Justin Morneau: Pulling for Power
Target Field has now played host to 227 regular season ball games, and there are a few things we can start to say about how the park plays. One of the most obvious is that if you're going to hit for power in Minnesota, you need to be able to pull the ball with authority. Special cases (like Jim Thome) excepting, opposite field power doesn't play as well as it did at the Metrodome.
The Twins understood this when they attempted to retain Michael Cuddyer, who slugged .709 when pulling the ball in 2011. It was certainly a consideration when they courted and signed Josh Willingham, who slugged .915 when pulling the ball last season, and it will continue to be a factor in any free agent the team scrutinizes in the coming years.
Who are the best pull hitters on the roster this year? We'll take a look after the jump.
In terms of sample size, we're using a minimum of 100 plate appearances that resulted in a ball in play being pulled. This means that, in spite of his 1.000 slugging percentage in six pulled plate appearances, Clete Thomas just won't make our list. Apologies to you Cleteists in the audience. Chris Parmelee is quickly climbing the ranks too, but falls 64 PAs short of the cutoff.
PA: 124 | SLG: .927 | ISO: .520
In the 23 games since his return from the disabled list, Plouffe has looked out of sorts. His timing is off, and it's also possible that pitchers caught up to him a bit in the week or two prior to his injury anyway. He's batting .169 in those 92 plate appearances, picking up a double, triple, and home run along the way.
And yet he still leads this list, which goes to show you exactly how torrid his hot streak really was. Still, Terry Ryan isn't just handing the third base job to Plouffe next season. I'm a big fan of Trevor's, so it'll be exciting to see if he can pull it back together down the stretch and really solidify himself as the force he was for two months earlier this year.
PA: 172 | SLG: .895 | ISO: .491
It's been 42 years since a member of the Minnesota Twins cracked the 40-home run barrier. In the midst of what has been a frustrating and disappointing season, there have still been a number of highlights for this team; Yes Pig going long 40 times would certainly count as one of them. It's something that I, and many of us, haven't seen from the Twins in our lifetimes. It will take another torrid stretch of games to knock those last seven out of the park, true. But I'm rooting for it.
Oh and by the way: the Twins definitely did the right thing by letting Cuddyer go get paid and choosing to pursue Willingham instead.
PA: 154 | SLG: .724 | .362
For a guy who was supposed to be a part time contributor whose offensive talents seemed to be best suited for that kind of a role, Doumit's turned in a good campaign. His 45 extra-base hits are tied second on the team with a certain Canadian (behind Willingham's 60), and his .338 wOBA is third behind Willingham (.380) and Mauer (.372). This was a signing we wanted to see happen, and it was a great snag by Terry Ryan and company.
PA: 136 | SLG: .659 | ISO: .348
While these numbers are certainly a chunk below his career splits, there's no doubt that Morneau is special when it comes to generating power. He doesn't have a huge uppercut swing, he doesn't put the all-or-nothing effort into his swing like a Willingham, and yet when he connects...his home run balls can be a beautiful and majectic work of art.
And this is fun: since the All-Star break Morneau is hitting .315/.358/.489.
PA: 105 | SLG: .602 | ISO: .243
This is the surprise of the bunch, isn't it? I mean it's not a surprise that Dozier generates his best power when he pulls the ball, but it's a bit of an eyebrow-raiser that he clears the Top 5 on the team. For me, anyway. The problem is that pitchers have probablly figured this out, too. He's 37-for-103 when he pulls the ball (.359) and 37-for-213 (.174) when he doesn't.
When the off-season rolls around and the Twins start looking for a hitter or two, if they expect him to provide the lineup with a bit of punch this is one of the first splits I'll be checking.