The Franchise 1979 (Part 2)

October 19, 2009

Roster/Stats (Pitchers)
Bold = Player new to Minnesota in 1979

SP Jerry Koosman 20-13 3.38 ERA 130 ERA+ 1.33 WHIP 3.46 FIP 3.4 PW 23 WS 7.5 WARP3
Koosman was probably best known for his role as the left-handed compliment to Tom Seaver during the Mets’ run in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, including the 1969 World Series win. A miserable 1978 season prompted Koosman to demand a trade to his hometown team, the Twins, threatening to retire to pursue an air freight business. Now 36, Koosman was traded to the Twins in a deal that sent 22-year-old Jesse Orosco to New York as a PTBNL. Koosman won his first seven decisions of 1979 before dropping his next six. He had another run of six straight decisions in August. On September 30, Koosman put a bow on his first season as a Twin by shutting out the Brewers, a team that had not been shut out all season, to earn his 20th win. He finished sixth in the Cy Young voting for 1979.

SP Dave Goltz 14-13 4.16 ERA 106 ERA+ 1.40 WHIP 3.66 FIP 0.7 PW 16 WS 4.6 WARP3
Goltz was overshadowed by new arrival Koosman, but still had a solid season. Goltz opted for free agency following the season, and at the age of 31 signed a 3-year, $3 million contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. After a great first month or so, Goltz struggled the rest of his career. He had a decent year in 1982 with the Angels, but a torn rotator cuff ended his career in 1983. Goltz pitched for eight seasons with the Twins, he compiled a 96-79 record with a 112 ERA+ for his Twins career, and was probably among the team’s best starters in the 1970’s.

SP Geoff Zahn 13-7 3.57 ERA 123 ERA+ 1.31 WHIP 3.77 FIP 1.7 PW 14 WS 4.3 WARP3
Though Zahn missed the month of May due to injury, his peripheral numbers in 1979 are just about identical to his numbers in 1978, which is considered his best season as a member of the Twins.

SP Paul Hartzell 6-10 5.36 ERA 82 ERA+ 1.45 WHIP 4.51 FIP -1.2 PW 5 WS 1.4 WARP3
The 6’5″ tall Lehigh University graduate came to the Twins in the Rod Carew trade. He had pitched well for the Angels in three seasons, but came out with a losing record. His 1979 season was by far the worst of his career to that point, and Hatrzell was released by the Twins following the season. He pitched in 10 more major league games total following his stint with the Twins.

SP Roger Erickson 3-10 5.63 ERA 78 ERA+ 1.64 WHIP 4.96 FIP -1.6 PW 2 WS 0.3 WARP3
Erickson failed to follow up on his impressive rookie numbers, but rebounded in 1980.

CL Mike Marshall 10-15 2.65 ERA 166 ERA+ 1.26 WHIP 3.42 FIP 5.4 PW 23 WS 8.3 WARP3
Mike Marshall was busy in 1979. He appeared in 90 games for the Minnesota Twins, a number that easily led the league. Marshall also led the league with 31 saves. At the end of the season, Marshall finished fifth in AL Cy Young voting and won TSN’s Fireballer of the Year Award. It would not be a stretch to put Marshall’s performance in 1979 among the top seasons for a relief pitcher in Twins’ history. 1979 would prove to be Marshall’s final effective season in the majors, however. He retired at the age of 38 following a couple of seasons in which he appeared in only 38 games total. Marshall now makes a living ruffling the feathers of the baseball establishment, particularly pitching coaches. He trains young pitchers with an unusual delivery and claims that his methods will eliminate pitching injuries and allow pitchers to throw with more velocity and less rest time between high pitch outings. So far, he and his ideas has been shut out of the baseball establishment.

RP Pete Redfern 7-3 3.49 ERA 126 ERA+ 1.30 WHIP 3.12 FIP 0.9 PW 9 WS 2.5 WARP3
Redfern, who has been primarily used as a starter in his first three seasons with the Twins, was moved to the bullpen in 1979 and had his best season. The Twins moved him back into the starting rotation in 1980 with mixed results.

RP Darrell Jackson 4-4 4.28 ERA 103 ERA+ 1.66 WHIP 3.60 FIP 0.1 PW 4 WS 1.3 WARP3
Jackson made a few starts for Minnesota in 1978, but worked primarily out of the bullpen in 1979.

