The Franchise 2002 (Part 1)

July 24, 2014

2002 Minnesota Twins

Manager: Ron Gardenhire 1st season (1st with Minnesota 94-67)
94 W 67 L 768 RS 712 RA 1st AL Central 13.5 GA (Chicago 81-81)
4.77 RPG (AL = 4.81) 4.12 ERA (AL = 4.46)
.703 DER (4th AL)

All Stars (3) Eddie Guardado, Torii Hunter, AJ Pierzynski

Franchise (1901-2002) 7510-8227-111; 31-35 Post Season; 19-21 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-2002) 3296-3363-7; 23-24 Post Season; 11-10 WS

Although contraction had run into some significant legal walls, particularly in Minnesota, there was still some buzz that it might be on the table as the 2002 season opened.

While Selig’s plan loomed over the Twins like a storm cloud, it wasn’t enough to dampen the spirits of Twins fans who finally got  a taste of a winning team in 2001. The Twins only figured to be better in 2002, and that’s exactly what happened.

It is difficult to envision a small market team with more promise than this version of the Twins. Perhaps the biggest testament to this team is the career successes of its individual players, most of which occurred after the 2002 season. The roster had future stars (Hunter, Ortiz, Santana), and a load of future All-Stars and players who would play key roles on championship teams (sadly, with other teams). Additionally, the team had both Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer playing in the minor leagues at the time.

In some ways they lived up to the promise of 2002, bringing winning baseball to Minnesota for the bulk of the decade. Still, those Twins teams were never the best in the American League (maybe in 2006…) and they benefited a great deal from playing in a weak Central Division. In 2002, however, the playoff failures had not happened yet and it was a great time to be a Twins fan.

The Franchise 2001 (Pitchers)

July 20, 2014

SP Joe Mays 6.7 WAR
At age 25 everything came together for Joe Mays. In 2000, opposing batters got on base at a .364 rate and had an OPS of .825. In 2001 Mays allowed opposing batters just .289 OBP and .653 OPS. Interestingly, his strikeout rate, which was not high for MLB standards, went down in 2001. Instead, Mays got outs by the famous “pitching to contact” mantra that the Twins preached heavily in the decade (his walk rate fell as well). Opposing players put about the same number of balls in play against Mays as they had the previous season, but BABIP indicates that Mays improved from .327 to .246, in part due to a 10% drop in his line drive rate. Some of that likely was due to better command, but some of it was due to luck as well. In summary, Mays was not a dominant pitcher, but everything came together for him in 2001. In retrospect, it really isn’t a surprise that he came back down to earth in subsequent seasons.

SP Brad Radke 4.5 WAR
This was the 6th consecutive very good season for Radke. While he had always been a very good control pitcher, he maintained a major league high 1.0 BB/9 rate throughout the 2001 season. Aside from that, the only major difference between 2001 and previous seasons is that, for the first time in his career, Radke had a winning team to pitch for.

SP Eric Milton 3.6 WAR
Eric Milton starred in a couple of games that served to announce the Twins presence as a contender. The first was on April 15, when he struck out 10 in 7 innings of work, including the first four batters he faced, to help the Twins complete a four-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox and improve their record to 9-2. The second came on May 8, when he shutout the powerful Yankees, allowing just four hits.

SP Kyle Lohse -0.1 WAR
SP JC Romero -0.6 WAR
SP Rick Reed -0.1 WAR
The Twins had three very good starters at the top of the rotation, but spent the bulk of the season searching for a solid #4 and #5. At the beginning of the season Mark Redman looked to be a solid fourth starter, but injury derailed him and he was ultimately traded to address the closer problem. Lohse and Romero each got long looks as starting pitchers, and Kelly also had Adam Johnson, Brad Thomas, and Johan Santana start some games as well. With little success, the Twins turned to the trade market and acquired Rick Reed from the Mets. Reed had an undistinguished major league career with several teams from 1988-1995. He briefly came to spring training as a replacement player in 1995. Despite some pushback from other players when the strike ended, Reed began to make some noise with the New York Mets, earning a couple of trips to the All Star game, including in 2001. His performance down the stretch wasn’t very good for the Twins, however.

