Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Fare-thee-well, Jason Kubel

Jason Kubel will probably find it easier to hit
long balls in Arizona than in Minnesota.
It's easy to imagine alternative Twins careers for Jason Kubel, who will now pursue an alternative career with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

What if ...

  • He hadn't wrecked his knee in an Arizona Fall League collision with a second baseman?
  • He had played for a manager who believed in platooning?
  • Target Field weren't such a difficult home run park from alley to alley?

The key moment in Kubel's career came in his first game in the AFL in 2004. He was playing right field. He came in on a fly ball, second baseman Ryan Raburn (Detroit Tigers) came out, they collided, and Kubel's left knee was essentially destroyed.

He missed all of 2005, played in 2006 and hurt the right knee because the left knee wasn't completely sound.

Absent the injury, Kubel might well have pushed Jacque Jones off the roster during the 2004-05 offseason. Instead, he didn't get a clean chance to establish himself until 2007 -- by which time he was 25. Speed was never a big tool for him. The injury made his speed a liability and the biggest reason he has spent much of his career as a designated hitter.

I don't know if the injury could have had any effect on his platoon differential, but he certainly has displayed a significant one. For his career, Kubel is a .288/.342/.490 hitter against right-handers, .239/.313/.365 vs. lefties.

In the hands of a platoon-oriented manager like Earl Weaver or Gene Mauch, Kubel would have seen fewer southpaws, which wouldn't make his accumulative numbers any better but would certainly have improved his percentages. Ron Gardenhire is not a platooner, however.

Kubel had 906 plate appearances in the Metrodome, and hit .294/.346.495 under the Teflon sky. In his 448 plate appearances in Target Field, he hit .254/.321/.403. Big difference.

The park in Phoenix is a good hitter's park, so his numbers should look much better in 2012.

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