2013 is a critical juncture in the career of four-time All-Star Justin Morneau.
Not only does it mark the third season that the Minnesota Twins first baseman will have played in after coming back from a potential MVP season-derailing concussion, but it is also a contract year for the veteran — and potentially his last with the franchise.
So, it’s been rather unfortunate that he hasn’t really given the team too much of an impetus to sign him to another long-term contract so far this season.
Through 23 games thus far, Morneau has put up a disappointing .261/.313/.391 triple-slash through 99 PA — not really good enough for a first baseman in this league, and definitely not good enough as the Twins’ cleanup hitter.
That said, things could be turning around for him yet.
Morneau provided the key first blow in the Twins’ 6-2 win over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday with a double off Anibal Sanchez in a 2-for-5, two-RBI day. Besides the fact that this came against a very tough pitcher, his contributions also prolonged a very good run for him over the last seven days.
The 31-year-old now has three multi-hit games in his last five with three extra-base hits, and he’s hit in five out of his last six games — good for a .350/.381 split over his last 20 at-bats.
Had he truly turned a corner on his 2013 season? Well, it certainly suggests that he’s seeing the ball a little better, which hasn’t really been the case this season. Despite a relatively healthy 20-percent line-drive rate in his batting profile and a workable 0.58 BB/K (three-year high), one of Moreau’s vices so far has been his discipline at the plate.
No, he’s not striking out very much (12.1 percent) nor does he swing at miss too often (8.6 percent), but he’s probably being a little too liberal with his bat when it comes to swinging at outside pitches (career-high 40.3 percent). He’s making good contact as a result (83.7 percent, five-year high), but it hasn’t always been good contact.
Might the last few games represent an adjustment? According to PITCHf/x, he hasn’t really swung at outside pitches any less, but he’s now finding results as far as the line-drive rates go (29.2 percent over last six games).
If this is a sign of things to come, perhaps Morneau could give the Twins a compelling reason to keep him around for a few more years yet.