CL LaTroy Hawkins -0.7 WAR
Based on his strong performance out of the bullpen in 2000, Hawkins earned the job as the team’s closer in 2001. Simply put, as closer he was a mess. Despite finishing the year with 28 saves, Hawkins sported an ugly 5.96 ERA. While he was never really a strong control pitcher, his BB rate ballooned from a career rate of about 3.5 per 9 IP to 6.8 in 2001. He lost the closer role when the team traded for Todd Jones in August, though ultimately it was Eddie Guardado who took over. In short, 2001 was forgettable for Hawkins, and the team and fans were left wondering if he was finished as a major league caliber pitcher.

RP Eddie Guardado 1.3 WAR
Guardado had another very strong season, so much so that he was installed as the team’s closer at the end of the season. It went so well that Guardado would start the 2002 season as the team’s full time closer.

RP Hector Carrasco 0.3 WAR
RP Bob Wells 0.0 WAR
RP Travis Miller -0.1 WAR
In all the excitement of 2001, there was one area where the team seemed to take a few steps back. Carrasco, Wells, and Miller had quietly been the nucleus of the team’s area of strength from 1998-2000: the bullpen. In 2001 the bullpen was no longer the team’s strength, not just due to the high profile struggles of the team’s closer. These three all struggled to maintain the form of the previous seasons. Aside from a handful of innings for Wells and Miller in 2002, none of these three would pitch for the Twins again.

The Franchise 2001 (Position Players)

July 17, 2014

C AJ Pierzynski 1.8 WAR
C Tom Prince 0.7 WAR
Though he had stints with the team in each of the previous three seasons, 2001 was technically AJ Pierzynski’s rookie season. The 24-year-old solidified himself as the team’s catcher of the future by performing well enough in 2001. The Twins brought in 36-year-old journeyman back up catcher Tom Prince to back up Pierzynski. Prince’s first major league action came in 1987, the year that Tom Kelly won a World Series as a rookie manager.

1B Doug Mientkiewicz 2.8 WAR
In his second full major league season it looked as though Doug Mientkiewicz was on his way. He was mostly known for his defense at first base. Advanced fielding statistics don’t necessarily bear out his defensive reputation (in 2001 he was a 0 Total Zone Rating), and given that first base is to the far left of the defensive spectrum his value as a fielder was definitely overblown. By the same token, he was underrated as a hitter, particularly in 2001 and 2003, when he posted 123 and 122 OPS+ respectively. He was a different kind of first basemen in an era were most were still the hulking power hitters, but Mientkiewicz produced by getting on base on a .387 clip and sprinkling in some power as well (15 home runs – a number that stands as his career high).

2B Luis Rivas 0.0 WAR
The Twins signed Luis Rivas as a free agent out of Venezuela in 1995 when he was only 16. For all of the hopes the Twins had placed on Rivas to hold down second base for the future, he was not very good in his debut as a 21 year old. In fairness to the organization, it is likely the plan was to have Jay Canizaro play second for 2001 while Rivas continued to get minor league experience, but injury erased Canizaro as a possibility, so the team went with the rookie. The company line was that he was a good fielder, but the reality was that he was a -14 defender in 2001.

SS Cristian Guzman 4.8 WAR
Guzman earned a reputation as one of the most exciting players in baseball when he led the league with 20 triples in 2000. While his number was down in 2001 (14 triples – still AL leader), he was an all-around better player and gave the Twins and their fans hope that he would be very good for a long time. In addition to improved offense, Guzman was a +8 shortstop in 2001. All told, his performance earned him an All Star appearance and MVP consideration at the end of the season (he finished 16th in the voting).

3B Corey Koskie 6.3 WAR
Writing about Corey Koskie is getting to feel like a broken record. Another season in which he was the team’s most valuable offensive player. Add to that the fact that he was a +16 player at third base in 2001, and it is difficult to understand why he did not get more recognition at the time, and why he continues to be overlooked as one of the best players of the new millennium Twins. Historically, he is lost among the Morneaus and Mauers, but of his contemporaries, Koskie did not get as much attention as Hunter, Guzman, Pierynski, and Mientkiewicz. Yet he was more valuable to the team than all of them.

LF Jacque Jones 1.3 WAR
Jones vs. RHP (461 PA) .288/.349/.445/.794; 14 HR
Jones vs. LHP (59 PA) .182/.224/.200/.424; 0 HR
In his second full season in the Twins outfield, Jones difficulty with lefties did not seem to be going away. It was noticed by Tom Kelly, who started Jacque in just 5 games against left-handed starting pitchers.

