The Franchise 2003 (Pitchers)

September 29, 2014

SP Brad Radke 2.5 WAR
Some numbers for Radke.
Year/BB:9IP
2001/1.0
2002/1.5
2003/1.2
2004/1.1
2005/1.0
Radke continued his run as one of the best control pitchers in the league.

By Month, 2003
Mar/April 34.1 IP 6.29 ERA 10 BB
May 30.1 IP 5.04 ERA 3 BB
Jun 34.1 IP 5.50 ERA 5 BB
Jul 40 IP 3.83 ERA 5 BB
Aug 38.1 IP 4.70 ERA 4 BB
Sep/Oct 35.0 IP 1.80 ERA 1 BB

SP Kyle Lohse 2.3 WAR
Though he ended the year with about league average numbers for a starting pitcher (98 ERA+), Lohse was particularly streaky in 2003. In his eight starts from June 16-July 26, Lohse went 0-5 with a 10.95 ERA while opponents OPS against him was 1.022. In the eight starts prior to that (May 2- June 11), he was 4-1 with a 1.96 ERA and a .572 OPS against.

SP Rick Reed 0.9 WAR
At the age of 38, Reed had a little bit left, but for the most part showed his age. He retired after the season. In his three years with the Twins, Reed was 25-25 with a 4.47 ERA (101 ERA+).

SP Kenny Rogers 1.9 WAR
While signing the 38-year-old lefty might have seemed like a gamble for the Twins, it was a low risk, potentially high-reward move for a team that had a gap in the rotation due to Eric Milton’s knee injury. Rogers had a decent season with the Twins, but was much better in both 2002 and 2004 with the Texas Rangers. Rogers had a down note on June 1, when allowed the first seven Mariners he faced to hit safely, one short of a major league record.

SP Joe Mays -0.5 WAR
2001 seemed like ancient history as Mays continued to struggle to find the form that made him an All Star. He would miss all of 2004 after having Tommy John surgery.

RP/SP Johan Santana 4.2 WAR
With several of the team’s starting pitchers struggling or injured, the voices calling for Johan Santana to be moved to the starting rotation for the bullpen became louder. It finally happened for good on July 11. Santana was the team’s best starter most of the rest of the season, but a hamstring problem plagued him in October.

CL Eddie Guardado 1.9 WAR
RP LaTroy Hawkins 3.1 WAR
Guardado put up big numbers as a one-inning closer from 2002-2003, and effectively priced his way out of Minnesota. Both the Twins and Guardado indicated they wanted to get a deal done, but ultimately he signed with the Seattle Mariners, and the Twins used the money saved to sign Shannon Stewart. In 12 years with the Twins, Guardado posted a 4.53 ERA (105 ERA+) 4.39 FIP and 1.34 WHIP. Hawkins was dominant in his setup role for the second straight season, and also signed a nice contract with another team, in this case with the Chicago Cubs. His numbers in 9 seasons with the Twins: 5.05 ERA (95 ERA+) 4.58 FIP 1.52 WHIP. Both were well established fan favorites when they left, and both were vocal about their displeasure with leaving. Fans were somewhat unsettled by the moves, but ultimately discovered quickly that the Twins had found a new bullpen option with Joe Nathan, another piece of the AJ Pierzynski trade.

RP Juan Rincon 1.2 WAR

RP JC Romero -0.1 WAR

 


The Franchise 2003 (Position Players)

September 22, 2014

C AJ Pierzynski 4.5 WAR
2003 Was Pierzynski’s best season with the Twins. It was also his last. His 115 OPS+ was a career high up to that point, and he has only exceeded that mark once, in his outlier year of 2012 with the White Sox. Based on WAR, the every day catcher was the most valuable offensive asset on the team in 2003. He was expendable, however, mainly due to the fact that the Twins had local hero Joe Mauer waiting in the wings to start at catcher in 2004. There were also some whispers from the team that perhaps AJ’s reputation as a talker was wearing thin with some members of the team’s management, but for the most part it seemed like an amicable parting when Pierzynski was traded to the Giants as part of the Francisco Liriano deal. Pierzynski had a terrible season in San Francisco and did not endear himself to that clubhouse, so initially it looked like he might be done, and the trade that brought Liriano, Joe Nathan, and Boof Bonser to Minnesota was a one-sided bonanza for the Twins. Pierzynski resurrected his career in Chicago however, and was a key member of the 2005 World Series champions. Controversy has seemed to follow AJ, but overall he has put together a pretty nice career for himself. His numbers in five seasons with the Twins: .301/.341/.447/.788 105 OPS+ 9.4 WAR

