Reds' Stubbs no conventional leadoff hitter

BY foxsports • May 18, 2011

Nevertheless,
despite early-season grumbling from fans all over Redsland, Stubbs is
and shall remain the leadoff hitter. Manager Dusty Baker could order
some blank lineup cards and have Stubbs' name permanently printed in the
No. 1 spot.

Stubbs has batted leadoff for 31 of the Reds’ 33
games, and the only two times he didn't was when Baker gave him the day
off. Stubbs was at his normal spot Wednesday and contributed only a
harmless single in the eighth inning, but that was more than most of his
mates contributed in a 5-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates that ended
Cincinnati's five-game winning streak.

The Reds collected only
five hits off right-hander Charlie Morton, who needed just 106 pitches
as the Reds were shut out for only the second time this season.

Fans
shudder over the number of times Stubbs strikes out. As he did last
season, Stubbs leads the team in strikeouts with 45 in 165 at-bats.

While
he doesn't want to strike out, he shrugs and says, "Depending upon the
situation, what's the difference whether I strike out or hit a deep fly
ball to the center-field wall? Both are outs."

Stubbs said he
knows the name Bobby Bonds, but didn't know the father of Barry Bonds
was a proficient leadoff hitter who struck out even more than Stubbs
does. And also like Bonds, Stubbs hits a lot of home runs, drives in a
lot of runs, steals a lot of bases and is a general pain in the rosin
bag to opposing pitchers.

Baker, who has resisted fans’ bleating
to remove Stubbs from the leadoff spot, sees the 26-year-old Texan
improving with nearly every at-bat. He is hitting .279 with seven
homers, one behind team leader Jay Bruce, and 20 RBI, six behind team
leader Brandon Phillips and only four behind NL MVP Joey Votto.

And Stubbs has 14 stolen bases in 15 attempts, second most in the league.

Early
last season, Stubbs said he felt uncomfortable batting leadoff, but
this year he is as comfortable as a 10-year-old La-Z-Boy recliner.

"I'm
feeling good in all facets of the game this year," he said. "You kind
of use the momentum of the team, something you can feed off and it helps
you pick up your own game, push it to the next level. I think I'm doing
that."

And the difference between last year and this year?

"When
you can start off the year on the right foot and not have to feel like
you are always trying to dig yourself out of a big hole, like I was
trying to do last year, it is a lot easier to come out and be
comfortable. You don't have to worry about getting where you believe you
need to be. You can go out and have fun and do the job you need to do."

Stubbs defies the critics who say he shouldn’t be the leadoff hitter.

"I
know I'm not what they consider prototypical. But what is it?" he said.
"I know I can do a lot of stuff that you need at the top of the order —
I've done a decent job of getting on base (.455 OBP) to help
manufacture runs (team-leading 32). We don't have that prototypical guy,
I guess, but I seem to be the best fit."

Of his strikeouts,
Stubbs says, "I know it is not ideal to strike out that much, but at the
same time if your on-base percentage is up, if you are getting your
hits, if you are getting your walks (22, second behind Votto),
ultimately a strikeout is the same as any other out. If the numbers that
need to be there are there, so be it."

Fantasy league players
love Stubbs and he is among the 10 most coveted players. When told that,
Stubbs smiled and said, "That surprises me. I don't put myself in the
category of all those great players out there, so I am surprised."

When
it was explained that he is valued because he hits for average and
power, scores and drives in runs and steal bases, coveted numbers for
fantasy folks, he smiled and said, "Now I understand."

What Baker likes is the improvement, in all areas, oozing out of Stubbs.

"You
always bank on a player maturing and getting better," Baker said. "You
try to leave whatever negatives or weaknesses you have and enhance your
strengths and become consistent over a long period of time.

"You
hope guys learn from experience, learn from talking and listening to
other guys, and learn some things through our help to speed up the
learning process," Baker added. "That's our job, especially with a young
player. Young people have more of an open mind and absorb a whole lot
more and have a whole lot more to learn. If they see some success during
that learning curve, it is easier to teach it and easier for them to
yearn for more."

Stubbs learned from his early misdeeds last year,
and the javeline-quick 6-foot-4, 200-pounder became only the ninth
player in Reds history to hit 20 or more homers and steal 30 or more
bases.

"He can, and will, do better, a lot better," Baker said.
"He'll be around a long time and he'll be a star — as our leadoff
hitter."


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