If you’re watching a lot of baseball and wondering if offense is down all over, you’re not alone — and you’re not wrong.
With a little more than a quarter of the 2022 season played, major league team scoring is down for the third straight season, and team batting average is just about rock bottom, .238 league-wide.
Asked Friday if this is the new reality in baseball, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said, “It’s certainly our reality right now.”
The only time teams have hit worse for an entire season was 1968, when major league teams combined to hit .237 and MLB responded by lowering the pitching mound for the 1969 season. Through Thursday’s games, teams are averaging 7.93 hits per game, a number more commonly associated with, well, 1968 (7.91) but also baseball’s deadball era (1900-19).
Analytics have made defenses more effective through shifting players in the infield and outfield, but batters point to pitching.
“Pitching is at a point right now where if they execute, we have no chance as hitters,” said Twins shortstop Carlos Correa, who entered Friday’s game against Kansas City at Target Field with a streak of 16 games reaching base, raising his batting average from .200 to .280.
“We live off the mistakes,” Correa said, “and we’re hoping to get mistakes down the middle that we can drive.”
The Twins started Friday 1-2 in their past three games while averaging two runs. But they also started the day 4½ games up on second-place Chicago in the American League Central. Their pitching has been among the best in baseball — their 3.31 combined ERA is fifth in all of MLB — and the offense ranks 10th in batting average (.244) and 12th in runs scored (189).
That last stat should maybe be better; the Twins lead the AL in on-base percentage (.324) and runners left on base (309).
It’s far cry from just three seasons ago, when the 2019 Twins averaged 5.79 runs a game and hit a major league record 307 home runs.
“I guess we’re gonna continue to just try to push one run across at a time, probably earlier in ballgames than we would have contemplated before,” Baldelli said. “But right now, yeah, it is our reality, so we’re gonna deal with it and try to win under the circumstances.
“And all that said, who knows what the end of the season, the second half of the year, will look like, or what next season will look like, but we’re not worried about that right now. All we can worry about is what the game looks like right now.”
KIRILLOFF FIGURING IT OUT
Outfielder Alex Kirilloff, optioned to Class AAA St. Paul May 14 to work through a wrist issue, entered Friday’s game against Indianapolis hitting .383 with two home runs and nine RBIs in 12 games.
Kirilloff had season-ending surgery in his right wrist last July, then struggled at the plate this spring. His double for the Saints on May 18 was his first extra-base hit of the season at any level.
“I think he’s really figuring out what he needs to do with the new feel and reality of playing post-procedure,” Baldelli said.
Before being optioned, Kirilloff had difficulty articulating exactly what was bothering him about the wrist, but it appears he has found an answer. A first-round draft pick in 2016 and one of the Twins’ best power-hitting prospects, Kirilloff still looms large in the Twins’ plans for 2022.
“I mean, he’s one of the more talented hitters that you’ll see, a guy that, from a very young age, could take over a game with his bat,” Baldelli said. “I’m looking forward to seeing him do that for us again.”
The Twins activated left-hander Danny Coulombe from the injured list (left hip) and placed outfielder Gilberto Celestino on the COVID injury list, where he joins right-handed starter Joe Ryan. … Royce Lewis played center field for the Saints for the first time this season against Indianapolis on Friday. Before the game, he was hitting .322 with a .420 on-base percentage in 32 games.