Jason Kubel keeps it in the park

Categories: Twins

Twins opener at Target Field.jpeg
The man who hit the first homer at Target Field is now eschewing the long ball.
Jason Kubel has been one of the bright spots on an anemic Twins team. His stats have placed him squarely on baseball's leader board: a .347 batting average, .390 on-base percentage, and a .520 slugging percentage.

Now there's a Kubel meme, as three different sources have weighed in on the turnaround. Remember, last season the man hit new lows, posting the worst numbers of his career (.249/.323/.427), despite clocking 21 home runs and 92 RBI.

The Strib's La Velle E. Neal III, normally a writer of very good insight, opened his piece suggesting that Kubel has finally started to run when he makes contact with the ball.

"When Jason Kubel connected in the seventh inning Sunday, he ran hard out of the batter's box.

"I knew it wasn't going out," he said. "I know this place."

It's a reversal from last season, when Kubel and some of his teammates would get that sweet feeling of making solid contact and tell themselves it feels like a home run, then watch in dismay when the ball hit off one of the walls in this spacious stadium -- or even got caught.

No human being with eyesight and a functioning brain would ever suggest that I can play major league ball, much less little league ball (even at this advanced age), much less softball, but even I know that one of the maxims of baseball is this: you run when you hit the fucking ball. Though I don't honestly believe that that has been Kubel's problem.

Unfortunately, the rest of the piece is similarly vague and anecdotal. Cuddyer's on hand to say Kubel's season wasn't that bad, that those 21 dingers are pretty good, and that's true. But it would be nice if Mr. K was getting on base at a clip greater than .323.

Over The Baggy.jpeg
Parker Hageman's blog boldly goes where no Strib reporter will.
Leave it to the bloggers to expertly analyze the changes to Kubel's swing. A gentleman by the name of Parker Hageman, the "Michael Cuddyer of Bloggers" (um...) at Over the Baggy, wrote a great piece that breaks down exactly what Kubel is doing to drive the ball into gaps.

As you can see, Hageman breaks down the swing, analyzes the coaching, even gives you some video so you can figure it out yourself. Kubel's opened his swing up, lowered his bat, and is now driving the ball into the gaps.

And this from a reporter who certainly doesn't have press access to Target Field. Nice job, Mr. Hageman.

Having scoured those pieces, and looking at last year's numbers, one question I have is this: why did it take so fucking long?

Hageman writes that "through the [2010] season's first month Kubel was hitting an anemic .219/.352/.329" in comparison with this April. So apparently he worked with hitting coach Joe Vavra to make the necessary changes, resulting in some good numbers.

But the man hit a crappy .232/.290/.337 in July and .205/.241/.349 in September of last year. Why weren't they making these changes back then?

Target Field TC Bear.jpeg
Nick Vleck
TC Bear's hoping that Kubel keeps up the good work.
Considering Kubel was so up and down last season, might we wonder if he's not going to revert to form as the weather improves? After all, his numbers last season are actually closer to the norm than his break out 2009.

It's important for Kubel to get some good numbers, since he's in the midst of a contract year. Though Forbes has proven that it's a myth that ballplayers perform better when they're on the verge of free agency, it still doesn't hurt when that happens.

Hopefully, he'll keep up the good work. Against the Rays earlier this season, he went 4 for 13, a .308 clip, with three walks and a pair of home runs (in Tropicana Field, but whatever.) Not that you'll see tonight, if the weatherman's correct.

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A little tipsy.
A little tipsy.

Don't forget that pitchers adjust, too. They probably had figured him out last year. A good hitting coach will offer suggestions to counter this. There is a constant ebb and flow of adjustments in this game.

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