StaTuesday: Twins’ Willians 'La Tortuga' Astudillo doesn't strike out
It hasn't taken long for Willians Astudillo to grow on Minnesota Twins fans.
Getting a chance to catch during September due to a rash of injuries to Minnesota's catchers, Astudillo has impressed with his defense (43 percent caught stealing rate), baserunning (who will ever forget him scoring from first base on a double, his hair flowing as he rounded third?) and at the plate.
Since Sept. 2, Astudillo has played in 12 games with 11 starts and is 17 for 44 (.386) with a pair of doubles and home runs and 11 RBI.
On the season, Astudillo is batting .338 (24 for 71) with a .521 slugging percentage. If he can maintain an average over .300 and a slugging percentage over .500, that would put Astudillo in some rare company in Twins history. Only 13 other players -- for a total of 16 times -- have hit at least .330 with a .500 slugging percentage (minimum 50 plate appearances).
Another amazing thing about Astudillo -- other than his versatility -- is his bat control.
Entering Tuesday's game, he had yet to strike out in September and has whiffed just twice all season.
This should come a not surprise as over his minor-league career Astudillo has struck out just 81 times in 2,264 at-bats, an AB/K of 27.96. But he's been even better in his brief time with the Twins.
Astudillo's AB/K ratio of 35.5 is nearly unheard of in this era of free swingers. The last player with a better ratio (min. 50 at-bats) was Tony Gwynn … in 1995.
In the expansion era (1961, also Minnesota's first year), Astudillo currently has the 17th-best AB/K ratio (min. 50 AB), with only he, Gwynn and Greg Gross among those with a 35.0 ratio in the past 30 years.
This century only 12 other players have had an AB/K ratio of 20.0 or better, the majority of which were players with 127 or fewer at-bats, like Astudillo. The exceptions are Jeff Keppinger (241 AB, 20.1 AB/K) in 2007, Juan Pierre (617, 21.3) in 2001 and Placido Polanco (501, 20.0) in 2005.
In Twins history, Astudillo has the best AB/K ratio over a single season regardless of the number of at-bats. Only seven players -- for a total of 11 times -- have had a ratio of 18.0 or better. Unless Astudillo goes out of character and whiffs a few times in Minnesota's remaining few games, he'll become No. 8.
By the way, in case you're wondering, Astudillo struck out July 12 against Tampa Bay's Blake Snell and on Aug. 29 (a game in which he also hit his first career home run) vs. Cleveland's Tyler Olson.
Both strikeouts were swinging. We couldn't imagine it any other way.
Dave Heller is the author of Ken Williams: A Slugger in Ruth's Shadow (a Larry Ritter Book Award nominee), Facing Ted Williams - Players From the Golden Age of Baseball Recall the Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived and As Good As It Got: The 1944 St. Louis Browns