The other day I was having lunch and reading my newest Memories and Dreams magazine put out by the Hall of Fame. There are always good stories in this magazine and in this edition there was a short one page article by Marty Appel called A Second Look at Hall of Famer Nellie Fox.
I am old enough to have seen Nellie play second base for the Chicago White Sox in early 60’s although by then he was on the down-hill side of his amazing career that started back in 1951. Not only was the man a twelve time all-star but he was the American League MVP in 1959.
Fox was one tough dude to strike out, in over 10,000 plate appearances he struck out just 216 times, that is incredible. He once had a record 98 straight games without being retired on strikes.
That got me to thinking about the Twins and how often they strike out. Now days players strike out more frequently then they once did and baseball and teams just kind of wink and say “yes, he strikes out but look at all those home runs”. If Nellie went 98 games with striking out what is the Twins longest streak of games without striking out.
Are you kidding me, Earl Battey with a 35 game streak of no strike outs during the 1965 pennant race? Wowsers, that is amazing. I sure don’t remember Battey having such a good eye at the plate but when you look at his numbers you will find out he never struck out more than 75 times in a season. Brain Harper is on the list twice, with a 28 game streak and a 20 game streak. I used to love watching Harper bat, he always seemed to make contact and what I remember most about him was how he followed each and every pitch all the way to the catchers glove.
You will notice that the most recent Twins streak of at least 20 games with out striking out goes back to 1996 when Chip Hale had a 23 gamer, today Chip Hale manages the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Who had the longest streak of this kind in 2015 you ask? That would be Nori Aoki from the San Francisco Giants with a 22 game streak from June 6 to August 5 and that was after he had a 20 game streak from May 5 to May 31. He must have had something in his eye because he struck out once a game on June 1, 2 and 3. That means from May 9 to August 5, Aoki had 187 plate appearances and struck out 3 times. Nice! Aoki just signed to play with Seattle a week or so ago.
How about the Minnesota Twins in 2015? The most games streak with out a strikeout was 10 by catcher Kurt Suzuki.
To me one of the oddest things about the above list is that catchers make up the top three streaks and Jose Morales is a bit further down the list and he played a handful of games behind the plate too. Now in 2015 Suzuki has the longest streak. Why is that?
Is it because catchers just naturally have a better eye for the strike zone? I doubt it. Do catchers learn as the game goes along how the umpire is calling balls and strikes and they can put that information to use? Are catchers skillful enough to do that? Or is it that maybe umpires have a certain degree of empathy for catchers and build friendships with them over time that causes them subconsciously not to call strikes on them as often? You gotta wonder… or is it just a quirk that three Twins catchers are on top of this list?