Scoggins: Are Twins strikeouts a problem? Or am I the problem?

Derek Falvey was in a jovial mood, talking and laughing with reporters before departing for Florida for spring training. It might have been a party-pooper moment, but I felt the need to address a nagging topic with the Twins chief baseball officer.

The payroll? Not that topic, though executive chair Joe Pohlad's comments to WCCO radio this week about having no interest in signing top free agents were tone-deaf given the resurgent 2023 season that inspired fans to reinvest their money and emotions. As Uncle Jim would say: That was a total system failure in creating goodwill with the fan base.

No, this was a different topic. Something that makes my head explode watching games:


Go to any Major League Baseball game these days and it's a series of whiffs. Whiff, whiff, whiff.

Those of us in the AARP age bracket remember when the walk of shame back to the dugout was punishment for striking out. Now it's no big deal at all. It's just, meh, part of the game.

Why, I asked Falvey, shouldn't I lose my mind over the frequency and general acceptance of strikeouts in modern baseball?

"There are two answers to that question," he said. "We never intend to hunt strikeout records. That's not a goal, I promise you. Any fan that thinks that, you need to tell them that is not the case. That was not our goal. That was never our mission."

It was accomplished though. The Twins set an MLB record for strikeouts last season with 1,654. They won the crown as King of Ks, but they were hardly alone. The Seattle Mariners also eclipsed the previous record with their 1,603 whiffs.

Every MLB team recorded 1,100 strikeouts in 2023. Only five teams reached 1,000 strikeouts in 1990.

The game has changed, I get it. Hitting has evolved and the introduction of analytics as it relates to power has resulted in a fundamental shift in batting approach.

The proliferation of flamethrowers in bullpens has also contributed to the spike in strikeouts. Power arms plus power swings created an unavoidable outcome.

Those pining for fewer strikeouts are hugging a dinosaur. It's just that, whereas the arrival of the pitch clock had a marvelous effect on viewing enjoyment, a game filled with strikeouts still feels like an opportunity to nap.

When last seen in action, the Twins had their season end with a thud — three consecutive strikeouts in the ninth inning of the deciding game of their playoff series against Houston.

Trailing by one run, the Twins sent Jorge Polanco, Royce Lewis and Max Kepler to the plate. All three struck out.

That finish combined with their dubious MLB record made it hard to view that area as anything but a problem. This is where Falvey offers the second part of his answer to my K-anguish.

"We also acknowledge that with a little bit more power and a little bit more power production comes more swing and miss," he said. "When I look at what wins and what performs in the postseason — and, really, what wins and what performs over the course of the regular season — it's not hunting fewer strikeouts leading to you scoring more runs. There's enough evidence out there and plenty of research."

Falvey noted that there was only one playoff series last season in which the winning team didn't strike out more than its opponent for the series. That, in fact, is true. The one example? The Twins had more strikeouts than the Astros in their division series.

In the other 10 playoff series, the winning team finished with more strikeouts.

Perhaps not coincidentally, 10 of the 11 winners of playoff series also hit more home runs than their opponent. The lone exception: Philadelphia out-homered Arizona in the NLCS.

"Again, not that you're hunting strikeouts," Falvey said, "but with power production comes more strikeouts. And we know that the best way to score runs in today's game, particularly in the postseason when you really want to win, you're going to hit with some power."

Translation: This is a me problem.

The whiff parade is here to stay. I'll try to accept this new reality with more patience and understanding. But can the Twins please not break their strikeout record this season?