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Time To Adjust "The Twins Way" At The Plate

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Recently JJ Hardy came out and mentioned that some of his success at the plate last season was due to going back to what he does naturally, which is pulling the ball. The Twins wanted Hardy to go to the opposite field. Hardy mentioned his first BP session with the Twins back in 2010, "My first round of BP with the Twins, I was trying to (pull the ball), and Rod Carew and those guys call me over and say, `That's not we want. We want line drives the other way,"' Hardy said. "So that was my approach for the Twins." In 2011 he changed his approach at the plate and instead of hitting line drives to right field, he was allowed to pull and drive the ball all over the field. Hardy hit 30 homeruns along with 80 RBI last season with the Orioles. Some might say that his success was due to being healthy after dealing with a problematic wrist in his 1 year stint with the Twins, but the jump in production sticks out.

What exactly is the "Twins Way"? Here's my take on it in good old fashioned dictionary form!

The Twins Way
1. "Producing" runs without the need of homeruns
2. Getting on base by any means
3. Using fundamentals at the plate and on the base paths. - Taking the extra base, hitting the ball to the opposite field to advance runners
4. Playing as a team and not being afraid to sacrifice yourself for the better good of the team

In theory this is an excellent approach to scoring runs. It sounds simple enough, get on base move the guy over and find another base hit in there somewhere and you have yourself a run. A fatal flaw in this theory was exposed last year. If you do not have players to get on base consistently at the top of the order a slap single to right field from the middle of the order will be just a 2 out single rendered meaningless.

From reading posts this weekend it seems the issue that most people have with the Twins Way is coaching staff's insistence on driving the ball the opposite way. If the Twins truly are having hitters with the ability to drive the ball over the fence instead push the ball to the opposite way I too have a problem with it. However, I don't think that is entirely the case. To be a complete hitter, driving the outside pitch the other way is key to be being a successfull hitter. I also have a firm belief in letting power hitters swing away and not worry about going the other way. It is harder to hit the ball out of the park going oppo and the Twins have little power as it is right now. By making it even more difficult and forcing the Twins Way issue on it's power hitters the Twins could be looking at another power outage similar to last year.

My changes to the Twins Way:
I'm sure you all are excited to hear some guy you don't know who has no coaching experience or blogging experience tell you how I would fix the Twins Way. But hear goes nothing:

1) As bad as it sounds I would tell Rod Carew he is no longer the "special hitting assistant" or whatever his title is. The approaches he seems to be teaching would work wonderful for every hitter if they had the bat control and limited power that he had in his prime. That being said, I don't know if any player besides Ichiro has the bat control of Rod Carew. He could put the ball where he wanted it when he wanted it whenever he wanted to. That was a skill you just can't teach and his teaching methods are tailored to having that type of ability.

2) Continue to teach "driving the ball" to the opposite field. But ease up on it. Some players should be doing more of it, while some less of it in my honest opinion. According to Hardy it sounds as if the coaching staff was so into going the other way that if a player rolls over an outside pitch they get an earful. That sort of "nagging" can lead to a loss of confidence and eventually a player being afraid to pull the pitches he should.

3) Continue to play small ball with small ball players. Each player on the team needs a role. Span and Carroll need to be table setters. Get on base by any means. Span and Carroll know they are limited in the power department so they should be driving the ball to the opposite field any way to get on base for the middle of the lineup. Mauer, Morneau, Willingham and Valencia need to be the power. Let them grip it and rip it. Mauer will do his thing regardless but a healthy Morneau and Willingham should be able to hammer the ball to all fields and hit it out of the park hopefully with runners on base. (If I remember correctly I don't think the Twins had a 3-run homer until late May last season.) The back side of the order again should be in small ball Twins Way mode. Doumit has some power and should be allowed to roll over a pitch from time to time while the Casilla and Revere should be leadoff hitters at the bottom of the order and use their speed to get on base and create chaos on the basepaths.

I believe in the Twins Way as a template, not as an end all be all way to run an offense. Let me know if you agree or have your own opinions on this.


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