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.

 


Half-Baked Hall Profile: Tim Keefe

July 8, 2014

Tim Keefe 1857-1933

Tim_keefe

Pitcher
Troy Trojans 1880-1882
New York Metropolitans 1883-1884
New York Giants 1885-1889, 1891
New York Giants (PL) 1890
Philadelphia Phillies 1891-1893
NL Umpire

Quote: “I was considered a robber because I held out for $2,100,”

Career WAR: 89.9 Pitching, -2.2 Batting

Best Season: 1888: 35-12 1.74 ERA 156 ERA+ 1.89 FIP 0.937 WHIP 10.3 WAR

Known For: Change-of-pace pitch. Won 19 straight games in 1888. Leader of the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players, one of the leaders in the formation of the Player’s League. Currently 10th on the all-time wins list with 342, between Roger Clemens (354) and Steve Carlton (329).

The Bad: Lost the first two games of the best-of-three 1884 World Series, then umpired the third game.

Interesting: Was the pitcher in an 1887 game when Dan Casey got a late hit to tie the game in a moment that many believe to have been the inspiration for the poem “Casey at the Bat”

Pitching Motion:

Besides pitching at different speeds, Keefe threw with different arm motions, often side-arm and underhand (submarine style, in today’s parlance) even though the overhand delivery had been legalized in 1884. He also made liberal use of the entire pitcher’s box, throwing from different angles (not simply straight on to the batter) and taking multiple steps before releasing the ball, not always pitching from a set position. Keefe was a master of the multistep hop, skip, and jump delivery, which he described in 1888 as combining “plenty of speed and strength and a series of gymnastics to terrify the batter,” in which “the pitcher had the batter completely at his mercy.”29 As Keefe recalled later in life, “We were pitching from a 50-foot distance then, and honestly, I sometimes used to wonder how they even hit us, with those advantages which we had.”30Charlie Bevis

Hall of Fame Facial Hair: Yes.

Nickname: “Sir Timothy” – due to his gentlemanly behavior on the field. Was used derisively when he was an umpire.

Comments from Voters:

“Keefe and Radbourn are locks for my yes vote, and I haven’t looked at the rest of the ballot.” -AMR

“Keefe is a slam-dunk for me. The guy was a beast.” -Beau

“Tim Keefe scoffs at Al Spalding’s 76%, storming past him with a more decisive 77% of the vote” -Beau

WGOM Election Results Page

SABR Bio

Actual Hall of Fame Page

 


Half-Baked Hall Profile: Albert Goodwill Spalding

July 6, 2014

Albert Goodwill Spalding 1850-1915
Albert Spalding 1

Pitcher-Center Fielder-First Base
Rockford Forest Citys 1868-1870*
Boston Red Stockings 1871-1875
Chicago White Stockings 1876-1877
Manager-Owner-Sporting Goods Magnate

*No statistics readily available from Rockford days.

Quote: “Baseball is the exponent of American Courage, Confidence, Combativeness, American Dash, Discipline, Determination, American Energy, Eagerness, Enthusiasm, American Pluck, Persistency, Performance, American Spirit, Sagacity, Success, American Vim, Vigor, Virility.”

Career WAR: 52.2 (pitching) 6.8 (batting)

Best Season: 1875: 54-5 1.59 ERA 136 ERA+ 2.09 FIP 1.036 WHIP 14.2 WAR (12.8 pitching WAR)

Known For: Was considered the league’s premier pitcher, and had the most wins in the league in each of his six full seasons. Won 54 games in 1875. Became president of the Chicago White Stockings and led the team to 5 pennants in the 1880′s. Innovator of the game – introduced spring training and organized world tours to expand popularity.

The Bad: Was one of the pioneers of the reserve clause system. Actively pushed the Doubleday myth

Interesting: One of the first star players to use a glove, though it was good business since he was already selling gloves during his playing days.

Name on Baseballs: Yes – every ball used up until 1976 had Al Spalding’s name on it.

Drinking and Gambling: Against. Spalding wanted a clean game, which is why he was supportive of the new National League in 1876. When he sold players, he made sure to get rid of the drinkers first.

Forbidden Zone: Ran for the U.S. Senate 1910.

Comments from Voters:

“Al Spalding won nearly 80% of the decisions he played in. One season, he went 54-5. Wins and whatnot aside, that’s crazy. The best pitcher in the National Association era, almost certainly.” -Nibbish

“Spalding has those impressive win totals, but he never led the league in any of the rate statistics. The year he went 54-5, his team average over 10 runs per game and led the league in every offensive category. The team as a whole went 71-8.” – Beau

“He was an above average pitcher, did the sporting goods going, and was a great early promoter of the game, but the anticompetitive stuff he did to break up the Players League (essentially union busting) and his role in the institution of the reserve clause caused me to withhold my vote.” – CarterHayes

Actual Hall of Fame Page

SABR Bio

WGOM Election Results Page

 


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.


Less Than Half Attention – Weekend Links

June 26, 2014

I have to admit I have been keeping only one eye (if that) on the Twins over the last couple of weeks. Most of my sports-watching attention has been focused on Brazil, where the U.S. Men’s National Team has advanced the the knockout round for the second straight Cup Finals.

Back in December, when the World Cup draw took place, I didn’t see much of a chance of Team U.S.A. advancing past the group stage. The draw included two of the top four teams in the world (according to FIFA rankings – Germany and Portugal), and the national team’s personal nemesis Ghana. It seemed as though things had to fall perfectly for the team to advance. While some things did go well for Team U.S.A. (Germany’s dismantling of Portugal, Portugal defeating Ghana), Klinsmann’s side largely made its own luck on the field.

The squad will be back at it on Tuesday, against a Belgium team that is no better than the teams they have already seen in the group stage. Who knows, if some things go right, this team may have a run in the knockout stage. As it stands, this has been a successful tournament for the USMNT.

The rest of the World Cup has been something to watch, particularly the first two rounds of the group stage. It has been largely wide open with lots of goals. Luis Suarez notwithstanding, there has been less dirty play, less flopping, and more of what makes the game so enjoyable. In addition to the United States, two other CONCACAF have advanced, including surprising Costa Rica who won a group that included England, Italy, and Uruguay and Mexico who drew the hosts.

Baseball players follow the World Cup too.

Aside from last weekend’s sweep of the White Sox, there hasn’t been a lot of good going on with the Twins lately. Now Aaron Hicks, who is a switch-hitter again, has been demoted to Double-A.

One good thing: Brian Dozier.

Additionally, the Futures Game during All Star Week will feature three top Twins prospects.

I caught the last inning of Lincecum’s no-hitter. Even better, though, was listening to the entirety of the replay of Clayton Kershaw’s no-no called by Vin Scully. Here’s hoping it’s not Scully’s last no hitter.

 

 

 


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