That Elusive Third Strike

With today’s weather cancellation, the Twins have now gone a full week since their last victory – a 4-3 victory at Baltimore last Sunday. In their five game losing streak this week, the pitching staff gave up 33 runs, almost half of those (16) scored on Friday night against the Mets. As was expected going into the season, Twins starters are having an extremely hard time putting hitters away, and it showed up these last five games.

The staff as a whole has only struck out 51 batters, which places them 15th in the American League, and 30th in all the majors – that’s last for in both for those counting. To put this in perspective, Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers has struck out 28 batters already on his own. Darvish has gotten 2 strikes on 42 hitters, with 28 going down on strikes – 2 out of every 3 (67%). During this five game skid, the Twins starters have been anything but Darvish-like.

On Monday against Kansas City, Kevin Correia took the hill and pitched 7.1 innings on just 93 pitches. Correia got 9 batters into 2-strike counts, but was able to strike out just 1. On a positive not, Correia was able to get 8 of those hitters out, ultimately, walking the other. For the season, Correia has gotten 17 2-strike counts, only striking out 3 of those hitters (17.6%).

Tuesday night was veteran Mike Pelfrey‘s turn. He lasted just 2 innings, giving up 6 runs and striking out just 1. In those two innings, Pelfrey had 7 hitters with 2 strikes on them, and gave up 3 hits of the 7 at bats. For the season, Pelfrey has induced 21 2-strike counts, pitifully striking out just 2 of those hitters (9.5%).

On Wednesday recently sent to Rochester Liam Hendriks burst out with a whopping 4 strike outs in 5 innings, but was pulled before the 6th after throwing 94 pitches. In those 5 innings, 14 hitters had two strikes on them resulting in 4 strike outs, 2 hits, and on hit batter. In his two starts this season, he’s gotten 25 2-strike counts, with just 5 of those batters going down on strikes (20%).

In Friday’s debacle against the Mets, Twins ace Vance Worley lasted just 1+ inning and gave up 9 runs. Worley induced 6 2-strike counts, giving up 2 hits, a walk, and striking out just 1. In three starts this year so far, Worley has been in 29 2-strike counts, and struck out only 6 batters (20.7%).

Finally on Saturday, Scott Diamond fresh of the DL went 4.1 innings and gave up 8 hits and 4 runs. He had 9 batters in 2-strike counts, but struck out just 1 of those (11.1%). Mets hitters went 3-9 on the day against Diamond with 2 strikes.

Altogether, these five starters that headline the 2013 Twins rotation have struck out just 17 batters combined in 101 2-strike counts. That’s good for a 16.8% rate, a rate Yu Darvish would no doubt be ashamed of. In fact Darvish has struck out 11 more batters than the 5 Twins starters combined. It’s not completely the pitching staff’s fault that the 5-game skid will carry into an upcoming 3-game series with the LA Angels (6th worst lineup in the AL in strike outs with 85), as the offense managed just 12 runs this week.

2013 may very continue on the same course it’s heading right now for this pitching staff, but brighter times are surely on the horizon. At AAA Rochester, Kyle Gibson has 10 strike outs in 9.1 innings. At AA New Britain, Trevor May has 11 strike outs in 9 innings, and Alex Meyer has 14 strike outs in 10 innings. At A Cedar Rapids, Hudson Boyd and Mason Melotakis each have 9 strike outs in 9.2 and 9.1 innings, respectively. For now, though, we’ll have to deal with Worley, Diamond, Pelfrey, Hendriks, and Correia hoping to just survive and have balls hit right at defenders – which can be an adventure in itself.

Follow Twins Rubes on Twitter @twinsrubes.