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  • What's Going On With Jorge Polanco?

    Cody Pirkl

    Yet againm Jorge Polanco is off to a slow start in 2022, something that has gone largely unnoticed until the Twins recent difficult stretch. With multiple staples of the lineup missing, it’s worth asking whether the Twins struggling second baseman can pick up the slack.

    Image courtesy of Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

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    Jorge Polanco has proven to be a difficult player to assess in recent years. After a 2019 breakout, the Twins second baseman required ankle surgery and suffered through a brutal 2020 before requiring yet another surgical intervention. He also missed a few games here and there in 2021 and more recently 2022 with ongoing issues with the same ankle. The issue just never seems to fully improve.

    What we’re left with is the constant worry that Polanco’s ankle is holding him back during any stretch in which he struggles. In 2021, he looked cooked through the end of May with no signs of life before turning his season around and finishing as arguably the Twins' player. Can we expect the same 2022?

    Through the end of May this year Polanco has once again not been good. His wRC+ suggests he’s actually been 2% above the league average hitter, but this is during one of the most pitcher-friendly starts to a season in years. His .227/.324/.358 line through May is a massive disappointment. Unlike in recent years where he struggled early, however, there are a lot of positives the further you dig.

    In 2021m Polanco was worth over 4 wins by Fangraphs measures, a threshold that indicates a very high-quality player. Polanco slashed .269/.323/.503, slugging 33 home runs down the stretch. As you can see, Statcast’s measures aren’t painting the picture of a major fall off from 2021.

    Polanco’s .228 average is ugly, although underneath the hood his .277 expected batting average is better than his monster 2021 season. His .356 slugging percentage is far below his .498 expected slugging, which is also ten points higher than his 2021 mark. In short, Jorge Polanco has not been a very good hitter, but his results are lagging behind his process at the plate which appears to still be elite. So what could be going on with Jorge Polanco?

    For starters, it’s fair to wonder whether we’re just watching some bad luck. Expected stats aren’t predictive, but Statcast suggests that if Polanco continues what he’s been doing he’s in for some major regression in a positive way.

    It’s fair to consider however that the baseball MLB is using may be impacting him negatively. Polanco doesn’t have big-time raw power as his 33-homer 2021 suggests. With reports surfacing almost daily of players noticing different baseballs even on an inning to inning basis, Polanco could be a victim of MLB’s newest favorite game to play: Which baseball are we using today?

    Statcast’s expected stats are based on how players impact the ball and what kinds of results that impact has historically led to. It’s possible that the historical significance of Polanco’s batted balls needs to be thrown out the window as MLB tries to encourage a move back to early 2000s style baseball. Polanco’s 20.2 degree launch angle is a career-high. Without Miguel Sano type power, it’s possible that Polanco’s increasing launch angle is going to lead to more lazy fly balls than balls over or off of the wall if the baseball is designed to kill offense.

    At any rate, It’s difficult to say whether Polanco is in for a major rebound, although it may be safer to lean in that direction. He’s done all he can so far to repeat his star level performance in 2021, but it’s possible his actual results are out of his hands to a degree. Offense has seen an uptick across the MLB in recent weeks (difficult to imagine if you’re watching the Twins I know), and it’s hard to say whether it’s the weather, luck, or yet another baseball commissioned by the MLB. All Polanco can do is continue to grind out his plate appearances as he has been and hope the hits start falling.

    Do you think Jorge Polanco is due for a rebound? Are his struggles more than just bad luck or a sabotaged baseball? Let us know below.


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    It's really hard to say about any player because offensive stats are significantly down across both leagues.  I have to believe the ball is the biggest reason.  Personally, I wish MLB would stop tinkering and let the players play.  Let the players adjust to the game instead of adjusting the game.

