During the 2008-2009 off-season, Ryan Ludwick spent the majority of his time conditioning to put on more muscle and bulking up, but he hindered his swing by doing so. Though he was also plagued by an injury, a majority of his problems arose from struggling to drive balls to the opposite field because his added bulk prevented flexibility to hit pitches on the outer half.
Ludwick’s regression in 2009 was expected. Using FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement, Ludwick followed up his stellar 5.7 WAR 2008, with a comparatively underwhelimg 1.9 WAR year in 2009. Like many, I don’t believe Ludwick is the five to six win player he was in 2008, but I don’t think he’s just the two win player either. I think he’s somewhere in between, and the ability to get to that in-between point, hinges on his success going the other way.
Let’s take a look at Ludwick’s expected regression by looking at how he declined in the fields to which he hit the ball.
|2008||to LF||to CF||to RF|
2008 = 5.7 WAR
|2009||to LF||to CF||to RF|
2009 = 1.9 WAR
Looking at the numbers, it’s clear Ludwick decreased production overall to all fields. What differs from his regression to right field as opposed to center and left is that his 2009 numbers to right weren’t even serviceable, and that’s what killed his overall value.
Ludwick showed up to 2010 Spring Training camp in a slimmer, less bulky form, and his swing has benefited immediately, showing more power hitting balls on the outer half to the opposite field. If Ludwick can improve to, say, the 2009 league average for right-handed hitters to the opposite field of a .279 wOBA, he can improve his value by about 6 runs, which is around 0.5 WAR. It may not seem like much, but if he can stay healthy, something he had trouble doing in 2009, he may improve his numbers to center and left as well, which could put him at around the three-win player that I believe he is.