1988 Minnesota Twins
Manager: Tom Kelly 3rd Season (3rd with Minnesota 188-159)
91 W 71 L 759 RS 627 RA 2nd AL West 13.0 GB (Oakland 104-58)
4.69 RPG (AL = 4.36) 3.93 ERA (AL = 3.97)
.699 DER (6th AL)
All-Stars (5) Gary Gaetti, Tim Laudner, Kirby Puckett, Jeff Reardon, Frank Viola
Franchise (1901-1988) 6468-7075-110; 19-25 Post Season; 15-18 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-1988) 2254-2211-6; 11-14 Post Season; 7-7 WS
The 1988 Twins were everything that people remember about the 1987 Twins without the World Series Championship. They won more games than they had in 1987, and most on the team had a better season. While the league came down from the run-scoring high that was 1987, the Twins did not, continuing to hit as if it were still the year of the home run. The pitching staff was much better as a whole, and featured the 1988 Cy Young award winner. The only thing that stood between the ’88 and Twins and history was the historically good Oakland A’s team that featured the bash brothers.
Bold = Player new to Minnesota in 1988
C Tim Laudner .251/.316/.408 13 HR 99 OPS+ 1.0 BFW 9 WS 0.7 WAR
At the age of 30, Laudner probably had his best season at the plate. He, not surprisingly, also had the largest workload of his career both in terms of games played and plate appearances. He appeared in the All Star Game thanks to the format that allowed the manager of last year’s league champions choose all the reserves and pitchers.
1B Kent Hrbek .312/.387/.520 25 HR 149 OPS+ 2.0 BFW 19 WS 4.2 WAR
Back in 1984, Hrbek, who had been very good before that, had a breakout season. His performance landed him league-wide acclaim and a second place finish in the year-end MVP voting. In 1988, he had almost identical numbers – possible better – and he didn’t appear on any of the year-end award leader boards.
2B Steve Lombardozzi .209/.295/.307 3 HR 67 OPS+ -1.0 BFW 6 WS 0.0 WAR
2B Tom Herr .263/.349/.326 1 HR 89 OPS+ -0.3 BFW 7 WS 1.1 WAR
Andy MacPhail finally completed the long-rumored deal that sent Tom Brunansky elsewhere. Steve Lombardozzi had gotten off to a terrible start, and the move was made to bring in a new second baseman. Tom Herr might have been an upgrade based on statistics, but he made it clear early that he did not want to be in Minnesota. Lombardozzi was upset when he started losing playing time. Ultimately, Lombo got punched in the face by Dan Gladden, both second basemen were employed by other teams in 1989, and the entire episode is not remembered as the finest moment in Twins history.
SS Greg Gagne .236/.288/.397 14 HR 88 OPS+ -1.0 BFW 12 WS 1.4 WAR
Gagne continued to give the Twins what they had come to expect from him: solid defense up the middle, a little power (his 14 home runs were a career high), but very little in the way of overall offensive production.
3B Gary Gaetti .301/.353/.551 28 HR 147 OPS+ 1.7 BFW 22 WS 4.2 WAR
Everything seemed to be coming together for Gaetti in 1988. He was hitting for average, hitting for power, and playing his typical great defense at third base. Not even knee surgery in late August was able to stop him. Despite the fact that conventional wisdom said he would be out for the season, Gaetti missed roughly two weeks after having cartilage removed from his knee – somewhat unheard of in 1988.
LF Dan Gladden .269/.325/.403 11 HR 101 OPS+ 1.1 BFW 18 WS 2.6 WAR
While the Twins were very happy with the “spark” Gladden provided the year before, 1988 was his first real quality season as a member of the Minnesota Twins. His batting line was about league average, and as long as he was not a liability at the plate, Gladden’s other contributions to the team (speed, defense, etc.) were quite valuable.
CF Kirby Puckett .356/.375/.545 24 HR 152 OPS+ 4.9 BFW 32 WS 7.2 WAR
Kirby Puckett is in the Hall of Fame due to the success he had in the 10 seasons between 1986 and 1995. For that string of years Puckett was among the best players in baseball. It is saying something, then, to suggest that 1988 was his best year, but that was probably the case. Puckett registered career highs in batting average (.356), slugging (.545), and OPS (.920). In addition, he continued to play very well in center field. Interestingly, Puckett also posted a career low in walks drawn. He only managed to work 23 walks in 691 plate appearances – only a 3.3% walk rate. Puckett reached the 1,00o hit mark in September, only the fourth player ever to do that in his first five seasons (Joe Medwick, Paul Waner, and Earle Combs are the others). When asked by a reporter what his philosophy of playing center field was, Puckett replied “catch everything.” Not surprisingly, his reply to the follow up about his batting philosophy: “swing at everything.”
RF Randy Bush .261/.365/.434 14 HR 121 OPS+ 0.8 BFW 14 WS 1.1 WAR
After the Brunansky trade, Bush found himself back in the starting lineup. He performed well at the plate, and logged a career high 466 plate appearances.
DH Gene Larkin .267/.368/.382 8 HR 109 OPS+ -0.2 BFW 14 WS 1.5 WAR
Larkin improved on his rookie performance and landed a job as the regular designated hitter for the Twins.
IF Al Newman .223/.301/.250 0 HR 55 OPS+ -2.0 BFW 4 WS -1.2 WAR
Newman had a horrible season at the plate, but his value to the Twins came in the form of versatile defense.
OF John Moses .316/.366/.422 2 HR 118 OPS+ 0.5 BFW 6 WS 1.2 WAR
Moses played with the Seattle Mariners from 1982 to 1987. His career there was not particularly distinguished, and he bounced around in the spring of 1988 before finally landing with the Twins just prior to opening day. Under Tom Kelly, Moses was guaranteed to get playing time off the bench, something that had not been part of his earlier major league experience. Surprisingly, Moses was very good for the Twins, earning more and more playing time as the main back up in the outfield.
C Brian Harper .295/.344/.428 3 HR 113 OPS+ -0.1 BFW 3 WS 0.9 WAR
Harper had been a backup catcher for five different teams from the time his major league career began in 1979. At the age of 28, he signed as a free agent with the Twins to be Tim Laudner’s backup. Harper, like Moses, earned more and more playing time with success, had his busiest season to date at the major league level, and ultimately became the team’s regular catcher in 1989.