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  • The Hammer Has Landed

    After missing a couple games due to the birth of his child, Josh Willingham returned to the Twins lineup on Sunday and immediately made his presence felt, delivering a two-run triple in his first at-bat to set the tone in a 7-4 Twins victory.

    Willingham finished the day 3-for-5 with a double and a single in addition to the three-bagger, raising his OPS to an eye-popping 1.163.

    The left fielder has hit safely in 17 of 19 games as a Twin while collecting more extra-base hits (13) than singles (11). He has already hit three balls out of Target Field. He has absolutely obliterated left-handed pitching – he's slugging .863 against southpaws after jumping all over Bruce Chen on Sunday – making him an ideal fit between Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.

    In short, Willingham has thus far been every bit the hitter that the Twins were hoping for, and he's quickly making people forget about the man he was signed to replace.

    Sure, Michael Cuddyer's grin is missed around the ballpark, and he's off to a nice start in Colorado, hitting .289/.349/.500 with eight doubles and a pair of homers. But Willingham's first month as a Twin, which won't be complete until the finish of Monday night's game in Los Angeles, matches up favorably against any month Cuddyer had during his 11-year tenure in Minnesota. Consider that Cuddy never posted a monthly OPS above 1.047 (that mark was recorded in May of 2009), which is more than 100 points short of where Willingham currently sits.

    Of course, plenty of caveats apply to the new outfielder's phenomenal April. It's been a particularly small sample size, even for a single month, at just 19 games and 81 plate appearances. He's also a traditionally quick starter with a history of slowing down as the season progresses, so we'll surely see a few slumps come along to even things out.

    For now, though, Willingham is erasing any concerns that existed about his age, his health and his ability to hit for power in the new home park. His consistency has been a breath of fresh air for a team that hasn't seen much. In a season where plenty has gone wrong, I'm happy to embrace one of the few things that's gone completely right.
    This article was originally published in blog: The Hammer Has Landed started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 8 Comments
    1. TwinsGuy55422's Avatar
      TwinsGuy55422 -
      He has just been a beast. It would have been awesome to see him hit for the cycle on the first game from paternity leave!
    1. jlovren's Avatar
      jlovren -
      I think he can avoid the slumps if he gets some form of protection from Morneau and Mauer. At least I hope.
    1. Yoshii's Avatar
      Yoshii -
      Nice post Nick. So much negativity to start the season.

      It will be interesting to see if he can keep the average up while still hitting for power.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I know that I (and many others) said that the Twins got the best player in free agency (between Willingham, Cuddyer and Kubel) based on historical, but he's been beyond expectations. I mean, we all know he's going to end up hitting .260 and striking out a ton, but to this point, I have been incredibly impressed by his offensive game.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Yes. Very impressive and $3M a season less than what Cuddyer cost. At this point, there is no comparison. I am sure that Twins' scribes are missing Cudduyer because he was a talking head and always had a quote, and Willingham is more reserved, but so far all more than good
    1. jmlease1's Avatar
      jmlease1 -
      Last sentence of the 3rd paragraph is the money quote: "making him an ideal fit between Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau." Happy he's finally slotted in there rather than batting 5th behind Morneau. It's nice to turn LH relievers back into the LOOGYs they should be, instead of having them rack up too many outs against the M&M boys.
    1. CDog's Avatar
      CDog -
      Againts my norm, rather quickly I felt pretty strongly that The Hammer was a "mistake killer." I haven't changed my mind yet. He just crushes mistake pitches and he hasnt' missed many so far. As pointed out, naturally his average is going to fall to earth (I don't think the 0.395 BABIP is quite sustainable!). But I was surprised to see how much he walks (a little over league average throughout his career), so that helps get him on base when he doesn't get that mistake to send screaming against or over a wall. He reminds me of a mini-Thome a little...lower average (probably directly related to the big power swing), fair amount of walks with a good eye for strike zone, lots of strikeouts (again, that big power swing), and obvious strength when he hits one on the screws. All to slightly less extremes than Thome.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Great signing. Said it at the time, and still saying it. Great signing.
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