Fowler vs. Stubbs: Marginal Improvement or More?

The Reds have been looking for a consistent leadoff hitter since the current iteration of the team began contention in 2010. Drew Stubbs was supposed to fill that role, but his performance has trended the wrong way since 2009 — after a sharp 105 wRC+ in 2010, Stubbs has posted marks of 90 and a brutal 64 in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Between Stubbs and Zack Cozart, Reds leadoff hitters hit an awful .208/.254/.327 last season.

Now, the Reds are looking to fill the two holes Stubbs’s decline has left them with — leadoff hitter and center field. The club was interested in Ben Revere but the Phillies beat them to the punch. CBSSports.com’s Danny Knobler reports the Reds are shifting their sights towards Rockies outfielder Dexter Fowler.

Knobler reports starting pitcher Mike Leake may be the cost for Fowler. Homer Bailey‘s name has popped up as well. Is Fowler enough of an upgrade over Stubbs for the Reds to deal away one of their MLB-ready starting pitchers?

Fowler is a clear upgrade at the plate. He owns a 104 career wRC+ against Stubbs’s 88, and recent years favor him even more strongly:


Source: FanGraphsDexter Fowler, Drew Stubbs

The above chart shows wOBA, which misses the park adjustments, but the relationship is similar with wRC+ as well, just a little tighter. Many will point to Fowler’s wide home-road splits as a black eye, but Stubbs has had a similar road experience in his time as a Red — Fowler’s 79 road wRC+ outpaces Stubbs’s 70 mark.

The ZiPS projections agree with Fowler’s superiority. Fowler is projected for a .273/.366/.452 slash line, a touch better than his 2011 season — roughly a 110 wRC+. Stubbs is projected for just a .230/.301/.370 line, between his 2011 and 2012 seasons — close to an 80 wRC+ — about a 15-run difference over 600 plate appearances.

But what about defense? Both Stubbs and Fowler are speed demons with highly regarded defensive skillsets. Defensive metrics disagree — UZR has Stubbs 50 runs better over the past four years, nearly closing the gap with the bat. DRS, however, has Stubbs with just a 20-run lead since 2009, which would still leave Fowler as worth roughly a win more per season.

Stubbs’s defense makes him well worth a roster spot even though his bat leaves a lot to be desired and seems unlikely to be fixed anytime soon. Even if Fowler is as good a defensive player as Stubbs, the difference between their bats isn’t big enough to warrant moving Homer Bailey, who took a huge step forward in 2012. Bailey posted a 3.68 ERA and 3.97 FIP at just 26 years old, made even more impressive by the constricting dimensions of Great American Ball Park as well as a no-hitter against the Pirates late in the season.

But what about a deal for Mike Leake? Leake has just a 4.23 ERA and 4.43 FIP in his first 485 major league innings. The club has Tony Cingrani waiting in the pipeline to serve as depth, and Aroldis Chapman’s foray into the rotation makes Leake expendable. Fowler could be a regular starter in center field, with Stubbs serving as a reserve outfielder able to cover center field as a defensive replacement and spot starter. Ryan Ludwick (who appears to be near a deal to return to Cincinnati) can start in left field with the stalwart Jay Bruce in right field.

The Reds gave 487 plate appearances to non-starter outfielders last year — opportunities would be available for both Stubbs and Chris Heisey off the bench. Or, if the Reds trust Xavier Paul to serve as a fifth outfielder, they could explore the trade market for either reserve. Stubbs is a former top prospect with undeniable ability as a defensive center fielder, and a non-contender may find a project in him. Heisey offers reliable corner outfield defense with a sharp bat against left-handed pitching (119 wRC+ career).

The difference between Dexter Fowler and Drew Stubbs is there. It’s not a grand chasm, and not one worth a budding starter like Homer Bailey. But if the Reds can pick up Fowler for a replaceable talent like Mike Leake, the flexibility and depth they would pick up in the outfielder would be worth the cost.



