Harmon Killebrew has remained interested and somewhat active with the Twins over the years,* and recently John Shipley asked him about young power hitters in baseball.
* And that seems to be increasing in recent years, though part of that could just be due to more reporting during the winter and spring thanks in large part to the internet, and also to the ever-increasing demand for Twins-related information by the team’s excellent fanbase.
He showed his age, I think, by bringing up Michael Cuddyer — who’s not young — but his thoughts were interesting.
“Now,” Killebrew continued, “the real secret in this game, with hitting, is to be consistent. Can you come back and have a better year than you did the year before? That’s the tough part of the game. I hope Michael is still healthy. I know he can. Physically, he’s capable of hitting a lot more than he did last year.”
As everybody knows, Cuddyer put together a great season in 2009, putting up a career high 32 home runs. If anything, Cuddyer has seemingly shown himself not to be particularly consistent, as the perception is that he put together a pair of disappointing seasons in between his two great ones,* but Killebrew’s theory that Cuddyer is “capable” of hitting a lot more homers than he did last year warrants further investigation.
* He broke out in 2006 with a 3.1 WAR season, and 2009 was highly regarded but worth just 2.0 WAR. His 2007 was actually better, worth 2.1 WAR, though a big part of that was probably positional; in 2009, he filled in for Morneau at 1B for a month, which brought down his positional adjustment and counteracted some of the awesome work he did with the bat. He produced a career high 23.2 batting runs in 2009, vs 22.6 in 2006 and 10.5 in 2007. His 2008 was mostly a throwaway year, lost to injury.
Of Cuddyer’s 32 homers in 2009, 13 of them were “no doubt,” according to Hit Tracker — tied for 3th in the AL, behind Mark Teixeira, Miguel Cabrera, and Carlos Pena. And that was my impression as well: when Cuddyer connected with a ball, it went a mile. 11 of his homers were “plenty,” which means he got enough of them to get it out of basically any park; these are the standard home runs. Just 8 of his homers were “just enough,”* or balls that barely cleared the fence.
* Compare that to Mauer, whose 11 “just enough” shots were good for 5th in the AL.
But hitting “just enough” homers is not a criticism — you basically need to hit a bunch of them in order to rack up a big HR total. Prince Fielder had 16 of them, Albert Pujols and Mark Reynolds had 14, Kevin Youkilis had 13, Kendry Morales had 12, Alex Rodriguez had 11 … these are all pretty big home run hitters.
What Cuddyer needs to do is put more balls in the air, to give himself a better chance of a handful or two of them carrying just over the fence. If he can do that, while continuing to make the good solid contact he made in 2009, Killebrew could very well be right about his ability to hit more homers. I just don’t know what he means by “a lot more.” It could be similar to what he means by “young,” which apparently includes guys who are 31 years old.
Plus, with the addition of Jim Thome and JJ Hardy to the lineup as well as the potential for an emergence by Delmon Young, Cuddyer could see even more protection than he’s been accustomed to. That can only help.
One final note
in his first time in the cage, Cuddyer laid his bunts down, then immediately drilled a hard liner to center. Thome, with 564 homers in a 19-year major league career, looked up and said, “How do you do that?”
Dear Jim Thome: you don’t care! If Gardy’s plan for you as a pinch hitter involves any bunting whatsoever, that’s his fault. Not yours. Just focus on what’s made you a potential (probable?) hall of famer: smashing the crap out of the ball.No comments