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Report from The Fort: Underestimating Jorge Polanco

FORT MYERS - Jorge Polanco knows something you don’t know.Every thrust is countered by a parry. For every style change, there is an answer. The Man in Black is winning this duel, and so there is no point in not admitting it.

“You are better than I am,” concedes Inigo Montoya.

“Then why are you smiling,” asks the Man in Black, quizzically.

“Because I know something you don’t know,” replies Montoya, slyly.

“I am not left-handed.”


You knew something was wrong with Jorge Polanco. Why was he swinging with only his arms? Why was he trying to slap the ball the other way? Where was the guy who hit 22 home runs the year before? Now he’s Ben Revere – with less power?


Something was, indeed, wrong. The right ankle on which he had surgery following the 2019 season hadn’t healed, or at least the surgery had not taken care of the problem that slowed him over the latter half of the season. “After the first surgery, I did my rehab stuff and we got into the season and I felt, right away, during the season, that I wasn't feeling good on my ankle in games,” Polanco revealed last week. “I knew it, and when I went to see the doctor again a couple of months before the season was over, he said they'd require a second surgery."


A couple months before the season was over? Uh, the 2020 season was only two months long. Meaning Polanco knew for most of the season that he would require surgery. Until then, he would have to deal with it impacting one very specific aspect of his game.


“It didn't feel good, hitting left-handed”, Polanco says. “I think that was one of my problems last year - that I couldn't get good at-bats hitting left-handed. But this year, it's feeling pretty good."


Polanco is a switch-hitter, but like Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, he has a dominant side at the plate. Unlike Inigo Montoya, it’s his left side:


Download attachment: Polanco's Splits.PNG


It’s not been close. From 2017-2019, Polanco’s OPS averaged 150 points higher on the left than the right. Better batting average, better patience, and a boatload more power.


But last year, while you focused on overall numbers that scared you into thinking his early performance in 2019 was a fluke, there was a positive trend. Polanco actually hit better right-handed then he did the year before. In fact, you see a pretty clear trend in Polanco’s OPS over his career on both sides of the plate: it keeps going up. except for the injury-marred at-bats from the left side last year.


That overall trend makes further sense because Polanco enters the season as a 27-year-old. He’s on the right side of the aging curve.


You might think it’s always a convenient narrative to blame an unproductive year on an injury. You’re right, but his manager has also noticed a difference. “His right-handed swing felt fine. His left-handed swing did not”, says Twins manager Rocco Baldelli about Polanco last year. And Baldelli also notices a difference in camp this year, too. “Right now we don't have to worry about any of that.”


But let’s step out of the fairy tale for a moment. Polanco’s first half of 2019 was certainly a bit surprising, and some regression could be expected. However, the data supports a compelling narrative: that Polanco is a player trending upwards who was anklecapped (Is that a word? We’re going with it.) by an injury that affected 75% of his at-bats in a shortened season.


Of course, there could be another surprise still to come. You’ll recall that the Man in Black revealed a little later that he was also not left-handed, defeated Montoya, and continued his quest to save Princess Buttercup from the inconceivably ruthless Vizinni.


Still, the underestimated Montoya, after preparing for 20 years, ultimately had his day. Polanco may not get his revenge against the six-fingered man, but maybe he’ll rebound from a injured 2020 to once again be a productive major leaguer, as you dare to hope.


Or maybe he’ll be much more than that - as you wish. Don’t rule out him living happily ever after.


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I remember watching him last year at the plate and wondering why he could look pretty good some games and then become the proverbial 97 pound weakling the next. This explains that.


It would be great if the Twins could get him back to the 2019 form - decent speed and power with an .800+ OPS in the Twins lineup gives them a lot more depth and options from 1-9.

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If, his ankle is healed I expect Polanco to have an amazing year. 


* in the past his lack of range and inaccurate arm didn't play that well at shortstop. But at second base his underhand throwing style will actually be an asset to help him quickly turn double plays. Physics dictates that the shorter throw will make him more accurate especially with someone long at first base like Sano.


* When healthy Polanco drives the ball by taking powerful swings but those take a toll on his ankle. When he misses he often falls back out of the batting box and limps a bit. So, he will have an amazing season if his ankle can withstand the stress he puts on it. 


I say his ankle holds up this season but long term, I just don't know. 

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LOVE the Princess Bride comparisons.  Yeah, you could see swinging LH-handed last year something just wasn't right with Polanco.  He was stepping in the bucket so badly that now, it makes perfect sense he was looking for a more comfortable way to baby that ankle---and it wreaked holy havoc on his swing.

I think he's primed for a big year too.

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I was wondering how an injured RIGHT ankle would so greatly impact his batting left-handed given when you bat left-handed, you use your LEFT ankle more (to drive, etc).


Then I took a closer look at Polanco's swing in the article's photo and saw the twisting his front foot does when he swings, and the light came on!


Lets hope Polanco's health improved health helps him return to the somewhat near the player he was in the first half of 2019!

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I think he’s in for a good year. I’m not sure we’ll ever see the home run production we did in 2019, but it’s not really needed.


He’s a key piece to this offense. If you’re in the bottom of the ninth with runners on and need a base hit, not sure there’s anyone else on the club (other than maybe Arraez) that I’d want at the plate - when he’s healthy.

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It was apparent, very apparent, that Jorge was suffering from a leg injury of some type.

Like others, I'm hoping he is an all star second baseman, but i think it is important to remember that his peers and coaches felt he was the best representative at shortstop quite recently. Love to watch Jorge and hope he can avoid the injuries this season.

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