Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Will a skinnier Morneau mean more production?

When I opened to the front page of the Sunday sports section in the Star Tribune, there was one photo that stood out to me. Justin Morneau was shown taking a swing on a pitch (see photo above) and his size is noticeably different from previous years. This was only one photo from a spring training game but there have been other photos that have trickled out of Fort Myers that show more of the same; Morneau has lost some weight off of his frame.

In one of his initial conversations with reporters he told the assembled media that he changed some of his diet to lose weight and reduce stress on his body. By taking some weight off of his frame, there should be less pressure on his joints and other parts of the frame of his body. For example studies have shown that for each pound of body weight lost, there is a four-pound reduction in knee joint stress.

Besides the concussion issues that plagued Morneau for the last two seasons, there have also been plenty of other medical issues for the Canadian power hitter. His list of injuries from last year saw him suffer through a pinch never in his neck, numbness in his left hand, and left wrist soreness. When the Twins shut down Morneau in September of last year, he was forced to undergo surgery for his left wrist, bone spurs in his right foot, and a cyst in his left knee. One of the hopes for Morneau is that he will be able to avoid some of outlying injuries.

In the middle of May, Morneau will turn 31-years old and the future can be scary for a player who has missed big chunks of the last three seasons due to injury. At Morneau's age, a change of diet can be a good thing for his future health and longevity in the sport of baseball. But one of the downsides to a slugger losing weight is the fact that power hitters use their body to generate a lot of their power. The loss of some of his weight could make it harder for Morneau to smack the ball around the park.

Will there be an impact on his production? Or are the Twins just hoping he will stay healthy and on the playing field?

The Twins have Morneau under contract for the next two years so it would be good to see him get back to his former self. After not having Morneau in the line-up for giant chunks of the last three seasons, the hope could be to just get Morneau on the field for a greater portion of the 2012 campaign. Having a slightly less productive version of Morneau on the field could be better than having no Morneau at all.

Fans of another Minnesota team are familiar with one of their star players losing a little weight and finding success on the field. Kevin Love changed some of his diet and took off a few pounds for the lockout shortened NBA season. This change in his body type has lead to some outstanding production on the court as Love is coming off of his recent All-Star appearance. He is averaging a career high in points per game with over 25 per game and he continues to be a rebounding machine with close to 14 rebounds per game.
It could be a career year for the skinny version of Love and Twins fans would be thrilled with a career year from the new skinny version of Morneau. A career year might be too much to expect from the Twins former MVP for the 2012 season but fans can still hope to see more of a healthier Morneau. The Twins need to be able to score more runs then they did in 2011 and they need Morneau in the middle of the line-up in order to get those runners across the plate. Fat or skinny, it doesn't matter; the Twins just want a healthy Morneau for all of the coming season.


Jesse said...

Interesting concept. Personally, I'd happily trade the slugger version of Morneau for the great all-around hitter Morneau. When he was at his best he could hit anything over any part of the plate, so if getting back to that means he turns into a 15-20 HR guy instead of a 25-30 HR guy, so be it.

Andrew said...

I think he looks healthy. Definitely skinnier, but still healthy. Anything that saves wear and tear on the knees is good, in my opinion, especially after you hit 30 years old!

For what it's worth, I only saw his first at-bat last night, when he grounded out to second, but he did have a couple decent swings there, including a foul line drive to right field.