The Franchise 1970

1970 Minnesota Twins

Manager: Bill Rigney 15th Season (1st with Minnesota 98-64)
98 W 64 L 744 RS 605 RA 1st AL West 9.0 GA (Oakland 89-73)
4.59 RPG (AL = 4.17) 3.23 ERA (AL = 3.71)
.715 DER (5th AL)

All Stars (4) Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Jim Perry

Franchise (1901-1970) 5101-5594-109; 11-21 Post Season; 11-15 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-1970) 887-730-5; 3-10 Post Season; 3-4 WS

The Griffiths rarely looked outside of their own organization when hiring managers, so it came as a bit of a surprise when Rigney was named to take over for Martin after the 1969 season. Rigney started his managing career with the Minneapolis Millers. He took over for Leo Durocher as manager of the Giants in 1956, his first major league managing job. Rigney was also the first manager of the Angels, a job he held for nine seasons. Griffith liked the experience that Rigney brought and thought he would handle the players well in a clubhouse that was a little uneasy after the Martin firing.

Rigney didn’t miss a beat from the AL West championship the year before. He led the Twins to their second consecutive title, accomplished with one more win than in the previous season. Unfortunately, the extra win did not help in the ALCS. For the second straight season the Twins were swept by the Baltimore Orioles.

Roster/Stats
Bold = Player new to WAS/MIN in 1970

C George Mitterwald .222/.291/.388 15 HR 2.1 BFW 13 WS 42 FRAR 4.7 WARP3
Mitterwald was the backup to Johnny Roseboro in 1969, and even played some in left field, but got his first chance as a regular at the age of 24 when the Twins released the veteran Roseboro prior to the start of the season. Mitterwald set a goal before the season to hit 15-20 home runs. As it turned out, he reached his goal, but always had the attitude that if he hit well in the majors, it was icing on the cake. Catching was his focus, and he did it very well. Mitterwald added an extra bit of icing in the ALCS, however, when he hit .500/.500/.625 with two RBI.

1B Rich Reese .261/.332/.371 10 HR -1.9 BFW 14 WS 8 FRAR 2.0 WARP3
For the first time in three years Reese did not go under the surgeon’s knife in the offseason, and was looking forward to playing full time at first base for the first time in his career. Reese had been platooned in 1969, but in 99 PA’s against left-handed pitching he batted .322/.367/.600 (compared with .322/.360/.489 in 352 PA’s against righties). He played more in 1970, with the following splits: vs LH pitchers – .266/.364/.323 in 145 PA’s, vs RH pitchers – .260/.321/.387 in 419 PA’s. Reese fought through a first half slump to salvage a decent season, though it was not near his impressive 1969 numbers.

2B Danny Thompson .219/.234/.248 0 HR -2.4 BFW 3 WS 21 FRAR -0.1 WARP3
2B Rod Carew .366/.407/.524 4 HR 1.0 BFW 11 WS 10 FRAR 3.0 WARP3
Carew was batting .376/.417/.538 on June 22, and had already become the first member of the Minnesota Twins to hit for the cycle when he did it on May 20 (fifth in franchise history), when he was hit by Mike Hegan of the Brewers while attempting to turn a double play. Carew wouldn’t return to the lineup until the end of September. Carew harbored no ill will towards Hegan, saying “it’s his job to take me out on that play.” In Carew’s absence, Rigney turned to 23-year-old rookie Danny Thompson. Though Thompson was the 18th overall pick in the amateur draft two years earlier, he looked over matched in his first major league season.

SS Leo Cardenas .247/.300/.374 11 HR 0.9 BFW 19 WS 61 FRAR 6.9 WARP3
Cardenas’ offensive numbers fell off quite a bit from his first season as a Twin, but his value came as one of the best fielding shortstops in baseball. Cardenas did have his moments at the plate, including a five-hit game on September 29.

3B Harmon Killebrew .271/.411/.546 41 HR 2.2 BFW 30 WS 0 FRAR 7.1 WARP3
Killebrew “only” hit 41 home runs with a 159 OPS+ in 1970. A year after winning the AL MVP award, he finished third in the voting behind Boog Powell and teammate Tony Oliva. Killebrew had an excellent series in the Twins’ losing effort in the ALCS. He batted .273/.385/.818 and hit two home runs in his best post season performance.

LF Brant Alyea .291/.366/.531 16 HR 1.0 BFW 12 WS -2 FRAR 2.3 WARP3
LF Jim Holt .266/.300/.342 3 HR -1.4 BFW 7 WS 9 FRAR 0.7 WARP3
The Twins acquired Alyea in a trade that sent Charlie Walters and Joe Grzenda east. It was a good deal for the Twins, and looked even better when Alyea started the season hitting .429/.474/.857 with four home runs in his first 11 games as a Twin. It was originally planned for Jim Holt to platoon in left field, but he became more of a back up outfielder for the Twins due to Alyea’s hot start. Alyea was involved in one of the most unusual fielding plays in team history. WIth two outs in the seventh inning on April 29, Jim Kaat struck out Earl Wilson to apparently end the inning. Catcher Paul Ratliff, however, had trapped the ball in the dirt, so the play was still live. Ratliff was unaware and rolled the ball to the pitching mound as he walked towards the dugout. WIth Wilson running, Alyea recovered the ball and threw to Leo Cardenas who was standing by home plate, forcing a run down that resulted in the following line at baseball-reference.com:

E Wilson        Strikeout, E2; Wilson out at 3B/LF-SS-LF

CF Cesar Tovar .300/.356/.442 10 HR 1.4 BFW 28 WS 8 FRAR 5.0 WARP3
Tovar, typically a wanderer in terms of defensive positioning for the Twins, had a home in center field for the 1970 season. He appeared in 132 games as a centerfielder, the most he would play at any single position in a season through his entire career. It might not have been a coincidence that Tovar also had his best offensive season. Tovar added a fifth career game in which he recorded the Twins only hit on August 13th.