CF Torii Hunter 4.7 WAR
Hunter’s reputation for center field defense exploded in 2001, and for good reason. He was a +20 fielder in 2001, up from -4 the year before. He won the first of his nine consecutive gold gloves in 2001, despite the fact that he never would again even approach the success he had in the field in 2001.

RF Matt Lawton 2.2 WAR
Terry Ryan broke up the short-lived soul patrol when he dealt Lawton to the Mets for veteran starter Rick Reed at the trade deadline. It was truly a case of selling high. Lawton was in the midst of what looked to be his best season since 1998, possibly even better. He struggled against National League pitching for the rest of the season, however, and though he had some decent seasons before retiring in 2006, never again played as well as he did for the first few months of the 2001 season. In his absence, the Twins covered right field by committee, using Brian Buchanan (0.7 WAR), Dustan Mohr (0.1 WAR), and Bobby Kielty (0.1 WAR).

DH David Ortiz 0.3 WAR
Ortiz was batting .311/.386/.611/.997 with 6 HR when he broke his wrist in Kansas City on May 4. When he returned towards the end of July, he showed flashes of that same success, but was unable to consistently keep those numbers up. He ended the season in a slump, finishing with a .234/.324/.475/.799 slash line.

UT Denny Hocking 0.2 WAR
After a spike in offense in 2000, Hocking returned to his career norms, which weren’t very good. He was valuable in the Twins’ eyes for the fact that he could play every position save catcher and pitcher.

The Franchise 2001 (Part 1)

July 10, 2014

2001 Minnesota Twins

Manager Tom Kelly 16th season (16th with Minnesota 1140-1244)
85 W 77 L 771 RS 766 RA 2nd AL Central 6.0 GB (Cleveland 91-71)
4.676 RPG (AL = 4.86) 4.51 ERA (AL = 4.47)
.698 DER (4th AL)

All Stars (3) Cristian Guzman, Joe Mays, Eric Milton

Franchise (1901-2001) 7416-8160-111; 27-29 Post Season; 19-21 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-2001) 3202-3296-7; 19-18 Post Season; 11-10 WS

2001 marked the beginning of the “Get to Know ‘Em” campaign that corresponded with the franchise’s revival as an American League contender. The group of young, talented players came together enough to record the first winning season for the Twins since 1992.

While the team faded down the stretch, there was a lot on the field to get excited about. Corey Koskie had established himself as one of the best third basemen in baseball. Torii Hunter began to wow with athletic plays in the outfield. The team had a solid, young pitching rotation. The Twins looked like they could be contenders for a long time to come.

The success was close to being undercut by off-the-field happenings at the conclusion of the season. It was announced shortly after the 2001 World Series that the owners had approved a plan to contract two teams prior to the 2003 season. It wasn’t long before it leaked that the Twins were one of the two teams on the chopping block. A winter of court action followed. Ultimately, contraction was thwarted, at least in part, by the team’s lease to play in the Metrodome. The stadium that had been the source of so many of the team’s threats to leave Minnesota played a major role in keeping the team from being downsized by major league baseball.

The year of competitive baseball’s return to the Twin Cities also marked the last year of Tom Kelly’s career as Twins manager. He started as a World Series champion in 1987, and was there to oversee the first stages of the franchise’s return to winning in 2001. The threat of contraction may have played a role in Kelly’s retirement at the age of 51, but he also cited personal burnout as a major reason for his departure. In 16 seasons with the Twins, Kelly won 1,140 games and two World Series rings.


The All Franchise Team (1991-2000)

July 3, 2014

C Brian Harper 1991-1993 .307/.343/.426/.769 109 OPS+ 6.7 WAR
As in the previous decade, Harper might have been overshadowed because his career was split between two arbitrary decade markers. The Twins got some surprising production out of Terry Steinbach late in the decade, but the last three years of Harper’s Twins career was better.

1B Kent Hrbek 1991-1994 .260/.361/.442/.803 116 OPS+ 0 WAR
These were the decline years for Hrbek and still, excluding his final season, he was productive for the Twins. From 1995 to the end of the decade, the Twins searched in vain to fill Hrbek’s “spot” at first base, which may be the best tribute to T-Rex.