Print This Post



Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Colin
Guest
Colin
3 years 7 months ago

Even without considering Cingriani, it looks like Chapman is pushing Leake out of the rotation anyway

Spike
Guest
Spike
3 years 7 months ago

Stubbs is almost a perfect fit in NYM wide open OF situation. A platoon with Kirk N in CF sounds good to me. Can’t imagine he’d take a lot to get assuming the Reds plug CF in the meantime… and even if they don’t considering they prob would like to see Billy Hamilton take CF as soon as possible.

jpg
Member
jpg
3 years 7 months ago

I agree on all points. Why would they move Hamilton to CF, only to trade for a guy that’s going block him at the major league level? As for the Mets, if they can get him for scraps, why not? It’s not like they currently have much in terms of in-house options for CF.

Stinky
Guest
Stinky
3 years 7 months ago

I’m sure it would take a little more than scraps but it’s true that Stubbs can’t have much market value at the moment.

Kinsm
Guest
Kinsm
3 years 7 months ago

Because they are trying to win now and Hamilton isn’t ready now. It would be nice to see them not have to rush Hamilton.

wanderin
Guest
wanderin
3 years 7 months ago

I still believe in Stubbs’ talent and ability. I think we see a huge rebound from him over the coming season or two. I think the Reds need to let him regain some value before considering letting him go. I harken back to the career trajectory of Jayson Werth as a possible comparative. I think Stubbs could be a similar ‘late bloomer’ in his development.

As for Leake, I wouldn’t mind trading him and an average prospect for Fowler, but I wouldn’t dare give up Bailey for him. With that being said, I also like Leake a whole lot going forward. This guy should be a servicable starter for years and years to come. I envision him having an equal or even greater career than Bronson Arroyo. Guy can throw the frisbees and field his position with the best of them, and he’s probably the best hitting pitcher in the bigs. There is a lot of long-term value there, with the possibility for a few all-star seasons thrown in.

Paul Sporer
Member
Member
3 years 7 months ago

I’m curious as to why you still believe in Stubbs? He has done nothing in his last 1200+ PA to suggest you should still believe in him as an everyday hitter, especially one anywhere near the top of an order.

Werth was a late-bloomer because of injuries so I don’t think the comp fits. Sure, they have similar OPS+ numbers thru age 26, but Werth was getting better. Stubbs has nothing but regress horribly since his first full season peak (which wasn’t even that special).

As a Longhorn myself, I’m pulling for him, but there is no reason to believe it’s going to happen.

KMiB
Guest
3 years 7 months ago

Well, his BABIP was a solid 40 points below his career average, and he did have an oblique strain mid-season in 2012 that cost him a few weeks (and he was pretty godawful after coming back).

I don’t think he’s quite as bad as he was in 2012, but I don’t really expect him to ever be as good as he was in 2010. Somewhere around his 2011 level is likely what he is, with was worth 2.6 WAR. At the salary he can expect via arb this year, that’s a bargain.

He’s not a leadoff hitter at all, but slotted lower in the lineup he’s fine. Also, he’s significantly better against LHP than Chris Heisey is, and if used appropriately he could be a steal as a 450 PA guy.

Hell, Jonny Gomes put up 2 WAR as a LHP specialist with terrible defense. With Stubbs’ glove, he could easily duplicate that in the right situation.

Cbailey10
Guest
Cbailey10
3 years 7 months ago

Between Stubbs and Fowler individually, yes, if one includes defense there isn’t a big chasm. But what I believe this article fails to include is the impact of having a high obp guy in front of Votto. That alone will change the whole look of the Red’s offense. Without high obp guys in front of him is a complete misuse of him. It’s almost as if he isn’t worth that contract unless someone can get on in front of him.

