Monday, January 9, 2012

Morneau Chronicles: The Ideal Results

One of the most intriguing story lines to follow for the Twins in 2012 is the health and productivity of Justin Morneau. There are so many different ways his situation could play out on and off of the field. Will he be his old productive self next year? Are the concussions going to relegate him to being a DH? Or in a worst-case scenario, is the career of Morneau going to be forced to come to an abrupt end? All of these situations have a chance to play themselves out during the 2012 season and Twins fans will be watching the health of the former MVP with high regard.

Over the next few days, I will be examining Morneau's situation from a few different perspectives. Each day I will take a new approach to what can be expected from the Canadian first baseman. How will his play impact the team? And what can be expected from the lefty as he battles his way back onto the field? Here is a breakdown of the views I will take in regards to Morneau over the course of the week:

"Morneau Chronicles" Weekly Schedule
Monday: The Ideal Results
Tuesday: Switching to DH
Wednesday: Pushing for retirement

Games Played: From the perspective of the Twins and Mr. Morneau, the ideal results would be for him to return to the playing field and return to his MVP form. This would mean Morneau would need to be in the line-up for at least 130 games, a feat he has not accomplished since the 2009 season. A variety of injuries have been a consistent hindrance to Morneau being able to be on the field since he had a stretch of three seasons with 157 or more games played. The Twins would love to have the iron man version of Morneau back in the line-up but they would settle for him getting over 500 plate appearances in 2012.

Offensive Performance: The start of the 2010 season was the last time the Twins got a glimpse of all that Morneau could be from the offensive side of the ball. He started the 2010 season on a tear and looked primed to be on his way to another AL MVP Award. In the 81 games he played, he batted .345/.437/.618 with 18 home runs and 56 RBI. One slide into second base would change all of the MVP hopes for Morneau and it would change a lot of his future. In limited time action on the field in 2011, Morneau ran into his fair share of struggles. His batting line of .227/.285/.333 with four home runs was just a shadow of his former self. Morneau may never get back to his previous performance but he needs to get past some of his struggles from last year to be a productive player on the field.

Defensive Position: Another obstacle for Morneau on his return in 2012 is he would need to be able to stand-up to the riggers of playing at first base. There has been talk of him being switched to a full-time designated hitter (check back tomorrow for a post on this switch). When Morneau has been healthy, he is one of the best defensive first basemen in the American League. The skills he learned in his youth as a hockey goalie have served him well with scooping balls and blocking bad throws. With the variety of injuries Morneau had last season, there were some signs of decline on the defensive side of the ball. If all of his injuries have fully healed, the Twins will hope to get more of the Gold Glove caliber defense from Morneau

Other Players Impacted: In the ideal situation with Morneau being healthy and playing almost every day, there would be other players who would see less playing time. Ryan Doumit will most likely serve as the back up to Morneau at first base. Doumit's versatility on the field would allow him to fit in the line-up at a couple other positions so he would most likely get close to the same playing time. Luke Hughes is in line to be a utility infielder and it would be best for the Twins if he didn't see a whole bunch of time at first. Joe Mauer is an intriguing name because the team wants him to catch as much as possible. In 2011, Mauer showed good athletic ability during his time at first but a healthy Morneau could make Mauer's alternate position switch to the outfield. At the end of last season, Twins fans got a taste of what Chris Parmelee could mean to the future of the club. His September call-up was full of good signs for the young first baseman. A healthy Morneau would mean Parmelee would get more time to season himself in the minor leagues.

With the recent reports coming out about Morneau still having some concussion related symptoms, this ideal situation might be a distant dream for fans of the Twins. There could be a miraculous recovery between now and the start of the regular season but the Twins have some pieces in place to move in a different direction. If Morneau can regain some of his old form at the plate and in the field, the team and player would be in a great spot. But the Twins have to be ready for the worst-case scenario, a season with little or no appearances by Justin Morneau.
Remember to check back each day this week as I will examine the "Morneau Chronicles" from a few different perspectives. His role on the team will play a large part in the success of the club in 2012 so it is important to know what the future could hold for him and the Twins.

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