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  • Is it time to worry about Morneau yet?

    Following Monday’s 0-for-2 performance, lowering his spring batting average to .100, Justin Morneau addressed his struggles:

    "It's gotten better. It's not where I want it to be yet. The swing's getting better. The swing feels a lot better than it did when I first got down here. It's a process, it's moving along. I just have to keep telling myself that it's slow, and just because it's not here now doesn't mean it's not going to be here a week from now."

    Sound familiar?

    A year ago, Morneau was coming off a serious concussion injury and slowly easing back into the game in mid-March. For the majority of the time in Florida in 2011, he struggled. He failed to leave the yard in his 11 games and batted .152 but managed to knock a trifecta of doubles. Reflecting on his performance, told the Star Tribune’s LaVelle E Neal that his “timing is starting to come .”

    Despite his claim to the contrary, in the regular season Morneau’s timing never came.


    As of this past Monday, his results have continued to plummet (down to .091 after yesterday’s 0-for-3 game), sending a ripple of concern through the Minnesota fan base that the timing may never come.

    For those looking for some reassurance, you can turn to the fact that it is hard to put too much stock into the small sample size that is spring training. Additionally, Morneau has never been a fast starter when it comes to spring training (dating back to 2006 and MLB.com’s statistical database). Perhaps the Canadians have a tough time adjusting to the Gulf Coast heat. With the exception of his 2009 spring in which he hit three home runs and slugged over .700, he has been somewhat of a disappointment each March. Nevertheless, he has still managed to come out and perform admireably once the calender flips to April. Take is 2010 spring for instance. That year he posted a batting average of .160 (albeit tagging three home runs). Even though he had what could be considered a slow start, he was blazing through the league, hitting .345/.437/.618 with 18 home runs prior to his run-in with John MacDonald’s knee.

    Morneau and the media on-lookers in Fort Myers are trying to sell hope. “It’s close” is the clear message. Back on March 16th Neal said in his blog that Morneau “swung the bat with murderous intentions tonight, which could be a sign that his timing is coming around to the point where he's comfortable with letting it fly.” Morneau told reporters after Monday’s game that “I think I've just kind of let it fly and hit some balls hard - hit some balls hard at people, hit some balls hard foul. I guess that's a pretty good sign. Especially yesterday, I pulled the ball foul. I hadn't done that in a long time." Likewise, following yesterday’s contest, 1500ESPN.com’s Phil Mackey described Morneau’s outs as “scalded” and hit “hard.”

    These are positive signs, are they not? After all, hard hit balls eventually turn into hits.

    Then again, while that sounds comforting, this has been a historically bad spring output for the first baseman. He has never not hit an extra base hit in spring training. He has never had a sub-.100 batting average. What’s more, he has never had to recover from a concussion, wrist surgery and pain in his neck, shoulder, knees and toes (knees and toes). If he was not be able to shake the concussion alone last year to regain his timing, what is to lead us to believe he will overcome all four ailments to rebound in 2012?
    This article was originally published in blog: Is it time to worry about Morneau yet? started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 25 Comments
    1. MileHighTwinsFan's Avatar
      MileHighTwinsFan -
      Way too early to get worried. 14 preseason games to play and two weeks until opening day. I will be worried if he is hitting below .200 on April 30.
    1. Ultima Ratio's Avatar
      Ultima Ratio -
      I'm worried that he will be hitting well below .200 at the end of ST. He needs rest for that wrist and his batting will not improve until his swing is mechanically sound. Until his wrist heals, it's stubbornness pushing futility up a big, rocky hill.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      If Morneau is sidelined by something other than concussion symptoms, then actually I don't mind. It means he's still got a chance to come back. Maybe not as soon as we'd all like, but someday.
    1. James Richter's Avatar
      James Richter -
      Morneau's ABs in Thursday's game included a deep fly to left and a lineout to 3rd, as well as a sharp grounder just foul down the 3rd base line. There's three swings that weren't far away from being extra-base hits. Seems like he's trying to go the other way. Parker would know for sure, but isn't that a change in approach from his pull-happy, out-of-whack swing from 2011?
    1. twinstalker's Avatar
      twinstalker -
      Given that Terry Ryan is worried, I am worried. (Though I should point out that we rarely agree!)
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      I've been worried since last season, so I think it's just good that he's swinging a bat....
    1. kirbyelway's Avatar
      kirbyelway -
      Its spring training, average means NOTHING. All hitters want is good swings and pitchers to get loose and work on some things. Morneau is starting to hit the ball hard just in time for regular season. Thats all we can ask for.
    1. nmoline's Avatar
      nmoline -
      It's definitely time to be worried, but at least there is comfort in knowing that his $14m comes off the books after the 2013 season and the Twins and him can part ways.
    1. sethf00's Avatar
      sethf00 -
      Whats his actual full / advanced stats from spring training? And/or where can I find that?

