TwinsCentric was formed by Twins super-bloggers Seth Stohs, Nick Nelson, Parker Hageman and John Bonnes. Together they publish at TwinsDaily.com and have authored books, e-books and magazines that provide independent and in-depth coverage of the Minnesota Twins from a fan's perspective. You can contact them at TwinsCentric@gmail.com.

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TwinsCentric: Improving the Twins is Greek to me

Posted by: Parker Hageman Updated: October 12, 2012 - 11:01 AM

For the past four years, we have produced an Offseason Handbook to put fans in the driver’s seat of the Twins franchise. Within it, we highlight all of the winter’s impending free agents, potential trade targets and review the organization’s strengths and weaknesses from top to bottom. This culminates with the presentation of our blueprints to improving the team.

In my blueprint, I laid out a fairly elementary explanation as to why the Twins failed so miserably in 2012 and, no, it was not a six-word piece that reads “JOE MAUER SHOULD HEET MOR DINGERS.”

While the starting pitching takes precedence and priority, the secondary issue was that scoring runs was also a weak spot for the 2012 squad. Consider this: Only three other American League teams finished with a lower runs per game average than the Minnesota Twins (Seattle, Cleveland and Kansas City).  After focusing on repairing the rotation, I outlined several realistic moves that should help elevate the number of runs scored for next season but the move I would like to discuss here is this:

Sign Kevin Youkilis.

Yes, there is a huge hurdle to clear when it comes to Youkilis and that is his impending option for $13 million which the White Sox hold the rights to. Collectively, because of that hefty payday and his lackluster performance in 2012, we decided that Chicago will opt to pass and allow him to become a free agent. At which point, we estimate that the market will put him in the two-year, $14 million range (or perhaps even a one year, make-good type of contract).

Across the board, Youk’s 2012 production was at the lowest levels of his career. His power was down, his average was down and his on-base percentage was down. Even the mighty Greek God of Walks’ walks were down. It could be based on an age-related decline or something mechanical lurking in that funky swing of his, however, if you are basing just purely on his batted ball rates, there is indication that 2013 may see a change for the better.

For the most part, Youkilis’s batting ball rates were consistent with his career. His line drive rate was high but he had been hitting a higher percentage of ground balls the past two seasons and those did not find nearly as many holes in the infield as they once did (hence the significant decline in average and OBP). This resulted in a 54 point difference in his batting average on balls in play versus his career norm. Even if he maintains the higher ground ball rate and equals his near 20% line drive rate, he should experience some correction in those numbers.

For a guy who sprays the field in all directions regularly, Youkilis also has some pretty significant pull power. From 2008 to 2011, his .899 slugging percentage when yanking the ball was the fourth best in baseball, ahead of even Josh Willingham. Additionally, Youk’s numbers against left-handed pitching in that time was also among the best in the game. His 1.044 OPS in those years facing wrong-handers was the third-highest behind just Albert Pujols and David Wright. Admittedly, a lot of that power is derived from feasting on the close proximity of the Green Monster but even still, Youkilis had success on the road as well.  

Obviously there are shortcomings when it comes to signing Youkilis. For starters, it denigrates the defense. Heading into his mid-30s, his glove work is not what it used to be.  Likewise, as you will find in the blueprint, the subsequent move after signing Youk would be that Trevor Plouffe would be relocated to second base. Once again this downgrades the infield defense (and potentially increases the amount of souvenir balls thrown into the first base stands) but should increase the production in the lineup by putting a power-hitting second baseman in the order.

If he indeed bounces back, Youk’s addition would give the Twins the capabilities of moving Mauer up to the two-spot and insert a high quality right-handed bat with impressive on-base skills to, ultimately, score more runs.

 

If you purchase the Offseason Handbook (which you can download a free preview by clicking the link), you will read more about that specific move as well as other recommendations to improve the team. Not only do we provide our blueprints but we supply you with teems of information on the free agent, potential trade targets and the organization from top-to-bottom to allow you to create your own blueprint for success.   

