Through May 4, the Minnesota Twins find themsleves sitting atop the AL Central. With an OBP ranked last in the Americna League and 28th in the majors, their efforts fly in the face of accepted baseball theory that OBP is the most important hitting category. Amongst the other 9 first or second place teams, seven are in the top 10 in OBP, and the Phillies rank 15th and the Orioles 22nd overall.
If the Twins aren't doing it with OBP, maybe their pitching is stellar. While not "stellar", the Twins staff ranks 5th in the AL and 13th overall in team ERA. What has been stellar, though, has been the number of free passes the have given - just 73. That is the lowest number of walks allowed by any team in baseball.
Finally, I wanted to check Defensive Efficiency Rating to see if the low walks combined with a better defense on balls-in-play would fully explain the Twins surprising 1st place standing. They rank just 9th in the AL in DER and 17th overall. I actually see this as a positive because DER is simply 1 minus BABIP. If BABIP is constant around .300, then DER is be the same around .700. The Twins DER is .7061, and the implied BABIP for the team's staff is .2939. (FWIW, the AL average BABIP for pitching is .293 so far.)
While there is room for worsening BABIP if .300 is the true level, the Twins face no regression-to-the-mean like the Baltimore Orioles who lead in DER at .7453 and a BABIP of .2547. Don't tell me a staff of Jeremy Guthrie, Daniel Cabrera, Brian Burress, Steve Trachsel and Garrett Olson can defy the statistical gods for another 5 months!
Overall, the Twins could be much more competitive than anyone would think based on their team OBP as long as the pitching staff continues to minimize the number of free passes and allow their defense to do their part. If this holds, then any commentary about anyone of the Twins hitters will fall on deaf ears. Who cares about the OBP prowess of Carlos Gomez, Adam Everett, Brendan Harris, Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer, Mike Lamb if the teams' strategy depends so heavily on throwing strikes?