Warne: Twins offense finally picking up pitching as it's supposed to
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Jokes flew after Oswaldo Arcia's first call-up on Monday about whether or not the lefty-swinging masher could pitch.
Blaming the Minnesota Twins' pitching for their struggles has been a fair assessment the past two seasons. But that wasn't really the case in this season's 4-7 start, which has given way to consecutive wins -- and offensive outbursts -- over the Los Angeles Angels at Target Field.
Entering Monday's game, the Twins offense had compiled a 79 OPS+ (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) mark, while the pitching staff had a 93 ERA+ (earned-run average adjusted for the ballpark).
Both numbers are scaled so higher is better, and 100 is average, according to Baseball Reference.
So, the Twins' struggling offense was having the tougher time -- and that's a bit surprising, given the concentration of consternation focused on moves made to upgrade the pitching staff.
This isn't to suggest either side goes without blame for a record that remains a game below .500. The offense entered Tuesday's games ranked 11th in the American League in runs scored, and the pitching staff had allowed 12 more runs.
But it isn't difficult to see where the Twins had been struggling offensively: pretty much across the board. Entering Tuesday, the team remained ninth or worse in the AL in runs, hits, home runs, steals, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and total bases.
That's just the non-sabermetric stats, and advanced stats aren't any kinder. According to Fangraphs, the Twins were 11th in both wOBA (weighted on-base average) and wRC+ (weighted runs created, scaled like OPS+).
Entering Tuesday, the Twins had a collective .305 wOBA -- which is identical to what old friend Delmon Young did last season for the Tigers.
So, what was happening? Wasn't the offense supposed to really carry this team as far as it would go?
In short, yes. That was sort of the widespread expectation.
But is the team doomed to offensive futility? If the past two nights haven't been enough of an indicator, there are deeper statistical tendencies that suggest the offense will see better days.
The Twins entered play Tuesday with a .282 BABIP (batting average on balls in play), which is definitely on the low side of the routinely accepted range of .280 to .320. In fact, the Twins have a BABIP nearly 10 points below league average, and that's an average being dragged down by the Rays (.248), Mariners (.248) and Blue Jays (.266).
If that's not enough, the Twins have one secret weapon: extreme patience. They entered Tuesday tied for second in team walk frequency at 9.9%. For some reference, that's higher than Justin Morneau's career mark (9.6%) and nearly 2% better than the league average (8.0%) in 2012.
But if this newfound discipline is some sort of organizational axiom, nobody's suggesting that's the case.
"I don't really think it's a team-wide thing. I think it's just certain guys we have in the lineup," Trevor Plouffe said. "We have Joe (Mauer) who's always going to work the count, and (Aaron Hicks) at top. He's always taken walks in his career. I think it's more of an individual thing.
"I don't think I'm much of a walker; I'm more of a swinger. But, as I see them doing it and having success, it rubs off a bit. But like I said, I don't necessarily think it's a team thing that we're trying to bring into our offensive attack. You want to get good pitches to hit, but you also want to be aggressive."
Echoed general manager Terry Ryan, "We've got guys that'll take pitches, and we have guys that won't take pitches. Mauer takes pitches, and he hits. A few other guys are more aggressive and swing the bat. Most of the approach is each individual having their own approach.
"Sometimes they'll change as they grow and mature; sometimes that's the way it is and will always be. You won't see Arcia do too much different than what you saw (Monday). He saw two strikes in the first couple at bats, and he swung. That's kind of the way he's always. Mauer's always been the way he is, even in high school. Usually, guys succeed or fail from what their comfort level is."
At this point, the theory makes sense either way. Four regulars and two part-time players have walk rates exceeding 10%, and that doesn't include Mauer, Morneau or Hicks, who each figure to be above or within an eyelash of that mark when the dust settles.
So, the general idea here is if the Twins BABIP and results can get in sync -- and typically, over the course of a long season, they will -- that will combine with the club's extreme patience to make them one of the better offenses in the game.