2B Chuck Knoblauch 1991-1997 .304/.391/.416/.807 114 OPS+ 37.9 WAR
The MVP of the decade and one of the best players in franchise history.

SS Pat Meares 1993-1998 .265/.301/.381/.682 76 OPS+ 6.0 WAR
Meares gets this sport over two seasons of Gagne at the beginning of the decade and two seasons of Guzman at the end. Meares was a consistent performer and provided decent offensive production considering his solid defense up the middle.

3B Corey Koskie 1998-2000 .298/.388/.495/.833 109 OPS+ 5.1 WAR
Third base was a bit of a revolving door for the Twins until Koskie locked down the job late in the decade. He was probably the team’s best hitter in 1999 and 2000 but did not get much recognition. His defensive reputation as a rookie was poor, but he worked hard and became a very good defensive third baseman as well.

LF Shane Mack 1991-1994 .306/.372/.483/.855 130 OPS+ 17.2 WAR
Mack played right field for the World Series team but was moved primarily to left the following season. The Twins got five prime seasons from Mack, who was not the same player when he returned from Japan.

CF Kirby Puckett 1991-1995 .315/.363/.492/.856 127 OPS+ 19.4 WAR
Was primarily a right fielder in his last couple of seasons, but played more center field in the decade. Puckett, like Hrbek, was in his autumn years. Unlike Hrbek, he was productive right the the end, though the end came more suddenly for Puckett.

RF Matt Lawton 1995-2000 .274/.377/.426/.803 105 OPS+ 9.1 WAR
Lawton took over for Puckett in right field. Though he was up and down, he had some very good seasons and held down the position for the last half of the decade.

DH Chili Davis 1991-1992 .282/.385/.476/.862 136 OPS+ 5.3 WAR
Davis started a revolving door of veteran designated hitters including Dave Winfield and Paul Molitor. Only played with the team for two seasons, but was a huge power threat in the middle of the lineup in a decade in which the team had very few of them.

SP Brad Radke 1995-2000 4.32 ERA 4.39 FIP 1.290 WHIP 114 ERA+ 27.7 WAR
Radke was a very good pitcher for a very bad team for a very long time. The good news for him is that the team’s fortunes would turn for the better in the next decade.

SP Kevin Tapani 1991-1995* 4.12 ERA 3.74 FIP 1.287 WHIP 106 ERA+ 15.6 WAR
Tapani’s name often gets forgotten among the World Series rotation because of Jack Morris and Scott Erickson, but he was not only a better pitcher for the Twins after 1991, he might have been the best pitcher on that team.

SP Scott Erickson 1991-1995* 4.34 ERA 4.14 FIP 1.425 WHIP 102 ERA+ 12.6 WAR
Erickson was a but maddening to follow with some very high highs and low lows throughout the early 90′s.

SP Eric Milton 1998-2000 4.96 ERA 4.61 FIP 1.325 WHIP 101 ERA+ 9.7 WAR
Milton came to the Twins in the Knoblauch trade and had three solid seasons to kick off his career.

CL Rick Aguilera 1991-1999* 3.59 ERA 3.80 FIP 1.183 WHIP 130 ERA+ 12.5 WAR
Held down the closer role for the vast majority of the decade. Aggie was considered one of the best closers in the game for a period.

RP Carl Willis 1991-1995 3.65 ERA 3.08 FIP 1.268 WHIP 120 ERA+ 3.8 WAR
The veteran had his best seasons with the Twins and was a throwback in how versatile he was.

RP Eddie Guardado 1993-2000 5.06 ERA 4.84 FIP 1.456 WHIP 96 ERA+ 4.5 WAR
Guardado makes this list more due to longevity than quality, but towards the end of the decade he improved and was a very good pitcher, foreshadowing his success as a closer in the early 2000′s.

*Stats aside from WAR include partial seasons with other teams.

The Franchise 2000 (Pitchers)

July 1, 2014

SP Brad Radke 6.2 WAR
Radke had an eye-popping 16 losses in 2000, but by now most people realized that his record was a function of the poor team he played for. The contract he signed in early July was worth about $9 million per season for the next four years. Since it was estimated that Radke could have made $10-12 million on the open market in the offseason, Radke earned a lot of goodwill from fans for taking the “hometown” discount. More importantly for the organization, it was a signing that wouldn’t have happened a few years earlier, and seemed to signal that the team saw winning just around the corner.

