The Franchise 2002 (Pitchers)

July 31, 2014

SP Rick Reed 2.8 WAR
Almost a decade after the fact, Rick Reed told Anthony McCarron from the New York Daily News that  the day he was traded to the Twins the day baseball died for him.

“I wish I could’ve ended my career in New York,” Reed says. “When I was traded, I was tore up. I can say it now that I’m not playing. That’s how much we loved New York. Did I compete when I went to Minnesota? Absolutely. But there’s no place like New York.”

The numbers in 2002 certainly indicate this was not Tom Herr all over again. At the age of 37, Reed was the team’s healthiest, and therefore most consistent, starting pitcher.

SP Eric Milton 1.2 WAR
Eric Milton was not having a great season, though he seemed to be heading in the right direction when he heard his knee pop during warm ups for an early August game. It turned out he needed surgery. A month later, in the first start back, Ron Gardenhire pulled Milton with no outs in the fourth inning, starting an exchange with the manager that may have hastened the pitcher’s exit from Minnesota.

After being removed, Milton was visibly upset and was seen throwing his glove in the dugout. He had just been activated from the disabled list, but challenged Gardenhire’s rationale.

“I think that’s a bogus statement,” was among Milton’s comments on Monday. “If he thinks or the pitching coach thinks I can’t field a bunt without getting hurt, I shouldn’t be out there in the first place.”

Gardenhire said Milton never spoke to him personally about the situation.

“I haven’t talked to Milton at all,” Gardenhire said. “He didn’t point his emotions toward me. If he had done that, he would have come into this room. When he’s going out there and talking to you guys (the media), he’s not coming in here and talking to me.

“If somebody has something to say, they should come say it to me, really, if they have a problem or something they don’t like. That was a wrong way to go about his business as far as I’m concerned.”

Milton struggled in his next few starts, but pitched very well in his two playoff starts. The knee continued to be a problem, however, and Milton required another surgery in March of 2003. Though the expected return was two months, he ended up only making three starts late in the 2003 season. He was traded to the Phillies in the next offseason for Carlos Silva, Nick Punto, and Bobby Korecky.

SP Kyle Lohse 2.3 WAR
Lohse came into his own as a regular in the Twins rotation in 2002. It was a bit of a quiet emergence with Radke, Reed, Milton, Mays and later Santana also in the rotation.

SP Brad Radke 0.6 WAR
With all of the talk of contraction during the offseason, it would have been understandable if Brad Radke had exercised the escape clause in his contract to become a free agent. He stuck it out through the uncertainty, however, and stayed with the Twins. Radke’s workload was dramatically reduced in 2002 due to a few stints on the disabled list with a strained groin, though he credited the extra rest with keeping him stronger for the playoff run, in which the Radke made three very strong starts.

SP Joe Mays 0.1 WAR
After pitching ineffectively in his first three starts, Mays lost the rest of the first half of the season to an elbow injury. When he returned in late July he showed some flashes of his 2001 performance and some indication of regression. The highlights of the season were a shutout against Pedro Martinez and the Red Sox in August, and his mastery of the Angels in Game 1 of the ALCS.

SP Johan Santana 2.6 WAR
When Johan Santana joined the major league team on May 31 it was to fill in for the starting rotation through all of the injuries. He pitched extremely well while rarely being allowed to go deep into games. When the starting rotation became mostly healthy in September, Santana worked out of the bullpen.

CL Eddie Guardado 2.0 WAR
In addition to installing Jones as the everyday lead of hitter, Gardenhire also handed the job of closer to veteran Eddie Guardado. “Every Day Eddie” responded by having a career year, including a league leading 45 saves. What is interesting about Guardado, however, is that even with his gaudy numbers he was only the third most valuable reliever on the 2002 team. It says more about the role of closer than the talent of the players involved.

RP LaTroy Hawkins 2.3 WAR
Hawkins bounced back from a terrible season and a failed attempt at closing games to become one of the most dominant right-handed set up men in the league. One of the biggest changes was his walk rate: he went from walking 6.8 men per 9 IP in 2001 to walking just 1.7 men per 9 IP. His strikeout rate improved as well, and opponents batted just .217/.253/.307/.560 off of him. It was a dramatic turnaround for a guy who entered spring training with some uncertainty as to whether he would even make the team.

RP JC Romero 3.5 WAR
Romero was largely an ineffective starting pitcher in his first two seasons with the Twins, but his performance as a LOOGY in 2002 was dominant. While he was prone to walking batters (4.0 per 9 IP), when opponents did get hits off of him in 2002 it was usually just singles – he allowed a .289 slugging percentage. All-in-all, Romero was worth more WAR than any other Twins pitcher in 2002 even though he pitched in a very specialized role. Taken in combination with Hawkins, the Twins had the best 1-2 bullpen punch in baseball.