Twins need remaining M&M boy to breakout of slump

Posted by: Parker Hageman Updated: May 6, 2011 - 12:40 AM
Since his quick burst of offense against the Cleveland Indians after his bout with the flu almost two weeks ago, Justin Morneau has been stuck in a punch-less morass the past three series, going 3-for-26 (.115) with just the lone extra base hit.
Sure, he’s coming off a concussion that kept him from baseball activities from July to February and he has dropped a rapid dozen pounds from the virus, but Morneau isn’t blaming his performance on either of those two items. Truthfully, he’s probably right. Though they certainly play an influential factor, his overall timing is slightly off keeping him from being the same hitter as last year.
In general Morneau is doing well with his plate discipline. His contact rate is about the same and he has even whittled down his strike outs. He is a tad more reluctant to work for a walk but the bigger problem is that he simply isn’t making the same hard contact as he did in 2010. His overall line drive rate has dropped significantly (from 22% to 16%) while Inside Edge’s data agrees with the assessment as their stats say his well-hit average down over 100 points (from .345 to .230).
Last year, Morneau thrived by using the entire field. The left-hander masher put up very impressive numbers while driving the ball to the big part of the field, hitting .446 with a .689 slugging percentage to center field. This season however his results, outside of pulling the ball, have been disappointing. In fact, he has hit safely just twice on 22 balls (.182) to center. What we see is a massive tail-off from his hearty line drive rate to center in 2010 (24%) to a new career low in 2011 (13%).
Despite hitting his first home run of the year off of Luke Hochevar this weekend, the Royals effectively silenced Morneau’s bat, holding him to two hits. Those that tuned into the Royals broadcast on Friday night caught ex-Royal and commentator Frank White revealing Kansas City’s plan of attack against the left-hander – something that may swiftly become a blueprint for retiring him unless he adjusts. White noted that the Royals wanted to work Morneau away due to his increased tendency to open up on the ball. True to form, Bruce Chen and the relief staff peppered Morneau with pitches away and he essentially got himself out.
Interestingly enough, MLB.com’s beat writer for the Royals, Dick Kaegel, had written on Monday that the franchise was finally evolving in terms of their attempts to study opponents. Instead of sending advance scouts out to on the road to study the upcoming opponents, the team was relying more on video footage. Let’s take a look at what the Royals’ revamped scouting department may have seen:
A year ago, during his torrent display of offense, he demonstrated excellent timing. In this specific match-up, you will see that Morneau does not get overzealous and attempt to yank the pitch. He stays back and his hips remain closed which allows him to hit the ball with authority to the left side of the field. Needless to say, this was a fairly regular occurrence for him. However, if you compare that to this year’s version, you see a slightly different Morneau that leaves him exposed:
Focusing on his hip in the 2011 clip, you can see it opening up and committing to pulling the ball despite being pitched away. Because of this, when Cleveland’s pitcher throws the ball to the outer-half of the zone Morneau is left with using only his upper body in his swing and limiting his ability to hit the ball anywhere besides the right side of the field. Therefore, even if he would have tried to go with the pitch, he would have been left with having to muscle the ball rather than driving it as he did in the 2010 clip. Instead of being laced to the left-center field region, he turns the ball over to the second base Orlando Cabrera for an easy out.
So even though he was able to generate a few hits in the series against the Indians – including driving the ball to the wall twice in the series – the Royals likely picked up on this and directed their pitching staff to hit the outer-half of the plate on him.
It was unreasonable to expect Morneau to return from his long layoff with just a handful of spring training at-bats without any glitches. Unfortunately, similar to his mechanics, the timing could not be any worse as seemingly ever other key player is struggling or hurt. Although progress is being made with each plate appearance, with the team dead-last in home runs and slugging, the Twins need him to find his 2010 swing again sooner rather than later.

Position Analysis: Center Field

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: March 22, 2011 - 11:59 PM

Likely Starter: Denard Span

Kathy Willens, AP

Potential Backups: Jason Repko, Ben Revere

When Denard Span burst onto the scene in 2008 and went on to cement his impressive rookie performance with an equally strong 2009 campaign, he eventually came to be viewed as a godsend by Twins fans. Not because he was, in the grand scheme of things, an especially spectacular baseball player, but because he finally provided a legitimate on-base threat at the top of the lineup.

Finally, a Twins team that had been searching for an answer at the leadoff spot since trading Luis Castillo midway through the 2007 season and had opened the '08 campaign with out-making machine Carlos Gomez filling the all-important role had found a young player with a good eye who'd managed a .390 on-base percentage in his first 1,000 MLB plate appearances. As icing on the cake, Span sprinkled in a little power and a lot of speed, leading the league in triples in 2009.

So last year, when Span's OBP dropped to .331, just a couple ticks higher than the MLB-average leadoff man, it served as a major buzz kill. In his first year after signing a long-term deal with the club, the new cornerstone center fielder went from being a major offensive asset to a thoroughly mediocre hitter with substandard pop.

