Twins know they need to cut down on K's

One week in, club's most aggressive hitters struggling to put ball in play

Twins know they need to cut down on K's

MINNEAPOLIS -- With a lineup that features power hitters such as Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe and Byung Ho Park, as well as youngsters like Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Eddie Rosario, the Twins knew they'd strike out plenty this year.

But the total of strikeouts so far has been alarming. The Twins entered Tuesday's off-day leading the Majors with 79 strikeouts through seven games, all losses. Minnesota has scored 13 runs and gone 5-for-55 with runners in scoring position, striking out 24 times in those situations. At their current rate, the Twins are on pace to strike out more than 1,800 times this season, which would smash the record of 1,535 strikeouts set by the 2013 Astros.

Twins' batting statistics

"I don't think anybody is surprised we have a team that will strike out a lot, but it's been over the top," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I see people projecting how much we're going to beat the record by and all that. It's a bigger part of the game, and you see other teams struggling with it. But we need to coach better and help them put balls in play. We're trying to make a conscious effort to cut down on those."

The Twins have struck out in 30.4 percent of their plate appearances, ahead of the Blue Jays (27.4 percent) for the highest rate in the Majors. It's a big jump from last year, when they struck out in 21 percent of their plate appearances and were surpassed in that category by the league-worst Cubs (24.5 percent).

The Twins have also swung at and missed 12.3 percent of the pitches they've seen, which is the second-highest whiff rate in the Majors. It has led to a contact rate of 73.2 percent that's the second-worst mark in the Majors.

A big issue is the propensity of Minnesota's batters to chase rather than swing only at pitches in the zone. The club ranks ninth in swinging at pitches outside the zone but just 25th in going after pitches in the zone. To improve, the Twins will need to learn to swing at more strikes and let bad pitches go.

Volquez strikes out 10

Minnesota will also face weaker pitching as the season goes on; the club has already seen strikeout artists such as Ubaldo Jimenez, Ian Kennedy, Edinson Volquez and Jose Quintana, not to mention Kansas City's overpowering bullpen.

"We're going to have to either get more aggressive earlier in the count or make adjustments later in the count," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "We thought we might have some strikeouts going into the year, but unfortunately, it's more than any of us expected or wanted. But a lot of it is youth. So I think as we get into this thing, it'll improve with more contact."

Jimenez strikes out nine in win

Sano leads Minnesota with 13 strikeouts in 26 plate appearances, while Park has struck out 12 times, Buxton 11 times and Rosario nine times. Their inexperience is showing, and Twins players have also admitted to pressing early this season as the club looks for its first win.

Dozier, who led the team with 148 strikeouts last year, has eight so far this season and says that while whiffs are an issue, the hitters should let the issue get into their heads.

"I'm not going to say we're going up there trying not to strike out," Dozier said. "That's not how you play the game. We're a team that's aggressive, and we're going to continue to be aggressive. But at the same time, there are times we need to bear down and put the ball in play. We need to get better at that part."

The Twins, though, can take solace in the fact that Hall of Famer Rod Carew, who worked with the club's hitters in Spring Training, believes the strikeout numbers will drop as the season goes along and the young players gain more experience. Carew, who never struck out more than 91 times in a season during his 19-year career, said he's not a fan of the trend of rising strikeout totals in baseball today, but he understands how Minnesota's lineup is built.

"I'm not alarmed," Carew said. "I saw these guys in the cages and during the exhibition games in Fort Myers. This is just a phase they're going through. It's a lot of young players, but there's a lot of talent. They're going to break out."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.