Strikeouts or not, Twins will not stop swinging for the fences

The Twins offense, which shattered a Major League Baseball record for strikeouts in a season, tied for the American League lead in homers during the regular season and ranked second in walks.

That is a trade-off, manager Rocco Baldelli and President of Baseball Operations Derek Falvey said Friday, the organization is willing to make.

“You want baserunners, and you want balls hit on the barrel, hard,” Baldelli said. “That is the goal. That’s what we want, those two things, above anything else.”

The Twins scored three or fewer runs in four of their six playoff games before they were eliminated by the Houston Astros, three games to one in the best-of-five American League Division Series. No team through the first two rounds of the postseason totaled more strikeouts (73) or walks (27), but the Twins ultimately were doomed by hitting a dismal .132 with runners in scoring position.

Home runs, largely, are the name of the game in the postseason. Teams that outhomer their opponents have a 14-1 record in this year’s playoffs, and 53% of the runs have scored through homers, according to MLB researcher Sarah Langs.

“We were trying to find ways to get to more power,” Falvey said. “We’ve all observed these playoffs to this point. What has mattered most is the ability to hit for power. The reality is that striking out less this postseason has not led to more wins.”

The Twins have areas they want to improve in their offense, like all teams, but they don’t view strikeouts as a barometer for a team’s offense. If they focus solely on cutting down on strikeouts, Baldelli predicted they would have fewer baserunners because it would lead to softer contact on many balls in play.

The Cleveland Guardians compiled the fewest strikeouts in the majors this year, and they scored the fourth-fewest runs.

“There are certain points in every game where you do want to find a way to put the ball in play,” Baldelli said, “but in the vast majority of at-bats, that’s not part of the conversation. I would rather have a guy have a great at-bat, go deep into a count and possibly strikeout, but give us a chance to actually give us a baserunner or actually look for a ball in the middle of the zone and pulverize it. That’s what I would prefer.”

The Twins, who plan to bring back all their coaches next year, rated highly in some of StatCast’s main metrics. They were second in the majors in barrels per plate appearance (6.4), trailing only Atlanta, and they were fifth in average exit velocity (89.4 mph), which was slightly behind current playoff teams Texas and Philadelphia.

One key for the offense taking another step forward, Baldelli said, starts with the health of their top hitters.

“You get a full season of Royce Lewis out there, that enhances your offense,” Baldelli said. “You get a full season of a healthy [Byron Buxton] out there, that enhances your offense. A healthy Carlos Correa, I mean, just these three players alone.”

Baldelli planned to have side conversations with certain players, whom he didn’t name, about improving their two-strike approach, but he didn’t think strikeouts should be the “overriding discussion topic of our season offensively.”

“We’re trying to find a way to build the best offense,” Falvey said. “That will come with some version of strikeouts, but hopefully some version of getting on base and hitting for power. We tied with Texas in walk rate this postseason. That’s a good sign. That means guys are still managing the zone a little bit. They’re still finding ways to get on base. Ultimately, strikeouts were a part of our game. That’s just a fact.”


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