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TwinsCentric: Will Trevor Plouffe's hot start continue?

Posted by: Parker Hageman Updated: May 9, 2014 - 4:26 PM

Trevor Plouffe was essentially an afterthought this winter viewed as a third base placeholder until Miguel Sano takes the position from him. By the grace of the inelasticity of an elbow ligament, Plouffe's job security increased considerably. Sano's misfortune would be Plouffe's godsend. 

And, to his credit, the 27-year-old has made the most of this opportunity.

After several seasons of mishandling the hot corner and minimal offensive contributions, Plouffe's game took giant leaps forward in 2014. Defensively he has looked improved and the magical defensive metrics reflect it. Offensively, there have been signs that he has matured as a player like using the entire field and laying off pitches out of the zone. 

Of course, Twins fans have gotten excited once before for the big breakout.

In 2012, Plouffe gained attention by hitting roughly 750 home runs (estimate) in June and July. At that time, I documented his mechanical changes since his rookie year that allowed him to pull the ball with such might. By quieting his bat movement and aggressively deploying his hips, he fired red-seamed rockets into the outfield bleachers. Part of what made that stretch so successful for Plouffe was his ability to let it fly early in the count. According to ESPN/TruMedia, he was 14-for-26 and banged 7 of his 14 home runs in that situation. Of course, the baseball bombardment would not last as teams adjusted to his new approach and Plouffe could not reciprocate in kind.

Following what felt like a lost year in 2013, Plouffe overhauled his strategy at the plate and refined his mechanics in order to become a more complete hitter.

The first change was improving his base. Prior to this season, Plouffe demonstrated a wider stance with his weight distribution on his back leg. This season, the stance has been shortened and his distribution is more balanced.

In his swing, or more specifically his leg lift, we see a muted version of the front leg lift. Over the previous two seasons, Plouffe used a higher lift and shifted more of his weight onto his back leg before shifting forward. Not only that but he also This creates a situation with plenty power but also overcommitting to fastballs and the selling out on the pull-side. Now, with his balanced approach, he is able to allow the ball to travel deeper while staying back. This gives him the ability to drive the ball hard to all fields with impressive results -- he is hitting a robust .333 when driving the ball to right field and .357 up-the-middle. 




Plouffe explained this change in his approach to’s Derek Wetmore at the end of April by saying:

"If you're thinking about using the middle of the field -- the big part of the field -- usually your bat path will stay through the zone longer. As opposed to if you're thinking about going out and getting a pitch and trying to pull it, you're going to be quicker through the zone, out to where you want to catch up with the ball," Plouffe said. "So if you got a pitch on the outer half of the plate when you're trying to do that, you might slice it, but when you're thinking about using the big part of the field and your barrel is through the zone, then you generate a little bit more power."

Will this approach be sustainable?

Plouffe has thrived this year by smacking pitches that have remained up in the zone for hits. In fact, his .340 average on pitches in the upper-half is 100 points better than the average. It is clear that this trend has been spotted by opposing teams when you consider how Plouffe has been pitched as of late and his performance in that time (.132/.175/.211 since May 1).

Now, as you can see from the ESPN heat map, teams are throwing him down-and-away. Over his career he’s hit just .128 on pitches in that area and is a miserable 0-for-17 this year when putting those balls into play. Perhaps as a result of this new attack, Plouffe has also started to stray from his newfound approach of swinging at just pitches in the zone. Prior to May, Plouffe chased after 15.5% of pitches out of the zone, says ESPN/TruMedia. This month he’s expanded this region and offered at 26.7% of all out-of-zone pitches. 

Unless Plouffe can adjust to that plan of attack -- or capitalize on mistakes -- he is almost certain to see his numbers fall. That being said, Plouffe’s maturity and willingness to make these changes bodes well for his ability respond.

Minnesota «30000302X8130
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:K.Gibson(12-11) L:D.Price(14-12)
HR: DET- None MIN- None


Los Angeles - LP: C. Frias 2 FINAL
Colorado - WP: J. De La Rosa 16
San Francisco - WP: S. Romo 4 FINAL
Arizona - LP: A. Reed 2
Boston - LP: C. Buchholz 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: F. Liriano 9
Toronto - LP: J. Happ 1 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: B. Norris 6
Washington - LP: R. Detwiler 1 FINAL
Atlanta - WP: A. Wood 3
Miami - WP: H. Alvarez 4 FINAL
NY Mets - LP: D. Gee 3
NY Yankees - WP: B. McCarthy 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: A. Cobb 2
Cincinnati - LP: D. Corcino 1 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: K. Hendricks 3
Chicago WSox - LP: C. Sale 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura 6
Cleveland - WP: C. Carrasco 2 FINAL
Houston - LP: B. Oberholtzer 0
Detroit - LP: D. Price 4 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: K. Gibson 8
Milwaukee - LP: M. Fiers 0 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: A. Wainwright 2
Seattle - LP: J. Paxton 0 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: C. Wilson 5
Texas - WP: R. Ross Jr. 6 FINAL
Oakland - LP: S. Doolittle 1
Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels 5 FINAL
San Diego - LP: E. Stults 2
Tampa Bay 7:25 PM
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
(5) Auburn 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Toronto 9/19/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
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