Mackey: Paced by Joe Mauer, Twins offense hitting too many grounders
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Joe Mauer has missed only one game all season. Give him plenty of credit for that after playing in only 82 contests in 2011.
But that one off day -- April 30, after taking a foul tip off the knee on April 29 -- serves as somewhat of a line in the sand. Mauer finished April with a .325 batting average, but that number has dropped to .276 due mostly to a flurry of groundballs.
Since May 1 more than 70% of Mauer's batted balls have been grounders. And over the course of the whole season so far nearly 90% of balls pulled to right field by Mauer have been grounders. Those numbers include Mauer's 0-for-4, three-groundout game on Monday night.
Mauer's career groundball rate is 50%, and his career pull-groundball rate is 77%, so it's entirely possible May has just been a bad month. It's also possible he is still feeling the effects of that foul tip.
Whatever the reason, heading into Monday's games only 13 qualified hitters (out of 179) owned higher groundball percentages through the first six weeks of the season than Mauer:
1. Yunel Escobar (67%)
2. Derek Jeter (67%)
3. Denard Span (65%)
4. Tyler Pastornicky (65%)
5. Jamey Carroll (65%)
6. Erick Aybar (64%)
7. Alex Presley (62%)
8. Jose Tabata (61%)
9. Drew Stubbs (59%)
10. J.D. Martinez (59%)
11. Brett Lawrie (58%)
12. Melky Cabrera (58%)
13. Emilio Bonifacio (58%)
14. Joe Mauer (58%)
Not exactly great company for Mauer to be in, as everyone in the top 13 -- sans Martinez -- has some semblance of speed, or at least the ability to beat out infield singles.
Mauer isn't the only Twins hitter beating the ball into the ground (note the presence of Span and Carroll on the aforementioned list).
Twins hitters collectively have hit more groundballs (53%) than any other offense in baseball. The San Francisco Giants (49%) have hit the second most, and the Oakland Athletics have hit the fewest (38%).
This helps explain why the Twins have hit an American-League low 21 home runs through 35 games.
The Twins also led the majors last season in most groundballs hit.
Over the past five seasons, offenses that have led the majors in most groundballs hit have finished 25th, 28th, 27th, 29th and 25th in total runs scored.