Today I want to get into some numbers. Since the Detroit series came and went, and including our disappointing drop of last night's game, I've come to wonder: why aren't the Twins taking more pitches? As a general rule there have been A LOT of first pitch swings, and outs, over the last four games, and it's got me thinking that's it's time to organize some numbers. Here's my hypothesis: If the Twins take more pitches, they're more likely to win their games.
When you first broach the topic, it's easy to think that the winning team usually takes more pitches. You're scoring more runs, which means you're getting more at-bats, which means you're avoiding outs, which means the opposing pitcher should be throwing more pitches to record three outs.
This isn't always the case. A winning team can take fewer pitches, especially in close games, but also in situations where the opposing pitchers are leaving the ball over the plate. Every. Single. Pitch. This sounds familiar. Anyway, the reverse is also true. Losing teams can take more pitches if they're failing to move runners along, or if the winning team's pitcher is throwing a number of single or low double-digit pitch innings.
In an effort to find out how the Twins have done when they've taken more pitches, here is the entire chart for the season, preceding tonight's game with Seattle. PS=pitches seen. Totals=total pitches in the series, Averages=average pitches seen per game in said series. Games in italics are games in which the Twins took more pitches than their opponents.
Twins Opponents Game Result
Opponent PS PS
@ Toronto 112 154 L
@ Toronto 160 134 W
@ Toronto 127 131 L
Totals/Averages 399/133 419/140 1-2
@ Cleveland 138 158 L
@ Cleveland 111 135 L
@ Cleveland 129 139 L
Totals/Averages 378/126 432/144 0-3
Oakland 122 131 W
Oakland 135 100 W
Oakland 127 128 W
Totals/Averages 384/128 359/120 3-0
Yankees 158 114 W
Yankees 180 142 W
Yankees 142 154 L
Totals/Averages 480/160 410/137 2-1
LAA 136 115 L
LAA 190 157 W
LAA 174 143 L
Totals/Averages 500/167 415/138 1-2
@ White Sox 128 149 L
@ White Sox 157 159 L
@ White Sox 123 120 L
Totals/Averages 408/136 28/143 0-3
@ Kansas City 135 161 W
@ Kansas City 113 111 L
@ Kansas City 186 116 W
Totals/Averages 434/145 388/129 2-1
@ Detroit 130 183 L
@ Detroit 130 179 L
@ Detroit 108 121 L
Totals/Averages 368/123 483/161 0-3
Seattle 107 165 L
Seattle --- --- -
Totals/Averages --- --- -
The outlier in this data is the series versus the Angels; check it out. We took more pitches in every game, and still dropped two of three. This is primary damage to my original hypothesis that if the Twins took more pitches, they'd win more often.
Charting the differentials in wins and losses is the easiest way to start, since you can pretty much know what you're going to see: the general rule that, of course, the winning team took more pitches.
In Twins Wins (9 games)
PS DIFF AVG DIFF
Twins 1393 +210 155 +24
Opponents 1183 131
In Twins Losses (16 games)
PS DIFF AVG DIFF
Twins 2065 -528 129 -33
Opponents 2593 162
In an "average" Minnesota victory, the Twins took 155 pitches to their opponent's 131, thereby seeing 24 more pitches. This means an extra 6 to 8 at-bats per game. In Minnesota defeats, on the other hand, the differential was -33, or 7 to 11 at-bats. There's obviously some give-and-take in how many at-bats the teams would earn in the extra pitches, but the point is obvious: the Twins were probably losing by a larger spread than they were winning. If the Twins allow their opponents to get 10 extra at-bats per game, they're not going to win
When Twins See More Pitches (10 games)
PS DIFF AVG DIFF W L
Twins 1555 +303 156 +31 6 4
Opponents 1252 125
When Opponents See More Pitches (15 games)
PS DIFF AVG DIFF W L
Twins 1903 -344 127 -23 3 12
Opponents 2247 150
Minnesota has a winning record when taking more pitches; this is a result I expected to see. It doesn't sound that great, but winning 60% of your games is going to put you in the playoff hunt. When you consider that two of those losses came from the "statistical outlier" of the Angels series, the 5-2 record looks even better. Unfortunately the Twins have a tendency to see fewer pitches, leading to winning merely 20% of their games when they do so.
It's hard to argue with the idea that when you take 31 extra pitches, and getting about 10 extra at-bats, you're probably going to win the game. Same with taking 23 extra pitches for Twins opponents; an additional 7 or 8 at-bats will lead to some runs.
But if the Twins were losing by a larger spread than they were winning, and if they were still "only" 6-4 in games where they saw more pitches, then there must have been a major issue in games where the pitch differential wasn't quite as high.
I took an arbitrary number to take both ways: 20. Twenty pitches was a decent spread, and while you could guess that the team with the +20 ratio would end up better off than the -20 ratio, you might assume that the extra five or six at-bats didn't make too much of a difference. Unless you're the Twins. Because we know how badly the Twins have done this season, we can assume that whether the differential was +20 or -20, Minnesota wasn't doing so hot. Sadly it's all too true.
Totals for Games Within 20 Pitches (9 games)
PS DIFF AVG DIFF W L
Twins 1148 -46 128 -5 2 7
Opponents 1194 133
Not surprised? You shouldn't be, if you know how the Twins have played this season. Only twice in these games did the Twins have the + ratio, and they lost both games. Thusly the Twins were 2-5 in games where they saw between 0 and 20 fewer pitches than their opposition.
In the end you can come to only one conclusion: while the extra at-bats and pitches were helping the Twins' opponents, they weren't helping the Twins unless the margin was much larger. If the Twins have a bad record when taking fewer pitches, and STILL have a bad record when taking up to 20 MORE pitches, this says Minnesota needs to see nearly the average of +31 to see a winning record. With this team, I have a hard time seeing that happen right now.
Bottom line here is that taking more pitches gives you a better chance at winning the ballgame. You're wearing pitchers out, you're taking walks, and you're probably getting more good pitches to hit (even if at the same rate of good pithces to hit versus bad, there are still MORE good pitches to hit). Just because (if through some act of a diety it should occur) the Twins take more pitches, it doesn't mean they'll win more games; they'll just have a better shot.
[EDIT: The Twins won tonight, yet still saw fewer pitches than the Mariners, 116:128. Was this primarily due to 12 strikeouts by Minnesota pitching?]