The Franchise 1986 (Part 1)

1986 Minnesota Twins

Managers: Ray Miller 2nd Season (2nd with Minnesota 109-130)
Tom Kelly 1st Season (1st with Minnesota 12-11)
71 W 91 L 741 RS 839 RA 6th AL West 21 GB (California 92-70)
4.57 RPG (AL = 4.61) 4.77 ERA (AL = 4.18)
.682 DER (13th AL)

All-Stars (1) Kirby Puckett

Franchise (1901-1986) 6292-6927-110; 11-21 Post Season; 11-15 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-1986) 2078-2063-6; 3-10 Post Season; 3-4 WS

When 1986 began the Twins had high hopes. The core of good players was a year older, and the pitching staff would have a full season under the tutelage of Ray Miller, who was considered a guru of pitching for his work with Baltimore’s staff.

The team never quite got out of the gate despite some impressive individual performances early in the season. Miller went from pitching genius to goat very quickly, and rumors of his firing began in earnest by mid-June. At one point, a pr0-Billy Martin banner was confiscated from and outfield section in the Metrodome. Miller seemed to survive as the year dragged on, and by late summer it looked like he might hold on, if only for the rest of the season.

Howard Fox finally made the move on September 12. Miller took the opportunity to take some parting shots.

“I can’t believe this organization couldn’t come up with one pitcher to be the stopper. I asked this organization for three things – a stopper, a left fielder, and some speed – and didn’t get any of those things”

With it being so late in the season, the Twins looked in the organization for an interim replacement. They landed on Tom Kelly, who had a lot of success managing in the minor league system in the early 80’s – the time that many on the current roster were also in the minor leagues. On the occasion of Kelly’s first major league victory, Kent Hrbek presented him with a bottle of beer wrapped in tape to resemble Dom Perignon with the message attached “the first of hopefully many.”

Roster/Stats (Hitters)
Bold = Player new to Minnesota in 1986

C Mark Salas .233/.282/.384 8 HR 78 OPS+ -0.6 BFW 3 WS 0.0 WAR
C Tim Laudner .244/.333/.451 10 HR 110 OPS+ -0.7 BFW 6 WS 1.1 WAR
C Jeff Reed .236/.308/.321 2 HR 71 OPS+ -0.3 BFW 3 WS -0.4 WAR
Salas was the starting catcher out of spring training, with Laudner as his back up. When Salas went on the DL for a short stint at the end of May, the Twins called up Jeff Reed. Reed was a defense-first catcher who had played a few games for the Twins in two previous seasons. Reed impressed Ray Miller enough to stay with the team when Salas returned, and the team carried three catcher for the bulk of the rest of the season.

1B Kent Hrbek .267/.353/.478 29 HR 123 OPS+ 0.7 BFW 17 WS 2.5 WAR
Hrbek had another very good season, particularly the first half. At the end of June, Hrbek was batting .327/.421/.589 with 17 HR and was named the AL Player of the Month for June. Despite his pace, he got no interest in the All-Star balloting process. He wasn’t among the top eight, despite having offensive numbers better than all of them. Hrbek’s numbers fell off in the second half of the season, but he still finished as one of the best first basemen in the league.

2B Steve Lombardozzi .227/.308/.347 8 HR 77 OPS+ 0.0 BFW 11 WS 0.6 WAR
The Twins were so impressed with Lombardozzi’s perforance as a September call up at the end of the 1985 season, they decided to trade Tim Teufel to the Mets in order to open the position for Lombo full time. He finished with a lower WAR total playing the full 1986 season than he had in a month the year before.

SS Greg Gagne .250/.301/.398 12 HR 88 OPS+ -1.0 BFW 10 WS 0.6 WAR
In his first full season as the regular shortstop, Gagne also had his best offensive season to date. The Twins were still expecting more from his bat as he developed, but he was able to keep his job on the strength of his steady defense up the middle.

3B Gary Gaetti .287/.347/.518 34 HR 130 OPS+ 3.4 BFW 23 WS 5.3 WAR
Gaetti was in a similar spot as Gagne a few years before. He was in the lineup due to his defense, but the team felt his bat would come around. While Calvin Griffith couldn’t correctly pronounce Gaetti’s name (usually saying “geatty”), he always said the third baseman would be a star hitter. That finally came to fruition in 1986, though it was bittersweet to Gaetti to have his breakout season in a year that his team struggled to stay out of last place in the division. He called the team performance “puzzling,” and seemed to be honestly perplexed as to why they weren’t having more success as a team.

LF Randy Bush .269/.347/.420 7 HR 106 OPS+ -0.4 BFW 9 WS 0.5 WAR
LF Mickey Hatcher .278/.315/.366 3 HR 84 OPS+ -1.0 BFW 5 WS 0.1 WAR
Bush and Hatcher platooned in left field for the Twins, but Ray Miller was never very happy with their defense. He was careful to say that both of them gave their all, but it was clear that the team was hoping Mark Davidson could get more plate appearances. Davidson’s problem was offense, however, and Miller was forced to stick with Bush and Hatcher.

CF Kirby Puckett .328/.366/.537 31 HR 141 OPS+ 3.2 BFW 26 WS 5.0 WAR
Puckett had been an impact player since he debuted for the Twins in 1984, but he had done so largely without great power numbers. In spring training, the Twins essentially held tryouts for the lead off spot because Puckett seemed to be more of a slap hitter who went the other way to hit singles. That all changed when the season started. Puckett began to pull the ball more, and the power numbers came immediately.

“Before Kirby believed he was a punch-hitter,” hitting coach Tony Oliva said. “Now he’s working on driving the ball. He can do it because he is strong. He realizes he can do it.”

The talk of moving Puckett down in the order continued, but the thinking became that he would be more suited for the number three slot.

RF Tom Brunansky .256/.315/.423 23 HR 98 OPS+ -0.7 BFW 12 WS 1.5 WAR
Brunansky had become a pretty consistent hitter by 1986. The Twins could expect 20-30 home runs and about a .250/.320/.440 line year in and year out.

DH Roy Smalley .246/.342/.438 20 HR 109 OPS+ 0.1 BFW 10 WS 0.6 WAR
At the age of 33, Roy Smalley’s days of playing infield were largely over. Though he did fill in at shortstop and third base on a handful of occasions, he filled the role as the team’s regular DH for the bulk of the season. In that role, he was successful.


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