Minnesota Twins News & Rumors Forum
  • Turning The Power Back On

    Who knows why Josh Willingham left first base with the intention of stealing second base on April 27th, 2013.

    Coaches claim the thievery was not planned. Itís possible that with the left-handed Michael Kirkman on the mound, Willingham was fooled by his delivery or was caught leaning when the Ranger threw over to first. Either way, with his team up 4-0 -- thanks in part to his two-run home run two innings prior -- Willingham broke for second, took the base but aggravated his knee in the process. All for what?

    The knee, which he had injured in 2010 while with the Nationals, gave Willingham troubles the rest of last year. For the remainder of the season, the man who had punished pitching and made people think the concrete had finally settled at Target Field in 2012 hit a Punto-nian .200/.332/.336 over nearly 400 plate appearances.

    With the left knee out of commission -- the right-handed sluggerís front knee which absorbs the impact in his stride and weight transfer and twists violently when he is opening up his hips to turn on the ball -- Willinghamís power drained significantly. He hit just 14 home runs compared to the 35 he had in 2012. His standard fly ball distance dropped from 279 feet to 265 feet on average.

    Whether or not directly related to the knee injury, what gave Willingham the most trouble was doing anything with pitches on the outer-half of the strike zone.

    In 2012 he hit .217/.337/.422 with 22 extra base hits including 11 home runs on pitches on the outer-third of the plate. This past year he managed to produce just a .170/.296/.224 batting line that included nine extra base hits (all doubles). The heat maps and spray charts from ESPNís Stats & Info Department show how much better Willingham was at hitting those pitches for power and driving the ball for distance. In 2012 his average fly ball distance on those pitches was 296 feet. Last year the average distance dropped to 255 feet.

    2012


    2013


    Based on the heat map of his slugging percentage (left) it is clear Willingham thrived when being able to extend his hands on pitches up and out over the plate to drive the ball. In 2013, he was unable to get the desired results on the same pitches as he did in 2012. Interestingly enough, his contact rates in that location in these two seasons are very comparable but the production simply dropped off.

    It is indeed likely the knee was the catalyst for the plate coverage power drop-off, when we see that in both 2011 and 2009 he hit six home runs on the outer-half of the plate but in 2010, when he injured his knee and required surgery on his meniscus, he had just one home run and very little power (.277 slugging).


    The takeaway is that once healthy in 2011, Willinghamís power rebounded nicely (29 home runs, .477 slugging percentage overall). If healthy in 2014, the Twins should expect the home run power to return.

    All graphs and data provided by ESPN Stats & Info.

    This article was originally published in blog: Turning The Power Back On started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 12 Comments
    1. deanlambrecht's Avatar
      deanlambrecht -
      Excellent analysis. Thanks!
    1. Physics Guy's Avatar
      Physics Guy -
      His health will play a big part in any improvement the Twins make early in the season. If he is healthy, I suspect he may spend the second half with another team.
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      Great article. Maybe Willingham should be told to not attempt any more steals.
    1. montanatwinsfan's Avatar
      montanatwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by glunn View Post
      Great article. Maybe Willingham should be told to not attempt any more steals.
      Or play in the outfield
    1. Dantes929's Avatar
      Dantes929 -
      I have theorized that his stance was just a little more open and it looked like he was trying to pull the ball. This would also make him weak on the outside pitches. In 2012 it looked like he was planning to hit the ball up the middle but he just naturally has a power pull swing. In 2013 it looked like he was trying to pull it. This "cheating move" could easily be a result of a sore knee.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      His standard fly ball distance dropped from 279 feet to 265 feet on average
      This is just a 5% drop. Not sure that it is significant enough

      I hope that he rebounds, but one has to consider his age and the fact that he is on the down curve of his career
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      This is just a 5% drop. Not sure that it is significant enough
      It is and I should probably elaborate on that statistic since it is behind a paywall. 272 feet the MLB average for all hitters on fly balls. For a frame of reference, Chris Davis led baseball with 300 feet on average on his fly balls. In that stat, it counts all fly balls: infield and outfield. Willingham hits a ton of infield fly balls so his fly ball distance number over his career has been slightly above average than some of the other players who have similar power figures.

      Being able to remove infield flies from that figure we find that Willingham's outfield fly ball distance differences are even more pronounced:

      2013 - 267
      2012 - 289
      2011 - 288
      2010 - 273

      Notice the significant decline in distance between the two healthy years (2012, 2011) compared to the two injured seasons (2013, 2010). Don't get me wrong -- 5% is probably a usual rise-and-fall among players over different seasons but knowing there is an injury explains why the drop-off (sort of like knowing a pitcher had a shoulder injury and seeing a 2% decline in velocity).

      I hope that helps explain it better.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Parker Hageman View Post
      It is and I should probably elaborate on that statistic since it is behind a paywall. 272 feet the MLB average for all hitters on fly balls. For a frame of reference, Chris Davis led baseball with 300 feet on average on his fly balls. In that stat, it counts all fly balls: infield and outfield. Willingham hits a ton of infield fly balls so his fly ball distance number over his career has been slightly above average than some of the other players who have similar power figures.

      Being able to remove infield flies from that figure we find that Willingham's outfield fly ball distance differences are even more pronounced:

      2013 - 267
      2012 - 289
      2011 - 288
      2010 - 273

      Notice the significant decline in distance between the two healthy years (2012, 2011) compared to the two injured seasons (2013, 2010). Don't get me wrong -- 5% is probably a usual rise-and-fall among players over different seasons but knowing there is an injury explains why the drop-off (sort of like knowing a pitcher had a shoulder injury and seeing a 2% decline in velocity).

      I hope that helps explain it better.
      Yeah that makes sense. Thanks. And it also makes sense to get rid of IFBs as well because those are miss-hits
    1. lee_the_twins_fan's Avatar
      lee_the_twins_fan -
      Maybe the fact that this is a potential contract year for Willingham will make a difference too.
    1. alskntwnsfn's Avatar
      alskntwnsfn -
      Never underestimate the power of the contract year. I'd take the over on 20 HR based on this fact alone, not to mention the fact that there is a serious lack of available power hitters coming through FA in recent years (unless you want to pay +$100M). He could probably get a nice deal if he hits 25+ bombs and OPS's over .875. With a good to decent year, Josh could possibly double his career earnings with his next contract. But a poor year could mean struggling to find a job in 2015 - how's that for motivation!
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      In terms of wOBA from players 33 and older since 2011, Hammer ranks between Carlos Beltran and Paul Konerko. He has been the least durable, and obviously the knee is a big question mark, but if he puts together 550-600 PAs I think the Twins should offer a QO and try to extend him. He is a perfect fit.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Willihammer View Post
      In terms of wOBA from players 33 and older since 2011, Hammer ranks between Carlos Beltran and Paul Konerko. He has been the least durable, and obviously the knee is a big question mark, but if he puts together 550-600 PAs I think the Twins should offer a QO and try to extend him. He is a perfect fit.
      $13M a season for an aging DH? The fact that they got a younger, better version of Willingham for $7M makes me think that this would not be a smart move. I don't see him being much better than Plouffe in the future and Plouffe could be a capable replacement. If you are looking for power at the DH spot, Vargas would be an even better replacement couple years down the road. There is a pipeline of talent there (in addition to the aforementioned, Harrison, DJ Hicks, Walker, Kepler et. al.) and does not make sense to block it by re-signing Willingham. Plouffe can be a bridge to that talent in 2015.

      Best case scenario: Willingham has a monster season, the Twins make the post season and he rides into the sunset after this season.
©2014 TwinsCentric, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Interested in advertising with Twins Daily? Click here.