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Alex Kirilloff has been struggling since returning from the Injured List. His wrist injury appears to have sapped his power, but the fact he's being pitched to like he's a future Hall of Famer isn't helping, either.

Kirilloff gave Minnesota Twins fans a glimpse into his immense potential when he hit four home runs in a three-game stretch. Because this is 2021, he landed on the IL with an injured wrist just a game later and hasn’t been the same since.

Kirilloff homered in both games of his rehab assignment with the Saints, but his power has been non-existent since returning to the Twins. Here’s a look at some of the numbers.

  Before IL Since IL
Slash .214/.227/.571 .254/.309/.302
K% / BB% 29.5 / 2.2 25.0 / 7.4
Avg. Exit Velo 96.7 mph 90.1 mph

Luckily, the dip in power production has come along with some more hits falling in and gains in regard to both strikeouts and walks. But that’s case closed, right? The dip in power is all the result of the wrist injury. Probably, but Kirilloff is also being pitched a lot differently since his return from the IL. 

  Before IL Since IL
Fastball % 50.6 41.4
Breaking % 26.3 41.9
Offspeed % 23.1 16.9

Kirilloff was already seeing a shortage of fastballs before he got hurt — across the league, pitchers are throwing fastballs 57.3% of the time — but since his return fastballs have been even fewer and further between. This is particularly significant because Kirilloff has murdered fastballs.

If we’re taking the stance that the wrist injury has sapped his power, which I think is legit, then his pre-IL performance should be viewed as more representative of who he is. Here’s a look at how Kirilloff was performing prior to the injury using xwOBA, with the league averages included for context.

xwOBA Kirilloff (pre IL) Leage Average
Fastballs .605 .351
Offspeed .457 .289
Breaking .112 .269

So Kirilloff is both trying to hit with a wrist that’s less than 100% and being served a diet of breaking balls usually reserved for established middle of the order hitters. 

Welcome to The Show, kid.

Here's where I take a page out of my four-year-old's book and tantrum about how IT'S NOT FAIR!!! Other rookies get to come up and slaughter a steady dose of fastballs while our guy get's hampered by a wrist injury and pitched to like he's the next Babe Ruth. Anyway ...

While Kirilloff has been doing a better job at controlling his plate appearances, maybe the best thing he can do for himself right now, that .611 post-IL OPS is disappointing. As a result, I think he may be pressing. At least that’s the conclusion I’ve come to in explaining the couple bizarre plays he was involved in Sunday in Kansas City. Here’s a video with more on that.

*All data in this article is via Baseball Savant.


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I expected growing pains and am not too concerned about it.  He'll relax eventually and start hitting again.  If he's going to reach his ceiling, he's going to have to hit what he's given.  It may be a blessing in disguise.  It may be rough now, but if he learns from this experience, he could become a very tough out in short order.

Also, I've always heard that wrist injuries are hard on hitters.  It impacts power and even ability to adjust on the fly to a pitch.  Hopefully, he heals up and starts hitting again.

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5 hours ago, Dodecahedron said:

Kirilloff can hit lefties, Sano can't.  Platoon them until Sano is traded.  This will give both players the best chance to succeed.  Sano to boost his trade value, Kirilloff to help his confidence.

I like this. This is the way.

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Kirilloff is still very, very young.  It is a huge compliment that pitchers have adjusted to him in such rapid fashion.  He will be a better player for it, hopefully sooner than later.  It will also help to get Buxton and Kepler back, Cruz hitting again, as these players will offer more protection than we have for him now.  I'm not sure we expected him to be hitting #3 in the order at this point, but again, a compliment to his sweet stroke.  Let's hope his wrist can fully heal while he is still playing.  

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Let me add something here:

Because the sampling sizes are so small, it's sometimes difficult to decipher if this is an actual approach change by pitchers/opponents or a glitch in the data.

For instance, in the first stretch, Kirilloff saw 14% cutters and 15% sliders (29% total). Post-IL, he saw 3% cutters/26% sliders (29% total). MLB's data center buckets cutters as fastballs and sliders as breaking balls. (There was a good thread by a Driveline researcher that showed how sliders/cutters are sort of blending together.) So this may be a product of teams wanting to give him some run and the Royals (who threw him a high percentage of sliders) just have more arms that throw sliders rather than cutters. 

When you look at just 4S/2S data, there really isn't that much of a difference: 36% before, 38% after. 

But, in terms of how teams are attacking him with those fastballs, teams are seemingly throwing fewer in the zone.

In the first stretch, he saw 64% of fastballs (excluding cutters) in the zone. Post-IL, he received 48% in-zone -- 54% being league-average. So it would appear that teams are taking note of his ability to obliterate fastballs and just showing him those off the plate (although SSS is still in consideration here). 

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I hope to watch Kirilloff and Larnach swinging for the Twins for the next few years. The league has adjusted to them. Smartly and predictably. They both need to show that they can adjust too. And demonstrate a level of learning, both on offense and defense. They have holes in their swings and, to me, holes in their game. Defensively and on the base paths. 

I wish them great success in Twins' uniforms.

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On 6/8/2021 at 2:02 AM, theBOMisthebomb said:

That baserunning blunder in KC is painful to watch. 

Probably doubly painful for the third-base coach to watch.  Did he suddenly get struck mute, on that play?  Is "get back, get back, get back" no longer a thing?

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