Michael Cuddyer’s bounce-back 2011 season has been due in part to a pronounced success against change-ups. Cuddyer has always hit change-ups well; since 2004 his 2.77 wCH/C is the best in MLB. But 2011 is proving to be his best season yet.
Cuddyer currently has a wCH/C value of 5.86, second-best in MLB and up significantly from 1.93 in 2010. He’s hit 44% of his home runs (8 of 18) off of change-ups, even though he only sees that pitch 8.5% of the time.
There are a number of explanations for this jump in performance. One of those explanations is simply that he’s facing pitchers with poorer change-ups.
The average wCH/C value for all pitchers Cuddyer has faced in 2011 is -0.98. In 2010, the wCH/C value of all pitchers he faced was +0.23. The swing is 1.21 runs, meaning that Cuddyer’s results against change-ups should increase by that much simply on the decline of the change-up quality alone. And if you add in the fact that Cuddyer is one of the best change-up hitters in baseball, the effect of facing poorer quality change-ups could easily double the 1.21 run value.
So what does this mean? The fact that the change-ups Cuddyer’s faced have been lower quality just needs to be used as a point of caution when the Twins negotiate a new contract with him after this season. Sure he’s versatile, interacts well with fans, and is a good hitter. But his stats have been boosted by his favourite pitch to hit, and the Twins need to be mindful that Cuddyer’s numbers could fall if they face better change-up pitchers next year.