The Twins batted .237, averaged 3.47 runs per game and scored a total of 562 runs during a full season in 1968. This was part of an epidemic of non-hitting that had swept major league baseball.
The most memorable number from that season was Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA as the workhorse starter of the St. Louis Cardinals.
The domos of baseball responded to this dearth of hitting by lowering the height of the pitcher’s mound from 15 inches to 10. There was some benefit to this, although not nearly enough in an American League that had been the poor stepchild to the National League throughout the ‘60s and now into the ‘70s.
The Twins averaged 4.09 runs in 1971 and 3.49 runs in 1972. The batting average in 1972 was .244.
The American League owners made the dramatic move of voting in the designated hitter for the 1973 season. There would now be a batter in the lineup rather than the pitcher. Forty years later, the DH is used everywhere but in the National League.
Any attempt to compare run scoring and hitting for American League teams basically has to go back to 1973 and the introduction of the designated hitter.
Which brings us to the 2013 Minnesota Twins:
Through 74 games, or 45 percent of the schedule, the Twins have scored a paltry 309 runs. That is an average of 4.18 runs per game and projects to a total of 677. And the team batting average of .248 has these Twins keeping company that is historically low.
The Twins have averaged fewer than 4.18 runs per game seven times in 40 seasons since the designated hitter was introduced:
4.13 runs in 1974, 4.11 in 1978, 4.16 in 1980, 3.49 in the 113-game season of 1981, 4.06 in 1982, 4.15 in 1984 and 3.82 in 2011.
How bad is it?
The 2013 Twins are scoring runs at virtually an identical pace to 1980, a year in which John Castino won the team’s triple crown with 13 home runs, 64 RBI and a .302 average.
And I’ve always considered the team that followed – in 1981 – to have been the most unwatchable in franchise history … a punchless, putrid group that was rescued by a mid-season strike.
The strike wiped out 49 games of the Twins’ schedule and split the season in two parts. The Twins were 17-39 in the first portion. They were 24-29 in the second portion, which has sort of hidden that club from its rightful place when reviewing the Twins’ lowest moments.
Finding team batting averages that come up short of the current .248 is more difficult. The 99-loss Twins of 2011 finished at .247, on the way to a total of 619 runs. Man, they were awful, but I had to look again to be reminded exactly how awful.
And, the 1981 Twins – my favorites for futility – batted .240.
That’s it. Beyond 2011 and 1981, you have to go back to the pre-DH days to find lower batting team averages than the current .248.
And this is kind of fun:
Joe Mauer leads the team at .337 and with 96 hits. He also leads in at-bats with 285.
Now, take away the Mauer numbers and the Twins are batting .236, which is a point lower than the 1968 Twins batted in the season before the owners lowered the mound in a panic-stricken move to return hitting to the game.
(Note: I did look at OPS numbers, but didn't bother to include them just to mess with the righteous stat boys).