RF Tony Oliva .325/.364/.514 23 HR 3.6 BFW 30 WS 27 FRAR 8.3 WARP3
Oliva had another great season, something that had became typical for the 30-year-old. Through his first seven full seasons, Oliva posted a .311/.363/.502 line. Oliva’s goal at the end of 1969 was to get a raise to make him a $100,000 player. Instead, he signed for $70,000. Aside from simple frugality, some of the internal criticism towards Oliva came as a result of his low walk rate (only 38 in 674 PA’s). A unamed team official told TSN that if Oliva “would swing only at strikes he might hit .400.”

SP Jim Perry 24-12 3.04 ERA 1.13 WHIP 3.1 PW 21 WS 7.7 WARP3
Jim Perry, the man who couldn’t crack the Twins’ starting rotation for years, won the AL Cy Young award in his second full year as a regular starter. He led the league in starts (40) and wins, and was second in WHIP. While Perry was considered the best pitcher in the American League in 1970, he still wasn’t even the thought of as the best pitcher in his own family. Brother Gaylord went 23-13 with a 3.20 ERA and 1.14 WHIP for the Giants. He finished second behind Bob Gibson in NL Cy Young voting.

SP Jim Kaat 14-10 3.56 ERA 1.31 WHIP 0.7 PW 12 WS 4.0 WARP3
Kaat was nothing if not consistent in the late 60’s and early 70’s:

1968 14-12 1.3 BB/9 5.5 K/9 9.0 H/9 106 ERA+
1969 14-13 2.2 BB/9 5.1 K/9 10.0 H/9 106 ERA+
1970 14-10 1.7 BB/9 4.5 K/9 10.0 H/9 107 ERA+
1971 13-14 1.3 BB/9 4.8 K/9 9.9 H/9 107 ERA+

The numbers, incidentally, match up pretty closely with his career line.

12-10 (162 game average) 1.8 BB/9 5.1 K/9 9.7 H/9 107 ERA+

SP Bert Blyleven 10-9 3.18 ERA 1.16 WHIP 0.9 PW 10 WS 3.9 WARP3
The Twins drafted Blyleven in the third round of the 1969 amateur draft. Born in the Netherlands, Blyleven was raised in Southern California and learned to love baseball watching Sandy Koufax pitch for the Dodgers. In the spring of 1970, manager Rigney jokingly walked away from Blyleven when he first saw him on the mound, saying that he didn’t want to fall in love the at first sight. After just 21 starts in the minor leagues, Blyleven made his major league debut on June 5 against Washington. He was only 19 at the time, the youngest player in the majors. Blyleven looked as though he might have a rough outing, allowing a home run to the very first batter he faced, but he held the Senators scoreless for the next seven innings to record his first major league win. Even at the age of 19, Blyleven threw a curveball that was being compared to the best in the game’s history.

SP Luis Tiant 7-3 3.40 ERA 1.35 WHIP 1.2 PW 8 WS 3.1 WARP3
It was Tiant’s shoulder injury that cleared the way for Blyleven to get his opportunity. Tiant had some flashes of brilliance with the Indians in the 1960’s, particularly a 21-9 record and 1.60 ERA in 1968, but seemed to be moving in the wrong direction with a 9-20 season in 1969 and was considered out of shape by management. His struggles in Cleveland made him available on the trading block, and the Twins picked him up as the centerpiece of the trade that sent four players to the Indians. Prior to the injury, Tiant was 6-0 with a 3.12 ERA in his first two months with the Twins. He returned to the mound two months later, but didn’t have near the success he had at the beginning of the season. Tiant continued to struggle with injuries, and it became too much for Calvin Griffith who released him before the 1971 season started after and injury-plagued spring training. Tiant landed with the Red Sox and, after some struggle, became one of the AL’s best pitchers in the mid-1970’s.

SP Dave Boswell 3-7 6.42 ERA 1.81 WHIP -2.6 PW 0 WS -1.0 WARP3
Back troubles made Boswell’s final season with Minnesota a forgettable one. He pitched a few innings for Detroit and Baltimore in 1971, but did not return to the major leagues after that.

SP/RP Bill Zepp 9-4 3.22 ERA 1.36 WHIP 0.4 PW 9 WS 2.6 WARP3
Zepp was a top prospect for the Twins. He had a fairly good season but was traded to Detroit before the 1971 season.

RP Ron Perranoski 7-8 2.43 ERA 1.35 WHIP 2.4 PW 15 WS 5.4 WARP3
RP Stan Williams
10-1 1.99 ERA 1.03 WHIP 2.0 PW 16 WS 4.7 WARP3
RP Tom Hall 11-6 2.55 ERA 1.03 WHIP 2.3 PW 14 WS 6.5 WARP3
RIgney had developed a reputation as a manager who went to his bullpen often. He was able to do that very comfortably in his first year as manager of the Twins. Perranoski was, once again, one of the best closers in baseball. Williams, acquired in the Luis Tiant trade, turned out to be the most valuable part of that trade to the Twins. Hall had his best season. None of the three would be with the Twins on opening day in 1972.

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