RP Mike Bacsik 4-2 4.39 ERA 100 ERA+ 1.37 WHIP 4.24 FIP -0.2 PW 3 WS 0.7 WARP3
After three ineffective seasons as a Texas Ranger, Bacsik was traded to the Twins after spending 1978 in the minor leagues. He had his best major league season in 1979.

The Franchise 1979 (Part 1)

October 13, 2009

1979 Minnesota Twins

Manager: Gene Mauch 20th Season (4th with Minnesota 324-323)
82 W 80 L 764 RS 725 RA 4th AL West 6.0 GB (California 88-74)
4.72 RPG (AL = 4.67) 4.16 ERA (AL = 4.23)
.681 DER (13th AL)

All Stars (1) Roy Smalley

Franchise (1901-1979) 5815-6324-110; 11-21 Post Season; 11-15 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-1979) 1601-1460-6; 3-10 Post Season; 3-4 WS

The Twins lost a future Hall of Famer when Calvin Griffith made the deal that sent Rod Carew to California, and many expected the 1979 Twins to look like the 1978 version of the team that was 19 games out of first place. It was a bit of a surprise with a mix of young and unproven players that the Twins were in contention deep into the 1979 season. The new additions of Ken Landreaux, Ron Jackson, and Jerry Koosman were all keys to the team’s success. They hung around almost the entire summer, and were within two games on several occasions. On September 22, with seven games left, the Twins were only two games out of first place. The team went on to drop six of their last seven, making the final standing look a lot less impressive than it probably was.

Roster/Stats (Hitters)
Bold = Player new to Minnesota in 1979

C Butch Wynegar .270/.363/.351 7 HR 91 OPS+ 0.8 BFW 17 WS 47 FRAR 4.1 WARP3
Wynegar’s bat recovered from a difficult season in 1978, but his main value remained as one of the better defensive catchers in the league.

1B Ron Jackson .271/.337/.429 14 HR 102 OPS+ 0.5 BFW 14 WS 17 FRAR 1.2 WARP3
Jackson came to the Twins in the deal that sent Dan Ford to the California Angels. He had played outfield, third base, and first base in California, but found a home as the regular first baseman for the Twins. The Birmingham, AL native added some pop to the Twins’ lineup and, at the age of 26, appeared to have the potential for even more.

2B Rob Wilfong .313/.352/.458 9 HR 114 OPS+ 3.3 BFW 18 WS 16 FRAR 2.2 WARP3
Wilfong played sparingly as a backup for the Twins in 1977 and 1978. He finally got the chance to start in 1979. In addition to a reputation as a solid defender, he had his best offensive season in 1979, including a league-leading 25 sacrifice hits.

SS Roy Smalley .271/.353/.441 24 HR 110 OPS+ 5.6 BFW 24 WS 33 FRAR 4.0 WARP3
Smalley actually had a slightly worse season than he did in 1978, but began to get recognition for the fact that he had become one of the better shortstops in baseball. From Jim Kaplan’s article in the May 14, 1979 issue of SI:

Though it passed almost without notice, Roy Smalley was the league’s best at his position in 1978, when he hit .273, drove in 77 runs and led all shortstops with 19 homers, 287 putouts and 121 double plays. After undertaking an off-season weight program himself—it was suggested by a Los Angeles friend, Ron Klemp—Smalley started 1979 even hotter. He considers himself a step and a half faster in the field this year; at the plate he says he’s hitting for distance without trying to pull. “The bad things you hear about weights—tightness, decreased flex and speed—aren’t true as long as you keep playing your sport,” Roy Smalley says. “I bet that all world-class athletes have used weights. Even sprinters must have tremendous upper-body strength. And you can’t separate the physical from the psychological. As you get stronger, you think more positively.”

Though the pace he set at the beginning of the season slowed, Smalley went to his first (and only) All Star Game in July and actually garnered some MVP votes at the end of the season.

3B John Castino .285/.331/.397 5 HR 93 OPS+ 0.2 BFW 9 WS 7 FRAR -0.3 WARP3
Drafted by the Twins in 1976, Castino turned some heads in his rookie season, enough to tie with Toronto’s Alfredo Griffin  for the AL Rookie of the Year Award at the end of the season.  Also on the short list for AL ROY, a Yankee reliever by the name of Ron Davis.

LF Bombo Rivera .281/.324/.392 2 HR  90 OPS+ 0.1 BFW 5 WS 15 FRAR 0.8 WARP3
This was the only time in Rivera’s major league career that he was a regular all season. In 1980 he missed a chunk of the season due to broken kneecap suffered in April and returned to his role as outfield backup. Though signed by the Kansas City Royals, he only appeared in two games prior with the team in 1982 before his major league career was over, though he continued to be a regular in the Puerto Rican leagues through the 1980’s. Rivera had the most on field success of his career in the mid-1980’s in Japan, where he became a power hitter for Kintetsu. He retired from baseball after the 1989 season.

