Josh Willingham more or less broke out in 2010. He had shown some glimpses of significant talent in prior years, but never up to the 29 homers, 98 RBI standard he set that year. The next year he gained some momentum, transferring from Oakland to Minnesota and hitting 35 homers while knocking in 110 runs. These are MVP numbers when accompanied by a good batting average. However, no one outside of Minnesota and fantasy leagues seemed to take any notice. This year, we hope to see this upward trend continue.
In some aspects, it has. He already has 9 home runs, and .364 on base percentage. However, his batting average has dropped drastically, so far. He is hitting at just a .213 clip. What is most fun about Josh Willingham is his ISO, or isolated power if you will. This statistic measures the percentage of hits that go for extra bases. This year it is down from the incredible .264 mark he set last year. That mark had put him fifth in the league behind powerhouses Ryan Braun, Miguel Cabrera, Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Hamilton. This year it is .232 which is still very high, and the same as his 2011 number. Basically, he still has an electric bat. Getting back to the average issue, .213 is very much a turn off for anyone looking at his current statistics. However, this can be explained. His walk rate (12.7%) is the same as from 2011, his strike out rate is down 2% from last year to 24.8% his on base percentage is virtually unchanged at .364 from .366. So, what accounts for his poor average? Some might argue that it is purely bad luck. He has a career BABIP of .281. This number was a constant .287 for both of his two recent great years. However, it currently sits at just .255. This means, he is getting hits on 12% less of the times he puts the ball in play. However, when he hits the ball his ground balls per fly balls ratio is virtually unchanged. The same can be said for his homer runs per fly ball, (17%). His line drive percentage has dropped, but only by 6% from 2011 so this does not account for a 15% drop in average from that year until now. He is hitting the ball almost the same as he has the last two years, but he is getting less hits.
Overall, I think the power is still there, as he has shown, the ability to get on base is still there, as he continues to show, and soon the average will be back at the usual place.This will also see a rise in RBI since he doesn't have that many this year because you are a lot more likely to score a runner with a hit than with a walk. He has been unlucky so far, and I expect more good things to come from the powerhouse that is Josh Willingham.
He'll be back on his feet soon enough!