Team lightning rod or bellwether?
Honorable Mention: Drew Stubbs
For Drew Stubbs, 2011 was a year of highs (his 40 stolen bases was the most by a Reds player since 1997) and lows (his 205 strikeouts set a new team single-season mark). And somewhere in between lies a player whose value has never been easy to pin down.
Over his career, there have been other extremes, some of which are easy enough to understand. He has hit lefties, his natural platoon advantage, 137 points of OPS higher than righties. His home OPS numbers are 174 points higher than on the road. More perplexing is how weak his numbers in ‘high leverage' situations are: just a 633 OPS, nearly 100 points below his career total.
It's understandable, then, how much controversy Stubbs seems to generate amongst Reds fans. His natural talents: power, speed, defense, are unmistakable. Put him in the ‘wrong' spot, however, and he's as close to an automatic out as there is in the lineup. He's not the X factor, per se, but one of the big questions needing to be answered if the Reds are to break through to perma-contender status is whether or not Stubbs can approach an acceptable level of consistency.
One more note, since it's a big part of Stubbs's game. His ball-hawking ability can be-has been-top tier. In 2010, his per game putout rate was among the best for NL centerfielders. In 2011, below league average. Defense is supposed to be a stable skill, but throw it on the growing pile of head scratchers that is coming to define Stubbs.
In 2+ seasons, Stubbs has played 350 games, and has never played any position but centerfield. His hitting line of 251/325/406 is good for a 96 OPS+. He currently ranks as the #196 player in Reds history.