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The "Twins Way"

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#1 Shaun in Chicago

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 11:45 AM

My of us should be familiar with the story of David Ortiz. When Ortiz was a Twin, he was told to hit to all fields, since the Twins preach that philosophy.

Of course, Ortiz goes to Boston where he is told to just swing the bat (i.e. pull the ball) and he morphs into Big Papi (with some PED help of course).

Today I see this on Twitter from Jon Krawczynski:

"Talked to O's SS JJ Hardy today. Gave same story Ortiz did after leaving Twins. O's told him not to mess around and pull the ball. 30 HRs"

"Hardy said when he took 1st BP w/Twins, Carew told him to use whole field. 1st BP w/O's hit coach: "I want you to hit homers." "

"Hardy didn't say one approach was better than the others, just said he tried to do what each coaching staff wanted."


Anyone else slightly frustrated the Twins don't just let guys who can pull the ball well just do that? Not saying it would be the second coming of Ortiz but sometimes you have to just work with a guy's strength and just let him pull the ball or strike guys out!

#2 TiberTwins

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 11:57 AM

This has always frustrated me about the "Twins way." As a coach, don't you want to maximize the talent of a player and put them in situations to succeed? That seems like you would look at the players skills and maximize those. Not have them do something that does not suit their skill set.

#3 Parker Hageman

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 12:00 PM

That's something that was discussed a bit last year. I believe the story of the encounter with his then-new batting coach was Hardy began his batting practice by spraying a bunch of balls to right field and center. He was done, marched out of the cage and the hitting coach, Jim Presley, said "What are you doing?" to which Hardy responded "Hitting a few the other way, going up the middle, you know." Presley then told him that he had watched him mash home runs with the Brewers (while Presley was with the Marlins) and to knock off that opposite field crap. He did and showed much more power. Camden Yards did not hurt either.

Brandon Warne's interview with Joe Vavra at Twinkie Town is essential reading for those looking to get into the organization's mindset. In regards to this specific topic, Vavra said this:

So there’s a bit of a preconceived notion that the organization is more of a "go the other way/don’t care much about home runs" philosophy-wise. Care to put that to bed ?

JV

: No, it’s not that at all. I mean, we have a lot of young hitters, and we teach young hitters balance. You certainly don’t want to take their power away. Or say, take a pull hitter and make him go the other way. You don’t want to take away the strength from the kid; that just shocks him. You want him to be able to use it, but you also want to be able to push the outfield back on the opposite side of the field. Probably 70 percent or more of the pitches are likely to be away, so they do have to learn how to hit the ball the other way, and have some kind of balance to the playing field. If the field is tilted, they better have outstanding power to the pull side. You see a David Ortiz, who we had in this organization, and well, the ballpark changes the way you go about your hitting. I think the perception with Target Field is that you can’t hit home runs here, and they get that in their mind. I’m totally of the opposite mindset; you can drive the ball out of this ballpark. It’s certainly playing smaller than it did last year. This singles, slap-hitting stuff, that’s Denard Span to a degree, and it’s Ben Revere. They’re that type of guys; they’ve gotta get on base and gotta attack the opposite side, but they also gotta be able to pull it. You can’t be just on one side of the plate, so to speak, and that includes those two guys.


#4 JB_Iowa

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 12:48 PM

It'll be interesting to see what happens with Willingham. We should be able to judge by what he does rather than by what any of the coaching staff says.

#5 righty8383

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 02:13 PM

This is my hunch...Joe Vavra probably was all in favor of letting Hardy just do his thing. According to Hardy it was Rod Carew who instucted him to hit the other way in batting practice. Vavra out of respect for Carew did not want to tell Hardy not to listen to him(Carew) so he just kept his mouth shut (Vavra's mistake). Again this is just a hunch on my part but it would explain some things.

#6 Parker Hageman

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 02:48 PM

Here's more on Hardy from Krawczynski:

http://sports.yahoo....es-hardyshomers

“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.”