The drop-off in performance could theoretically be attributed to any number of things (Span himself placed partial blame on the playing surface at Target Field, though he did manage a .302 average at home), but the main issue was that he simply wasn't hitting the ball as hard.

Fewer ground balls found their way through the infield for hits, contributing to a 47-point drop in batting average. He drove fewer balls into the gaps and over the fence, helping a explain a 67-point drop in slugging percentage. Span's speed (26-for-30 on stolen bases) and plate discipline (60-to-74 strikeout-to-walk ratio) remained intact, but when he put the ball in play the results just weren't nearly as sterling as his first two big-league tours.

So the key for Span this season, offensively, will be raising his average. And, contrary to his personal misgivings about the natural grass at Target Field, it's other ballparks that represent his greatest opportunity for improvement. Span hit just .228 on the road last year; if his overall hitting line this season can more closely resemble his .302/.371/.390 mark from Target Field he should be just fine.

On the defensive end, it's perhaps unfortunate for Span that he happens to be following a pair of truly transcendent center fielders. Torii Hunter had a lengthy reign as one of the game's best gloves, gaining a reputation for pulling homers back over the Metrodome wall, and Carlos Gomez established himself as a truly spectacular outfielder during his stint.

Span's first season as full-timer in center was a mixed bag. His speed enabled him to cover ground and he was by no means a failure out there, but he whiffed on quite a few plays that Twins fans have grown accustomed to seeing made. He won't be confused with Hunter or Gomez any time soon.

Like it or lump it, the Twins will roll with Span in center as long as he's healthy in the short-term, but I do wonder if down the line they will give consideration to shifting him back into a corner spot (where his range truly stood out) and letting Ben Revere take over.

Should Span go down with an injury at some point this year, you can bet Revere will get his chance early.

Predicted Hitting 2011 Hitting Line for Span: .285/.370/.380, 6 HR, 55 RBI

 

Neshek to the Padres

Posted by: Seth Stohs Updated: March 21, 2011 - 8:07 AM
The news came across shortly after noon on Sunday. On his Twitter account, Pat Neshek wrote, “I just got news that I am now a member of the San Diego Padres, packing up & heading west.”
 
Immediately the Twitter discussions were traveling in several directions. The prevailing theme of most comments was that the Twins are evil. There was a lot of confusion, predictions and even a lot of anger. Understandably, there are a lot of dueling emotions that all Twins fans feel due to this transaction.
 
Where does it start?
Twins fans feel a connection to Pat Neshek in many ways and for many reasons. Although he was born in Madison, Wisconsin, he grew up in Minnesota and attended Park Center High school. He’s one of us. The Twins drafted him out of high school and then again in the 6th round of the 2002 draft out of Butler University. He moved all over the place for the next two seasons, but after a 2005 season in which he posted a 2.19 ERA, a 1.09 WHIP and 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings at Double-A New Britain, he was added to the 40 man roster. He began the 2006 season at Triple-A Rochester. He went 6-2 with 14 saves, a 1.95 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP and 13.1 strikeouts per nine innings. Thanks to a large and loyal blog following, he easily won an internet vote and was named the Triple-A All-Star relief pitcher that year. Unfortunately he was not able to pitch in the game because he was promoted to the Twins, and on July 7, 2006, he made his big league debut in Texas against the Rangers. In 32 games with the Twins, he was 4-2 with a 2.19 ERA and a 0.78 WHIP. He struck out nearly 13 batters per nine innings. In 2007, he was 7-2 with a 2.94 ERA, a 1.01 WHIP and more than a strikeout per inning.
 
Beyond the playing field, there has never been a professional athlete better with the fans. He was always willing to do a Q&A at SethSpeaks.net, or join a podcast. He wrote regularly of his travails through the minor leagues at his blog, On the Road with Pat Neshek. He has a great message board there, and his willingness to exchange sports memorabilia and willingness to sign autographs for all fans. In 2007, you may recall, there was the “Vote for Pat” campaign when Neshek was one of five players on the internet ballot for the final spot on the All-Star roster.
 
