Cuddyer Needs To Stop Being Grounded

It may seem at first glance that I’m asking for Michael Cuddyer to become a little more vocal, but I’m actually focusing on his batted ball profile. Despite leading the Twins in home runs this season, Cuddyer is also near the top in ground ball percentage. For starters, let’s take a look at the major league leaders in percentage of batted balls hit on the ground this season.

1. Derek Jeter, 66.8 %

2. Ichiro Suzuki, 62.3 %

3. Jose Tabata, 61.3%

20T. Michael Cuddyer, 51.9%

Right now, 166 players qualify for the batting title, so Cuddyer is in the 88th percentile for hitting grounders this season. Now look at the Twins leaders in home runs with their respective ground ball percentage in parentheses.

1. Michael Cuddyer, 8 (51.9 %)

2T. Jason Kubel, 5 (33.5 %)

2T. Danny Valencia, 5 (47.9 %)

4T. Jim Thome, 4 (36.8%)

4T. Justin Morneau, 4 (35.9 %)

Something important to note is that Kubel, Morneau, and Thome are all at the bottom on the Twins roster in ground ball percentage. Meanwhile, Valencia and Cuddyer are near the top. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but Cuddyer is viewed as one of the top power threats in the lineup, and it’s awfully tough to get a home run without hitting the ball over the fence, let alone getting it into the air (Carlos Gomez’s inside-the-park home run notwithstanding).

So then how is Cuddyer leading the Twins in home runs despite hitting so few balls into the air? Well, it appears to be a little bit of luck… sort of. Cuddyer also ranks near the top in another batted ball category for the Twins, and that is the percentage of home runs hit per fly ball. Cuddyer has a 13.3 HR/FB % right now, which is tied with Jim Thome for second best on the team behind Trevor Plouffe’s 15.0 %. While this is fairly high compared to every other hitter on the team, it’s not outrageous for Cuddyer. He’s averaged a 12.2 HR/FB % for his career, so being a single percentage point over his career average is not a large deviation.

What does this mean? Well, Cuddyer is hitting the same percentage of home runs relative to the number of fly balls he hits as he has for his career, but he could theoretically be hitting more home runs if he didn’t hit so many balls on the ground. He might suffer a little in the batting average department (grounders go for hits more often than fly balls), but at the same time he could see a jump in extra base hits. If he trades in some grounders for line drives, then he could achieve both a better batting average and a better slugging percentage.

Michael Cuddyer has been one of the few bright spots on this terrible – though heating up – team, but I believe he could be doing much better. If he could find a way to hit the ball into the air more often, I think he could become a much more valuable piece to the Twins offense this season, his final year before hitting free agency.

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