#7 TwinsMusings

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 03:14 PM

Parker, thanks for posting the link and quote from the Brandon Warne piece. I read that a while back and have a much better perspective on Vavra and how he goes about working with hitters as a result. I also think we need to remember the context of Hardy and his beginning with the Twins. He was coming off some horrendous hitting problems that developed when we was with the Brewers, who demoted him. He, and others, said he lost his confidence and really did not have a good approach at the plate. It makes sense that he start regaining confidence by hitting to all fields. One other thing to remember, when he was with the Twins, he dealt with the wrist injury for a good part of the year. That almost certainly had an impact on his power numbers. Pulling the ball can be good and it can be bad. If you are trying to pull everything, you will not hit well even if you hit a few home runs. I think Danny Valencia slipped into that "pull the ball" mindset last year and that is one reason he struggled. Ultimately, each player has to find his own best way of hitting with the help of the coaches.

#8 Shaun in Chicago

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 03:38 PM

Great discussion guys and thanks for the Vavra quote!

#9 Seth Stohs

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 04:54 PM

I enjoy the discussion. I would also say that Ortiz used his ability to hit the ball the other way to his advantage in Boston, but he wasn't afraid to air it out. I think that Morneau wasn't afraid to swing for the fences, same with Kubel. I think that Vavra is a solid hitting coach and figuring out individuals talents and trying to accentuate them. I think there is a reason that Rod Carew has not been a good hitting coach in a couple of attempts. It worked for him, and some other players may benefitfrom his philosophy, but it can't be cookie-cutter.

#10 Cody Christie

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 04:54 PM

It'll be interesting to see what happens with Willingham. We should be able to judge by what he does rather than by what any of the coaching staff says.


I agree with this that it should be interesting to see what Willingham does and judge from there. I feel like Hardy could have done whatever he wanted when he was at the plate but he wasn't healthy enough to make that big of an impact. It's hard to get into an offense rhythm when you aren't on the field.

#11 spideyo

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 07:02 AM

Gotta point out too, it sounds like they told Hardy to hit line drives the other way in his first BP with the Twins, and he just decided to stick with that all year long. It seems to me that it's actually a smart move in spring training BP to ask guys to try doing things different, see if helps them. That's the time when you try to stretch yourself as a player a bit, practice those things you aren't the best at. If one coach asks you to try a different hitting approach in your first BP ever with the team, and you as a player decide that's how you need to hit all year long, than at least part of the responsibility is on you.

#12 Fanatic Jack

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 07:32 AM

Joe Vavra has no business being the hitting coach and it’s really that simple. Torii Hunter laughed at the notion of Vavra helping him when he was hired. These comments about using the whole field really make the Twins coaching staff look bad. I’m quite certain Rod Carew did not tell J.J. Pansy to hit home runs. However, I completely agree with David Ortiz and what he said in Sports Illustrated was the truth.

#13 Gernzy

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 09:47 AM

Parker, thanks for posting the link and quote from the Brandon Warne piece. I read that a while back and have a much better perspective on Vavra and how he goes about working with hitters as a result.

I also think we need to remember the context of Hardy and his beginning with the Twins. He was coming off some horrendous hitting problems that developed when we was with the Brewers, who demoted him. He, and others, said he lost his confidence and really did not have a good approach at the plate. It makes sense that he start regaining confidence by hitting to all fields. One other thing to remember, when he was with the Twins, he dealt with the wrist injury for a good part of the year. That almost certainly had an impact on his power numbers.

Pulling the ball can be good and it can be bad. If you are trying to pull everything, you will not hit well even if you hit a few home runs. I think Danny Valencia slipped into that "pull the ball" mindset last year and that is one reason he struggled.

Ultimately, each player has to find his own best way of hitting with the help of the coaches.


^This. Valencia did hit around 15 HR and 76 RBI last year, but the .246 AVG really hurt. He was really pull happy. If he starts to use move of the field while still trying to go long, I see all those numbers improving this season.