We like the person. We liked the statistics. We like the side-arm delivery, the bounce in his step, and the finger point toward the hitter on his arms recoil. With players like Johan Santana, Torii Hunter, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau on the roster, a case could be made that Pat Neshek was as popular as any of them.
Then in early May of 2008 while on the mound in Chicago, Neshek left the mound after hearing a pop in his elbow. The Twins decided rest and rehab was the right course of action, but a setback in October of that year led to Tommy John surgery in November. He missed all of the 2009 season and worked really hard in Ft. Myers. So hard, in fact, that he made the Twins opening day roster. And, as you know, there was the hand injury and the option to Rochester.
 
Where are we now?
Neshek came to camp this year after signing a $625,000 contract in the offseason. All of the talk this spring has been about his velocity. When I saw him pitch in Ft. Myers last week, his fastball topped out at 84-85 mph. His slider was around 78 mph and his changeup was around 69 mph. Depending upon the radar gun, he was anywhere from 84 to 89 mph.
 
He was in a competition for a bullpen spot this spring. When camp started, he was competing with Jim Hoey, Jeff Manship, Eric Hacker, Anthony Swarzak, a starting pitcher and a slew of left-handers for three or four spots. The assumption was that Neshek would have a real chance to make the team this year, but even if he didn’t, he has an option left, so he could head to Rochester and move back and forth between AAA and the Twins throughout the season.
 
That the Twins were willing Designate Neshek for Assignment now, with a full option year left, leads to one conclusion. They do not believe that he will ever get back to what he was in 2006 and 2007. And because of that, they are not worried about that option year or losing him. That is the business side of baseball.
Beyond that, it is easy to see that the Twins now view Kyle Waldrop and Carlos Gutierrez ahead of Neshek. Waldrop, who has been terrific the last two seasons after coming back from shoulder surgery, is pitching well again this spring. He is a major ground ball pitcher who, at 25 years old, is ready. Carlos Gutierrez, who has yet to give up a run this spring, is going to be a major contributor to the Twins bullpen for years to come. I don’t think he would start the season with the Twins as he has pitched just two games in AAA and was a starting pitcher during the first half of last year again. Both appear to be ahead of Neshek in the eyes of the organization at this point. Both are not on the 40 man roster right now, and if they were to make the opening day roster, they would first need to be added to the 40 man roster.
 
By taking Neshek off the 40 man roster, a spot is open up for Waldrop or Gutierrez. They could be added next week. Could Jeff Bailey be added to the 40 man roster and be on the opening day roster as protection if Justin Morneau can’t play every day and Michael Cuddyer isn’t ready right away? Other teams will also be making roster cuts and other players will be available to claim. And, of course, there have been plenty of trade rumors. Or, there could be something in the works that will surprise us. 
 
Some have said that the Twins did Neshek a favor by letting him go at this time. That may be true if they knew that he would be claimed by the Padres, but the Twins likely would have been very happy if he had cleared waivers and they could have sent him to the minor leagues. However, the opportunity with the Padres could be great for Neshek. Pitching in pitcher-friendly Petco Park is never a bad thing. The Padres should be a solid team. He does still have that option year so he can continue to work. All things considered, it could be a good opportunity for him.
 
Hopefully this turns into a Craig Breslow thing and Neshek regains his form with the Padres. We all want to see that. But the Twins were not wrong in the decision either. It is a business, and in their minds there are several pitchers ahead of Neshek on the depth chart including a couple who are not currently on the 40 man roster.

Twins fans will miss Pat Neshek, but we will all continue to cheer for him!

New year, new pitch for Mijares

Posted by: Parker Hageman Updated: March 19, 2011 - 11:07 AM

According to Star Tribune columnist Patrick Reusse, Twins left-handed reliever Jose Mijares is honing a new pitch for the 2011 season: the two-seam fastball.

 

Recently in camp, pitching Coach Rick Anderson was holding court with the local reporter when Mijares wander past. Anderson turned his attention to the relief arm and inquired what Mijares thought of his new weapon in development. According to Reusse: 

“Mijares smiled widely and made a gesture with a hand that indicated the downward movement of an imaginary baseball.” 

In general, the two-seam fastball, the four-seamer’s cousin, is thrown at a lower velocity but runs down and towards the pitching arm side of the strike zone. Whereas the four-seamer has success in the upper reaches of the strike zone, the two-seamer’s best served in the lower region of the zone and on the edges of the plate.

 

The two-seamer differs from the four-seamer as the four-seamed fastball has a tendency to “rise” (not actually rise, per se, it just maintains its same plane rather than dipping like the two-seamer). Having the two variations of fastballs can give a pitcher the ability to provide the hitter with a different look – such as hitting a different part of the zone or showing another type of movement. Some two-seamers can have aggressive downward movement – like Brandon Webb’s sinker – or it can be more subtle, closer resembling Kyle Gibson’s two-seamer.

