The Twins were in the middle of a series in Seattle on May 18 that would be their 45th game of the 2019 season. The Twins totaled five home runs and scored five runs in both the second and third innings. They hit a sixth home run later and won the game 18-4 to raise their record to 30-15.
C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop each hit two home runs, Byron Buxton hit a grand slam and Miguel Sano added a home run. This raised the Twins' home run total to 87 and their run total to 258. They had a team batting average of .270 and a .551 slugging percentage.
The 2022 Twins had played 45 games entering Friday night's contest vs. Kansas City. They had scored two runs in each of the three previous games, winning once.
Trevor Larnach had homered in Wednesday's loss, putting the Twins' total at 43 homers. The team batting average through 45 games was .244, the slugging percentage was .387 and they had scored 189 runs.
This dramatic decline in three seasons can be traced to some personnel moves, along with the disappearance of Sano (.093 average, now rehabilitating from knee surgery).
More so, it can be traced to a decision by the commissioner's office to replace the nuclear device of 2019 with a softer baseball, and then make it softer still this season by placing game balls in moisture-adding humidors in all parks.
If you're not a believer in this, consider the following: Feeble as though those Twins' hitting numbers appear, the .244 batting average was third in the AL entering Friday, and their on-base percentage of .324 was fifth in the league.
The Twins, with half as many homers, 69 fewer runs, 26 points lower in batting average and an astounding 164 points fewer in slugging percentage, have been an above-average hitting team just past the quarter-pole in this year when MLB has completed its quick transformation from sock 'em to soccer.
Asked his preference between the power game and a small-ball approach, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said:
"We'll see which year we win the most games and how far we play, and that's the one I'm going to like the most. The game's very different. In '19, it was easier to sit there and just watch our guys hit. There wasn't a lot to do with the way we were swinging the bat.
"There's more to contemplate right now in these games. It used to be, you would start thinking about things later in the ballgame. Now you start thinking …"
Baldelli paused and then said: "It's a different ballgame."
The contemplation to which the manager referred was trying to manufacture runs — including a couple of sacrifice bunts early in a recent game.
The baseball that no longer has a pulse, more quality relievers (either hard throwers or breaking-ball specialists), and the ongoing infield shifts have combined to bring this dearth of runs.
There's another theory that was mentioned to Baldelli before Friday's game: There are no longer gaps in left-center or right-center. I credited this to "everything" being caught by more athletic outfielders.
"That actually sounds right to me," Baldelli said. "I think there are a lot of things that are probably subtle. I think the position of where the outfielders play is so much more on target to where balls are being hit.
"And, a lot of the time, they are a little deeper than it used to be."
On Thursday night, slumping Byron Buxton absolutely crushed a ball into what was supposed to be the left-center gap and Andrew Benintendi caught it with a bit of a running lunge.
How'd that happen, you wonder? That's extra bases for 100 years and now it's an out.
And now I'm enlightened: We used to applaud outfielders — mostly the speed guys in center — for playing shallow. Now you want 'em deep for any non-slap hitter … give up a single, take away doubles, triples and big innings.
"It's frustrating at times, but we're doing it to the opposition as well," Baldelli said. "I think it's one of many reasons why we're seeing fewer runs scored … You're not seeing balls hit gaps and seeing guys let it open up around the bases.
"Just another reason you have to try find ways to push runs across."
We can add this: On Friday night, the crowd at Target Field voted enthusiastically for runs being scored.
The Twins had five hits and four runs in the bottom of the first, on their way to a 10-7 victory. And there was actual rowdiness from the customers.
Leave the 2-nil to soccer. Dump the humidors intended to turn the baseballs to mush, if nothing else.