- FanGraphs Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs -

The Island of Justin Morneau

Fun game of the day – mix and match collections of first baseman that equal Justin Morneau in value so far this year.

Morneau: +3.6 wins

Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez, and Todd Helton: +3.6 wins
Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Adam Dunn: +3.6 wins
Kevin Youkilis, Paul Konerko, and Mark Teixeira: +3.6 wins
Joey Votto, Billy Butler, and Ryan Howard: +3.6 wins

No matter who you pick, you’ll need multiple all-stars to put together a group that can match Morneau’s season to date. He’s been that good.

After years of being just a good-not-great hitter, Morneau looks to be doing the same thing that Gonzalez did last year: combining a small power spike with a huge jump in his walk rate. In 2009, Gonzalez drew 45 more walks than he did the year prior, while holding everything else mostly the same, and the result was a wOBA that jumped from the .360 range to over .400, making Gonzalez one of the game’s best players.

Morneau’s career walk rate is just 10.1 percent, as he began his career as a pretty aggressive free swinger, but it’s inched up over the last couple of years. This year, however, his BB% stands at 18.5 percent. He’s tied with The Greek God of Walks for the league lead in bases on balls, and at this pace, he’ll beat his previous career high by more than 50 walks.

At age 29, it appears that Morneau has found the value of being selective at the plate, and it’s paying off in a huge way. He won’t keep hitting .383, of course (that .444 BABIP is as unsustainable as any statistic in baseball), but as we saw with Gonzalez last year, the improvement in his walk rate could be real. While he already has one MVP award under his belt, perhaps this new and improved Justin Morneau will actually deserve one some day.