As things have generally gone sideways for the Twins this decade, an abundance of flaws have been rightfully described as culprits.
Chief among them: An organizational philosophy of pitching to contact — espoused when the team’s defense was sharper and before conventional baseball wisdom had so many batters working for either a walk or a home run — led to what seemed like the cultivation of starting pitchers who didn’t miss a lot of bats.
As a result, from 2011-17, Twins starting pitchers never finished higher than No. 26 in MLB in strikeouts. Think about that: seven seasons, all in the bottom five — including three that were dead last, the most recent being 2016.
If there is good news this year — aside from a four-game winning streak that has helped the Twins climb within 9.5 games of first-place Cleveland in the AL Central and within 16 games of Seattle for the second Wild Card spot they secured a season ago — it is that their starting pitching has been both improved overall and better at securing strikeouts.
Heading into Monday, Twins starters rank No. 14 in MLB with 459 strikeouts this season. Three of them — Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson and Jake Odorizzi — already have more than 100. They are all threats to reach 200, which hasn’t happened for a Twins starter since Francisco Liriano notched 201 in 2010.
You have to go all the way back to 2007 — the last season Johan Santana was here, which is not at all a coincidence — to find a Twins team whose starters finished in the top half of MLB in strikeouts.
It could happen this year. Now if only they could do something about those walks (third-most in MLB as a starting staff this season).