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 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.


April 21, 2005

April 20, 2014

Metrodome
Thursday April 21, 2005
Twins 10, Royals 9

Top Play
With Mike MacDougal pitching in the bottom of the ninth inning, Jacque Jones doubled on a ground ball to left field, scoring Torii Hunter from third to tie the game.

Top WPA
Lew Ford MIN 0.40
Torii Hunter MIN 0.39
Jacque Jones MIN 0.32

Bottom WPA
Brian Anderson KC -0.66
Dave Gassner MIN -0.43
Shawn Camp KC -0.36

After this game, a lot of the focus was on a struggling Michael Cuddyer (from Mark Sheldon’s game story at MLB.com:

After Jacque Jones’ RBI double scored Hunter to tie the game at 9, Michael Cuddyer was up with runners on second and third with one out. Cuddyer, who has struggled in recent at-bats with runners in scoring position, grounded out to third.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire briefly contemplated pinch-hitting for Cuddyer, but decided it was important to stay the course with the third baseman.

“This young man is going to come up in a lot of big situations for us, and he’s going to have to drive in those runs for us,” Gardenhire. “It didn’t happen today, but we look for good things out of Michael Cuddyer.”

The game ended when the Twins loaded the bases with one out in the tenth inning.

Bartlett’s 10th-inning double to right field came off Kansas City reliever Shawn Camp (0-1). Torii Hunter was intentionally walked and the bases went full on Matthew LeCroy’s shallow single to left field.

Knowing he couldn’t take anything for granted, Bartlett readied himself as Kansas City drew its infield and outfield in.

“I was thinking, ‘Read this ball on the ground — I have to beat this ball home,’” Bartlett said. “I was looking for a chopper or something I could beat out, because I knew Lew would beat it out.”

“I was definitely looking up the middle or the other way,” said Ford, who was 4-for-6 in the game. “I didn’t want to roll over or hit a groundball to third base.”

Ford bounced a grounder that shot through the middle infield. Game over.

It was a day game after a night game, so Mike Redmond started at catcher, though Joe Mauer did enter the game as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the ninth. He was intentionally walked. It appears that Redmond left the game after a play at home plate in the 8th inning, making way for a Corky Miller appearance. Miller, one of Gardenhire’s famous third catchers, stayed in long enough to catch Angel Berroa stealing for the last out of the top of the ninth inning before being removed for Mauer in the bottom half.

After starting pitcher Dave Gassner’s day ended before the end of the second inning, the Twins trotted out Matt Guerrier, J.C. Romero, Jesse Crain, Juan Rincon, and Joe Nathan. It was a very stacked bullpen in 2005.

 

 


April 7, 2004

April 6, 2014

Metrodome
Indians 11, Twins 4

Big Play
In the bottom of the 4th inning, the Twins were down by 4 runs. Henry Blanco started the inning with a walk, followed by a Nick Punto single. With men at first and second, Cristian Guzman stepped to the plate to face Cliff Lee. Guzman grounded a 2-1 pitch right at the second baseman who started a 4-6-3 double play.

Top Players WPA
Matt Lawton CLE  0.17
Nick Punto MIN 0.14

Worst  WPA
Kyle Lohse MIN – 0.27
Cristian Guzman MIN -0.14

This game was the third of the opening three-game series of the season. The Twins and Indians played 26 innings of baseball in the previous two games – both Twins wins. Less important than the score of this game, however, was the injuries that were already beginning to pile up for the Twins. Torii Hunter left Tuesday’s game with a strained hamstring, and ultimately would go on the 15-day disabled list. Interestingly, it was Michael Cuddyer who spoke to Hunter to convince him that going on the DL was the right move.

More concerning for the Twins, however, was their star-in-the-making catcher, who was injured in only his second major league appearance.

In the top of the third inning against Cleveland Tuesday, Mauer ran behind the plate on Coco Crisp’s foul pop up. The 20-year-old said his shin guard got caught as he slid across the Metrodome’s new rubber warning track.

“I felt it as I soon as I slid,” Mauer said.

Mauer remained in the game though and led off the bottom of the third with a single. Later in the inning, he was running hard around third base on a Luis Rivas hit when he had to abruptly hold up.

“Once I started running and I got to third — it just locked up,” Mauer said. “I knew I had to get out of there.”

It was announced the next morning that Mauer needed surgery.

Mauer joined Hunter, Matthew LeCroy, and Grant Balfour as casualties of the first week of the 2004 season.

 


2005: 74 Pitches

May 21, 2012

May 20, 2005

In December 2003 the Twins sent Eric Milton to the Phillies in exchange for Nick Punto, Carlos Silva, and the famous player-to-be-named-later. To that point in his career, Silva had been used only out of the bullpen. The Twins thought he had the stuff to be a starter, and immediately plugged the Venezuelan into the starting rotation. Silva responded with a solid 2004 season in which he won 14 games and allowed only 35 walks in 203 innings pitched.

2005 started out even better for the 26-year-old Silva. In his first six starts he had a 3.77 ERA and had allowed, incredibly, only two walks in 43 innings pitched. Silva was scheduled to go against the Brewers in a Friday night game at the Metrodome on May 20, 2005; but Silva’s pitching performance could have just as likely have happened 100 years earlier.

The game was a perfect combination of a sinking sinker and an opponent that was more than happy to swing at it. Silva allowed just one run and five hits in a complete game victory. The complete game was rare enough, particularly in the Ron Gardenhire era, but that is not what made this effort by Silva special.

At the end of the night, Silva completed the 7-1 Twins’ victory by throwing just 74 pitches, 50 for strikes. It was, and is, the lowest pitch count in a complete game since 2000, when Elias started keeping track of low pitch counts in complete games.

LaVelle E. Neal offered some perspective in his game story in the Star Tribune (5/21/05):

Chew on this for a minute. A pitcher throws eight warmup tosses before each inning. That means Silva entered the ninth inning with 64 warmup throws and 64 actual pitches. And that means he threw more warmup pitches than actual pitches in the first, second, sixth and seventh innings.

Silva finished the 2005 season leading the league with an incredible 0.4 walks per nine inning rate and 7.89 strikeout to walk ratio. His numbers weren’t great in 2006 or 2007, but he managed to get a big contract with Seattle, where he has struggled for the past season and a half.


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