It's fun when the Twins lead the league in something. There aren't many things that the team is truly great at, let alone the very best at. One of those few things that they are leading the league in, as unexciting as it is, is double plays grounded into.
No team has grounded into fewer double plays than the Twins. With 30 heading into play on June 6th, the team has one fewer GIDP (pronounced: gih-dip or if you're feeling saucy gih-dee-up) than the Cincinnati Reds and just more than half as many as the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves who have the most in the league at 61 each.
Last year the team also did exceptionally well in avoiding double plays, grounding into a third fewest 96 on the year. This season, the club has grounded into 18 double plays with a runner just on first, nine with runners on first and second, three with runners on the corners, and somehow, someway hasn't grounded into a single double play with the bases loaded.
What is it that the Twins are doing to avoid grounding into double plays?
If we look at the Twins triple slash in potential double play situations the team is mostly below average. With a runner on only first the team is slashing .251/.314/.451, with runners on first and second .209/.289/.388, with runners on the corners .208/.288/.271, and with the bases loaded .316/.354/.447. They rank in the bottom half of the American League in the first three categories but are in the top five in batting average and on base percentage with the bases loaded.
So the way they're hitting the ball doesn't seem to be it. What about when the team DOESN'T put the ball in play?
Looking at Minnesota's walk and strikeout rates in potential double play situations is eye opening. Very few teams strikeout or walk more in these situations than the Twins.
The team strikes out in 19.7% and walks in 7.5% of its plate appearances with runners on first, which is right in line with the league average of 19.9% and 7.5% respectively, but after that the Twins blow other teams out of the water. With runners on first and second, the club strikes out 27.8% of the time and walks 9.9% of the time. League average is 21.2% and 8.3%.
With runners on the corners Twins batters strike out in 28.8% of plate appearances and walk 11.9%. League average is 19.1% and 8.1%. With the bases juiced, the club strikes and walks a staggering 25.6% of the time for both. League average is 23.2% for strikeouts and 7.2% for walks.
Just to emphasize this again, with the bases loaded the Twins strikeout or walk in 51.2% of their at bats while league average is only 30.9%. Overall, the Twins strikeout in 22.9% of their plate appearances in potential double play situations and take a walk in 9.6% of them. League average is striking out in 20.2% of those plate appearances and walking in 7.5% of them.
So there you have it. It appears the Twins are so very good at not hitting into double plays because they are so very apt at not putting the ball in play. Neat.