In 2013 Michael Cuddyer was amazing. He led the NL in batting average at .331, had a better OBP than Buster Posey (.389 to .371) an a better SLG than Andrew McCutchen (.530 to .508). The result was a .919 OPS that was fifth in the NL, and one hell of a fantasy baseball season (.331-20-84-74-10). What are the odds that Cuddyer repeats that effort in 2014 as a 35 year old?
I’ll start out with the answer instead of waiting until the end – pretty small. Here’s why.
Let’s start with the batting average. A career .277 hitter, Michael had never hit .330 in a season. He’d never hit .320, .310, .300, .290. That’s right. In a 12 year career from 2001-12 Cuddyer had never hit .285 in a season (he hit .284 in 2011 and 2006). Guys in their 13th season season rarely set a career best in batting average. They never add more than .045 points to their career mark. Never. This position is further supported if we look at Cuddyer’s 2013 effort. How did he hit .331, did he have a huge line drive rate? Sure didn’t as his 20.2 percent line drive marks was just a tick above the league average and two tenths below his 20.4 mark in 2012. Must be BABIP then? You got it. Michael owns a .312 career mark and had been between .287 and .315 from 2007-12. That’s a ton of consistency. In 2013 that mark was inflated at .382. It was the first time he’s had a mark of .330 since his 18 at-bat rookie season in 2001. Add in the fact that he’s a career .272 hitter against right-handed batters, and that mark soared to .350 in 2013, the bottom line should be obvious. There’s just no chance at a repeat in the average category.
What about the steals column? Ten steals isn’t a big number, but it’s certainly a nice little bonus from a guy like Cuddyer. While he’s averaged 10 thefts the past three seasons, he had never stolen more than seven bases from 2001-2010. He’s way more likely to see a decrease in his steals mark than another double-digit season in 2014.
What about the homers? The last time that Cuddyer hit 25 homers was the only time he hit 25 homers – he blasted 32 big flies in 2009. Over the last four seasons his best total is 20, the mark he posted in 2011 and 2013. Over the last four years he’s averaged 17.5 homers. Will he greatly exceed that mark in 2014? Unlikely. Why? Take a look at his ground ball rate the past four seasons. After a mark from 44-46 percent from 2006-09, Cuddyer has posted a mark of at least 48.5 percent the past four seasons including a 49.6 percent mark in 2013. You just can’t be a home run guy if you don’t lift the ball, and never was that more evident than 2013 when he had a 30.1 percent fly ball rate, about four percent below his career mark. Even if he maintains his 17.5 percent HR/F ratio the past two seasons, well above his 13.1 percent career mark, he’s just not hitting the ball into the air enough to see a power surge.
What about his RBI and runs scored marks? Cuddyer has one season of 95 runs scored. He has one season of 95 RBIs. That one season was back in 2006 by the way. The last three seasons he’s averaged 66 runs scored and 71 RBIs. That’s not at all impressive. One of the main reasons both those marks are so low is that Cuddyer hasn’t appeared in 140 games in any of the past three seasons as he’s averaged 123 games played. That’s not a heartening trend for a 35 year old.
With Todd Helton‘s retirement, Cuddyer is set to play first base in 2014 after just 15 appearances there in 2013. Add in his outfield eligibility, he was out there 118 times, and you have a potential dual threat in Cuddyer, and that always boosts a players value. However, he’s way more likely to go .285-20-70-70-5 in 2014 than .331-20-84-74-10 for all the reasons noted above. Be careful not to overestimate that batting average given that it’s highly unlikely he bats even .300 in 2014.
By Ray Flowers