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    Have to admit, (and this isn't usually the case with your articles), I'm seeing more of your personal bias than meat to Polanco's "problems". Yep, a slower than expected start, but most of the underlying stats show Jorge is striking the ball as well as last year. And hitting slightly better than the league, and leading the team in RBI, but you personally "don't care" about those two items, and refer to his line as "trash".

    I see Jorge finding his way in a radically different hitting environment; one that isn't announced, and literally has to be felt through inning by inning. Are multiple versions of balls in play? Are balls being 'humidored' unevenly? Who the hell knows? Like many, he is fighting through this while still producing as many (actually more) run scoring hits than any of his team-mates. I'm okay with that, happy to see him in the lineup, expect him to get better, and consider him one of the least of my concerns for the Twins.

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    Polanco is perhaps THE Twins player in recent years who remains on the field, quietly playing through injuries.  It would not be surprising to learn after the fact that he is trying to stay on the job with a bad ankle.  He has made some sparkling defensive plays at second and earlier in the season he had some clutch hits.  I respect Polanco and I think this article underestimates him and his value to the team.       

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    Polo is the Twins leader despite the high profile of Buxton and Correa. Several days ago he seemed to be back in a mode of favoring his ankles with his swing. I hope he is ok because the team needs a healthy Jorge Polanco.

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    I don't like the fact that Polanco is increasing his launch angle, together with his ankles are bothering him a little. I agree with Baul that Polanco is gamer and will play thru any injury. You can't trust him to let you know when he's hurting so you have to give him a planned rest thru out the season. He's always on the field much more than anyone, even when he's hurt.

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    Polanco's been beating the shift this year pretty handily as a LH hitter, but he's been eaten up by it as a RH hitter. 

    • 2021 - .267 xBA .488 xSLG .348 xwOBA 
    • 2021 - .269 AVG .503 SLG .349 wOBA
    • 2022 - .272 xBA .426 xSLG, .369 xwOBA
    • 2022 -  .223 AVG .346 SLG, .300 wOBA

    Basically, Polanco has been super unlucky so far this year. Last year his xwOBA and wOBA were a dead match, and historically, they've generally been within 10-20 pts across his full season. He's 70pts under expected this year. He's walking far more than he ever has so his actual OBP is almost identical to last year, but the power numbers aren't there, largely out of sheer luck. For example, Polanco's 5 HRs this season would have been 12 HRs if he was playing in Cincinnati's park the entire time, though he'd only have 4 at Yankee Stadium or Kaufmann. At the average MLB stadium, Polanco would have 7 HRs. Aside from that, his exit velocities, barrel rates and hard hit rates are all right about the same as last year.

    What's wrong with Polanco? Nothing.

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    Looking at Baseball savant Jorge’s hart hit % is 40.8% which is the highest of his career.  The mlb hard hit average % is 35.6%.  Issue is Jorge is not making as much contact.  His strike out % is 23.2% which is the highest in his career.  I see Jorge’s issues as the same issue the vast majority of hitters are having.  The pitching is elite and hitters are making as much contact.  Jorge has had some bad luck so I can see his batting average creeping up to the .250-.260 range and his OPS ending up in the low 800s

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    What's wrong with Polanco?  Nothing much that I can see.  Unlike some players on the team Jorge plays.  He doesn't sit out with a hang nail.  And for some reason he isn't babied by Baldelli by giving him a couple of days off per week.  I like Polanco.  To me he's the heart and sould of the team so far since many days we can't even find Buxton.  Keep hanging in there Jorge.  You are doing great and we need you!

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    The fact he missed games because of ankle issue is an issue.  That has been his biggest issue as it goes to output.  The fact that we have so many other guys missing games around our infield he has not got as many games off as I think the Twins would have liked. 

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    I think Polanco is playing hurt with a bad ankle. He doesn't complain but you can see him favoring the ankle when he gets fooled on a swing. I could easily see him going on the 10 day IL either when Correa comes back with Arraez moving to 2B and Miranda the full time 1B, or when Lewis comes back. It would probably be the best thing for him,  

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