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A look at some Minnesota Twins strikeout history

Kansas City Royals v Minnesota Twins Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Generally speaking, home run power and strikeouts have gone hand-in-hand over the course of baseball history. The needed torque to drive a ball over the fence also prevents the type of bat control necessary for higher contact rates—a zero sum game.

The Minnesota Twins are certainly testing both poles of that equation lately. Just four years ago, the Bomba Squad set the all time single-season team home run record. This year, the team is on pace to break the all time single-season strikeout record.

Minnesota Twins v Milwaukee Brewers
Never has a player epitomized the all-or-nothing approach quite like Miguel Sano
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

That in mind, I journeyed through Twins history to examine their swing-and-miss history:

Decade-by Decade K’s

(since batter K-rate keeps climbing, I picked the highest Twins strikeout squad of each decade to show the whiff patterns)

  • 1964: 1,019 K’s (led by Harmon Killebrew’s 135 & Jimmie Hall’s 112)
  • 1973: 954 K’s (Bobby Darwin 137; Larry Hisle 128)
  • 1986: 977 K’s (Greg Gagne & Gary Gaetti 108)
(Left to right) Former Minnesota Twin Greg Gagne congratulates former Minnesota Twin Gary Gaetti after Gaetti’s second homerun for the Kansas City Royals which made the score 8-0 in the 7th inning
Oddly, the only photo Getty has of Gags & the Rat is from their Royals tenure
  • 1997: 1,121 K’s (Rich Becker 130; Terry Steinbach 106)
  • 2002: 1,089 K’s (Jacque Jones 129; Corey Koskie 127)
  • 2013: 1,430 K’s (Josh Willingham 128; Brian Dozier 120)
  • 2021: 1, 405 K’s (Miguel Sano 183; Jorge Polanco 118)

The biggest surprises on that list? The ‘64 squad topping 1,000 empty cuts and the ‘13 unit collectively K’ing more than last year (though perhaps that should not be a huge surprise).

Six individual Twins have topped 900 total strikeouts

(including K/PA percentages for context)

  1. Harmon Killebrew: 1,629 K’s (17%)
  2. Miguel Sano: 1,042 K’s (36%)
  3. Joe Mauer: 1,034 K’s (13%)
  4. Bob Allison: 1,033 K’s (17%)
  5. Torii Hunter: 975 K’s (18%)
  6. Kirby Puckett: 965 K’s (12%)
Sports Contributor Archive 2019
For a guy who swung at everything, that low rate is impressive
Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images

I never would have guessed that Mauer struck out more than Puck on a rate basis. I don’t think Sano’s ridiculous K-rate is a surprise to anyone.

Nine Twins (160+ PA) have a K/PA 25% or higher as of 8/7/23

  • Joey Gallo: 43%
  • Trevor Larnach: 36%
  • Michael A. Taylor: 34%
  • Byron Buxton: 31%
  • Ed Julien: 30%
  • Ryan Jeffers: 29%
  • Alex Kirilloff: 27%
  • Willi Castro: 25%
  • Kyle Farmer: 25%
MLB: JUL 29 Twins at Royals
Not just Joey coming up empty
Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Truly a staggering amount of empty walks back to the dugout for the ‘23 Twins.

The silver lining in all this? Baseball analytics has born out that strikeouts aren’t quite as harmful as the reputation the precedes them. With one important caveat: the contact that is made had better be deadly (extra base hits, high exit velocity, good launch angle, etc.).

For the first three-and-a-half months this season, the Twins were experiencing the “worst of both worlds”—air-hacks without the productive contact to back it up. Recently we’ve seen an increase in hard contact and lo & behold have opened up a margin over the Guardians.

The moral of the story: