MINNEAPOLIS — The early-season chill in the air has resulted in several Minnesota Twins games being postponed. The cold air has also been the possible culprit in another trend: a lack of home runs.
Through Tuesday’s doubleheader against Miami, the Twins have hit just nine home runs this season, the second-fewest in baseball ahead of only the Marlins’ six homers. By comparison, the Atlanta Braves lead all of baseball with 29 long balls. Braves outfielder Justin Upton has hit 11 of those on his own, more than both the Twins and Marlins.
Despite a lack of power, the Twins still boast a 9-8 record following Tuesday’s doubleheader split. Home runs have not been a big part of Minnesota’s offense in recent years, and the Twins are far from concerned about the lack of homers through the first 17 games.
“We know we’re a team that’s going to score runs, going to hit home runs,” said Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe, who has two of Minnesota’s nine homers. “We just really haven’t had a chance to click yet, whether that be a cause of the cold weather, I don’t know. We’re not really worried about it. As long as we’re winning games, that’s all we care about.”
It’s true that the Twins have played fewer games than the rest of the league, which is one reason their overall home run total is lower. But entering the second game of Tuesday’s doubleheader, Minnesota averaged 55.6 at-bats per home run, the sixth-worst ratio in baseball and fourth-fewest in the American League. (The Marlins, meanwhile, average one home run every 103.7 at-bats, by far the worst in the majors.)
The Twins didn’t rank any better in that category last year either, possessing the fifth-worst at-bats-to-home runs ratio. But Minnesota homered every 42.5 at-bats in 2012, a more frequent rate than in the first 17 games in 2013.
“Home runs are something you can’t really try for. It’s going to come,” said right fielder Chris Parmelee, who has one home run through Tuesday’s games. “When they come, they come in bunches. You can’t go up there and try to hit a home run because chances are you’re not going to. We’ve got some guys on this team that can definitely put one out of the ballpark. Hopefully it starts warming up here and we can see some of them fly.”
Minnesota saw power surges by several players last season. Left fielder Josh Willingham hit a team-high (and career-high) 35 homers in 2012, his first season with the Twins. Plouffe also set a career high with 24 homers, as did Ryan Doumit with 18. Joe Mauer’s 10 long balls were the most since his MVP season in 2009 and the third-most in his career.
Still, home runs weren’t a big part of the Twins’ game, as their 131 homers were 27th-most in the majors and dead last in the American League a year ago.
“We’ve got, I’d say, pretty much seven or eight guys in our lineup that can put it out of the ballpark,” Parmelee said. “That’s always a good thing, from the top to the bottom pretty much. … We definitely have some power on this team, especially through the middle of the lineup.”
For whatever reason, the home runs aren’t coming just yet for the Twins, but they got a big one against the Marlins. Rookie Oswaldo Arcia belted his first career homer in the first game of Tuesday’s doubleheader, a three-run shot that put Minnesota up, 4-2, in the fourth inning. The Twins held on to win, 4-3, with Arcia’s blast proving to be the difference.
“Home runs are nice because they can get you back in a game with one swing,” Plouffe said. “But we’re more about winning and scoring enough runs. If we can win this year and we don’t hit that many home runs, it doesn’t really matter.”
Six of Minnesota’s 10 home runs have come at Target Field. Three were hit in Kansas City (all in one game against the Royals), and one was hit in Baltimore. Pretty much everywhere the Twins have gone so far this year, the weather has been chilly. That included Tuesday’s two games at Target Field, where the temperature at first pitch was 38 degrees.
Minnesota certainly hasn’t used the weather as an excuse for anything in the early going, and that includes a lack of power. But the Twins are hopeful that as soon as the weather warms up, the bats will, too.
“We’ve got some people that can hit some home runs,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I think as it got a little hotter, the ball started flying here last year. I think it will here again this year as the weather warms up. We’ll see. We’ve got people that can definitely hit some home runs.”