#14 gunnarthor

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 09:47 AM

The Twins might have wanted Hardy to go the other way but he didn't. When he went to the opposite field he had a .813 OPS (39 AB), up the middle he had a .796 OPS (175 AB) and when he pulled the ball he had a .742 OPS (71 AB). Obviously, that doesn't account for all his AB. He may have well had AB where he meekly grounded out to second b/c he was trying to go the other way or something. But he went the other way about 13.7% of the time as a Twin and he went the other way 13.7% of the time as an Oriole. For his career, he's gone the other way about 13.9% of the time. He certainly did pull the ball more as an Oriole (as would any RH hitter playing a ton of games at Camden, Fenway and Yankee stadium) but I think it's a bit much to say that the Twins approach was the problem.

#15 tre

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 10:20 AM

If we take it as a given that the Twins want everyone to hit to all fields (and it's not clear we should take that as a given) we can't look at any one player in isolation when we discuss the merits of it as an organizational strategy. Ideally, of course, we'd want to each player to employ the approach that would maximize that specific player's skills. The rub is that it's not so easy to know for each player what that approach is, so you may well have to try many to find it and the adjustments take time to implement. It can take a long time to find out. If you let each hitter decide on his own, you might let a hitter who'd be better served spraying hits hack away for much too long. Conversely, you may waste a lot of time trying to fit a pull hitter into a spray hitter mold. So if you are going to err on one side or the other (pull or spray, we'll say) and the Twins choose to err on the side of spray, the question is whether or not that's a *net* gain. Which is to say, across all players, does the value you gain by having players who would not otherwise have learned to hit the other way outweigh the value you lose by failing to maximize a pure pull hitter? Does the occasional Ortiz or Hardy faceplant get offset by incremental improvements in a bunch of other players?

#16 Parker Hageman

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 10:56 AM

But he went the other way about 13.7% of the time as a Twin and he went the other way 13.7% of the time as an Oriole. For his career, he's gone the other way about 13.9% of the time. He certainly did pull the ball more as an Oriole (as would any RH hitter playing a ton of games at Camden, Fenway and Yankee stadium) but I think it's a bit much to say that the Twins approach was the problem.


Right, he didn't go oppo as much either with the Twins but he did go up the middle a bit more thus "using the whole field". One big differential between his time with the Twins (and Brewers before that) was his ability to turn on an inside pitch better. That could be a response to focusing on pulling the ball more or it could be that his wrist was fully healed and allowed him to get to the inner-half better.

#17 mikeee

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 11:04 AM

Hope they don't tell Josh Willingham to use the whole field! :P He's supposed to hit more homers because he is a pull hitter.

#18 StormJH1

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 11:43 AM

This is a great topic, even if it's been discussed before, though I think it's a little unfair to throw it just on Vavra. The "Twins Way" goes much deeper than just hitting the ball the other way instead of pulling it. It's a culture that takes on an almost religious personality in that it discourages personalities that stick out from the "mold" and prefers toolsy, well-rounded players over guys who have glaring weaknesses in their game to go with their considerable upside. Even in a bizarre, parallel universe where guys like Manny Ramirez and A-Rod wanted to come play here (and we could afford them), the Twins front office wouldn't have any interest in having guys like that on their team. Guys like Ortiz and Hardy are the best examples, but sometimes players just do better after changing scenery, and it isn't always an indictment on that team. (Look at how much Jose Bautista moved around before he caught on). Danny Valencia is a good example of this now. I follow him on Twitter, and I've seen him in post-game interviews. I really don't think he's a bad guy - he's a product of "The U" and he's certainly a little conceited/arrogant. But so what? That isn't a reason to run him out of town. And maybe he, like Hardy, would be a .270, 25 HR guy if they stopped messing with his approach. Who knows. But I do feel like black and Latin American players (for the most part) do not feel comfortable on this team, and I don't like that about the Twins. Not when three of the names hanging in the rafters are Oliva, Carew, and Puckett. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but there are too many examples to the contrary. And I wish this organization would just focus on bringing in the best PLAYERS, and stop worrying about how coachable they are, or if they're only in it for themselves. Baseball is much more of an individual sport than football or hockey - you can win championships with selfish players. And selfish or not, I don't think it's in anybody's best interest to try and change professional ballplayers to all hit the ball like Carew (or Nicky Punto).

