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The surprising frequency of two-out scoring

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Though if you think about it, it may not be all that surprising.

Chicago White Sox v Minnesota Twins
Dingers: the easiest way to score no matter how many outs there may be.
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

On Monday night, the Twins watched their division rival opponent White Sox score four of their six runs with two outs to win on the road.

On Tuesday night, Minnesota countered heavily, scoring 12 of their 14 runs with two outs in a rout.

Does this mean two-out rallies are (gasp) commonplace? Is the magic of a rally with nothing to lose something ordinary enough that it might as well not be termed miraculous?

Since two games is a tiny sample size, let’s look at the whole season.

(All stats are from Baseball Reference and are through Tuesday, August 20.)

First, just the Twins

At the plate, the Twins have plated 740 runs over the course of the season, and 281 - an impressive 37.97 percent - have come with two outs. As the outs go down, so do the runs: the Twins have scored 265 runs (35.81 percent) with one out, and only 194 (26.22 percent) with zero.

To some extent, this makes sense, as at-bats result in outs more frequently than baserunners; thus it is more likely that a runner will be on base with someone out than without. Thinking about this, the ascending pattern of Twins runs with more outs seems logical.

The scoring pattern of Twins’ opponents supports this hypothesis. The Twins have surrendered 588 runs this year, and 247 (42.01 percent) have cross the plate with a pair of outs. With one out, the Twins have given up 190 runs (32.31 percent), and with no outs, 151 (25.68 percent).

But as before, two is a small sample size.

Time to look at the whole league.

Yes, the whole league

Thirty teams, runs sorted by outs:

Runs scored by outs in inning

Team Total runs Runs (0 out) Run % (0 out) Runs (1 out) Run % (1 out) Runs (2 outs) Run % (2 outs)
Team Total runs Runs (0 out) Run % (0 out) Runs (1 out) Run % (1 out) Runs (2 outs) Run % (2 outs)
New York Yankees 749 167 22.30% 291 38.85% 291 38.85%
Minnesota Twins 740 194 26.22% 265 35.81% 281 37.97%
Boston Red Sox 737 158 21.44% 270 36.64% 309 41.93%
Los Angeles Dodgers 709 166 23.41% 273 38.50% 270 38.08%
Houston Astros 696 200 28.74% 239 34.34% 257 36.93%
Atlanta Braves 683 181 26.50% 265 38.80% 237 34.70%
Colorado Rockies 671 165 24.59% 261 38.90% 245 36.51%
Arizona Diamondbacks 663 191 28.81% 246 37.10% 226 34.09%
Washington Nationals 657 146 22.22% 247 37.60% 264 40.18%
Los Angeles Angels 651 177 27.19% 250 38.40% 224 34.41%
Texas Rangers 645 156 24.19% 251 38.91% 238 36.90%
Oakland A's 635 172 27.09% 211 33.23% 252 39.69%
Seattle Mariners 623 137 21.99% 251 40.29% 235 37.72%
Chicago Cubs 615 152 24.72% 232 37.72% 231 37.56%
New York Mets 611 150 24.55% 246 40.26% 215 35.19%
Milwaukee Brewers 605 175 28.93% 200 33.06% 230 38.02%
Cleveland Indians 597 142 23.79% 236 39.53% 219 36.68%
Philadelphia Phillies 595 120 20.17% 264 44.37% 211 35.46%
Tampa Bay Rays 590 150 25.42% 207 35.08% 233 39.49%
Toronto Blue Jays 580 147 25.34% 216 37.24% 217 37.41%
Pittsburgh Pirates 576 129 22.40% 214 37.15% 233 40.45%
Cincinnati Reds 566 141 24.91% 221 39.05% 204 36.04%
San Diego Padres 562 142 25.27% 181 32.21% 239 42.53%
St. Louis Cardinals 558 129 23.12% 230 41.22% 199 35.66%
San Francisco Giants 551 159 28.86% 200 36.30% 192 34.85%
Baltimore Orioles 547 97 17.73% 231 42.23% 219 40.04%
Kansas City Royals 541 148 27.36% 190 35.12% 203 37.52%
Chicago White Sox 528 129 24.43% 190 35.98% 209 39.58%
Miami Marlins 454 128 28.19% 180 39.65% 146 32.16%
Detroit Tigers 447 121 27.07% 159 35.57% 167 37.36%
MLB Total 18382 4569 24.86% 6917 37.63% 6896 37.51%
MLB Average 613 152 24.86% 231 37.63% 230 37.51%

It’s clear that teams score more runs with somebody out than with nobody, which fits the hypothesis, but though it varies by team, one-out and two-out scoring are just as common.

Why might one-out scoring be as high? Among other reasons, an at-bat can result in both an out and a run when there are less than two outs, allowing for RBI groundouts and sacrifice flies. Additionally, batters up with fewer outs are considered to be under less pressure - though the statistical correlation between pressure and success at the plate is far from certain.

Still, don’t be surprised when the Twins rack up a couple runs with a pair of outs... but appreciate them just as much.