Last night Justin Morneau hit multiple home runs in a game for the third time this season. As impressive as that is, the most noteworthy aspect about that feat is that the Twins first baseman hit both of those off of curve balls – something that he had done only once since 2010
Heading into Monday’s game against the Indians, Morneau’s numbers against curves had been very underwhelming. According to Fangraphs.com, his Pitch Value
on curveballs had been 5.7 runs BELOW average – making it the third worst output against benders in all of baseball.
But now, after two home runs off of uncle charlies from Zack McAllister and Josh Tomlin, Morneau is looking tougher to retire on that pitch.
Why is this significant to his progress?
As I wrote about in May, teams had exploited Morneau’s tendency to jump the gun with his swing with a high percentage of curve balls
. While he was opening up his front side drastically, opponents who simple throw him a wrinkle. Because he was firing open, the off-speed breaking stuff likely caused him to be too far out front to put a proper swing on the ball. Now, instead of pulling his front side out he has remained locked in on the ball
– leading to better connectivity and punch on those pitches.
And, because of that, he is hitting .360/.404/.590 since July 5 after going through a series of mechanical adjustments
which seemingly have helped him stay back - from the start of the season until July 4, Morneau swung and missed at 14.1% of curves but that rate has dropped to 6.3% since then. In fact, his .415 weighted on-base average over the past 30 days is in the top ten among AL performs.
It’s good to see Morneau crushing curve balls again and all pitching in general. As John Bonnes
wrote about today, this performance (combined with his soon-to-be expiring contract and Chris Parmelee’s AAA outbreak) may make the 31-year-old attractive to the few clubs in the league who are in need of a high-priced first baseman.