SP Eric Milton 3.5 WAR
Milton again had a solid season, even improving his already low walk rate from 1999 (2.7 per nine innings to 2.0).

SP Joe Mays 2.2 WAR
Mays didn’t earn his first win of the season until May 7, but that was a complete game, five-hit shut out of the Detroit Tigers. It turned out to be a flash of brilliance in an otherwise mediocre season for Mays, who did not find the form that looked so promising in 1999.

SP Mark Redman 3.4 WAR
Redman was the 13th overall pick in the 1995 draft. He had a cup of coffee with the Twins in 1999, but 2000 is considered his rookie year. He was inserted into the starting rotation in May, and the results were immediate. He won three of his first five starts and seemed to earn himself a spot in the rotation for some time to come. After he left the team a year later, however, manager Tom Kelly criticized his work ethic.

SP Sean Bergman -1.6 WAR
SP JC Romero -0.6 WAR
30-year-old journeyman pitcher Sean Bergman was claimed off of waivers by the Twins during the offseason. They hoped to insert him into the starting rotation for some depth and a veteran presence. That experiment ended when the Twins released him in late June after a terrible couple of months that ended with an ERA of 9.66. Bergman hung on in the minor leagues but did not appear in the majors again. Romero essentially took over for Bergman but didn’t perform much better.

CL LaTroy Hawkins 3.0 WAR
It might be a coincidence, but the same year the LaTroy Hawkins official fan club was founded, the Twins determined to try Hawkins in the bullpen full time. The experiment seemed to be a success after year one. By the end of 2000, he was the team’s closer, sporting a 153 ERA+.

RP Bob Wells 2.5 WAR
Wells had seven losses without a win, but in all other areas his 2000 season was as successful if not more than his 1999 season, including a 5.07 k/bb ration. Over the course of those two seasons, Wells established himself as one of the better relievers in the league.

RP Hector Carrasco 1.2 WAR
Carrasco was traded to the Red Sox for Lew Ford on September 9, but became a free agent after the season and rejoined the Twins for 2001.

RP Travis Miller 1.2 WAR
Miller continued to be a very good left-handed option for the Twins, whose bullpen was very strong for the second straight season.

RP Eddie Guardado 1.8 WAR
At the age of 29, Guardado made huge strides and had his best career season. His success is a bit of a mystery based on the numbers. His rate stats were not any better than his career average, and in some areas looked worse – particularly home run rate. His FIP was 5.66. Somehow, Guardado set a career mark in ERA+ with 132.

RP Johan Santana 0.1 WAR
The Twins grabbed Johan Santana from the Florida Marlins who took him in the 1999 rule 5 draft. Accordingly, the Twins had to keep the 21-year-old on the roster for the entire season. Santana took his lumps but showed flashes of the pitcher who would become the league’s best by the middle of the decade.

The Franchise 2000 (Position Players)

June 29, 2014

C Matt LeCroy -1.1 WAR
C AJ Pierzynski 0.6 WAR
It seems at though the organization wanted to give LeCroy every chance to be the starting catcher. The 24-year-old had power potential that was unique in an organization that had largely not participated in the power surge of the late 1990′s. LeCroy had a miserable 56 games, ending with a .174/.254/.323/.577 line. LeCroy was sent back to the minors by the middle of June, but the Twins had problems finding a successful catcher the rest of the season. Marcus Jensen and Chad Moeller both got some time. In Mid-August, Tom Kelly turned to AJ Pierzysnki, who had enough success that he finished out the regular season and remained the team’s starting catcher well into the 2000′s.

1B Ron Coomer -0.2 WAR
Coomer became a free agent after the season. The Twins had hoped that he would show some major league power, but after six seasons with the Twins he never hit more than 16 home runs in the majors. Coomer played for the Cubs, Yankees, and Dodgers in 2001-2003, and was finished his major league career at the age of 36.

