30 Players in 30 Days: Josh Willingham


willingham1.jpgIt was a rollercoaster season for Josh Willingham. He found himself on the bench in April and unable to hit in September. Baseball is all about managing the highs and lows. The Florence, Ala. native with a southern drawl and a hankering for hearty handshakes made the middle of the season memorable. And how could we forget the night of July 27, 2009? He never will. His two grand slams in the same game are ingrained in his hippocampus like his name in the history books.

 

There have been 17 perfect games.  There have been 15 four home run games but just 13 players have hit two slams in the same game. Welcome to the club Willingham. The odds are nearly impossible–there is a better chance you are randomly selected from a hat filled with every American’s name. “It was pretty unbelievable,” Willingham said. “That’s about all I can say really. You don’t get a chance to do something like that.”

 

He started the season as a spot starter in the outfield. He didn’t get daily at-bats and struggled to find his grove at the plate with occasional pinch-hits and starts in right field. He started only eight games in April and batted .143 (5-for-35) with one home run and two RBI. It was Willingham’s first time that he wasn’t an everyday starter. It was unfamiliar territory for him and he never got used to it. He never had too.

 

The once cluttered outfield cleared out and he became a regular starter in the outfield. From the beginning of May to August 25, Willingham batted .320 (91-for-284) with 20 home runs, 54 RBI and an OBP of .419.

 

“You have to be able to play to get in your rhythm, routine, groove, whatever you want to call it,” Willingham said. “I have never been a pinch-hitter and that was something I had to get used to. I had never really done it, so yeah, playing every day was the key to the success.”

 


josh willingham.JPGFor as productive as August 25 was–Willingham went 4-for-4 with six  RBI and five runs to raise his average over .300 for the season–the rest of the season was a constant struggle as he watched his average precipitously fall to .260. From August 26 to the end of the season, Willingham batted .139 (15-for-108) with three home runs, five RBI, 16 walks and 35 strikeouts. He ended the season with a .260 batting average, 24 home runs and 61 RBI. Don’t worry he is already over it.

 

Willingham will enter the 2010 season with a starting spot in left field, batting fifth behind Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn. He will be counted on to start everyday and that could mean–if he avoids the injury bug–a career year… make that a 30 home run and 100-plus RBI season.

 

Josh Willingham Final Stats

G

AB

R

H

TB

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

IBB

SO

SB

CS

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

133

427

70

111

212

29

0

24

61

61

2

104

4

3

.260

.367

.496

.863

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