Is Michael Cuddyer done?

Micheal Cuddyer was one of the heroes of the 2006 Twins that won the AL Central division in dramatic fashion the last day of the regular season. That season, his age 27 season, he exceeded expectations after establishing himself as the starting right fielder, instead of being moved around in the infield, hitting .284/.362/.504 with 24 HR and 109 RBI. The Twins' organization regarded him as a power right hand bat that could split the franchise lefties, Joe Mauer and Jason Morneau and create a formidable core in the middle of the lineup for years to come. In the off-season after his 2006 season, he signed an one year $3.575 million contract to avoid arbitration. After his 2007 season, which was not as productive (.276/.356/.433 16 HR, 18 RBI), the Twins decided to keep him long term, offering him a 3 year/$25 million contract through 2010 with a team option for 2011 worth $10.5 million. This contract coincided with the departures of Torii Hunter to the Angels via free agency and Johan Santana to the Mets via a trade. The Twins needed a face for their franchise to quell disappointment by these departures and the gregarious and outspoken Cuddyer was cast into that role. There are a lot of arguments against that contract given to Cuddyer after a down season and at age 28; however, it should be clear that this contract was not only for his field production but for his franchise representation to the public. That said, here is the question that I will try to answer:

Are Michael Cuddyer's best days as a player behind him?

To try to answer this question, I will try to examine the following:

  • hitting through career, represented by OPS
  • comparable players
  • power through career, represented by isoP
  • tendencies at bat through career
  • monthly hitting since 2004

Career Hitting

this graph is a plot of Michael Cuddyer's OPS in the different seasons he played. Season 1 is 2001 and season 9 is his current age 30 season.

It is clear that his OPS peaked at season 6, 2006 his age 27 season, and has practically linearly declined since.

Comparable Players

Baseball Reference has a great tool that determines the 10 most similar players to a particular player, based on production. Here I am examining Michel Cuddyer's 10 most similar, looking at when they had their peaks, in order to potentially get additional clues about Cuddyer. Here is a list of the 10 most similar players with the age of their peak in parethesis. A couple are disqualified from this analysis, one because he is still 25 years old and the other because he played in the 50s:

1. Kevin Mench (peak age 26)
2. Jeff Francoeur (too young, just in age 25 season)
3. Walt Moryn (played in the 50s - entered MLB at 28)
4. Leon Roberts (peak age 27)
5. Gabe Kapler (peak age 24)
6. Sean Berry (peak age 29)
7. Mike Lamb (peak age 28)
8. Chris Singleton (peak age 26)
9. Butch Huskey (peak age 27)
10. Xavier Nady (peak age 29)

the average age peak of these 8 players is age 27. The exact age Michael Cuddyer was during his 2006 season.

Career Power

this graph is a plot of Michael Cuddyer's isoP (isolated power = SLG%-batting average) in the different seasons he played. Season 1 is 2001 and season 9 is his current age 30 season.

It is clear that his power, like his hitting ability, peaked at season 6, 2006 his age 27 season, and has declined since, however not with as dramatic a rate as his hitting ability.

Hitting Tendencies

This was a big surprise to me.

The graph above is a plot of the percentage of balls inside the strike zone (Z-S%) and outside of the strike zone (O-S%) that Micheal Cuddyer has been swinging at during the different seasons. There is no data for 2001, so this is from 2002 on.

As you can see, consistently every season, Cuddyer swings at more balls than the previous season and swings at fewer strikes that the previous season. This is not a recipe for success and it really is bothersome, because it indicates that since his 2002 age 23 season, Cuddyer has become progressively worse in pitch selection.

in other words:

Cuddyer had a better judgment on balls and strikes at age 23, than he had during his age 27, 2006 season and now

Cuddyer, following the example of Denard Span underwent LASIK eye surgery in the off-season. Based on his early 2009 results, it seems that the surgery did not help him distinguish balls and stikes; if anything it made things worse.

Monthly hitting

I wanted to get a bit more granular view than seasonal hitting, so I plotted Cuddyer's monthly OPS from the 2004 season to now, to help identify his peak better:

The bottom line is that since May 2007, when Cuddyer had an OPS of .954 in 100 plate appearances, with the exception of June of 2008 when his OPS was .866 in 91 plate appearances, Cuddyer a. did not have a single month with OPS higher than .800, and b. his OPS has been practically declining month by month.

This is not good news.

Is Cuddyer done?

