A passage from Phil Miller's story on Chris Parmelee this morning caught our attention:
His stats slowly have come around during this stint with the Twins, although his emphasis (upon the Twins’ advice) on not taking too many pitches has cut his walk rate; his on-base percentage is only .279. But he’s also clubbed three home runs, and all three have come with the score tied, in games the Twins eventually won by a run or two. On a team that ranks 13th in the AL in home runs, those clutch blasts are especially welcome.
“He’s swinging the bat. Big things happen when you swing and be aggressive,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He was taking a lot of pitches, locking himself up, and now he’s swinging.”
Here's the thing, though: through the first 23 games of the season, the Twins were leading the majors with 5.5 runs scored per game. They had walked 121 times, also best in the majors. It was a big part of the reason their offense was keeping the team afloat (12-11 record at that point) in spite of some pretty horrendous starting pitching.
In the last 21 games, they've walked just 60 times. They're 11-10 in that time, but that's largely because their starting pitching has improved dramatically. They've scored 75 runs in those 21 games, an average of 3.57 per game.
We're noticing an interesting push-pull, then, between an old philosophy (swing the bat!) and a new philosophy (walks=runs). Part of the diminished walk rate, to be sure, is opposing pitchers throwing the ball over the plate more often. When that happens, batters have to adjust in order to not always be hitting in negative counts.
But if Twins batters are being encouraged to swing early ... well, it might lead to a few more hits early in counts, but so far it certainly hasn't translated into more runs. In fact, it's translated into two fewer runs per game in a small sample size this season.