RP Tony Fiore 1.9 WAR
The Twins acquired Tony Fiore in mid-season 2001 when the Devil Rays released him. He pitched four games in 2001, but did not pitch full time until 2002. Fiore was the team’s long reliever (and occasional spot starter) who was famous for the palm ball, and for winning games. In 2002 he pitched very well, but relied on pitching in the right place at the right time to earn a 10-3 rccord out of the bullpen.

RP Michael Jackson 1.2 WAR
Jackson had been the closer for the Cleveland Indians in the late 90’s, but he was 37 years old when he signed as a free agent with the Twins for the 2002 season. It turned out he had one more good season in him, and was a welcome addition to a very good Twins bullpen in 2002.

 


The Franchise 2002 (Position Players)

July 29, 2014

C AJ Pierzynski 2.3 WAR
While Pierzynski continued to be a consistent performer for the Twins in his second full season, his reputation for talking during games started to become more and more public. A “jackass” is the term Oakland closer Billy Koch used to describe Pierzysnki. Gardenhire appreciated the edge that the team gained from Pierzynski’s antics:

“Actually, it’s entertaining for me to watch guys get mad at him,” he said. “Then I know it’s taking away from their game.”

1B Doug Mientkiewicz 1.5 WAR
After flirting with .400 at the start of the 2001 season, Mientkiewicz’ batting average hovered around the .240 mark much of the season, causing a lot of concern from fans and from the player himself. The standard line in reports was that he still was a strong defender but he was struggling at the plate. Occasionally his .365 on-base percentage was mentioned, but it was still an undervalued skill at the time. Overall, his production was down, but 2002 was not as disappointing of a season for Mientkiewicz as it seemed at the time to many.

2B Luis Rivas -0.2 WAR
Rivas’ play did not improve. Though the Twins gave a returning Jay Canizaro some time at second base, there was never a time when Rivas’ job seemed to be in jeopardy.

SS Cristian Guzman 1.4 WAR
Whether it was due to lingering injuries or just natural regression, Guzman took a giant step back from his All-Star performance in 2001. Perhaps due to the fact that he flashed some brilliance a season before, Guzman seemed to get more pressure from management and fans to improve than his double play partner.

3B Corey Koskie 4.0 WAR
Another year, another really good season from Corey Koskie. At age 29, however, he was starting to show signs of breaking down. 2002 began a steady decline of appearances and an increase in disabled list visits.

LF Jacque Jones 5.4 WAR
One of Ron Gardenhire’s first moves as manager was to make Jacque Jones the every day lead off hitter despite his struggles against left-handed pitching. Jones responded with a monster season, his best in the major leagues. Though he improved against lefties, he still had a fairly drastic split (.590 vs. .952 OPS) and would have been better utilized with a right-handed platoon partner.

CF Torii Hunter 3.5 WAR
On a July 17th game at Cleveland, Torri Hunter took a Danys Baez pitch in the ribs. In response, he picked up the baseball and fired back at the Cleveland pitcher. Hunter was tossed from the game and served a three-game suspension later in the season. This came less than two weeks after Hunter became the hero of the famous Bud Selig All-Star tie game when he leaped over the fence to  take a home run away from Barry Bonds. Hunter had his best year so far at the plate, and won his second consecutive Gold Glove, cementing himself as the standout player of the young team.

RF Bobby Kielty 2.7 WAR
RF Dustan Mohr 2.2 WAR
RF Michael Cuddyer 0.8 WAR
While Gardenhire did not want to platoon in left field, right field was a different story. When the team dealt Brian Buchanan early in the season, it left a right-field by committee situation. As it settled for the bulk of the season, Dustan Mohr played against left-handed pitching and Bobby Kielty played against right-handed pitching. That all changed late in the season when Michael Cuddyer was called up and earned the starting job for the playoffs by impressing Ron Gardenhire with his play in September.

DH David Ortiz 1.3 WAR
While David Ortiz produced with a career year and was reportedly the most popular Twin in the clubhouse, he was still considered a frustration to management. Some of it was due to injuries, but the history of the Twins and David Ortiz seemed to have been a rocky one from the start in the mid-90’s, when the team reportedly tried to teach him to shorten his stroke and punch balls up the middle or hit them the other way. Ortiz was very critical of this approach after he was gone, and the results on the field once he moved on seem to suggest he might have been right. In any case, rather than offering the DH arbitration, the Twins decided to release him in December of 2002. He went on, of course, to have a Hall of Fame career with the Boston Red Sox, but it is easy to forget that every other team passed on Ortiz when the Twins let him go.

UT Denny Hocking 0.1 WAR
Hocking’s 2002 may best be remembered as the time when he made the last out of the ALDS only to sustain an injury in the celebration that caused him to miss the ALCS.

 


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

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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.


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