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Does Jorge Polanco Have Any Business Switch Hitting?


Jorge Polanco has struggled mightily offensively in 2021, particularly as a left handed hitter. Should Polanco continue to switch hit in the face of such consistent struggles, or hit from the right side full time?A front office stroke of genius has quickly turned into a move viewed with apathy by the Twins fan base. When the Twins signed Jorge Polanco to a five-year, $25 million extension prior to the 2019 season, Polanco’s subsequent appearance as the starting SS for the AL All Star Team had Twins fandom in raptures. Since then, Polanco has regressed significantly at the plate, with no struggle more evident than the switch hitters inability to hit right handed pitchers batting left handed.

 

Let’s rewind to a happier time. It’s 2019 and Polanco has made his first All Star team. Polanco, fresh off a team friendly, front loaded extension, has managed a searing 129 wRC+ and .367 wOBA in the first half. As his name is announced over the PA system while playing an 18 inning game against the Tampa Bay Rays, a surreal grin spreads unstoppably across his face. The Twins had found a top of the order hitter for the next five years, one who had just beaten out Gleybar Torres and Carlos Correa for an All-Star appearance.

 

Fast forward to 2021 and Polanco is in the doldrums. Polanco has plateaued, then regressed, his progression hindered by multiple ankle surgeries. In a young 2021 season, Polanco is worth -0.2 fWAR and has amassed a 44 wRC+, making him about 65% worse than an average MLB hitter. Particularly of note since his ankles began to trouble him is his performance from the left side of the plate. It’s time to question whether Polanco has any business switch hitting.

 

Download attachment: polanco.png

 

2019 was an outlying year for Polanco as a left handed hitter. 16 of his 22 home runs came from the left side of the plate, in addition to a .306 average and 133 wRC+. 2020 and the beginning of 2021 have been a spiral in the wrong direction. Over that span, Polanco has seen his average drop .136 points, his isolated power evaporate, and his ground ball rate from the left side increase close to 25%. There are too many concerning metrics about Polanco’s performance as a left handed hitter to simply explain away.

 

Polanco’s penchant for ground balls when batting left handed is a severe detriment to the rest of his offensive game. In 2019, his BABIP as a left handed hitter was .334, followed by .264 in 2020, and .200 so far in 2021. All that adds up to a 33 wRC+ left handed, compared to 95 wRC+ as a right handed hitter since the beginning of 2020.

 

It’s both notable and noticeable that Polanco’s left handed swing looks awkward. Gone is the swaggy, confident look of a hitter able to spray the ball to all fields. Polanco now spins out of his left handed swing, no longer getting into the base of his core and his legs, a result which usually results in a ground ball to the pull side.

 

Polanco’s transition to second base will advantage the Twins defensively long term. In Andrelton Simmons, Minnesota has, at least temporarily, an elite defensive shortstop, whose range, arm and defensive savvy no analytically laden positioning can outmaneuver. Offensively, the bottom half of the Twins order has been completely lost. While the lineup without Kepler has been short of effective left handed bats, Polanco from the left side is as good as a free out so far in 2021. Until he gets back on track offensively, the Twins second baseman has no business switch hitting.

 

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I would say that most switch hitters have no business doing it. However, if you made it to the majors as a "switch hitter", management is depending on you doing it. They plan games based on you doing it. Even if you lobbied to stop doing it, they'd probably force you to keep doing it and work on coaching you.

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The Twins have two coaches. Do you mean they need a new hitting coach?

Varela has never been a hitting coach before, nor at this point likely to be poached for another job. Hernandez was not a hitting coach before he got the current position. He had been the assistant to Brunansky and Rowson yet not promoted after 6 years.  That is telling his skill level. The Twins have people with a title. 

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Sorry, I'm very confused by this OP. Where did I miss that Polanco has always been a better LH hitter before his knee injury, but not fixed the first time before supposedly being fixed the second time before this season.

 

He was practically staggering at tbe plate in 2020 because his knee was so bad. He lost all power and ability to barrell up. Reportedly, the knee is good now. Early struggles not withstanding...getting stroke and timing back...he's healthy and ready to go. At this point, unless there is something going on we don't know about, it's all about confidence and approach and getting his stroke back.

 

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but hasn t he always been better from the LH side of the plate?

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Yes, Polanco has always been a better hitter from the left side and he is a really good player. No disrespect intended but this post is misinformed and off. It is true that Polanco played through significant injuries in the last two years because the Twins were short-handed and needed his position in play even with his diminished skills. It does seem like he developed some unfortunate side habits related to compensating for his injuries and he is now working through these inefficiencies.  Polanco is a gamer though and while we are not exactly sure how he will look by this summer we do know that his past sacrifice for the team is worthy of a full look and the respect that acknowledges his efforts for the Twins. I expect Jorge will manage to correct his footwork and timing to return to a his prior performance before serious ankle  injuries reduced his effectiveness at the plate and in the field. In my mind, Polanco has earned the right to work through these struggles and when he does the team will benefit from the patience.

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Yes, Polanco is naturally a better LH hitter, IMO it's crazy to have him give up hitting LH. IMO the problem has been over stretching him at SS, which caused his ankle problem. Unfortunately that greatly affected him hitting LH. Together with covid and the unjuiced ball really threw a wrench in his hitting prowess.

They are on the right track by returning him to 2B. It will take time to undo the damage and find his groove. But I'm confident that he will.

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It's way too early for this assessment.  Especially considering that he's already had a four hit game this season and those all came from the left side.

 

Just the improvement from the first 10 games until present shows that he's coming around.  I think he'll be back to his .270/.330/.420 self by mid-May.

 

 

 

 

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Batting right-handed against a right-hander is difficult for those who have been doing it their whole life. I highly doubt Polanco will be able to just switch to facing righties as a righty, which I assume he has not done for a very long time, and have any more success than facing them as a lefty, even though that is currently a struggle for him as well.

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"2019 was an outlying year for Polanco as a left handed hitter."

 

No. He had success in 2018 against RH pitchers as well. Polanco has had right ankle surgery each of the last two seasons. He may have developed some bad habits from compensation. He needs work from the left side, but certainly not enough for a 27 year old veteran to give up switch hitting. 

 

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Varela has never been a hitting coach before, nor at this point likely to be poached for another job. Hernandez was not a hitting coach before he got the current position. He had been the assistant to Brunansky and Rowson yet not promoted after 6 years.  That is telling his skill level. The Twins have people with a title. 

You really truly believe that the entire Twins management team has zero idea what they are doing in their hiring process and simply promoted guys from within the organization because of nepotism or incompetence? 

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I will agree that his numbers the last two years have been much better hitting RH than LH, but up until 2020, it was the other way around.  To say that 2019 was outlier is not accurate, as in his prior years he hit better LH than RH.  Yes, the last two years have been flipped and now he is more even.  It will be great if he can fix his issues, but up until 2020 he was better from left side so to scrap it because of recent struggles is going far.  I bet if he flipped now he would not do well. 

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