      If he's struck out at half his at bats and is hitting lots of weak ground balls, I'm worried. If his BB/K rate is good, and his line drive rate is good, then I'm looking forward to stealing him in my fantasy baseball draft.
    1. LimestoneBaggy's Avatar
      LimestoneBaggy -
      I'll worry if two things happen: 1.) He doesn't start the season on the DL (which is a possibility); and 2.) He doesn't pull the ball. I saw him briefly in Fort Myers this year, and the eye test said he's not quite right yet. I'm still in his corner pulling for him to come out of this. I want MORE-Neau!
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      Whats his actual full / advanced stats from spring training? And/or where can I find that?
      TwinsBaseball.com's stat section has spring training numbers. They are hardly advanced.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      Parker would know for sure, but isn't that a change in approach from his pull-happy, out-of-whack swing from 2011?
      No video of his spring ABs are available in order to properly dissect his swing. It will something that I will be looking at more closely at the beginning of the regular season.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      Its spring training, average means NOTHING.
      Agree, for the most part but the real focus of Morneau's spring is the lack of extra base hits -- the power isn't there. It could be timing, as he says, which may dissipate as he accrues more ABs or it could be something effecting him like his wrist, shoulder, concussion, etc which, to me, is more of a concern.

      If he is hitting the ball as sharply as the reports say, it's definitely a positive and trumps his ability to accumulate spring hits. At the same time, the reports from a year ago were strikingly similar -- his timing was close, he was having some loud outs, etc.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      I'm just glad he's swinging a bat. I've been worried since last year, and it's honestly tough to expect too much from him this season after not really playing much in the last couple years.

      While I realize his salary is a big factor in expectations, I think seeing him play 120+ games should be the goal with steadily increased production throughout the season. He's not going to be a .300 30 HR guy this season.
    1. Steve Lein's Avatar
      Steve Lein -
      Was at the game yesterday and saw 4 or 5 Morneau at bats in a Minor League game on Wednesday. I think his swing looks good, and he has been tagging the ball pretty good right at people. I don't see him flying open with his swing like he was last year, which I take as a good sign. Parker - I've got some video of an at bat or 2, let me know if you'd want 'em.
    1. StormJH1's Avatar
      StormJH1 -
      I am perpetually worried about Morneau (look at how well Sidney Crosby played in the NHL for a few games before going back on injured reserve), but not because of his numbers in Spring Training. So far, the spring has been more good than bad for Morneau, given that he's seeing game activity and not having problems. Who knows if his reaction time, concentration, and general physical health will get back to where they once were, but he has to stay concussion-free to even have a shot at that. While we're EXTREMELY early in that analysis, so far so good.
    1. SweetOne69's Avatar
      SweetOne69 -
      Looks like Morneau got a solid double to deep center today.
    1. jharaldson's Avatar
      jharaldson -
      It has been 20 months now since Morneau had his concussion and he has been awful or injured since then. During his comeback last year his best month was a .723 OPS which would be at the bottom of the league for firstbasemen. He showed up to spring training underweight, can't hit for average, and can't hit for power. At this point I am assuming he is done until he proves otherwise.
    1. TwinsArmChairGM_Jon's Avatar
      TwinsArmChairGM_Jon -
      This article could also have been titled, "Is It Time to Worry *More* About Morneau". Not even taking into account his other ailments, the multiple head injuries he's suffered are good reason to worry about Morneau for the last year and a half (and really, for the rest of his career.) I really want to see Morneau do well both for the Twins' sake and because he's a really fun player watch when he's raking or staring down stuffed lions. I don't think Parker was saying we didn't have reason to worry before, but there's been good reason to be concerned ever since the terrible takeout. I think we can all hope the recent push to study brain injuries leads to real and effective treatment for them.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      A double yesterday and his first spring home run since 2010 today -- apparently the reports of him being "close" and hitting the ball hard are legit. Good signs.
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