Minnesota Twins: Miguel Sano’s Trouble with the Slider

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JUNE 05: Miguel Sano #22 of the Minnesota Twins reacts to striking out against the Chicago White Sox during the eighth inning of game two of a doubleheader on June 5, 2018 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The White Sox defeated the Twins 6-3. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JUNE 05: Miguel Sano #22 of the Minnesota Twins reacts to striking out against the Chicago White Sox during the eighth inning of game two of a doubleheader on June 5, 2018 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The White Sox defeated the Twins 6-3. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /
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Lately Minnesota Twins third baseman Miguel Sano is having trouble with the slider.

Minnesota Twins fans who have watched a game in the last month have likely seen Miguel Sano swing-and-miss at a tremendous rate. Since coming back from injury on May 25, Sano has struck out 27 times in 65 plate appearances; a rate of 41.5 percent. Yikes.

Strikeouts are certainly part of Sano’s game as he’s gone down on strikes 178 times in 2016 and 173 times in 2017. This season Sano is on a 162-game pace to strike out an insane 292 times. While that number is more than likely unattainable, Sano’s recent results probably wouldn’t convince someone otherwise.

In the past, the slider has proved to be Sano’s kryptonite.  In 2017, his batting average against the slider was .202. This season, the average against the slider is even lower at .143 and based on his recent plate approach it won’t be rising any time soon.

On May 30, Sano was seeing a slider 18.7 percent of the time. He was also swinging at pitches outside the zone 29.8 percent of the time. Since then both numbers have risen 6.9 percent and 6.2 percent respectively.

With swings like this, it’s no wonder pitchers are throwing Sano more sliders. The key though is these sliders are low and away. This graph shows all of the sliders that Sano has swung through or foul tipped this season. A majority of them are out of the strike zone and in the low-and-away quadrant.

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Since May 30 he has just two hits off of the slider, which one could argue were poorly executed. But the pitcher had the had the right idea in those instances; get ahead in the count and try to strikeout Sano with the slider.

This recent epidemic isn’t new for Sano as he had the same problem last season. And in 2016. And his rookie season in 2015. Sano’s career batting average against the slider is a meager .186, while his wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) is 68.

Yet this season, Sano is struggling against the pitch far worse than any prior season. This season, Sano is swinging at a career-high 39.1 percent of sliders outside the zone and making contact with 8.8 percent of those swings, both career worsts.

Sano ranks among the worst in MLB when it comes to hitting the slider in general.

Simply put, Sano must learn to lay off those pitches. If he can lay off the sliders out of the zone, one of two things will happen; he’ll get on base more via a walk or force pitchers to throw him more fastballs, which Sano crushes.

One reason for the absurd numbers that highlight Sano’s struggles is his indecisiveness to swing. He rarely looks like a hitter who anticipates a slider. And when he looks only offspeed, he’s often late on the fastball.

Even the manager, Paul Molitor, has noticed.

Molitor told the Pioneer Press Sano has been caught “in-between: a little late on the fastball, a little ahead on the offspeed.”

For Sano, the only cure for his overall slump is pitch recognition and swinging earlier in the count. Instead of always falling behind, Sano should come to the plate with an ambush approach; swing at strikes earlier in the at-bat to avoid having to protect against the slider.

In the last six games, Sano came the plate 24 times. Only eight of those plate appearances Sano did not have at least two strikes on him. Even though those eight plate appearances didn’t all result in base hits, they at least featured Sano putting the ball in play.

Next: What's next with Joe Mauer?

Until Sano refines his approach, there doesn’t appear to be an end to the check swings.

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