 

Why would Mijares need this new pitch, especially if he’s got two above-average offerings and typically sees hitters only once as a middle reliever?

 

Mijares, while gifted with a hard four-seam fastball and a sharp slider that can miss bats, often struggles with getting the ball down in the zone. This is fairly evident when you consider that his 52% fly ball rate over the past two seasons is the ninth highest among relievers. While this trait is well-and-good within the home run resistant confines of Target Field, however, on the road he’s flirting with fire. Overall, research has shown that the two-seamer is much more likely to induce a groundball so adding this pitch could assist in a reduction of Mijares’s aerial shots and the risk of home runs with it.

 

Similarly, the two-seamer is often incorporated into a pitcher’s repertoire to provide them with another weapon to implement against opposite-handed hitters. Without question, Mijares has been lethal against southpawed swingers. In his career he’s struck out nearly a quarter of his opponents (24.2%) while holding them to a .188 batting average against. Righties, on the other hand, have not fared exceptional well but have seen more success against him. In the previous two seasons, Mijares has held a .272 average against for the right-handers. Undoubtedly, there will be occasions in which manager Ron Gardenhire requires Mijares to retire a powerful lefty only to leave him out there to work to the subsequent right-hander in a pivotal situation to save the other arms in the bullpen.

 

Mijares is not the only left-handed reliever attempting to add a pitch to battle righties. In Atlanta, free agent George Sherrill, who has decimated same-sided opponents for the majority of his career, was clobbered by right-handers last year. In just 95 plate appearances, Sherrill allowed 32 hits (.400 average) and walked 14 while striking out just six. This season, he’s re-adding a two-seamer to his stash that he ditched back in 2006.

 

Plenty of other left-handed pitchers have had made improvements after embraces the two-seamer.

 

Over the 2008 off-season, Jon Lester learned a two-seamer from the Braves’ Tim Hudson. According to Lester’s rotation mate, Josh Beckett, the left-hander discovered that the movement provided by the two-seam fastball was able to help him induce a grounder when needed. This past season, Lester’s groundball rates jumped from 47% in ’09 to a career-high of 53.6% last year. Perhaps it was because of MLB Advanced Media’s updated algorithm that identified more of his pitches being thrown as two-seamers rather than the catchall “fastball”, but the pitch f/x system categorized Lester as throwing more two-seamer/sinkers this past season – a possible explanation for the jump in grounders.

 

Rays’ phenom David Price is another two-seam fastball infusion success story. After a very good first year in the majors in 2009, the left-handed Price was still exposed somewhat to right-handed opponents. Those hitters hit .240 off of him while posting a m’eh 1.84 K/BB ratio. The introduction of the two-seamer in 2010 saw Price shave his right-handed opponents’ average down to .222 while improving his K/BB ratio to 2.25.

 

Obviously, both Lester and Price are two of the game’s premier left-handers but you can see the effects that their inclusion of a two-seamer did to their opponents. But it goes beyond just the results on the one particular pitch. Having the two-seamer in their arsenal allowed them to set-up other pitches inside or up as right-handers were forced to monitor the space low in the zone.

 

The suggestion here is not that Mijares could become a pitcher of Lester or Price’s caliber by simply adding a pitch. The real question is how much incrementally better he could be based on where he is today. If he can harness the pitch appropriately, the two-seamer would help reduce the total amount of fly balls allowed thereby shaving down some of the home runs allowed while giving him another weapon to use against right-handed opponents – making him a more complete relief pitcher rather than one that needs to be limited to lefties.

 

Another residual effect that adding another variation of the fastball is that if he’s able to control it Mijares might be able to reduce the number of pitches thrown in each at-bat. As a strikeout-oriented reliever, last season Mijares threw 4.3 pitches per plate appearance as he labored deep into counts. That was significantly higher than the league average of 3.84. By throwing a two-seamer more often, he may be able to induce contact but of the less devastating variety which could lead to working through hitters more quicker and lower his overall pitch count in a given outing. Because of his questionable conditioning, it would better serve him if he were able to lighten his workload in order to maintain throughout the long season.