2B Jay Canizaro 0.0 WAR
The Twins felt they needed a bridge at second for a year to move away from Todd Walker, who the organization thought needed a change of scenery, to Luis Rivas, who was considered the second baseman of the future. Jay Canizaro, who had made his major league debut in 1996 with the Giants but had been largely a minor league player since, signed as a free agent with the Twins in the offseason. His solid play, particularly on defense, created some rumors that perhaps Rivas would not be the starter by 2001. His offensive numbers tailed off as the season wore on, and injury prevented him from playing in 2001 and pushing Rivas’ debut back. Canizaro appeared in 38 games in 2002, but did not see any more major league action. He is probably most remembered for his role in the Barry Bonds story.

SS Cristian Guzman 1.2 WAR
20 triples put Guzman in some rare company. While major league history is full of 20+ triple season (19 triples in a season puts you in 113th place on the all time single-season triples list), most of them are from the dead-ball era or before. Guzman was only the 5th player since 1945 to hit 20 more more in a season (Willie Mays, George Brett, Willie Wilson, and Lance Johnson were the others).

3B Corey Koskie 2.8 WAR
The rap on Koskie when he first came up with the Twins was that he had a shaky glove at third base. Over the course of a few years, Koskie worked, reportedly in the snow in Minnesota, at his defense until it became a strength of his. He also became a consistent major league hitter, but never seemed to get the recognition, including in 2000 when he was the team’s best hitter. In acknowledgements of this fact, adjectives like a “quiet” .300 hitter were used. The Twins organization seemed to want more power from Koskie, and his name was more often mentioned for disappointing power than for the positives that Koskie was bringing to the team.

LF Jacque Jones 1.3 WAR
A year after challenging Hunter for the center field job, Jones settled in as the team’s regular left fielder in his second season in the major leagues. The shift down the defensive spectrum made his offensive numbers less valuable, but he was still the team’s power hitter with 19 home runs in 2000.

CF Torii Hunter 0.2 WAR
Hunter struggled early and spent June and July in the minors after posting a .207/.243/.300/.543 line through the first two months of the season. Many speculated that Hunter’s struggles were related to his relationship with manager Tom Kelly, which was somewhat strained. Whatever the reason, at Salt Lake City he found his swing and started hitting again, and by the end of the season he was at a more respectable .280/.318/.408/.726 line. Hunter already was developing a reputation as a very good center fielder, but he was a -6 run defender in 2000.

RF Matt Lawton 2.3 WAR
After a poor showing in 1999, Lawton returned to the Twins and declared that his eye socket had fully healed. It seemed he was right because Lawton had another good season in 2000. After the season, Terry Ryan attempted to squash trade rumors, saying that he did not envision Lawton being traded away.

DH David Ortiz 0.7 WAR
DH Butch Huskey -1.0 WAR
Butch Huskey was brought in on s minor league deal in the hopes that the Twins would get some veteran power. That did not pan out, and Huskey would not see more major league action after 2000. 24-year-old David Ortiz hit 10 home runs, which was disappointing, but got on base at a .364 rate, which made him the OBP leader among the regular players.

UT Denny Hocking 1.0 WAR
His age 30 season was, by the numbers, the best of Hocking’s career.

The Franchise 2000

June 22, 2014

2000 Minnesota Twins


Manager Tom Kelly 15th season (15th with Minnesota 1055-1167)
69 W 93 L 748 RS 880 RA 5th AL Central 36.0 GB (Chicago 95-67)
4.62 RPG (AL = 5.30) 5.14 ERA (AL = 4.91)
.671 DER (13th AL)

All Stars (1) Matt Lawton

Franchise (1901-2000) 7331-8083-111; 27-29 Post Season; 19-21 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-2000) 3117-3219-7; 19-18 Post Season; 11-10 WS

The 40th season of Minnesota Twins baseball was also the 8th consecutive losing season for the team. In a lot of ways, 2000 was a carbon copy of 1999. The team’s offense struggled in an era of big offense. The pitching staff, however, was solid including another very good but quiet season from the bullpen.

Baseball Reference’s Wins Above Average by position is the perfect illustration of the 2000 season. The Twins were -6.9 overall. The pitching staff was 8.7 wins above average, second in the league, including a league-best 4.2 from the bullpen. The batters, however, were a league-worst -15.6 wins above average. Every position on the field was in the negative range except for third base (Corey Koskie).

