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By leading the league in the two categories he is right now, Twins infielder Luis Arraez is following in the footsteps of franchise legend Rod Carew.
Arraez is a high-contact hitter who rarely takes a walk. Over 188 plate appearances so far this season, he has taken 24 walks (12.8 percent walk rate) and struck out 16 times (8.5 percent strikeout rate). But the approach has absolutely worked for him, with a career .320 batting average now into his fourth big league season. Just don’t expect a lot of power, with seven career home runs in over 1,100 plate appearances with a .404 career slugging percentage.
Luis Arraez following in footsteps of Twins’ legend Rod Carew
There’s obviously a long way to go, but Arraez leading baseball in batting average and on-base percentage puts him in some unique company — in MLB overall and, more narrowly, in Twins’ history.
Hall of Famer Rod Carew spent the peak of his career (1967-1978) with the Twins. He won seven batting titles during his time in Minnesota, including leading all of baseball in batting average three times.
In two of those three seasons, 1974 and his AL MVP season in 1977, Carew led baseball in batting average and OPS. In 1974, he hit .364 with a .433 OBP. In 1977, he hit .388 with a .449 OBP (1.019 OPS), driving in an even 100 runs despite hitting just 14 home runs.
Over 19 seasons and 10,550 plate appearances, Carew’s career strikeout and walk rates were each below 10 percent. The only other hitter in baseball history to really rival his pure bat-to-ball skills, with few walks along with even fewer strikeouts, is San Diego Padres legend Tony Gwynn.
Time will tell if Arraez has anywhere close to the career Carew had, and the odds would be against him. But he offers a refreshing throwback to a hitting approach where striking out is considered a huge failure and taking an unintentional walk isn’t too far behind as a relative concession.