1992 Minnesota Twins
Manager: Tom Kelly 7th Season (7th with Minnesota 527-468)
90 W 72 L 747 RS 653 RA 2nd AL West 6.0 GB (Oakland 96-66)
4.61 RPG (AL = 4.32) 3.74 ERA (AL = 3.94)
.706 DER (6th AL)
All-Stars (3) Rick Aguilera, Chuck Knoblauch, Kirby Puckett
Franchise (1901-1992) 6807-7384-110; 27-29 Post Season; 19-21 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-1992) 2589-2520-6; 19-18 Post Season; 11-10 WS
If 1991 was an example of everything coming together in one magical season, 1992 might be an example of the opposite. The roster going into the season was, with a few notable changes, much the same as the previous season. Whether it was injury or regression to the mean, the career seasons of 1991 changed to disappointing seasons in 1992. The Twins were still contenders most of the year, but ultimately could not complete with the Oakland A’s.
Bold = Player new to Minnesota in 1992
C Brian Harper .307/.343/.410 9 HR 108 OPS+ 1.0 BFW 12 WS 2.3 WAR
Harper continued to hit in 1992 but also remained one of the league’s most popular catchers to run on. AL baserunners stole 118 bases off of Harper, most in the league. He caught 50 runners, making his caught stealing percentage 30%. Given a chance to discuss this early in the season, Harper went on the defensive:
“I can remember making only eight or nine throws. When there is a double steal or even a steal of home, the catcher is blamed. That’s not right. I get blamed when there is pitch in the dirt or over my head and I don’t even make a throw. It’s not me who is 3-for-17, it is the team. It’s me and Smiley and Edens and Mahomes. It’s the team.”
1B Kent Hrbek .244/.357/.409 15 HR 112 OPS+ 0.1 BFW 10 WS 1.4 WAR
Three hours after a spring deal to send backup first baseman Paul Sorrento to Cleveland for some prospects was announced, Kent Hrbek dislocated his shoulder sliding into third base in a spring training game. Hrbek missed most of April, but he may have come back too early. Hrbek struggled through his worst full season in the majors (though there are many who would love to “struggle” as much). Throughout the season, Hrbek avoided blaming his struggles on shoulder, but it was quietly lingering and his season ultimately ended early in September due to the continuing problems.
2B Chuck Knoblauch .297/.384/.358 2 HR 108 OPS+ 0.9 BFW 23 WS 4.8 WAR
Knoblauch improved on his Rookie of the Year numbers from 1991 and earned a spot on the American League All Star Roster. Even with the improvement at the plate, Knoblauch took the most pride in his defense, taking every opportunity he could to call attention to the team’s focus on defense.
SS Greg Gagne .246/.280/.346 7 HR 73 OPS+ 1.1 BFW 13 WS 0.9 WAR
After a fairly hot start with the bat, batting .297/.342/.386 at the end of May, Gagne finished the season with his traditional below-average offensive numbers that look a lot better when considered in tandem with his defense, still amongst the league’s best shortstops. It was a contract year for Gagne, who said he wanted to stay with the Twins but ultimately landed as a free agent with Kansas City for a three-year, $10 million deal. In ten seasons with the Twins, Gagne batted .249/.292/.385 while playing some of the most steady defense at shortstop in franchise history.
3B Scott Leuis .249/.309/.318 2 HR 74 OPS+ -1.5 BFW 7 WS 0.8 WAR
3B Mike Pagliarulo .200/.213/.238 0 HR 25 OPS+ -0.8 BFW 1 WS -0.3 WAR
The third base platoon that worked so well in 1991 short circuited due to injury problems for Pagliarulo and significant drops in performance for both.
LF Shane Mack .315/.394/.467 16 HR 138 OPS+ 2.6 BFW 27 WS 6.0 WAR
By 1992 Mack, in his age 28 season, had established himself as one of the best players on the team. With Dan Gladden gone, Mack was truly an every day player. He led the team on OBP, and was only .004 behind Kirby Puckett for the team lead in OPS. Despite being in the top ten in most AL offensive categories, Mack’s performance came with very little fanfare. It would have been one thing to slip under the national radar (despite being on the defending World Championship team), but Mack didn’t get much attention even within Minnesota.
CF Kirby Puckett .329/.374/.490 19 HR 138 OPS+ 2.9 BFW 31 WS 6.7 WAR
While Puckett was having his typical great season at the plate, the dark cloud of contract negotiations was present throughout the season. He finished second in AL MVP voting behind Dennis Eckersley, and had his best season in five years. While few doubted that Puckett would eventually end up with the Twins, there were some tense moments – and the talks dragged on past the season. It was clear that the Twins would not be able to sign all of their free agents, and it was thought that Kirby’s payday would mean the exit for a lot of other players. After a few winter visits to other teams, Puckett finally inked a five-year deal worth $30 million – estimated to be at least $5 million less than he could have made by signing with another team.
RF Pedro Munoz .270/.298/.409 12 HR 95 OPS+ -1.1 BFW 11 WS 1.0 WAR
Munoz struggled a bit in his first attempt at playing everyday. He struck out 90 times in 439 plate appearances while walking only 17 times – one of the worst ratios in the league. Still, his power made him almost a league average hitter, and the Twins had high hopes for his future.
DH Chili Davis .288/.386/.439 12 HR 129 OPS+ 1.5 BFW 14 WS 2.2 WAR
Davis didn’t quite display the power he had shown in 1991, but was still put up some pretty good numbers. A lower strikeout rate didn’t quite make up for the power that was lacking, but Davis’ 1992 season still was among the top seasons for a designated hitter in Twins history. Davis was one of the casualties of the Puckett contract. He became a free agent and ultimately returned to the California Angels. He quietly remained a very productive hitter until the end of the decade, capping his career with a pair of World Series rings courtesy of his time with the Yankees.
1B/RF/DH Gene Larkin .246/.308/.359 6 HR 85 OPS+ -1.3 BFW 8 WS -0.3 WAR
DH/OF/1B Randy Bush .214/.263/.302 2 HR 57 OPS+ -1.3 BFW 1 WS -1.0 WAR
A couple of career Twins had their last bit of significant playing time in 1992. Both would return in 1993, but neither would appear in more than 56 games. Neither Gene Larkin or Randy Bush were ever regular starters for the Twins, but both had significant roles on two World Championship teams and are still remembered fondly in the Upper Midwest.
UT Jeff Reboulet .190/.311/.277 1 HR 65 OPS+ 1.2 BFW 6 WS 0.7 WAR
C Lenny Webster .280/.331/.407 1 HR 104 OPS+ -0.4 BFW 2 WS 0.4 WAR