There were some offensive highlights. Aside from Koskie establishing himself as the team’s most reliable hitter, Matt Lawton had a very good season. Cristian Guzman hit 20 triples, a number made even more impressive by the fact that Guzman had more triples than any Twins player had home runs (Jacque Jones led the team with 19).

The biggest news of the 2000 season was the team locking down Brad Radke with a 4-year, $36 million contract right before the trade deadline. After years of watching the best players leave, Twins fans were perhaps getting the first tangible signal that the team was ready to win in the near future. It was difficult to see in 2000, but winning was right around the corner.

The Franchise 1999 (Pitchers)

June 15, 2014

SP Brad Radke 6.5 WAR
Radke’s 1999 is exhibit “A” in terms of great seasons that might be overlooked due to a pitcher’s win-loss record. Though he set a career best in WAR (6.5) and his 2nd best season according to ERA+ (135), Radke finished the season with a 12-14 record. At the age of 26, Radke had his best statistical season, almost two full wins (according to WAR) ahead of his 20-pitching-win 1997 season.

SP Eric Milton 4.2 WAR
After taking his lumps as a rookie, Milton had a solid sophomore season. Jim Souhan relayed a story about Milton’s turn around. According to Souhan, a “guy” who coached Milton years before in the Cape Cod League called the left-handed pitcher at some point during the 1998 season and told him to pay attention to where his right foot was landing. Milton discovered that his foot was landing to the left of the mound, sapping velocity and snap off of the curve ball. Milton adjusted his landing spot four prints to the right and discovered another 4 mph on his fastball and a much sharper curve. Whether the story is true or not, there was clearly more success for Milton in major league year two, including a no-hitter.

SP LaTroy Hawkins -0.4 WAR
Hawkins took another step back after showing improvement in the 1998 season. Though the team was thin in starting pitching, he was moved to the bullpen the next season.

SP Mike Lincoln 0.0 WAR
The fact that Lincoln, a 13th round draft pick of the Twins in 1996, got 15 starts in is an indication of how difficult it was for the Twins to find starting pitching. Though he struggled through his rookie year, Lincoln had a few decent seasons as a relief pitcher, mostly for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Interestingly, Lincoln had two elbow surgeries in 2004, but returned to some success after four years out of the majors in 2008.

SP/RP Joe Mays 3.0 WAR
It would be a nice story to say that Joe Mays pitched so well out of the bullpen that he earned a starting job, but the truth is that the rookie’s ERA after his final appearance as a regular relief pitcher on June 17 was 5.72. By the time the season ended, Mays’ ERA was 4.37 (116 ERA+). In 20 starts (118.2 IP), Mays struck out 82 to 43 walks, allowed .700 OPS to opponents, and compiled a 3.72 ERA.

CL Rick Aguilera 1.3 WAR
Aguilera pitched very well in the first month and a half of the season, which simply made the 37-year-old a more valuable trade chip for the Twins who desperately wanted to drop his salary. The deal with the Cubs occurred on May 21 and netted the team pitchers Kyle Lohse and Jason Ryan. Aguilera left the Twins after 11 seasons. His line: 490 G, 694 IP, 3.50 ERA, 130 ERA+, 254 SV, 3.58 FIP, 1.182 WHIP, 3.27 SO/W. When he left the team in May of 1999, he was the last playing link to the 1991 World Series.

CL Mike Trombley 1.9 WAR
Though he was not Aggie, Trombley filled in admirably for the best closer in team history. It was enough closer experience to effectively price Trombley out of the Twins’ range. He became a free agent after the season and joined the Baltimore Orioles.

RP Bob Wells 1.9 WAR
Wells was already a veteran of five major league seasons when he joined the Twins as a free agent. The 32-year-old was a different pitcher for the Twins, setting career highs in appearances (76) and improving his ERA+ from 75 in 1998 with Seattle to 133 with the Twins.

RP Travis Miller 1.5 WAR
RP Eddie Guardado 1.1 WAR
Lefties Miller and Guardado also had very good seasons as Loogys, with Miller being dominant at times. The two of them rounded out a bullpen that was a quiet strength of the 1999 team.


