Kubel shines in first year in the desert

The move from Target Field to Chase Field has been huge for former Minnesota Twins outfielder Jason Kubel. And his peers can see that just by looking at the league leaders.

After hitting three homers and driving in six runs for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday, Kubel now leads the National League in RBIs with 70. He’s closing in fast on his career-high mark of 102 set with the Twins in 2009.

Kubel played parts of seven seasons in Minnesota from 2004 to 2011 before leaving for Arizona last offseason.

And it’s been a good situation for Kubel, who now finds himself hitting third in the Diamondbacks order. Arizona is just 46-48 this season entering Sunday, so he had flown under the radar for much of the season. But he probably won’t anymore after Saturday’s big showing.

The biggest change for the lefty slugger is the home ballpark.

Prior to the Twins’ move to Target Field for the 2010 season, Kubel had become a much better hitter at home than on the road. Here’s a look at his last two years at the Metrodome:

2008

  • Home (AVG/OBP/SLG) – .290/.360/.516
  • Road – .248/.311/.430

2009

  • Home – .321/.370/.586
  • Road – .279/.367/.494

That all changed at Target Field, where his home numbers sunk. And in 2011, he was actually a better hitter on the road.

2010

  • Home – .254/.326/.419
  • Road – .244/.320/.433

2011

  • Home – .254/.314/.377
  • Road – .288/.345/.476

The South Dakota native signed a two-year, $15 million deal with Arizona prior to this season, changing his home address to the much friendlier confines of Chase Field.

ESPN.com’s Park Factors lists Chase Field as a top-10 offensive ballpark every year dating back to 2002, with a second-place showing this year. Target Field is a surprising eighth this year, but its previous two years was in the bottom half of the league.

Even if Target Field’s place in the league is a bit up in the air since it’s only going on three years old, it’s easy to see that the park has been extremely tough on non-Thome left-handed hitters.

And Chase Field has been kind to Kubel this season:

  • Home – .331 BA, 15 HR, 50 RBI, .412 OBP, .713 SLG
  • Road – .257, 5 HR, 20 RBI, .320 OBP, .414 SLG
  • Totals – .294, 20 HR, 70 RBI, .368 OBP, .566 SLG

Kubel’s road numbers this year are actually below his career averages. But he has been an absolute mashing monster at home this season, with his home slugging percentage leading the major leagues.

The departure of Michael Cuddyer garnered much of the offseason headlines for the Twins. But my guess is Twins fans are talking more about the loss of Kubel by now.

Hard to say what Kubel would have done if he would have stayed with the Twins. Two years of Kubel splits at Target Field isn’t a huge sample size by any means.

As good as Kubel has been, I have my doubts he would be putting numbers anywhere near what he’s done this season had he stayed in Minnesota.