SPEED anD POWER
That combination has made ex-horn Drew Stubbs a major hit in Cincinnati
Playing in the major leagues has been a learning experience for Cincinnati Reds center fielder Drew Stubbs.
It’s not like college, where he had to juggle classes at the University of Texas with weekend baseball games and the occasional midweek contest. No, this is a job, but Stubbs is enjoying his first full season in MLB.
“The minors was a real change from college because we play every day,’’ he said. “Late in the season, it takes a toll on your body and your mind. It was a real grind for sure. Each level you climb, the competition gets better and better and once you get to this stage, you’re facing the best night in and night out.”
Stubbs has the potential to be a great pro, and he knows it will take more than power hitting to get there. Anyone who follows UT baseball knows Stubbs made his reputation with home runs.
He beat Stanford with a gamewinning, inside-the-park tater in his junior year, then followed that later in the season with a mammoth, two-run blast that cleared the old scoreboard at Disch-Falk Field to beat Oklahoma.
The ball always jumped off his bat, and the old saying rang true in regard to his power: when Stubbs hit the ball, it stayed hit.
So it comes as no surprise that Stubbs’ 31 career homers rank sixth in Longhorns history. His powerful stroke and antelope stride in center field defined his college career, and those attributes led to him pocketing a $2 million signing bonus as the eighth overall pick of the 2006 MLB draft by the Reds.
These days you can find him patrolling center field for Cincinnati, which leads the National League Central by a game over St. Louis. Stubbs hasn’t hit for average this year — .235 isn’t going to evoke comparisons to his predecessor, Ken Griffey Jr. — but the power has shown up at times, including a spectacular holiday outing that we will hit upon in a bit.
The 11 homers are respectable, given the low batting average, but
Continued from C1 Stubbs’ power numbers aren’t the most important aspect of his major-league skill set. It’s his legs. Stubbs’ career will include some home runs, but he could make his biggest impact on the basepaths. At Texas, the homers overshadowed the blazing speed that produced 86 career stolen bases, which rank fourth all-time behind Calvin Murray, Wylie Campbell and Spike Owen.
Now that he’s in the big leagues, Stubbs knows that every base he swipes helps keep him in the lineup. He’s stolen 17 bases in 20 attempts through the All-Star break, which ranks seventh in the NL, and while he would take 50 homers over 50 steals any day of the week, Stubbs understands his role as a young player on a team with plenty of offensive pop.
“The coaches always want to keep it in the back of my mind that I have other weapons I can use,” he said. “I know that I can be a smallball type of player with power as well.”
The power was on display on a windy July 4 at Wrigley Field, where Stubbs hit three homers in a 13-4 victory over the Cubs.
“That never happened to me on any level since I’ve been playing,’’ he said. “I only have a handful of twohomer games in my career so to be honest, after I hit that first homer in my first at-bat, I never thought about it. I was just trying to make good contact.”
Reds manager Dusty Baker unloaded 2009 starter Wily Tavares last season to give Stubbs a chance to prove he belonged, and he responded by hitting .267 with eight homers and 10 stolen bases in 42 games. His 2010 season hasn’t been without its struggles, but Stubbs has the confidence of his manager.
“His upside is amazing,’’ Baker told reporters earlier this month. “He’s just waiting too long. He’s a little bit defensive. He’s waiting to see if it’s a ball and a strike, and you don’t have that kind of time.”
And on those days when the youngster isn’t making contact — his 90 strikeouts in 293 at-bats are tied for eighth-most in the majors — Reds hitting coach Billy Hatcher is working with Stubbs on bunting more, another way to use his speed. Since he’s moved from hitting leadoff to the No. 7 hole, which followed a tough start to the season during which he was batting .174 through Drew Stubbs, connecting for a home run on June 9 against San Francisco, has emerged from an early season slump since moving into the Cincinnati Reds’ leadoff spot. May 4, Stubbs has raised his average 61 points. That’s an encouraging sign looking ahead to the second half.
At this pace, Stubbs will finish the season with 24 homers, 77 RBIs and 34 stolen bases, not Griffey numbers but solid totals that will keep him in a big-league uniform for many years.
Drew Stubbs was all smiles on July 4 after firing up the Reds by cracking three home runs in a win over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Stubbs is hitting just .235 at the All-Star break, but his speed has translated into 17 steals in 20 attempts.
Stubbs’ 31 career home runs rank sixth on the Texas Longhorns list. He was the eighth overall pick in the 2008 draft.