At this point, there are a lot of indicators, that Cuddyer's best days are over. The swing graphs and the monthly and seasonal OPS drops are somewhat disheartening. However, the June of 2008 provides a glimmer of hope, despite all the other negative indicators. Potentially Cuddyer might have similar months, however even these months will probably not be close to his 2006 production. I think that the Twins should focus on giving more time to Carlos Gomez and Delmon Young, whose best days are ahead of them and give Cuddyer a more limited role, similar to that of Craig Monroe and Randy Ruiz of the 2008 season. Cuddyer will be better than both of them in that role and will be positive for the team. Yes, he will be an overpaid bench/role player, however, as I indicated earlier, part of his contract was because his off-field role, so the "overpayment" for a limited on-field role is mitigated. And if he shows signs that he might have months like the June of 2008, his role could increase for that month and return to limited upon signs of decline (easy to spot based on swinging tendencies)


Jack Steal said...

Great article!!! There is no doubt Cuddyer is showing his age and should be traded or used as a 4th outfielder. The best outfield is Span-Gomez-Young without question. Cuddyer has sat out only one game and that is because Gardenhire loves him.

thrylos98 said...


I have been arguing since the off-season (and I am on the record saying that before ST started in one of Seth's podcasts :) ), that the best OF would be: Span LF, Gomez CF, Young RF with Cuddyer assuming the Monroe role. But Gardy is Gardy and if anything he is just stubborn...

On the other hand, Bill Smith has shown at least that he is willing to make changes and eat money, if necessary. I doubt that Cuddyer will be traded, primarily because of the "community investment", but I will not be surprised if he were to be...

Anonymous said...


I expect that Gardy will play Cuddyer until he can no longer justify playing him. It's been Gardy's pattern the last few seasons.

Also, I thought perhaps it was just me when it came to Cuddyer swinging at bad pitches. Obviously, it wasn't my imagination.

If Gardy wants a player that swings at bad pitches, he might as well go with Gomez. At least Gomez stands a good chance of reaching base with an infield hit.

Great breakdown of the decline of Cuddyer.


Eric B. B. said...

Jason Morneau? That wasn't an intentional continuation of the Home Run Derby name debacle, was it?

Either way, a solid article with a laughable typo.

thrylos98 said...

Eric B.B.

the "Jason" Morneau was an intentional attempt of humor... Glad you caught it :)

I felt that this read like a requiem otherwise...

thrylos98 said...


that is what it is... The problem is that Gardy is way to stubborn to see it. Here is an example: Young was a better RF in 2007 than Cuddyer, yet he did not play a single inning in a regular game, spring training game, exhibition game in RF since he got to Minnesota. Pretty audacious in my opinion...

and yes, I checked the numbers, Gomez this season is swinging at balls outside the zone pretty much as much as Cuddyer does and actually a little less that Young, but both of them have improved in that aspect and both of them are 23...

Marv said...

Gardy's refusal to put Young in right in ANY spring training game was, to me, incredible. Obviously Span would cover more ground in left and has shown a fluidity indicative of the caliber of athlete he really is.
I am a big Span fan and believe our outfield would be much stronger with him in left. Especially after seeing the trends of these graphs it seems fruitless to stick with Cuddyer in right. Young has upside. I don't know if he'll ever realize all of it, but it's a sure bet he won't riding the bench.

thrylos98 said...


I agree 100%

Erin-Kathleen said...

I, too, would rather see Young in RF. Cuddyer might have a cannon for an arm, but he doesn't have much range and will likely decline as he gets older. Young was actually pretty good in RF for the Rays, and his numbers would probably improve if he were given more playing time. It would be worth a shot, anyway.

Unfortunately, I think that the only way Delmon will see an increase in playing time is if Cuddy gets traded. And given his age, declining skills, and bloated contract, this certainly won't be an easy thing to do.

thrylos98 said...

In 2007, when they were both RF, the plus/minus system had Young rated higher than Cuddyer. As a matter of fact in 2007 Cuddyer was the second worse right fielder behind Dye as far as defense goes...

At some point, someone will have to make a decision. If a contender has injuries to their OF and Smith is willing to pitch in with $, who knows...

Anonymous said...


Well, I can hardly wait to get home and watch Cuddyer flail at pitches down and away or down and in...


thrylos98 said...


times 3
you are a seer :)

(hey, Twins win, that's all it matters, correct?)

Anonymous said...


Yes, the Twins won, and won again today.

However, it looks like Gomez isn't very happy with how little playing time he has. His one and only at bat had the look of someone who's upset..and has every reason to be upset.


Anonymous said...


Strike the preceding comment.

The Twins won that day and that's all that matters.

Anyway, they had a good series at Cleveland and it looks like the pitching staff may be getting its act together.


thrylos98 said...


that was a good series. That's all the Twins have to do: win every AL Central series. If they do that, they will finish on top.

wick0137 said...

This is my new favorite blog ever. I've been vehemently arguing for months that the Twins should be playing Young and Gomez everyday over Cuddyer, but haven't had the stats to back it up. Now I'll just link to this every time. Thanks.

thrylos98 said...


no problem :)
thanks for the complement