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.

Read more about them.

TwinsCentric: 99 problems but a hitch ain't one?

Posted by: Parker Hageman Updated: February 3, 2012 - 12:05 AM

 

According to Joe Christensen, Danny Valencia has been working hard all offseason at improving his overall game. In addition to trying to repair his shoddy defense, he has used video to help him make a few changes to his offensive approach:

 

“Valencia, 27, also studied video of his at-bats and decided to make a subtle change with his hands. Last year, he would trap his hands toward his body, forcing a longer loop before his swing. Now, he is bringing his hands straight back, giving him a straighter path to the ball.

Here’s a look at what Valencia has seen:

 

 

Focus on his hands. Notice that during his loading process, he drops his hands while bring the bat inside then brings his hands back up to his launch position. This action is what causes the “longer loop” as Christensen describes it.

Compare Valencia’s loading process to that of fellow right-hander and former teammate Michael Cuddyer:

 

 

Rather than moving his hands towards his body, Cuddyer simply shifts his set back to the launch position, maintaining the same linear plane and creating the “straighter path to the ball.”

From the side view, this will better highlight Valencia’s subtle hitch in comparison to how level someone like Cuddyer keeps his hands: 

 

 

 

 

 

What is interesting about this is that throughout his career, Valencia has had this hitch in his swing – at least it was a trait he featured dating back to at least 2008 in the Arizona Fall League. It is clear that he has a hitch but this approach worked well for him during his time in AA (.287/.353/.483 in 539 plate appearances), AAA (.289/.322/.421 in 484 plate appearances) and at the major league level last year (.311/.351/.448 in 322 plate appearances). Of course, when you come off a season like Valencia did in 2011, obviously the performance demands some answers.

Did his hitch derail his season? Were big league pitchers better at exploiting this than their minor league counterparts?

Delving into his batted ball numbers, you see almost mirror images of his batted ball output. The difference lies in the quality of ball put into play (a much higher well-hit average in 2010) which likely led to the large batting average on balls in play discrepancy:

 

LD%

GB%

FB%

IF/FB%

Well-Hit Avg

BABIP

2010

18.8%

43.0%

38.3%

11.2%

.264

.345

2011

17.8%

45.9%

36.3%

14.8%

.222

.275

(via Fangraphs.com & myInsideEdge.com)

Plate discipline-wise, the story remained the same as well. There was a minor growth in a tendency to expand the strike zone and his contact/strikeout rate both made movement in the wrong direction but none of those indicators are suggestive of someone struggling through a season:

 

Out of Zone%

Contact%

Swinging Strike%

2010

25.3%

82.7%

6.9%

2011

27.6%

79.5%

8.6%

(via Fangraphs.com & myInsideEdge.com)

So, there was not a spike in ground balls or a great inflation in fly balls that would lead someone to believe opponents were more successful at keeping him off-balance in 2011. Same goes for his plate discipline numbers. What’s more is that with the exception of a slight shift in more hard-velocity pitches thrown to him (fastballs, sliders) over off-speed stuff (change-ups, curves), Valencia saw almost the same palate of pitches.

Nevertheless, it is hard to ignore how quickly his hit rate dropped between the two years and how his ability to handle right-handed pitching disappeared as he went from hitting .280/.303/.410 against them in 2010 to .252/.303/.352 in 2011. Was it because of his longer swing? Probably not. Will adjusting it help? It’s very possible.

Without anyone in the system pressing him at third, the Twins went out an acquired a small insurance policy in Sean Burroughs. Burroughs, who had a solid defensive reputation and a decent minor league track record, may be the safety net for Valencia in 2012 – or a left-handed platoon option if Valencia cannot solve right-handers.

Based on his prior successful output with the hitch (or longer loop in his swing) combined with the batted ball and plate discipline data, it is difficult to pinpoint his 2011 woes on that part of his swing so changing that aspect is not a magic bullet for him to rebound in 2012. Still, if he’s able to adapt to the new approach, this should give him a quicker swing (perhaps covering the inside portion of the plate where he’s had some struggles). And, if he maintains a similar line drive rate in 2012, it would not be unexpected to see his BABIP increase and with it, his overall numbers too. 

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Toronto 104 FINAL
Indiana 91
Cleveland 103 FINAL
Detroit 95
Milwaukee 109 FINAL
Miami 102
Memphis 109 FINAL
Dallas 90
Chicago 113 FINAL
Golden State 111
Washington 98 FINAL
LA Lakers 92
NY Rangers 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 4
Arizona 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 4
Winnipeg 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 5
Washington 3 FINAL
Columbus 4
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Carolina 4
Dallas 2 FINAL
Montreal 3
Detroit 5 FINAL
Florida 4
Colorado 3 FINAL(OT)
Nashville 4
Buffalo 1 FINAL
Calgary 4
Minnesota 2 FINAL
Edmonton 1
Anaheim 4 FINAL
Vancouver 0
Ball State 47 FINAL
Akron 59
Northern Ill 46 FINAL
Bowling Green 56
Western Mich 71 FINAL
Buffalo 77
Ohio 40 FINAL
Eastern Mich 76
Xavier 66 FINAL
Georgetown 53
Vanderbilt 62 FINAL
Georgia 70
West Virginia 65 FINAL
Kansas State 59
Central Mich 53 FINAL
Kent State 63
Saint Josephs 48 FINAL
La Salle 53
Nebraska 44 FINAL
Michigan 58
Miami-Ohio 65 FINAL
Toledo 70
Tulsa 62 FINAL
Tulane 55
George Washington 48 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 72
Pittsburgh 67 FINAL
Virginia Tech 70
Indiana State 78 FINAL
Evansville 89
Tabor College 53 FINAL
Oral Roberts 94
Florida 52 FINAL
Alabama 50
Tennessee 64 FINAL
Arkansas 69
Texas A&M 71 FINAL
Auburn 61
Baylor 53 FINAL
Oklahoma State 64
DePaul 0 Postponed
Providence 0
Michigan State 0 Postponed
Rutgers 0
Wyoming 44 FINAL
Utah State 56
Fresno State 47 FINAL
San Diego St 58
UNLV 67 FINAL
Nevada 62
SD Christian 54 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 79
Colorado State 78 FINAL
Boise State 82
Temple 71 FINAL
UCF 54
Campbell 42 FINAL
Presbyterian 51
Coastal Carolina 65 FINAL
High Point 73
Gardner-Webb 49 FINAL
Radford 59
UNC-Asheville 58 FINAL
Liberty 62
Winthrop 63 FINAL
Longwood 62
Columbia International 33 FINAL
Charleston Southern 74
Tulane 63 FINAL
Houston 46
(3) Baylor 89 FINAL
TCU 67
Navy 49 FINAL
American Univ 59
Valparaiso 42 FINAL
Illinois-Chicago 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How optimistic are you about the 2015 Twins?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT