How Do the Twins Fix Their Longstanding Bases-Loaded Issues?

Photo Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

It happened again on Sunday. The Minnesota Twins had an opportunity to take the lead against the Angels with one out and the bases loaded, and they didn’t cash in. First, Ryan Jeffers struck out, then a pitching change, then Joey Gallo also struck out.

On their latest road trip to the west coast, the Twins had 10 opportunities to make some noise with the bases loaded. They didn’t do anything with their bats once in those opportunities. The only positive action was Christian Vázquez’s drawn walk in Monday night’s 9-8 extra-innings fiasco loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

An 0-for-9 stretch with the bases loaded is never a good sign for an offense. But the Twins have reached a new level of ineptitude in these opportunities.

The 2023 Twins are the worst offense in the last five years (including 2020) when it comes to hitting with the bases loaded. They currently have a .122 batting average, a .180 on-base percentage, a .122 slugging percentage, and -14 OPS+ as a team with the bases loaded this season.

The reason for the team slugging percentage being so low? The Twins haven’t had a single extra-base hit with the bases loaded, with only five hits in 41 at-bats. Their only silver lining? They’ve only grounded into one double play with the bases juiced. Aside from that, it’s a statistical mess.

The Miami Marlins are the next closest team to being this bad with the bases loaded this season. The Marlins have had fewer plate appearances with the bases loaded than the Twins, only 32 compared to 50. In those 32 plate appearances, Miami has managed to do only a bit more than the Twins. They got at least one extra-base hit, a double, but their numbers are fair better thanks to having fewer opportunities.

In the last five seasons, only the 2020 Kansas City Royals are the next closest team to being this bad with the bases loaded. They posted almost the exact same batting average and slugging percentage as the Twins currently have. Their .225 OBP was better because they drew one more walk than the Twins this year.

However, the 2020 Royals didn’t have as many highly-paid hitters in their lineup as the 2023 Twins do that fans expect to deliver in bases-loaded opportunities. Between Byron Buxton, Gallo, and Carlos Correa one would think the Twins lineup would be able to get something going, but they cannot.

It doesn’t matter which player it is, Minnesota’s lineup repeatedly fails when the bases are loaded. Are they simply waiting for the perfect pitch to do damage? Or trying to deliver a grand slam when they just need to get a runner home?

Those seem to be the simplest answers in the convoluted mess that is the Twins’ offense. To back that up from a statistical standpoint, the Twins have a .143 batting average on balls in play with the bases loaded. Additionally, they’ve struck out 11 times in these plate appearances. They’re overcompensating instead of letting the hitters focus on the moment to determine positive results.

As the season goes on, can Minnesota’s offense still be a force to reckon with these abysmal numbers with the bases loaded? If there’s one team that they can learn from in the last five years to surpass this issue, it’s last year’s National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies.

Last season, the Phillies hit poorly in bases-loaded situations, posting a .184 average as a team in 114 at-bats, a .221 OBP, .281 SLG, and a 34 OPS+, well below the league average. Despite the bad numbers in the regular season, they still managed to reach the World Series and take the Houston Astros to six games.

The Phillies also had a worse record through their first 47 games (21-16) of the season in 2022 than the Twins have at this point in the season (25-22). Does Philadelphia’s season trajectory from this point last season, both in their record and bases-loaded opportunities, give some signs of hope for Minnesota right now? Yes. Does it excuse how bad the Twins have been in bases-loaded situations in the season to this point? No.

Minnesota will not continue being this bad with the bases loaded as the season progress. They will finally have a moment that will turn the tide of a game in their favor. Until then, the best thing they can do is take wisdom from the words of hitting sage and Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Oliva. In a Twins 2008 TV spot with Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew, and Delmon Young, he said, “See ball, hit ball.”

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