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  • Plouffe Answering the Call

    On May 13, not long after sending down incumbent third baseman Danny Valencia to AAA, the Twins GM Terry Ryan called out the option-less Plouffe to step up his game:

    “I’d like to think we’re going to give Plouffe an opportunity here to step up and see what we’ve got. Eventually, we’re going to have to find out.”

    Heading into the May 16 contest in Detroit, he was staring down a .133/.288/.217 batting line in 73 plate appearances. The lack of production had incited plenty of conversation regarding whether or not he deserved to be on the roster at this juncture at all.


    Perhaps it was recognizing he was down to his proverbial last strike with the organization or that with Danny Valencia and Chris Parmelee sent to Rochester he would receive regular playing time or because he finally cut his damn hippy hair which was hindering his abilities to hit. Whatever the reason, Plouffe suddenly emerged as a serious power threat. From May 16 onward, Plouffe has hit six home runs, two doubles and has driven in nine runs in 13 games.

    Part of what has lead to the power outburst is that he is turning on pitches far better post-May 16 than he had been doing previously. According to BaseballHeatMaps.com, Plouffe’s pre-May 16 fly balls were traveling an average of 272 feet. Post-May 16, he was driving the ball much further on average, hitting them 295 feet. While the numerals might not do the significance justice, the visual spray charts found at TexasLeaguers.com shows what the discrepancy of over a 20-foot average looks like:



    You can see the difference in that not only is Plouffe losing a few more balls over the fence, he is also driving the ball better to the left-center field gap. Prior to this stretch the majority of the time Plouffe turned on a pitch, he would do so and give the defense the opportunity to make a play on the ball.

    The increase in home runs – as welcomed as they are – still does not cover up the fact that the rest of his overall numbers leaves much to be desired. After all, Plouffe has a sub-.300 on-base percentage even during his recent hot streak. What’s interesting about his numbers is that during the early portion of the season (pre-May 16), Plouffe had walked 13 times in 73 plate appearances in spite of hitting .133. Since then, he has drawn just one walk in 51 plate appearances. Even with the precipitous decline, his walk rate remains above average and the highest of his career to date. Given that he has a 10 percent walk rate one would expect a beefier OBP but that is not the case.

    What is actually driving the fact that he is hitting below Aaron Gleeman’s weight (which is the modern day Mendoza line) and getting on base less than a 30 percent clip is that his batting average on balls in play – or BABIP - is atrociously bad. In fact, among those with a minimum of 100 plate appearances this year, Plouffe’s .192 BABIP is the fourth-lowest in baseball.

    Somewhere between 2010 and 2011, the Twins got Plouffe to make several adjustments to his set-up and swing. The new model led to more lift and elevation of pitches which begat a noticeable increase in his power numbers. The problem with fly balls is that if they don’t leave the park, they have a difficult time becoming hits.

    What’s more is that his fly ball rate has grown significant from last year (now at 47%, up from 40% in 2011) at the expense of his line drive rate. Although this is a good precursor for a home run, hitting a high percentage of fly balls that don’t land on the other side of the fence often are converted to outs. In Plouffe’s case, an even higher than normal amount of flies are being turned into outs, so there is an element of “bad luck” involved. The average fly ball hit has found vacant real estate roughly 13% of the time (by far the lowest among the three types of batted balls) but the flies off of Plouffe’s bat have landed safely just 5% of the time. Likewise, Plouffe’s grounders (39% of his batted balls) have found seams in the defense just 15% of the time, well below the MLB average of 24%.

    As the season progresses, Plouffe’s figures are likely going to move towards the mean as more fly balls and grounders find free space. Of course, ultimately, unless he raises his line drive rate above the paltry 14.3 percent (only eight other players have lower line drive rates this year), his numbers will not climb all that quickly.

    Turning on pitches with more authority and greater distance has led to some much needed offense, positive signs for the Twins’ super-utility player. His added plate discipline has given him another dimension as well and may be an indication of progress at the plate. At the same time, we have witnessed Plouffe on a power binge last season that eventually fizzled out later in the year so it is entirely possible that this outburst subsides too.
    This article was originally published in blog: Plouffe Answering the Call started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 14 Comments
    1. YourHouseIsMyHouse's Avatar
      YourHouseIsMyHouse -
      Wish he would have "answered the call" last night with runners on first and second and 2 outs in the 9th.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      Quote Originally Posted by YourHouseIsMyHouse View Post
      Wish he would have "answered the call" last night with runners on first and second and 2 outs in the 9th.
      He stung the ball pretty good. Too bad Dyson is one fast mofro.
    1. Steve Lein's Avatar
      Steve Lein -
      You're basically calling out Plouffe for not hitting a Home Run, because he put a really good swing on that ball and the OF just ran it down.
    1. deanlambrecht's Avatar
      deanlambrecht -
      Too bad we don't have a professional hitting coach to help him work on these issues. IIRC, Plouffe is a first round pick, no?
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      Quote Originally Posted by deanlambrecht View Post
      Too bad we don't have a professional hitting coach to help him work on these issues. IIRC, Plouffe is a first round pick, no?
      I don't put the burden for Plouffe's struggles on Vavra.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I just want to see him out there 5-6 times a week this year. They aren't winning anything, let's see what these younger guys have or don't have. Last year, they didn't do that much (mostly by choice). The Vikings are a great example of this. Rather than play young guys last year, they kept playing old, awful veterans for no reason. Now they have no idea who their RG is, and whether or not any of the backup OL are any good or not. I'm hoping the Twins don't make the same mistake.

      On other topic, they should have meditation experts working with Benson. His mind is too fast. Meditation is shown (scientifically, in studies) to help with that.....it's not like this isn't widely known. Hopefully they are actually trying stuff, and not just hoping (which seems to be their normal MO).
    1. Resoman's Avatar
      Resoman -
      Are the charts saying that Plouffe has only one ground ball hit this year - the one that looks like a bunt?
    1. TwinsGuy55422's Avatar
      TwinsGuy55422 -
      I would take that line drive Plouffe hit in the 9th any day of the week. There are plenty of center fielders that don't make that play. It was a good poke by Plouffe.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      Quote Originally Posted by Resoman View Post
      Are the charts saying that Plouffe has only one ground ball hit this year - the one that looks like a bunt?
      No, the chart just indicates where the ball came to a stop/was fielded. In that case, it was likely a bunt. Plouffe's has five ground ball hits total this season.
    1. clutterheart's Avatar
      clutterheart -
      Why would anyone blame Vavra for Plouffe?
      He didn't hit very well over his minor career.
      And overall he is not hitting very well in his major league career. - But at least now he has some power in his swing.

      Seems like Vavra should get some credit for getting something where there was nothing.
    1. Ultima Ratio's Avatar
      Ultima Ratio -
      Tonight Plouffe answered, then hung up immediately. His swing looks similar to Willingham's, but his approach, eye and discipline draw no further comparison. Maybe Hammer can help him out, but here's one tip: don't swing at a first pitch 10 inches inside. That's stupid. I love aggressive hitting, but not that. I still have hope he can figure it out.
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ultima Ratio View Post
      Tonight Plouffe answered, then hung up immediately. His swing looks similar to Willingham's, but his approach, eye and discipline draw no further comparison. Maybe Hammer can help him out, but here's one tip: don't swing at a first pitch 10 inches inside. That's stupid. I love aggressive hitting, but not that. I still have hope he can figure it out.
      With greater focus and confidence, Plouffe could be scary good. Although he will be 26 this month, he is still young enough to put together a great career.

      This year Plouffe is on track for 19-20 home runs, and as stated in Parker's excellent article, he has been unlucky.
    1. DK's Avatar
      DK -
      It would be good to see Plouffe step it up but he still looks like a stop gap player untel Sanu is ready.
    1. chuchadoro's Avatar
      chuchadoro -
      Dear Target Field Patrons,
      Can we please hold off on the "Plooooooouffe" chant until he becomes at least a replacement level player? I know it's really fun and I'm asking for a lot, but guys who are hitting .150, play subpar defense and run the bases with their asshat on should not be singled out every time they make a decent play. It's giving me terrible Lew Ford flashbacks.
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