First, to put things into context, it’s worth noting that Correa has seen significant highs this season. He also still owns a 124 OPS+ which puts him well above league average offensively. As a shortstop, his arm remains among the best in the game and he’s been an anchor on the dirt while Minnesota has largely been terrible there defensively.
What once trended so positively has taken such a negative turn, however.
It’s been a weird progression for the former Houston Astro. Correa owned just a .633 OPS through the first month of the season, and then was hit by a pitch that had a significant amount of time being missed looking likely. That was particularly troublesome due to how he was trending at the time. In eight games before his finger injury, Correa was 14-for-34 with three doubles and a dinger.
He wound up missing 12 games and then pushed himself to near All-Star status. From May 18 through the end of June, a stretch of 32 games, Correa slashed .336/.400/.560 with seven doubles and seven homers. Largely unsustainable, that’s every bit the player Minnesota thought they were getting when signing him to such a mega deal. During that period, it looked increasingly likely that Correa would opt out of his three-year deal and angle towards a longer-term extension.
Since that point, it’s been nothing but the opposite. In 28 games from July 1 through August 8, Correa has slashed a paltry .186/.294/.333. He has just three doubles and four home runs in that span while still being relied upon near the top of the Twins lineup. It’s certainly not feasible for this slide to continue if Minnesota wants to remain atop the AL Central division, and this production progressing for a few more months certainly hurts and ability to corner the market in looking for a new deal.
By fWAR, Correa has yet to surpass 2.0 on the season which would mark only the first time it’s happened during the course of his career. Playing at a career-worst clip while trying to generate another payday is probably not a great strategy. In return on investment terms, Fangraphs values Correa’s production has been worth $13.3 million thus far in 2022, or less than half of what Minnesota has already committed to him.
Taking a look at the two rolling windows of differing production, there’s some obvious difference. During the May through June stretch, Correa had a 36.5% hard-hit rate with a 14.6% barrel percentage. He was chasing just over 30% of the time, but whiffing only 9.6% of the time. Fast forward to where we are now and the hard hit rate has dropped 4% with the barrel rate down 5%. He’s actually chasing and missing less, which suggests an issue regarding the quality of contact.
While he’s been going poorly, Correa has put the ball on the ground 45.8% of the time. He’s pulled it a bit less and utilized the middle more, but his line drive rate sits at a sad 13.3%. This all comes on an average launch angle of 11.8 degrees. The difference here is minute, but could be creating the issue. When Correa was going well he owned a 12.2-degree launch angle and was hitting line drives over 20% of the time. Nearly 50% of his contact was to the pull side.
This is something Twins teammate Max Kepler has seen at times as well. The idea of lifting the baseball and hitting for power doesn’t necessarily have to translate into homers. Correa is the prototypical power guy that doesn’t have to sacrifice misses. He bludgeons doubles and routinely sends the ball out. Pulling it down the left field line at Target Field is the easiest path for him to walk the bases. A slight amount of additional lift for Correa changes things from being a hard grounder to a hard line drive. One of those two outcomes has a substantially better success rate.
We’ve now seen Correa go through a period of poor hitting largely equivalent to the time he spent insanely hot. The hope would be that the final stretch is another window of production. It would definitely increase the Twins outlook towards the postseason, and ultimately for the Scott Boras client, is the only way he’ll be able to position himself handsomely back on the open market.