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« Lincecum Looking For More Strikes With Fastball | Main | Zito Looking For More Zip »
Friday
Feb242012

Morneau Worried About Baseball Future

Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau's career reached its apex during the first half of the 2010 season, as the Canadian with the killer uppercut swing put up a .345 average, a .437 on-base percentage and a .618 slugging percentage through early July. The slugging came to an abrupt halt, however, after he suffered a concussion sliding into second base on July 7.

Since then, Morneau has played in just 69 games while dealing with post-concussion symptoms, surgery for a herniated disc in his neck and a trio of procedures for a cyst in his knee, bone spurs in his foot a left wrist tendon injury. His line over that time? .227/.285/.333. Now, the Minnesota Star Tribune's Jim Souhan notes, Morneau is pondering his future:

"Well, I don’t think there will be a career if it’s something I’m dealing with,’’ he said. "That’s the reality of the whole thing. I’m obviously not going to continue to mess around with this if it continues to be a problem. There comes a point where you can only torture yourself for so long."

Before his concussion woes, Morneau's slugging hot spot in 2010 was practically the entire strike zone. Unless pitchers caught the outside corner, they were toast. Check out his in-play slugging percentage by pitch location that year:

Morneau's in-play slugging percentage by pitch location, 2010

In 2011, though? He only clubbed the occasional low pitch, or cookies that caught the middle of the plate:

Morneau's in-play slugging percentage by pitch location, 2011

Morneau hit his fly balls an average of 290 feet in 2010. That's comparable to big-boned mashers like David Ortiz. But his fly ball distance plummeted to just 243 feet this past year. That's about the same  distance as banjo hitter Tsuyoshi Nishioka, and 10 feet less than that of Ben Revere.

His plate discipline was affected, too. Morneau's rate of chasing pitches out of the zone increased from 30% in 2010 to 34%, with more swings on low-and-away and high-and-away pitches in particular:

Morneau's swing rate by pitch location, 2010 Morneau's swing rate by pitch location, 2011

Without either of the M&M Boys healthy last year, the Twins brought up the rear in run-scoring among American League clubs. Morneau still has two years and $28 million left on the extension he signed back in 2008 and the club's biggest offseason bat added to the lineup was Josh Willingham, so Minnesota desperately needs their now-30-year-old first baseman to start slugging again.

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