 

To be sure, this isn’t a miracle pitch. There have been occasions in which a pitcher has attempted to integrate the two-seamer into their repertoire only to have it backfire. For example, last spring training the Braves’ Kashin Kawakami worked on making the two-seamer his pitch of choice. Unfortunately for Kawakami, far too frequently he would throw the two-seamer out over the middle of the plate against left-handers. His average against lefties went from .241 in ’09 to .290 in ’10 with a hefty increase in line drives hit.

 

Because Mijares is already equipped with a good four-seamer in addition to a deadly slider that has completely baffled same-sided opponents, the newfound two-seamer could help that success spill over into his platoon splits against right-handed hitters, transitioning into that "complete pitcher". If he can maintain good health – certainly a concern for him given his recent past – he’s clearly on the path to being the dominant late innings lefty which the Twins envisioned for him as he was developing though the system. 

 


Non-bracketology related stuff:

 

Will Cuddyer heed his own advice?

Posted by: Parker Hageman Updated: February 25, 2011 - 12:53 AM
When Michael Cuddyer unveiled the team’s new t-shirts with the slogan “Don’t Be Denied”, even though his intention was to motive his teammates through the first round of the playoffs, it’s hard not to imagine that he might have been directing that message at himself too.
A year ago at spring camp, Harmon Killebrew was calling him one of the most powerful hitters on the roster. Considering Cuddyer had just come off of a campaign of hitting 32 home runs, launching 13 of those as “No Doubters which left little question that they would have been out at every ballpark league-wide, it’s not hard to see why Killebrew liked Cuddyer’s power so much. Despite the Killer’s confidence, Cuddyer’s total dissipated to a mere 14 home runs, touching only four of those for No Doubters.
This raised plenty of questions as to where the power had gone.
David Pinto of BaseballAnalytics.org recently took the opportunity to look at the difference between the two seasons and found little variance in opposing pitchers approach to Cuddyer. What his research revealed was a sizeable decrease in power generated from pitches in the middle of the zone.
Inside Edge’s data confirms this. In 2009, Cuddyer exercised a .218 well-hit average on his swing on pitches in the middle of the zone (vertical), considerably better than the league-average of .179. This wound up being the 16th-highest total in baseball that year. That rating would fall precipitously this past year as he posted a .176 well-hit average on his swings for pitches in the middle of the zone, falling all the way to 91st.
If pitchers were not approaching him differently, why did Cuddyer suddenly become anemic to pitches down the heart of the plate? While it is easy to blame the influences of the new stadium, but as Pinto pointed out Cuddyer’s power vanished on the road as well. More likely, the culprit in the case of the missing power can be traced back to his sore knee.
As I mentioned in October a sore right knee could impact his mechanics - certainly causing one to shift weight off of the back leg much sooner than desired in efforts to protect said knee and resulting a diminished capacity to drive the ball. Analyzing his batted ball numbers for the season, we see that as the year progressed, so too did his groundball tendencies. Without being able to lift the ball off the ground, it’s extremely difficult to hit a home run.   
Along the same lines, the knee also likely impeded his ability to pull the ball with authority. Two years ago, when Cuddyer muscled out 32 home runs, he did so because of his ability to turn on the ball with sheer brute force. That year, he amassed a .816 slugging percentage when pulling the pitch to left while dropping off 24 of those 32 home runs into the left field bleachers. This past season, his slugging percentage when pulling the ball dropped to .564 – his lowest total since his injured season of ’08.
Part of the reason the numbers decreased so much was because Cuddyer did not elevate the ball to left field as well as he did in the past:
 
Cuddyer’s batted balls/slugging to left field
 
GB%
SLG%
2010
68.6%
.564
2009
56.5%
.816
2008*
64.3%
.500
2007
58.2%
.692
2006
56.2%
.667
 
Cuddyer’s 68.6% groundball rate rates among the league’s more elite slap-hitting, speed machines. The only power hitter to record a higher groundball rate when pulling the ball was the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez. What A-Rod lacked in pull power, he made up for fishing in dead center as he tagged 12 of his home runs in that direction.
While it is still early in the spring, there are already signs that Cuddyer’s knee may be healing. According to one report, Cuddyer was putting on a display in batting practice, purportedly launching shots far over the left field fence – not unlike his performance in 2009. However, keep in mind spring training is often like being sent to celebrity rehab, many players make strides only to relapse later on.
In order to be successful, Cuddyer needs to regain that edge for turning on a pitch and putting some air beneath it. Not only because Target Field is unforgiving to hitters heading towards center and right-center, but because he has proven he can make pitchers regret working middle-in.

 

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