Kennys Vargas and Chris Gimenez drew back-to-back one-out walks. Eddie Rosario struck out, but the struggling Byron Buxton pieced together a nice at bat and he, too, walked to load the bases with two outs for Brian Dozier. The Twins second baseman unloaded the bases with a three-run double, putting Minnesota ahead 3-2 — a score that would hold up as the final.
It was another example of the Twins’ patient approach this season — and how it’s helping them scratch out some runs even while many bats in the lineup remain cold.
The Twins this season have drawn an MLB-leading 85 walks. As a result, even though they’re just 24th in the majors in batting average (.229), they’re 10th in on-base percentage (.323). Miguel Sano leads the way with 17 walks, while Robbie Grossman has 15. (Somewhat surprisingly, Joe Mauer has just four walks to go with just five strikeouts in 71 plate appearances).
Walks have fueled several big innings this season: the first two games of the season against Kansas City, a recent rally against Detroit’s Justin Verlander and Monday night against Texas are prime examples.
Add it up and there are some pretty fascinating numbers for the Twins, who are 9-10 overall:
*In five different games this season, the Twins have had at least three players score runs who got on base via a walk. Minnesota has won each of those games.
*In games when the Twins don’t have any players score runs who reached base via a walk, they are 2-7.
*Overall, the Twins have scored 77 runs this season. A whopping 22 of those runners who crossed the plate reached base via a walk. There were other instances where a walk helped an inning along by advancing other runners who later scored or when a player who walked was erased on a fielder’s choice but led to a run when that runner later scored.
While I can’t find any good stats on a league-wide percentage of players who walk coming around to score, the Twins’ number seems quite high (28.6 percent so far this year).
For a quick comparison, I looked at last year’s Twins, who at this point in the season had scored 62 runs in 19 games while drawing 66 walks. Their record was 5-14. The result: only eight of those 62 runs had been scored via players who walked last season (12.9 percent).
So the Twins this season have been prolific in both drawing walks, as their league-leading total tells us, and in converting those walks into runs, as the comparison to last year suggests.
The former seems to be a point of emphasis of new hitting coach James Rowson, who replaced Tom Brunansky this past offseason. The latter is a function of timely hitting, good fortune and sheer volume of opportunities.
The Twins rank just 19th in the majors in runs scored, but without those walks they would be truly dismal — and maybe staring at the same type of 5-14 record in spite of vastly improved pitching so far this season (3.51 team ERA, sixth in MLB).