The Franchise 1999 (Position Players)

June 10, 2014

C Terry Steinbach 1.2 WAR
C Javier Valentin 0.9 WAR
Steinbach came back for one more year in his age 37 season. The expectation out of spring was not great for his bat, but his value was felt to be in the way he handled the young pitching staff. It was also felt that, though he had experience for the last several years, Javy Valentin was not yet ready to be an every day catcher. The buzz was that if Steinbach wasn’t able to play the Twins might turn to prospect Matt LeCroy. As it turned out, when Steinbach went down with an injury, the team brought A.J. Pierzynski up for 9 games. Steinbach was only out of for a short stint, and had a better-than-expected season at the plate. He performed so well that he mulled playing again in 2000, but ultimately retired in the winter. In three seasons with the Twins, Steinbach batted .256/.321/.391/.748 with 30 home runs.

1B Doug Mientkiewicz -1.7 WAR
IF Ron Coomer 0.8 WAR
Mientkiewicz was considered the team’s most polished prospect heading into the season. He won the Eastern League batting title in 1998 and earned a starting job with the Twins out of spring training in 1999. Mientkiewicz was known mostly for his glove and hitting for average. He was often compared with Mark Grace. The rookie found major league pitching to be a giant step up from AA ball, and struggled offensively most of the season. By June, Ron Coomer was getting more and more playing time at first base (and less at third due to Koskie’s success).

2B Todd Walker 0.3 WAR
After getting off to his typical slow start, Todd Walker slowly brought his hitting numbers up as the season went on. He ended at .279/.343/.397/.740. Tom Kelly and the organization were pretty public with the idea that if Walker was not going to be a 20 home run guy (he hit 9 in 1999), that they would like to see his batting average above .300. Walker was also not a favorite of the organization due to the fact that he didn’t run fast and defensively, according to Jim Souhan “his range is limited and he doesn’t have soft hands.” Ultimately Walker was traded to the Rockies in the summer of 2000.

SS Cristian Guzman -2.5 WAR
While the company line was mostly positive, it’s hard to look at Cristian Guzman’s rookie year as anything but an extended time for the young man to take his lumps, particularly at the plate. His final OPS+ was 38. A switch hitter, Guzman showed a large split at the plate (.470 OPS vs right-handed pitching, .736 vs left-handed pitching). The Twins, at least publicly, were very impressed with his defense and speed. Despite a tough year, Guzman returned as the starter in 2000.

3B Corey Koskie 2.6 WAR
Koskie started the season as a part-time third baseman whose glove was considered shaky and offense was questionable at the major league level. By June, he had established himself as the cream of the young crop of Twins. He worked hard at his fielding and ended the season as a +8 third baseman. Koskie was also the best hitter on the team in 1999. The plan out of spring training was for Koskie to platoon with veteran Ron Coomer at third base, but Koskie’s success meant Coomer ended up spelling Mientkiewicz at first base more often.

LF Chad Allen -0.8 WAR
The Twins drafted Allen in the 4th round of the 1996 draft. He made his debut in 1999. Allen’s rookie year would be his busiest major league season, accounting for almost half of his game appearances over the course of a 7-year major league career.

CF Torii Hunter 0.8 WAR
OF Jacque Jones 1.8 WAR
Hunter was among those Twins rookies who fought to keep their heads above water in a difficult 1999 season. Hunter’s performance was pretty good, and the team was hoping that he would continue to improve. There was already some buzz surrounding the 23-year-old’s defense in center field, but in the late summer months the Twins brought Jacque Jones up to challenge Hunter for the center field position. Jim Souhan was among those who felt Jones had the inside edge because of his versatility.

RF Matt Lawton 0.5 WAR
Lawton missed a month in the early part of the season due to a fractured eye socket as a result of a Dennys Reyes pitch to the face. When he went down on June 8 Lawton had on OPS of .741 – down a bit from the standards Lawton had set in the previous two seasons. By the end of the season Lawton’s OPS was .708, well down from his standards.

DH Marty Cordova 0.9 WAR
At the age of 29 Cordova was on the outside looking in of the team’s youth movement. Though his numbers were up slightly from the previous two seasons, it was clear that there was little room on the team for the former rookie of the year. He became a free agent after the season and landed with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2000 where he struggled. Cordova had a monster year with Cleveland in 2001, and finished his career with Baltimore in 2002 and 2003.

IF Denny Hocking -0.6 WAR
IF Brent Gates 0.9 WAR



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