Paul Sporer
Member
Member
3 years 7 months ago

Good call. Meanwhile, FRAA from Baseball Prospectus has very little gap between the two defensively. I’d take Fowler in a heartbeat over Stubbs personally.

jim
Guest
jim
3 years 7 months ago

inb4 rockies fans whine about defensive metrics

gnomez
Guest
gnomez
3 years 7 months ago

I’m not even a Rockies fan, but there’s something fishy with that team and UZR. There is no way Chris Nelson is a -20 defender at 3B.

vivaelpujols
Guest
vivaelpujols
3 years 7 months ago

that must explain matt holiday.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff
3 years 7 months ago

Isn’t it great to have the kind of talent to have these conversations? Used to be we were trading our average players for lower quality because their contracts were up! Thank you Mr. Castellini and Mr. Jockey and Go Reds!

Sabean Wannabe
Guest
Sabean Wannabe
3 years 7 months ago

The analysis of this potential deal is all in the splits – Fowler’s Home/Away splits and Stubbs’ left/right splits.

I would be wary of Fowler’s true production (or any Colorado player for that matter). His career OPS is .882 Home vs. .698 Away – those numbers were .984/.720 in 2012.

For Stubbs, his left/right splits are .821/.655 career and .788/.541 in 2012.

Both players have had over 2000 major league PAs. At age 28 I think its clear that Stubbs is a platoon player. Fowler being two years younger may still shore up his non-Coors’ numbers (for the record, Fowler’s left/splits are reasonable).

As a Giants fan, I’d love to see them make a play for Stubbs should this deal go through. He’d be the right handed complement to Blanco they are looking for and could be effective in late innings for pinch hitting (against lefties), pinch running and defensive replacement (though the projected outfield of Pagan/Blanco/Pence is pretty good defensively).

Pitnick
Guest
Pitnick
3 years 7 months ago

Was thinking the same thing. He’d be a perfect platoon partner for Blanco.

Tim
Guest
Tim
3 years 7 months ago

Porcello and Boesch for Fowler?

rusty
Guest
rusty
3 years 7 months ago

I’m not clear on why the Rockies would do this — they spent last offseason acquiring a bevy of undistinguished young starters, so why add another in Leake? And if Fowler’s home/road splits are a real issue (ie beyond what can be explained with park factors), doesn’t that just make Fowler more valuable to them than anyone else, and so other teams are unlikely to make what they consider fair offers for him?

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
3 years 7 months ago

Paragraph 3: “Is Fowler enough of an upgrade over Fowler for the Reds…”

I would venture to say no, he represents no upgrade over himself at all. On the plus side, he’s no worse than himself, either.

B N
Guest
B N
3 years 7 months ago

He’s worse. It takes time to process the trade. Due to his position on the aging curve, if they trade Fowler for Fowler they’ll have an infinitesimally older and worse version. Better to stick with the Fowler they know.

wanderin
Guest
wanderin
3 years 7 months ago

Given that the only untouchables on the roster are CarGo and Tulo, and the Rockies’ chances the next couple seasons are highly improbable, management should make every attempt possible to get as many young arms as possible in return for Fowler.
I think a combo of Leake and either Corcino or Cingrani would be a very good return for Colorado, and palatable for Reds’ fans. Let Stubbs and Fowler split time in CF, while Colorado can rely on 200 innings from Leake and let Corcino/Cingrani get their feet wet this upcoming season.

Dan
Guest
Dan
3 years 7 months ago

Say good bye to Stubbs- he’s terrible at the plate and under pressure. ADIOS, Amigo!!

Randy Watson
Guest
Randy Watson
3 years 7 months ago

If the Yankees make Granderson available there would be a decent fit for a deal between the two clubs. Granderson can lead off, play an OK center and should still hit a ton of bombs in that sandbox. Stubbs would give the Yankees a RHB in the OF to help cover the loss of Swisher, some speed on the base paths, and a young/cheap MLB OF for next year when they gut the team to get under $189 . The Reds would have to chip in something else, and the deal could be expanded to include other players, but the fit does seem there.

wpDiscuz