The Twins didn't manage to do much offensive damage today in a 5-1 loss to the Rockies at Target Field. That's partially because they were facing Ubaldo Jimenez, who has been the best pitcher in the majors this year. But one can also point to the Twins repeatedly wasting early rally opportunities by grounding into three inning-ending double plays over the first four frames, pushing their MLB-leading total to 78.
The Twins have scored significantly fewer runs than one would expect based on the number of runners they put on base. They rank third in the American League in team OBP, trailing only the Yankees and Red Sox, yet they rank seventh in runs scored -- barely above the AL average. They are wasting too many baserunners.
At one point, this could have been pinned on their ineptitude with the bases loaded, as they hit .160 in such situations over their first 34 games. Yet, the Twins have predictably reversed that unlucky trend by going 10-for-30 with the bases juiced in their past 32 contests. Now, a dizzying double play rate has become the chief source for the club's offensive headaches, and it's not showing any signs of going away. They tapped into nine twin killings during their three-game series with the Rockies this week.
The Twins' current pace would have them grounding into 191 double plays by season's end. That would shatter the single-season major-league record of 174, set by the 1990 Boston Red Sox. This is an epidemic. But, as frustrating as it is, the Twins' jaw-dropping DP tendency is hardly surprising.
As mentioned above, the Twins rank third in the AL with a .348 on-base percentage, largely because they rank third in the league in walks. Yet, they don't hit for much power (seventh in the AL in SLG) and they don't steal many bases (10th in SB). That means they're putting an awful lot of runners on first base. When you factor in a team ground ball rate of 46.2 percent that ranks second in the AL, it's not difficult to see why the Twins have been getting doubled off with such frequency.
While the underlying reasons for the Twins high GIDP total aren't difficult to see, the hitters still can't be let off the hook completely. They are grounding into double plays at a higher rate -- per opportunity -- than the league average. (Twins: 15 percent; league: 12 percent.) Given that they've had more opportunities to hit into DP's than any other team, that increased rate is especially damaging.
It's time for the hitters in this lineup to take it upon themselves to elevate the ball with a runner on first rather than succumbing to the pitcher's will and firing a hard grounder right at an infielder. Similarly, Ron Gardenhire needs to start putting runners in motion more often; we actually saw the Twins avert a possible fourth GIDP today when Jason Kubel took off from first on a full count to Michael Cuddyer and reached second safely despite the ball being grounded directly to the second baseman.
It's great that the Twins are getting on base at such a strong rate this year, truly it is. But there's nothing more frustrating than wasting baserunners and between their early struggles with the bases loaded and their continual GIDP issues, the Twins are wasting an exorbitant number of them this season.