#19 righty8383

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 12:21 PM

People should take a look at David Ortiz' spray chart. He is far from a dead pull hitter. Thats why that interview a while back has always puzzled me.

#20 tobynotjason

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 12:57 PM

@StormJH1: I would qualify the last paragraph slightly to have it read something like "I do feel like disproportionate numbers of black and LA players...", but you pretty much nailed my problems with the org.

"An almost religious personality" is gold, and the (often angry) blindness of many serious (almost always white) Twins fans to the subtle institutional racism is unfortunate. The fact that a handful of players of color are held up as paragons of Twinsness is more an indictment more than mitigating evidence.

#21 wblmayo24

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 01:43 PM

2 MVP's since 2006 Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel all developed into good (or great) MLB hitters as Twins under their coaching. They also made guys like Alexi Casilla, Lew Ford, Nick Punto, Jason Bartlett and Christian Guzman be able to survive at the ML level and get on base. They've made the playoffs in 6 out of the past 10 years. I have no problem with their hitting coaches/players/style of play. HOWEVER, They have averaged being ranked 8th in the AL (14 teams) for slugging % in the past 10 years and 10th in HRs. I prefer the "get him on, move him over and get him in" type baseball or "The Twins Way," but I know I am in the minority. For those of you who want more power, is the power problem the coaches, players or front office?

#22 sln477

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 02:03 PM

I also want to point out the "Twins way" was a result of budget constraints while playing in the dome. We had a limited budget to allow us a couple of "stars" & the rest of the roster was filled with "hungry" players that were molded into the "Twins way'. The players we signed had good basic skill sets & were taught that defense, base running aggressiveness, & hitting (in that order) were prerequisites to making this team. When we found a mix that worked, these players "fed" off each other leading to what became known as the "Twins way". GO TWINS!!

#23 wblmayo24

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 02:15 PM

Great point sln, and let's not forget this is the same reason we have come to love the Twins in the first place: taking a low payroll bunch of no-namers and playing fundamentally sound baseball to win games and go to the playoffs. This 2012 season has a great chance of this typical Twins Way team turning some heads. Go Twins

#24 Auggie1313

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 02:54 PM

First of all as a coach I love it when players hit the other way. It is a huge advantage for a team if they can have their players do this. The issue we have with the twins way shouldn't be how they want players to spray the ball around the field but how they continue to get players that dont have the ability to do it. For example if the twins wanted to change Hardy into someone he isnt then why do they go out and get him? In my opinion especially in pro ball where they can some what pick and choose who plays for them they should focus more on what fits the twins system than signing and attempting to change players. Obviously there are always changes that must be made but changing a strong pull hitter to a hitter that sprays the ball is a extremely large and difficult change.

#25 Andrew Bryz-Gornia

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 03:42 PM

The Twins have acknowledged that Willingham is a pull hitter and that it's easier to hit home runs if you pull it down the lines, so I don't think they're planning on changing his approach.

#26 Shaun in Chicago

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 09:28 AM

First of all as a coach I love it when players hit the other way. It is a huge advantage for a team if they can have their players do this. The issue we have with the twins way shouldn't be how they want players to spray the ball around the field but how they continue to get players that dont have the ability to do it. For example if the twins wanted to change Hardy into someone he isnt then why do they go out and get him? In my opinion especially in pro ball where they can some what pick and choose who plays for them they should focus more on what fits the twins system than signing and attempting to change players. Obviously there are always changes that must be made but changing a strong pull hitter to a hitter that sprays the ball is a extremely large and difficult change.



I was thinking the same thing this morning Auggie about Hardy. They knew what they were getting when they traded for him so they should have know to work with Hardy's strengths than change them. Of course the trainers not being able to figure out how to keep Hardy on the field was another problem (which Hardy also addressed that O's figured out his wrist issue).

Still, a new guy on the Twins is going to have a hard time not listening to someone like Carew-he commends respect. But as others have said, he was never a good hitting coach. Some players just can't teach their skills that well.