Our Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves both stand at 0-7 and the race is on to see can win a game first. It is tough when you have just played seven games into a new season and find yourself five games out of the division lead. Never-the-less, Paul Molitor‘s gang will try again tonight.
The Twins might have to consider changing their name to the Minnesota Flailers. Joe Mauer is hitting .375 and Eduardo Escobar is hitting .370 but the rest of the line-up is hitting between .125 and .192 with a combined team OBP of .290. Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Byung-ho Park have each struck out in 50% of their plate appearances.
OH! but the strikeouts. Needless to say the team is on a record pace and after seven games, admittedly a small sample size, they have struck out once every 3.29 PA’s and 11.29 times a game. It is hard to miss the ball that often. Their previous worst for strike-outs per PA was 4.34 in 2013, that same Twins team struck out an all-time franchise high of 1,430 times. But if you use the current running rate of 11.29 strike outs per game the 2016 Twins will strike out a record-breaking 1,829 times. I know that is unlikely to happen but right now that is exactly what is happening.
Paul Molitor and Terry Ryan have a huge mess on their hands but things can’t stay this bad for ever. Can they? Everything levels out so we all need to be patient and ride this storm out.
Let’s talk about strikeouts, how bad are they really? We could discuss the pro’s and con’s of strikeouts forever and cases can be argued that a strikeout by a batter is terrible and you could argue that there are worse things than a strikeout. Teams usually tolerate high strikeout rates if power is also involved but what if a batter has mediocre power and still strikes out frequently? What impact do strikeout really have on runs scored? After all, that is the object of the game isn’t it? Score more runs than the opponent and you win the game assuming your pitchers do their jobs.
Let’s take a look at the previous 55 seasons of Twins play. If you look at the numbers nothing really jumps out at you to tell you that strikeout are OK or horrendous. The Twins had an OK season by some standards last year and yet they still struck out 1,264 times and in 2002 they won 94 games and still struck out 1,089 times. On the other side of the coin the Twins only struck out 684 times in 1978 and still only won 73 games. Strikeouts in themselves will not determine if your team will win or not.
The Twins have only scored more runs than they have had strikeouts on four occasions in 55 seasons, in 1976 when they finished 85-77, in 1977 when they finished 84-77, in 1979 when they finished 82-80 and in their 1995 championship season when they were 95-67. Twins history seems to indicate that if you score more often than you strike out than you will have a winning season.
I think it is interesting to note here that Gene Mauch managed the Twins from 1976-1980, none of his team struck out more that 754 times. Just a coincidence or was it his managing style? Yet only three of those five years that Mauch managed the Twins, did they have a winning record and they never won more than 85 games under his leadership.
Strikeouts are obviously up across the board for a variety of reasons, since 2000 the Twins have played 15 seasons, during 11 of those they struck out over 1,000 times, the only other season they struck out of 1,000 times was in 1964.
During the Twins AL championship season of 1965 they struck out 969 times, in 1987 they struck out 898 times, and in 1991 they struck out only 749 times. The Twins have made the playoffs 11 times and they averaged 944 strikeouts during those years. Keep in mind too that six of those 11 playoff years were on this side of 2000.
If you added in the running rate of strikeouts in 2016 after just seven games you would see a sharp dive of that blue line to 3.29.