Yesterday's announcement that Justin Morneau was being shut down for the season didn't really come as a surprise. In spite of a brief flurry of excitement over the weekend when there was some hope for a potential return during the ALCS, most people recognized that it wasn't really realistic. But now that it's official, I wanted to take a look back at what was looking to be his career year to date. (A 184 OPS+, for real.)
It's not hyperbole to say this: Morneau never went cold. From game one of the 2010 season to July 7th, he never had back-to-back games where he didn't reach base. In almost every game he was contributing something positive, and at a pace he hadn't done before. More power, better plate discipline, a higher percentage of line drives and an ability, quite literally, to hit any pitch.
Let's be clear: the man hit .345/.437/.618 in 348 plate appearances. So it's not like there were bad stretches. But there were times where he was simply a man possessed.
April 20 - April 25: 6 games, 28 PA, .476/.607/.952, +7.00 runs added
May 11 - May 17: 6 games, 25 PA, .545/.600/1.136, +6.09 runs added
June 19 - June 25: 6 games, 28 PA, .481/.500/.778, +4.09 runs added
And those streaks only include two of his five top performances of the season, which we'll look at after the jump.
In terms of value, of wins provided the team, Morneau's 348 plate appearances gave more value to the Twins than Jay Bruce or Chase Utley gave their teams all season. According to FanGraphs, Morneau.s +5.3 WAR registers as a tie for 20th best in baseball (with Brian McCann and Adrian Gonzalez...who also played an entire season each). He trailed only Joey Votto (+7.5 WAR), Albert Pujols (7.2), Miguel Cabrera (6.2) and Aubrey Huff (5.7) among first basemen, and after missing the final three months of the season he was still Minnesota's WAR leader among position players. Joe Mauer's 5.1 comes in a close second.
Morneau's season, as short as it was, is a top-five performance for a Minnesota Twins first baseman in a single season. So thanks for a great (historically great) season, Justin. Get well, and hopefully we'll see you ready to go in February as the Twins look to defend their World Series title.
We bid adieu for the season to our Canadian first baseman by taking a look at his five biggest games of the year.
Top 5 Games
5 - May 17: 3-for-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI, +.247 WPA
Justin's go-ahead single in the fourth gave the Twins their second lead of the game, 3-2, against the visiting Blue Jays. He would add a solo homer in the sixth and a two-run blast in the eighth to put the nail in the proverbial coffin, helping to secure a solid 8-3 win at Target Field.
4 - April 24: 2-for-5, 2B, HR, 2 RBI, 2 BB, +.227 WPA
Oddly enough his WPA wasn't even close to being the highest in this 12-inning tilt against the Royals (that honor goes to Joe Mauer and his .430 output). After being down 5-1 early, Morneau's two-run homer in the top of the seventh tied the game at six and allowed them to eventually come back for a late win.
3 - April 9: 3-for-5, 2B, RBI, +.230 WPA
While Mauer once again out-performed Morneau in terms of WPA, it was Justin's double in the top of the seventh that tied the game at three in Chicago. Minnesota won it in eleven thanks to a J.J. Hardy single, but it was Morneau's welcome party for Randy Williams that stemmed the White Sox tide.
2 - May 22: 3-for-5, 2 2B, RBI, 2 BB, +.390 WPA
Justin picked up his lone RBI in the first inning, putting the Twins up 1-0 in what would be a four-run frame. He continued to reach base four more times in the game, including a walk in the bottom of the twelvth that loaded the bases so that Jason Kubel could put up a sac fly and the Twins could salvage an 8-7 win after allowing the Brewers to tie it with a five-run ninth.
1 - June 19: 2-for-5, HR, 3 RBI, BB, +.164 WPA
While the WPA isn't there, Justin was instrumental in one of the biggest comebacks for the Twins in 2010. His two-run singled in the top of the first helped put the Twins up 3-0 before the Phillies tied it in the bottom of the inning. Philadelphia eventually stretched their lead to 8-3, when Justin's 14th home run of the season narrowed the gap to three. Minnesota scored five in the top of the ninth to knot the game at nine, and in the top of the eleventh Danny Baez intentionally walked Morneau in a move that would come back to haunt him. Both teams had traded runs in the tenth, but Baez allowed back-to-back hits after walking both Mauer and Morneau in that fateful eleventh, leading to a thrilling 13-10 Twins win.