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  • Willingham proving the Twins hired the right muscle

    Just two seasons into Target Field’s existence and already the ballpark’s environment had drawn as much consternation from hitters as an expanded strike zone or moving the mound ten feet closer to the plate. Departing Twins took shots at the venue as they left the team, suggesting that the way the field plays makes players alter their swings to avoid long fly outs to the gaps.

    Rather than continuing to jam square pegs into a round hole, the Twins made an offseason signing that is proving early on that if you select the right talent, Target Field can be porous. With a sampling of two seasons, the home run chart at Target Field showed that the easiest way to leave the field of play was to yank one down the left field line - and that’s where Josh Willingham comes in.

    Because of his high pull tendencies and Target Field’s favorable environment to right-handed pull hitters, this winter’s acquisition had all the signs that it could be successful.

    Just three games into the first homestand of the year, Willingham has reminded fans why the team named the third deck section of left field the “Home Run Porch” by pulverizing the Rawlings deep into the stands and narrowly missing a fourth by several feet on Monday. In concert with Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer, both of whom homered on Thursday, the Twins now have five home runs at home. That is downright a derby contest compared to last season in which fans had to wait until the twelfth home game of the season to be treated to the fifth Twins home run.

    Let’s take a closer look as to why Willingham has been such a solid power source.

    As I wrote back in December, what makes him such a dangerous hitter is that he “draws his power from a stiff front leg which helps with leverage and keeps his hands inside as his back arm stays close to his body at a little over a 90 degree angle – otherwise known as the “Power L” position. This combination, plus his natural strength, has led to a home run every 18.6 at bats since 2009.”

    Here is an example of this in his home run off of Jared Weaver on Wednesday night. What I failed to mention back then is the explosive hip action he has when he uncorks. Take note of the stiff front leg and the way his trailing arm stays tucked in. Notice, also, that the point of impact is well out in front of his body resulting in him pulling the ball:


    Next is an almost identical position for his home run off of Kevin Jepsen. Observe the same front leg, arm tucked in and the impact made out in front of his body:


    Because of this approach, Willingham has had great success when being pitched middle-in:

    Due to his early season success, one has to believe that the Rangers advanced scouts are filing reports that say “PITCH HIM AWAY! AWAY! AWAY!” in big bold letters and underlined. After all, Texas can neutralize him in this weekend’s series by forcing him to use the large part of the park rather than directing the ball towards the porch in left.

    It is impossible to think that his pace will continue throughout the season, but pitchers do make mistakes – like Jepsen did when he tried to hit the outer-half the zone on Thursday only to have it stay over the middle – and Willingham appears to be a hitter who takes advantage of such mistakes. While this season still needs to play out, as of right now, it appears that the Twins front office has made one home run of a signing.
    This article was originally published in blog: Willingham proving the Twins hired the right muscle started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 18 Comments
    1. Neil's Avatar
      Neil -
      'Ham's jarring display of power has been a breath of fresh air. Keep 'em coming, 'Ham!
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      I'll try to remember the Power L when I'm coaching kid ball this summer. I wonder if that would improve my forehand...
    1. twinstalker's Avatar
      twinstalker -
      Wake me up when the runs he creates minus the runs he gives up makes him at least average. Delmon Young's best year was bad because of this, and Willingham seems no better in the field, though he's likely to at least hit every year like Young's best.
    1. twinswon1991's Avatar
      twinswon1991 -
      Nice to see the Twins have one player not afraid of Target Field. The M & M boyz just make excuses.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      As always, thanks for the analysis, Parker. As they develop and you can get enough info and video, I'd be interested in your thoughts on how some of the Twins minor leaguers would fare at TF. It'll be interesting to see how they craft this team over the next few years to take advantage of the park's idiosycracies.
    1. Harrison Greeley III's Avatar
      Harrison Greeley III -
      Great stuff.

