Yes, we know that baseball has changed. Players strike out more, pitchers throw fewer pitches and generally throw them harder, bunting is becoming a lost art and so on and so on and so on. We're not here to complain about the changes in the game, which are pretty natural because baseball has always evolved.
But this one statistic did catch our eye Monday morning.
The Cubs and Yankees set a major league record Sunday night when batters combined for 48 strikeouts in an 18-inning, six-hour-plus game that was eventually won by the Yankees 5-4. (Yes, that was former Twins outfielder Aaron Hicks scoring the winning run -- Where have you gone John Ryan Murphy? -- but that's also beside the point.)
The strikeout total for those two teams in one game was smaller than the total number of Twins that Twins catcher Brian Harper struck out in 921 plate appearances in 1989 and 1990 combined.
And then, in 1991 and 1992, Harper struck out 44 times in 1,015 plate appearances.
In case you're wondering what Harper did when he hit the ball, his statistics over those four seasons included a .308 batting average, .340 on-base percentage and .433 slugging percentage. So it wasn't just contact for the sake of contact. Harper played one more season for the Twins and then finished his career with Milwaukee and Oakland.
After thinking about Harper's ability to make contact, we decided to put together a list of other Twins players who struck out fewer times in a season than the total from Sunday's Yankees-Cubs game.
Rod Carew, for example, struck out 40 times in 617 plate appearances in 1975, when he batted .359 with a career-high 14 home runs.
Tony Oliva struck out 44 times in 518 plate appearances in 1970 when he won the American League batting title and 44 times in 624 appearances in 1973, when his knee injuries forced him from the field and into a full-time designated hitter role.
Lyman Bostock, in his first two seasons with the Twins, struck out 42 times in 400 plate appearances in 1974 and 37 times in 517 plate appearances in 1975. He batted .282 as a rookie and .323 in his second year.
Chuck Knoblauch struck out 40 times in 636 plate appearances while winning the Rookie of the Year award. The second basemen followed that with 44 strikeouts in 685 plate appearances in 1993.
Cesar Tovar, an outfielder who also started at third for the Twins in the 1960s and 1970s, had a five-year stretch in which he struck out 41 times or fewer. In 1971, he lead the American League with 718 plate appearance and struck out 39 times.
Not that we're going to turn this into a discussion about the length of contemporary baseball games, but if it takes six or seven or eight pitches to strike out, that's one reason games under three hours have become a novelty. That ... and all the pitching changes ... and the extra time between innings .. and ... (you can add the rest of this sentence).
One more thing, Brian Harper struck out 188 times in his entire career, which included 3,386 plate appearances and a .295 lifetime batting average. Miguel Sano has already struck out 339 times in 953 trips to the plate. If you don't want to do the math, that's 35.5 percent of the time for Sano ... and 5.5 percent of the time for Harper.