Twins on historic pace for inability to strike out hitters
In a season in which everyone seems to be striking out at an alarming rate, Minnesota's starting pitchers are sitting out this particular trend.
At present, the Twins' rotation ranks last in the majors in strikeout rate. That's not especially notable in and of itself, as someone has to rank last in any given category. But the utter inability of Minnesota starters to miss bats is indeed notable.
For instance, the Twins' rotation this season has a K/9 mark of 4.32, and the next worst figure belongs to the Rockies, whose starters check in at 5.86. That's quite a gap between last and next-to-last, even after you account for the DH factor (which is offset somewhat by the Rockies' mile-above-sea-level home park).
Actually, though, it's even worse than that. Take a look at the Twins' pitching leaderboards for 2013, sorted by strikeouts ...
That's right: At this writing, closer Glen Perkins leads the Twins in strikeouts despite having pitched just 20 2/3 innings this season. (Credit to BBTF commenter "Crispix Attacks" and his most excellent screen name for pointing this out.) Another reliever -- Jared Burton -- is, as you can see, tied for third on the staff in whiffs.
While Perkins is certainly a quality pitcher, when your closer paces the team in strikeouts, it's more of an indictment of the starters than it is a point of pride for the relief ace.
Let's frame this another way ... The five starters currently slotted in the Minnesota rotation -- Kevin Correia, Scott Diamond, Mike Pelfrey, Samuel Deduno and P.J. Walters -- have combined for 92 strikeouts in 36 starts. That's fewer whiffs than Yu Darvish of the Rangers has recorded in 12 starts this season (111).
What makes this all the more noteworthy is that we're, of course, in the midst of a high-strikeout era. The MLB strikeout rate has been on a general upward trend for most of baseball history, and this season's mark of 7.6 K/9, should it hold up, would tie last season's mark as the highest of all-time.
As for the Twins' figure of 4.32 mentioned above, it would be the lowest since the 2003 Tigers' rotation struck out 4.29 batters per nine. Of course, the league K rate back then was 6.4, which means the Twins mark is worse as a percentage of the league mean.
Lowest mark of all-time? Post-1900 the "honor" belongs to the 1902 Tigers, whose rotation whiffed a paltry 1.85 batters per nine innings. Again, though, context matters. Tigers' mark that season comes to 61.7 percent of the league average. The rotation of the 2013 Twins, meanwhile, checks in at 56.8 percent of the league average. Doubtless, the 2013 Twins have a rotation that's perhaps the worst ever in terms of striking out opposing batters.
A planned pitch-to-contact approach? If it is, then it's ill-advised. The Minnesota fielders this season rank 28th in defensive efficiency, which is the percentage of balls in play that a defense converts into outs. On a superlative defensive team, the complete inability of Twins starters to get strike three would be less troubling, but the 2013 Twins are demonstrably not a superlative defensive team.
What they are, though, is one of the worst rotations in the history of baseball when it comes to performing a very basic pitching duty.