      Sorry to stickle, but I've seen Jered Weaver's name misspelled on this site in multiple articles.
    1. stringer bell's Avatar
      stringer bell -
      For all of the impressive HRs Willingham has hit, I was most impressed with his HR yesterday. He didn't "get it all" but he managed to pull the ball with just enough to get it over the fence. The Twins need to learn how to use their park and Willingham might hit a lot of 350 ft. homers as compared to hitting 390 ft. "cans of corn" to center and the allies.
    1. headcheese's Avatar
      headcheese -
      *wakes up twinstalker*
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      For years the Twins had favored gap-to-gap type hitters because that approach played well at the Metrodome. Cuddyer and Kubel were two of the most vocal in their dislike for hitting at Target Field, but with them gone, the Twins can refocus on hitters that play well at the new park.
    1. SweetOne69's Avatar
      SweetOne69 -
      I agree Boom Boom. Even though Target Field is dimensionally similar to the Metrodome, it doesn't play the same. That was one of the main reasons that the let Kubel and Cuddyer go and replaced them with Willingham and Doumit. They have to start molding their team to suit the stadium.
    1. Westgaard66's Avatar
      Westgaard66 -
      the twins need to keep getting guys like Willing hammer!
      look at some of the guys who have killed the Twins @ target field.
      Aggressive, Hard pull hitters....several Blue Jays come to mind....there was actually an article about it
      http://www.bluejayhunter.com/2011/05...jays-kill.html
    1. luckylager's Avatar
      luckylager -
      Doesn't roll off the tongue like "The House that Ruth Built", but how about we christian Target Field "The House that Willingham Moved Into and Found To Be To His Liking".
    1. gobie82's Avatar
      gobie82 -
      Concrete has dried....
    1. twinzgrl's Avatar
      twinzgrl -
      I was at the game yesterday. Things looked bleak, Liriano was awful. Then, WHO WERE THOSE GUYS?! I knew they could hit, but when was the last time the Twins hit three home runs in one game, and at Target Field. I thought I was dreaming, and I didn't want to wake up. Willingham is so impressive. Everytime he comes up you just believe he is going to make something happen. GREAT ACQUISITION. His fielding will also improve I think (I hope).
    1. displacedtwinsfan's Avatar
      displacedtwinsfan -
      Now that the Twins have started to hit a bit, maybe this comment is off-target. However, I think it is worthy to note what Jason Kubel is doing in Arizona. While a member of the Twins, Kubel always showed "promise" but never really lived up to his potential, eventually being moved to the dbacks. That said, yesterday AZ Head Coach Gibson moved Kubel into the #2 spot because he believed Jason was "pressing" and by placing him in the 2 hole he would see better pitches and gain some confidence. Is it crazy to think that some of the poor production seen out of the Twins line-up in recent games even dating back to last season is simply because Gardy doesn't tinker with line-ups in this manner? I am a huge Gardy fan, but thought the production seen out of Kubel this year (specifically the last 2 games after an awful start) was noteworthy.
    1. Top Gun's Avatar
      Top Gun -
      Josh hasn't proved anything yet and Gardy has his pets!
    1. twinstalker's Avatar
      twinstalker -
      Quote Originally Posted by headcheese View Post
      *wakes up twinstalker*
      He's super bad in the outfield. Just because we've had "super bad" in left for the last few years doesn't mean it's okay. At least Young could throw. I'm glad he's hitting well so far, but unless he's the DH, he's nothing to celebrate. The Twins can't afford to have bad fielders...and they shouldn't ever have to, if they're doing things right.
    1. Zman's Avatar
      Zman -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinstalker View Post
      He's super bad in the outfield. Just because we've had "super bad" in left for the last few years doesn't mean it's okay. At least Young could throw. I'm glad he's hitting well so far, but unless he's the DH, he's nothing to celebrate. The Twins can't afford to have bad fielders...and they shouldn't ever have to, if they're doing things right.
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