What's With the Double Plays? (Three Theories)

You should see all of my different methods for throwing the remote control. Sometimes, it's just a run-of-the-mill backhand toss onto the couch. Sometimes, it's a light toss straight up into the air. If I'm a bit more frustrated, I might go for the quick Federer-like overhand spike into the ottoman, or even a Connie Hawkins-like windmill slam off the chair. In rare cases, I've even gone with the "gun the remote across the room off of the facing couch" move, which usually leads to the batteries flying out like passengers in Erik Johnson's golf cart.

I mention this because I've used every single one of these moves in response to a Twins double-play grounder this year. And indeed, I've had plenty of opportunity; through last Friday, the team had hit into a ludicrous 61 double plays. Minnesota is no stranger to the twin killing - the team led the American League in 2005 and 2009, and has only been out of the AL top three once in five years - but they're on pace to bounce in to more than 200, fully fifty more than they hit into in 2009.

But why? Below, three theories, along with some numbers.

1. They're chokers in all pressure situations

Well, not really. The team's struggles with the bases loaded are well-documented - well below the Mendoza Line as a group - but in all runners-on-base situations, they're hitting .265, right in the middle of the AL. With runners in scoring position, they're fifth in the league. Other than with the bases loaded, they're not especially awful at the plate.

2. A lineup of mashers is also a lineup of plodders

True, the Twins do have Jim Thome, who may very well be the slowest player in the major leagues. (Somebody organize a race between Thome and all of the Molinas.) But otherwise, they don't seem to be particularly slow on the basepaths; through Thursday they were 33-for-100 going from first to third on a single, better than the league average of 28%. They were also 60% scoring from second on a single, above the league average there as well.

Granted, this is a crude measure of team speed, but I don't see any evidence the Twins are slower than any other team. (As a comparison: the White Sox are 16-for-75 going from first to third on a single, and Toronto has done it just eight times all year.)

3. More chances + More ground balls = More double plays

The math works - and the stats seem to back it up. I can't immediately find the numbers for "plate appearances with a man on first base and fewer than two out," but I do know that as of last week, the Twins led the AL in plate appearances with runners on base. They've taken the most walks in the AL in this situation (creating more GIDP chances); they're also among the least likely teams in the league to strike out (12th in the AL in strikeouts per plate appearance.)

Throw all of that together, and the Twins are one of the most likely teams in the AL to put the ball in play with runners on base - and they're also third in the league in hitting grounders. For every fly ball, the Twins pound 0.88 balls into the ground. (Line drives are counted as fly balls.)

Maybe it's not shocking, but it does make sense: the Twins just have a lot of guys on first, and they tend to put the ball in play on the ground. Put the two together, and that's a whole bunch of double plays.

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