COMMENTARY | A consistent complaint coming from the local media and the coaching staff of the Minnesota Twins is about the lack of clutch hitting. However, the Twins aren't good at hitting with runners in scoring position, because they just aren't good at hitting.
The Twins are batting .232 with runners in scoring position, which is not good at all and near the bottom of the league. However, they are only batting .240 overall, which is tied for second to last in the AL with the New York Yankees.
The one thing the Twins do that is better than most teams in the American League is draw walks. Through Monday, August 12, the Twins were tied for sixth in the AL in walks with the Toronto Blue Jays, who have played seven more games than the Twins thus far.
All those walks mean the Twins get more opportunities with runners on base. However, it takes four walks in an inning to score without the benefit of a hit, stolen base or productive out. So, most of the time, you need to get a hit or a productive at-bat to score a player that walks.
This has led to the Twins having more base runners to strand when they are unable to get a hit.
Over the history of baseball, it's been shown that clutch hitting isn't really a skill anyways. Which makes sense, because why would a player be better with a runner in scoring position? If he knows how to hit better in certain situations, why wouldn't he hit that way all the time?
However, the opposite can be true. A player can be worse in clutch situations, because he could be overanxious and start swinging at pitches out of the strike zone.
This is not the case with the Twins, though. If they were collectively having worse at-bats with runners in scoring position, you would expect their strikeouts to increase and their walks to decrease. However, the Twins have almost the same strikeout rate with runners in scoring position as they do with no runners on base, and their walk rate actually improves with runners in scoring position.
The Twins' slugging percentage also drops dramatically with runners in scoring position, which would seem to indicate that the Twins are trying to shorten their swings and going for singles up the middle instead of going with their normal power stroke.
The intention is for the Twins to score more runs by giving themselves better chances to one or two runs with a single. However, it has had the opposite effect as the Twins hit with far less power with men on base. The Twins showed in Chicago against the White Sox that they can put up a lot of runs fast when they hit home runs with men on base.
Another complaint from the local media and coaching staff is that the Twins haven't been executing when a "productive" out could be useful. The Twins have advanced runners in 29 percent of their opportunities as opposed to the league average of 31 percent, so they aren't far off from the average.
However, it would be nice for the Twins to stop focusing on having batters making the "right" outs and, instead, have them focusing on avoiding outs altogether. If they can extend innings by getting on base more often, that should lead to more big innings instead of settling for just one run with productive outs.
The Twins showed in Chicago against the White Sox what can happen if batters get on base, and the Twins just get one or two big hits. If the Twins just keep getting on base, those hits with runners in scoring position will come eventually.
Darin McGilvra has been a professional sportswriter since 1997 and has been a Twins follower since Kirby Puckett's breakout season of 1986. He has been published in The Californian, a newspaper covering Riverside County, and numerous other websites.
Follow Darin on Twitter at @SoCalTwinsfan.
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