Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Swinging for the Fences

Plenty of Twins hitters have struggled this year, but Ron Gardenhire has been especially hard on Danny Valencia. The manager's frustration seems to be directed more at the young third baseman's approach than his results.

"He's got a lot of movement going on and they are trying to slow that down," Gardenhire said a couple weeks ago, in an interview where he also hinted that a demotion to the minors could be in store.  "When Danny is swinging good he's driving the ball up the middle and the other way, staying on pitches. Right now, it looks like he's trying to hit every ball into the seats."

In 14 games since that quote was published, Valencia has only 10 hits -- six of them for extra bases, including three homers and a deep triple. Here's his spray chart during that span (excluding last night's game):

Zero hits to the opposite field. It seems clear that, whether intentional or not, Valencia isn't heeding his manager's advice. He's swinging hard and trying to crush the ball, and while that has resulted in some welcome power productivity, he's also hitting only .212 in those 14 games, with two walks and 11 strikeouts.

The Twins are so thin from injuries that Valencia need not worry about a trip to the minors for now. But if he doesn't start picking it up in the second half, he won't find himself guaranteed a starting job next year, regardless of the homer and RBI totals.


Anonymous said...

With all the injuries and terrible play this year, no one should feel like he's guaranteed a job next year. Plus Danny now needs to worry about that big, 6' 5" guy who needs a new position. 3B could be an alternative if DV keeps sucking.

cy said...

My issue with DV is his lack of hustle on routine plays. In the Brewer series, must have been Friday night because at the time I felt like it mattered, with a man on first and less than two outs, he his a fair territory pop-up to Fielder. He exerted no effort whatsover to run to first base. It was not a towering pop-up, but he easily could have been standing on first when Fielder caught it. Instead, was about halfway, with his bat in his hand, apparently lamenting his bad AB. That was a long ways from the "Twins Way" that we've touted for all of these years.

SoCalTwinsfan said...

Valencia's approach is just fine. He's having no luck. His BABIP is .235 this year after being at .345 last year. His K rate has raised slightly, but so has his walk rate. The biggest problem for him is a high IF flyball rate, but that would seem to indicate teams are jamming him, so maybe he should be looking to turn on inside fastballs. He also has improved his line-drive rate slightly but is only batting .523 on line drives when the major league average is about .700.

Twins Fan c.1981 said...

Good thoughts on this subject. I'm not sure that I entirely agree that he's intentionally eschewing the manager's advice.

"Zero hits to the opposite field. It seems clear that, whether intentional or not, Valencia isn't heeding his manager's advice."

As you can see, he is hitting the ball that direction some (albeit not nearly as well - a much lower line drive rate this year) with a much lower success rate.

One of the bigger differences since Gardy's comments is that pitch f/x shows that opponents (particularly right-handed ones) have started throwing him more curveballs underneath the zone rather than the hard sliders on the outer-half of the plate. With the slower curves, it's harder to drive that ball to the opposite field versus the slider.

Anonymous said...

Carlos Gomez round 2.

USAFChief said...

My issue with DV is his lack of hustle on routine plays.

I'm starting to agree, at least on occasion. He had an AB last night that was about as unprofessional as you'll ever see. Takes strike one, then makes two pathetic, halfhearted swings at pitches nowhere near the zone. The 3rd strike was so bad it bounced to the backstop and Valencia didn't even bother trying to run to first. I realize the game was out of hand at the time, but he was really, really disinterested in playing baseball by then. That shouldn't happen.

Noam Chomsky said...

Same old cookie cutter approach to every hitter that spends time in the twins system. Hit the ball the other way. Are they going to have Thome start flipping it to left? Heaven forbid Valencia hits a few in the seats. Valencia is what he is and what he is not is particularily quick to the ball with his long swing. I dont think he's got the wrists to let the ball get deep. Because of these weeknesses and his neccesity to hit the ball in front of the plate this is all gardy and anyone else should even hope for. He's 26 and he's probably never going to improve or be able to change much but niether is any other of the bums they have coming up the pipe.(not counting the current lot at the ml level.) P.S. Last nights brutal beatdown must have been the lowest point this franchise has sunk to in 10 years. Getting absolutely blasted in record fashion by the only team in the league that has endured more chaos than they have. All in the comfy confines of their lovely publicly financed facility. Go Twins!