1B Doug Mientkiewicz 4.2 WAR
After taking a slight step back in 2002, Dougy Baseball had success to match his very good 2001 season. Unlike in his Gold Glove season when many advanced metrics rated him just average to slightly above at first base, he was legitimately rated high in most defensive categories, making this his most valuable season in a Twins uniform. Much like Pierzynski became a trade piece because Mauer was ready to go, the development of Justin Morneau meant that Doug’s days as the regular first baseman were numbered.

2B Luis Rivas -1.2 WAR
This was another awful season for Luis Rivas. One of the biggest question marks for people who followed the Twins in the early 2000’s was how Rivas continued to have a job at second base. Not only that, but 56 times during the year he started batting second in the order.

SS Cristian Guzman 1.2 WAR
Guzman continued to struggle to regain the form that made him an All Star in 2001. He did regain the AL triples title with 14 after only hitting six in 2002.

3B Corey Koskie 4.2 WAR
This is Koskie’s third consecutive season with 4+ WAR. Over the course of those three seasons, Koskie had a slash line of .278/.374/.464/.837 (120 OPS+) and was a +33 defender at third base.

LF/RF Jacque Jones 1.4 WAR
LF Shannon Stewart 2.6 WAR
RF Dustan Mohr 0.3 WAR
RF Bobby Kielty 1.1 WAR
When the Shannon Stewart deal was made, Jones moved from his familiar left field position to right field to make room for Stewart, who was more comfortable in left field. While he improved slightly in his splits versus left-handed pitching, Jones still struggled, but continued to get plate appearances against lefties. Shannon Stewart is largely credited as the spark that ignited the team’s surge to its second consecutive division title. It is interesting to note, however, that Stewart’s numbers against right-handed pitchers were about on par with Bobby Kielty’s. His biggest contribution to the team was the fact that he replaced the right-handed half of the “Dusty Kielmohr” platoon and OPS’ed .892 against left-handed pitching.

CF Torii Hunter 3.8 WAR
Hunter struggled at the plate in comparison to his performance in 2002, but won his third consecutive Gold Glove.

DH Matt LeCroy 1.2 WAR
Technically LeCroy was a backup catcher, and he did appear in 22 games as a catcher in 2003, but struggled to stop opponents from stealing bases – he threw out only four of 18 runners. He found his way into the lineup mostly as a DH, however, because he had home run power that the rest of the team lacked.


The Franchise 2003 (Part 1)

September 17, 2014

Manager: Ron Gardenhire 2nd season (2nd with Minnesota 184-139)
90 W 72 L 801 RS 758 RA 1st AL Central 4.0 GA (Chicago 86-76)
4.94 RPG (AL = 4.86) 4.41 ERA (AL = 4.52)
.698 DER (7th AL)

All Stars (1) Eddie Guardado

Franchise (1901-2003) 7600-8299-111; 32-38 Post Season; 19-21 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-2003) 3386-3435-7; 24-27 Post Season; 11-10 WS

At the 2003 All Star break, the Twins had lost eight games in a row and had a 44-49 record. The defending division champs were in third place, 7.5 game out of first. It wasn’t looking good.

The day after the break, the Twins traded Bobby Kielty to Toronto for Shannon Stewart.

Stewart was 29 years old and had played his entire career in Toronto. He had been an above average offensive player with suspect range in the outfield. the first half of 2003 was shaping up to be a good season, but by Stewart’s standards the numbers were a little down. A change of scenery did him and the Twins well.

The team swept a four game series against the A’s right out of the break. They went 18-11 in August, an surged to a 19-7 record in September, finally taking over the division lead for good on September 15.

Shannon Stewart earned a fourth-place finish for MVP honors based almost entirely on his role with the Twins down the stretch.


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.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.