Ultimately Drew Stubbs will bring value to the Colorado Rockies with his speed, his defense in center field, and his ability to mash left-handed pitching. But if he wanted to show a more competent bat against right-handed pitching, none of us would complain.
Entering the season it did not seem likely that Stubbs would find success against right-handed pitchers, however. He has been around long enough for us to think that his career .227 mark against same-handed pitching was probably just part of who he was as a player rather than something he could change or improve upon.
Through 40 games in 2014 Stubbs is trying to prove us all wrong. In a small sample of 44 at-bats he is batting a much-improved .273 versus right-handed pitching. Of his 12 hits, four have gone for extra bases (including his two home runs).
There are numerous benefits if Stubbs can keep this up. For one thing the Rockies could use him in spot duty against right-handed starters and not feel too bad about it. For another thing, manager Walt Weiss would not be so limited in his use of Stubbs as a pinch-hitter if he can deliver quality at-bats against right-handed relievers.
A couple things to consider.
#1 – Stubbs is using the big part of the field
Check out the spray chart of Stubbs’s hits against right-handed pitching, courtesy of FanGraphs:
That is a relatively even split between hits he pulled and those he hit the other way against RHP. Further, he is hitting for some power when he uses the big part of the field, including both of his home runs. We need to see a lot more of those results to credit Stubbs for an improved approach, but this is sure a good place to start.
#2 – Stubbs is driving the ball more
And he is hitting more line drives than usual against right-handed pitching.
Against right-handed pitching Stubbs has a line drive rate of 22.6% so far, up from a career mark around 18%. What you see with this second chart is the fact that Stubbs is driving the ball more in general: not too many rollover ground balls and no infield pop-ups to worry about. Like his use of the big part of the field, these are good early signs that, if sustained for a longer period of time, might reflect an improved approach.
The Rockies do not need Stubbs to be a world-beater against right-handed pitching. That is the beauty of their ridiculous outfield depth and the fact that they have a guy like Corey Dickerson hanging around to mash righties. But it will be huge for the Rockies if Stubbs can minimize the drop-off in production when he does need to play against same-handed pitching.
With a .273/.298/.455 line right on right, Stubbs has by no means been a world beater in those situations. But he has shown signs of promise and a better approach, and if he can keep it up, it will give Weiss even more options as he tries to maximize the production from this deep and intriguing roster.