As of this morning, the Minnesota Twins have scored 98 runs in 18 games. The Rockies lead all of baseball in runs scored, with 114, but with 21 games played to Minnesota's 18 it's the Twins who are second in the league in runs per game.
For those outside of Twins Territory who don't watch the team on a daily basis, seeing these results - even in a small sample size - is going to be a bit surprising. Joe Mauer hasn't been himself so far this season, although it will come. So how does a team who runs out Trevor Plouffe and Chris Colabello in the middle of the batting order score so many runs?
In the simplest terms: the Twins take walks by the truck load. They lead the league with 96 walks so far in 2014 (Oakland is in second with 91; Cleveland in third with 81). Minnesota has walked more than twice as much as any of the five teams who have taken the fewest walks this season. That's insane after just 18 games.
It's integral that this trend continues. The Twins are hitting just .250 as a team, and .253 with runners in scoring position, but thanks to their MLB-leading .354 team on-base percentage (.386 OBP with runners in scoring position), those hits come with a bigger chance of a duck already being on the pond. If the team stops being so selective at the plate, forgive me for being so basic, the hits come with fewer men on base. And for an offense that struggles to hit for power (.381 slugging, 18th in baseball; 49 extra-base hits, 22nd in baseball), it would sink the ship.
Walks are the reason Brian Dozier has been on-base often enough to lead all of baseball in scoring, with 19 runs, even though he's hitting just .219. It's why, with a .420 on-base percentage, Trevor Plouffe is tied for 13th in the league in scoring. It takes someone behind them to get a hit, but they need to be on base to have any chance of scoring at all.
Chris Colabello, Jason Kubel, Josmil Pinto, and the aforementioned Plouffe should all be commended and lauded for their .900+ OPS marks to date, but if one thing is going to keep this offense afloat it isn't power. It's the ability, down to each and every man, to get on base and make the most of the contributions of those in the order behind them. Yes, that should be the mantra for all 30 offenses across the league, but it's more important for the Twins than most.
Minnesota leads baseball in walk rate, with 13.2% of all plate appearances so far resulting in a free pass. That seems unsustainable, especially once pitchers decide that they can get better results by forcing the Twins to try to hit the ball, but the club will have to burn that bridge when they get there. For now they're drawing walks in droves, and it's a thing of beauty.