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Why can't the Twins hit?

Posted at 10:30 AM on April 11, 2006 by David Zingler

We’ve all been asking ourselves the above question for the past few years. We’ve blamed Scott Ullger, cried out for the acquisition of sluggers and burned Terry Ryan in effigy for releasing David Ortiz (who couldn’t hit in a Twins uniform either), but while all of those points may be valid, the underlying issue goes far deeper. The Minnesota Twins clearly have a deep-seeded organizational flaw in their approach to developing hitters.

Since the early part of this decade, we’ve seen a string of promising prospects that either never improved (Torii Hunter, Jacque Jones, Corey Koskie), regressed (Cristian Guzman, Luis Rivas, Doug Mientkiewicz) or flopped (Micheal Cuddyer, Michael Restovich). The question is why and the answer is complex, but the main issues are plate discipline and command of the strike zone. The Twins organization has been woefully inept in instilling those concepts into their young hitters.

Even the most conservative, traditional clubs have begrudgingly come to the conclusion that on-base-percentage is essential to fielding a productive offense – a fact that seems lost on the Twins. “(On-base-percentage was) not really an emphasis,” former Twin Bobby Kielty said of his time in the organization. “When I was with the Twins, it was more of a free swinging club.” Well Bobby, that hasn’t changed and it needs to.

In 2005, the Twins posted a .323 OBP which topped only the Royals, Tigers, Mariners and the White Sox (by .001). The Royals, Tigers and Mariners were the dregs of the American League, while the White Sox, of course, won the World Series. The difference between the Sox and Twins however, was that Chicago slugged at a .425 clip and hit 200 homers while the Twins slugged a league worst .391 and hit just 134 homeruns (2nd worst). So, we are stuck with a bunch of free-swinging hackers with no power – the worst of both worlds!

While the Twins inability to produce power hitters is embarrassing, it’s a lot more forgivable than the organization’s inability (or possibly unwillingness) to instill some concept of the strike zone into their young players. Without that skill, their hitters will always struggle whether they have power or not.

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