Even though Eric and I are identical twins, we don’t often see eye to eye, possibly because Eric is an inch taller than I am, but every now and then we find ourselves in complete agreement with one another. Michael Cuddyer is the favorite current major leaguer of both of the Twins Twins.
I, for one, being a numbers guy, cannot seem to find any rational reason for having such a strong man-crush on Cuddy. His 2010 numbers are not awesome (.271/.336/.417) and his career slashes are not any better (.269/.341/.448). Michael Brent Cuddyer has never hit .300 in a season. The closest he ever came was in 2006 when he hit .284 in 635 plate appearances spread over 150 games. In March Fangraphs picked Cuddyer as a 5th tier outfielder (out of six tiers), grouped with the likes of Carlos Quentin, Magglio Ordononez, Manny Ramirez and fellow Twins Jason Kubel and Denard Span. He’s the 19th highest paid in MLB, $10,500,000, ahead of Josh Hamilton, Jose Bautista, and Shin-Soo Choo (who is a STEAL at just under 4 million). Earlier in the offseason Fangraphs also ranked Cuddy with the 2011 first basemen, where he also showed up near the bottom of the list. Both of these projections surprised me. When compared to other big league right-fielders Cuddy’s numbers put him above average. While many hoped that Cuddy could build and even improve upon his 2006 numbers (.284/.362/.504), he didn’t.
What Cuddy has done for us year after year is play consistent, and that has not changed. #5 has been remarkably consistent for the Twins in the outfield, and while his numbers suffered slightly last season, much of that can, I believe, can be attributed to his willingness to play so many different positions for the Twins, especially after Morneau became concussed. His OPS has only been over .800 two times in his career (2006, 2009), but his career average is close, .791, helped more by two years hitting above .860 rather than being consistently close to the .800 mark.
When I think of Michael Cuddyer, I am reminded of a nameless quote I once heard about my favorite Minnesota Viking, Jim Kleinsasser “If you need a yard, he’ll get you three. If you need five yards, he’ll get you three.” His career strike out to walk ratio is almost 2-1 (11-59), and in the last two full seasons (2009 and 2010) he’s hit into 48 GDP, while only hitting into 68 in his previous 8 years of ML service. So he isn’t superman, but he isn’t kryptonite. Michael Cuddyer is what he is, and year in and year out he has performed admirably. He may not be the best right fielder in the league, but he doesn’t have to be. He is consistent. In 2010 Cuddy had 165 hits (21st in the AL), 81 RBI (24th in the AL), and scored 93 times (13th in AL). While you might not be able to find any one category that Cuddyer shines atop the leader board, you’ll be hard pressed to find any player who does a solid job across the board.
I don’t know why Eric likes Cuddyer (I’m an effort guy, and I like Cuddy for the same reasons we all loved Nick Punto, but Cuddyer was in the lineup more frequently so he earned my nod as a fan favorite), but for me a big part of what makes #5 my favorite player is also what he does off the field and in the clubhouse. There is a reason that Gardy said that Cuddy was his 2010 Twins MVP. Cuddy was awarded both the Twins Good Guy Award and Twins Leadership Award in 2010. He does it all and he puts the team first.
As a Twins fan who grew up in the days when Hall of Famer Kirby roamed the outfield going full-bore day in and day out giving every last ounce of himself for the team and putting up huge numbers I think I’ll always be looking for a player with that kind of drive, desire and love of the game. Cuddy might not have the numbers, but he has the heart and given the choice between heart and numbers, I’ll take the former everytime. Projections for the year are not pretty for Cuddyer as most expect him to continue to be less than spectacular in right field (UZR value -8.5 for RF), but my belief is that by year’s end Cuddy will again put up solid numbers and be above league average in most offensive and defensive categories and he’ll still be the fan favorite of the Twins Twins.
(italics by Eric, the other half of the Twins Twins)