson!!!!). Charlie Culberson!!!! Would you have guessed those guys had more ABs? Should they? Am I missing something here?
So, back to Cuddy. Love the guy. Glad we signed him in 2012 and glad he has not been traded. But Corey Dickerson needs to play, to see if the thunder in his bat the team has talked about it really there. I agree you sit him (and Corey) against lefties. Fine. But as many righties as this team faces Corey Dickerson needs more ABs. It was only when the team ran into bad talent situations that Seth ever played on a regular basis, and this was probably a year too-late (Seth is a good player, but from what I read and have seen, Corey is a far better hitter than Seth ever was).
So, is the Cuddy going to the DL a blessing in disguise? Does anyone hope we see a lot of Charlie and Corey the next two weeks or so when they face righties? And if Corey gets as hot or nearly as hot as Charlie…what then? Teams that win, especially the small market teams (like Tampa and Oakland), don’t care about what is on the back of a baseball card. They play their performers. They play to win in the first 7 innings, not waiting for a one-shot situation in the 8th or 9th. Charlie has already changed their plans with his hot start. My hope is that Corey can do the same and force this team to find enough ABs for the mix of Cuddy, Charlie, Corey, Drew, Brandon and some guy named CarGo. We have interleague games upcoming, so there will be DH spots (though I am thinking those will go to Wilin at least some).
To earn a playoff spot, this team is going to need good contributions from Cuddy. But he is 35. Justin Morneau is going to need off-days as well (even against righties when he plays 6 or so in a row). They will have DH spots. This team can be a playoff contender. But as much as Cuddy will be important, is it possible 400 ABs for Corey Dickerson might be just important? Guess we will see over the next two weeks.