The tenth in a non-alphabetical and irregularly updated series of review pieces for each of the players we predicted last winter. (All entries are linked in the left-hand sidebar, below the Rotoworld stuff and the interviews.)
LL/USSM Community: 209 AB's, .243/.308/.297 (n=116)
Actual Line: .277/.321/.329
Closest Projection: Dave Cameron, .271/.319/.327
From last March:
"Ironically, when I don't try to do as much, I actually do more," he said.
He likened his new hitting technique to playing pepper with the pitcher. The harder the pitcher throws, and the better contact he makes, the better chance he has of hitting the ball hard and getting a hit.
"It's nothing huge," [Ballgame] said. "I'm not going up there trying to drive the ball into the gaps as much. I'm trying to cut down my swing and stay within myself. In the past, when I tried to hit the ball harder, my swing got longer and I started popping the ball up to right field. It looked like I had zero power."
Result: a different path to the same pile of crap destination. By "cutting down his swing" and no longer trying to do too much, Willie actually made less contact than usual, and for good measure walked fewer times than he did in 2006. But he did manage to put the ball on the ground a staggering 61% of the time, which helped him avoid the dreaded pop-up to right field. Because whenever I used to think about Willie's problems at the plate, I always found myself cursing those pop-ups to right field.
Whatever. You know what? So many people have spent so many hours over so many years writing so many analyses of Willie, but at the end of the day, he's a utility player, and the organization knows it. So I'm going to take this opportunity to not be long-winded about the guy. He's a lousy hitter who can put the ball in play and run enough to go on the occasional little hot streak like the one he had in early June. Yeah, he's useful as an energetic jack-of-all-trades who can play a lot of positions and steal a base, but much like with Jamie Kennedy, the more featured his role, the lower the quality of the show.
At least the inside-the-parker totally rocked. I'll give Willie one thing - his homers aren't dull.