Drew Stubbs set off some 4th of July fireworks on Sunday against the Cubs, hitting three home runs in the Reds 14-3 romp. The three home runs broke Stubbs out of a big slump. The slump was so bad, in fact, that Dusty Baker met with Stubbs on Saturday morning and sat him out of the game that afternoon according to Mark Sheldon, basically saying that Stubbs needed to be more aggressive at the plate. So, did Dusty's pep talk do the trick? Obviously, he's not going to hit three home runs every game, but did Stubbs suddenly learn something that will push his game to a new level?
I suspect that this is all just a combination of lucky timing and bad Cubs pitching. If you recall, a couple of weeks ago, I posted about the relationship between Contact %, Z-Swing%, wOBA, and ISO. The impetus for that post was the frequency with which Stubbs strikes out. I ultimately concluded that while Stubbs really struggles to make contact, he'd be better served by simply swinging at more pitches in the strike zone, echoing what Baker would later tell him. When Stubbs went off yesterday, I wondered if he had changed his approach to be more aggressive.
Take a look at these charts from TexasLeaguers.com. First, here are the pitches that Stubbs has swung at this season.
Maybe it's me, but this chart looks fairly sparsely populated on the outside corner (the right side). Now, take a look at the pitches Stubbs has taken.
It appears to me that Stubbs rarely swings at pitches down and away. The called strike picture tells a similar story.
The red points on this chart (the called strikes) certainly appear to be much more prevalent down and away in the zone. It appears that Stubbs has trouble pulling the trigger on those down and away strikes. I imagine teams would look to take advantage of that. The Cubs? Not so much.
Here are the same three charts from Stubbs game yesterday. First, here are the pitches that Stubbs swung at.
Stubbs took eight swings in five trips to the plate, three of which ended up as home runs. All eight of the pitches that Stubbs swung at were up and in the zone. The home runs came on the two sliders and the curve ball. I guess he was really on the breaking pitches. What did he take?
It looks like Stubbs took eight pitches as well, five of them fastballs, and two of those down and away at the edge of the zone. Go back and look at the first chart above. See any red points down and away in the zone? Not really. Here, Stubbs got a couple, and just like the rest of the season, he didn't swing at them.
If you ask me, the Cubs either didn't do their homework or executed their pitches very poorly. Stubbs won't swing at fastballs down and away, and the Cubs pitched him up and in. I doubt that Stubbs really did anything all that different yesterday. He was a little more aggressive than usual on pitches in the zone, swinging at eight of ten strikes while his Z-Swing % on the year is just 63.2% (according to fangraphs.com). Ultimately though, the pitches he saw were not the ones he struggles to swing at, so with such a small sample size, it's pretty hard to conclude that Stubbs had some kind of epiphany and will suddenly begin playing at a whole new level. I hope he proves me wrong.