If you walk into Target Field, you know when Denard Span does something successfully. It doesn’t matter if he hits a lead-off triple or pulls off a Torii Hunteresque Spider-Man catch. You hear bellows of “Let’s get Denarded!” or “Super Span!”. It rivals a Joe Mauer single up the middle. There are just as many “2″ jerseys in the stands as there are “33″ or “7″. The Twins faithful love Denard Span. A lot of us like to think he is next in line of great Twins centerfielders. Kirby Puckett, Torii Hunter, Denard Span. But, there is something to be desired in his play this year.
Honestly, Span isn’t having a bad year. He’s posted a WAR of 2.2, he’s stolen 19 bases, with 19 doubles and 7 triples. He’s only hit 3 home runs, but, he is a leadoff man, and one of the most exciting lead off men to watch. Always a threat for a triple, and a stolen base. Last year he had a tremendous year with a .311/.392/.415 batting line with 10 triples, 8 home runs, and 23 stolen bases. That, along with just above leauge average defense in the outfield to the tune of a 5.2 UZR in his career. Coming into 2010, with Span poised to take over centerfield full time, since Carlos Gomez was turned into JJ Hardy, 2010 was supposed to be an All-Star season for Denard Span. But, now with his .267/.336/.352 line, and all of his counting stats, save for stolen bases down, this is easily one of the most dissappointing years for Span.
But why? Why are his numbers down so much from last year? His walks are close to what they were last year at this time, the problem sounds very simple. He’s not getting as many hits this year as he did last year. His BABIP is down a staggering 57 points! And why is that? He’s swinging to much. And he’s swinging at to many bad pitches. Apparently, he thinks he’s Vladimir Guerrero. As of August 24th, Denard Span’s O-Swing% (which tells you how many balls outside of the strike zone he is swinging at) is at 19.5, which is the highest of his short career. Which is all fine and dandy, but his O-Contact% currently stands at 80.8%. In other words, if you throw him ten pitches out of the strike zone, and he had to swing at all of them, he is going to make contact with 8 of them. When you look at last season, Span’s O-Contact% was 6.7 percentage points lower, and his O-Swing% was 1.4 percentage points lower. Now, what about inside the strikezone? His Z-Swing% and Z-Contact% are currently at 61.2 and 96, which is an uptick from last season, but not by much.
When this season started, I had Denard Span penciled in to make his first All-Star apperance, then somewhere along the lines, he decided to turn into something of a free swinger.
So, what’s wrong with Denard Span? He’s making contact on pitches outside of the strike zone. I don’t know if he’s trying to fight off pitches, or if he thinks he’s Nomar Garciparra. Either way, he’s not living up to his potential, and I wish he’d stop.