Monday, April 28, 2014

Examining Chris Colabello's Surprising Start

It has been quite the surprising first month of the season for Mr. Chris Colabello.

The older than average sophomore slugger had the opportunity to go play overseas this off-season but he wanted to continue to live out his big league dream. This probably would have been my choice too after it took him multiple seasons in independent baseball to even get a sniff of the major leagues.

Because of early season injuries to Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia, Colabello has been a staple in the middle of the Twins line-up. Batting in the heart of the order has allowed him plenty of opportunities. Those opportunities have resulted in him leading the AL in RBI (Jose Abreu passed him over the weekend) while also being in second place in doubles.

Things have sure changed in a hurry for Colabello. In his rookie season, he batted under .200 with a .631 OPS. His strikeout total piled up as he whiffed 58 times in only 160 at-bats. Ten total extra-base hits were not nearly enough to make up for all of the swings and misses. Overall, these were the types of numbers the Twins wanted to see from a first baseman/corner outfielder.

Obviously somethings is going different so far this season. Colabello's batting average is over 100 points higher and his OPS has jumped over 200 points. He has been locked in at the plate and he looks like one of the best hitters in the American League.

Digging deeper into the numbers there are a few noticeable differences. So far this season, Colabello's line-drive percentage has increased from 13.7% last year to close to over 18%. He has cut down on his ground ball percentage and increased his rate of fly balls. Over the course of a season, this could result in more home runs and possibly more extra-base hits.

He also seems to be finding extra-base hits all over the diamond. Last season, the majority of his extra-base hits were to opposite field. Each of his three home runs this season has gone to a different part of the field. While most of his doubles have still been to opposite field, he has shown the ability to pull the ball to pick up an extra-base hit.

The only change Colabello made to his batting stance this offseason was moving his right foot a little closer to the plate. In his rookie season, opposing pitchers were able to pound the outside part of the strike zone against him. This is one of the reasons he had to collect most of his extra-base hits going to the opposite field. By slightly altering his swing, he's gotten better plate coverage and it seems to be working for him.

As a team, the Twins seem to be adopting a policy of not swinging to help the team to a hot offensive start. The club as a whole has taken an approach of "walking their way to wins" as players on the team are being patient and getting on base. Collabello is the lone batter in their top nine that has swung more frequently than last year but that can be expected with how he's been swinging the bat.

Hot starts in April don't always lead to prolonged success throughout the regular season. When the Twins roster is back to full strength, it is going to be hard for Ron Gardenhire not to write Colabello's name down on the line-up card.

He continues to surprise the baseball world and I doesn't seem like he would like to have it any other way.

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