CF Ken Landreaux .305/.347/.450 15 HR 111 OPS+ -0.9 BFW 16 WS -2 FRAR 0.1 WARP3
Landreaux was the best player in the package that the Twins got for Rod Carew. He was the minor league player of the year in 1977, and though he had a tough time as the fourth outfielder in his first major league season with the Angels, Landreaux was considered a very good prospect. Landreaux started the season in left field, but slid over to start the bulk of the season in center field.

RF Hosken Powell .293/.360/.379 2 HR 97 OPS+ -0.6 BFW 8 WS 3 FRAR 0.0 WARP3
Powell improved on his numbers from his rookie season, but unfortunately for the Twins and for Powell it would turn out to be the best season of his career.

DH Jose Morales .267/.319/.335 2 HR 75 OPS+ -0.9 BFW 1 WS 0 FRAR -0.6 WARP3
DH/OF Glenn Adams .301/.350/.420 8 HR 104 OPS+ -0.6 BFW 8 WS -2 FRAR 0.1 WARP3
The left-handed portion of the Twins’ DH platoon was a much better hitter, but he was used solely against right-handed pitchers. In fact, Adams had only 10 plate appearances against left-handed pitching all season.

OF/DH Willie Norwood .248/.299/.385 6 HR 81 OPS+ -1.3 BFW 4 WS 3 FRAR -1.0 WARP3
IF Mike Cubbage .276/.371/.350 2 HR 93 OPS+ -1.1 BFW 5 WS -3 FRAR -0.8 WARP3
A couple of former starters rounded out the Twins’ bench in 1979. Neither had much success to come in the majors.

The Franchise 1978, Part 2

October 8, 2009

Roster/Stats (Pitchers)
Bold = Player new to Minnesota in 1978

SP Dave Goltz 15-10 2.49 ERA 155 ERA+ 1.25 WHIP 3.17 FIP 3.5 PW 19 WS 5.8 WARP3
Though Goltz tends to get credit for a career year in 1977, the fact is that, in almost all categories, 1978 was better. 1977 looks better due to more innings pitched and the magical “20” wins. He shaved almost a full run from his 1977 ERA. Unfortunately for Goltz and the Twins, he missed about 10 starts mostly due to injuries, including a rib injury suffered in an on-field scuffle and a burn to his pitching hand from a backyard grill.

SP Geoff Zahn 14-14 3.03 ERA 127 ERA+ 1.35 WHIP 3.68 FIP 2.1 PW 17 WS 4.5 WARP3
Zahn improved upon his best season as a professional with an even better season in 1978. With 252 innings pitched it was also his busiest major league season.

SP Roger Erickson 14-13 3.96 ERA 97 ERA+ 1.31 WHIP 3.59 FIP -0.2 PW 12 WS 2.0 WARP3
Erickson was drafted out of the University of New Orleans and spent just a year in the minors before debuting with the Twins. He had a very good rookie season and was the talk of the Twins pitching staff despite strong showings from other starters. Erickson on being in the major leagues (as quoted by Robert H. Boyle in Sports Illustrated): “In the clubhouse they’ve got a candy rack, just like in the drugstore, and it’s all for the players. I couldn’t believe it. I stuffed myself on licorice the first night.”

SP Gary Serum 9-9 4.10 ERA 94 ERA+ 1.26 WHIP 3.47 FIP -0.2 PW 8 WS 1.6 WARP3
Serum was nicknamed “Truth” by his teammates and made the Twins after attending a tryout camp. 1978 was his busiest and most productive season.

RP Mike Marshall 10-12 2.45 ERA 157 ERA+ 1.18 WHIP 3.00 FIP 3.2 PW 14 WS 5.5 WARP3
By the time Marshall joined the Twins as a free agent prior to the 1978 season he had already won a Cy Young award as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1974. He had a bit of a rough season in 1977, but the 35-year-old showed that he had a lot of pitching left by compiling 99 innings pitched and a 2.45 ERA. So good was Marshall that, for the fourth time in his career, he received Cy Young award votes, finishing 7th in the AL voting in 1978.

Marshall had originally started in 1961 as a shortstop in the Philadelphia system. Though he made the All-Star team as an infielder at every level at which he played, Marshall became a pitcher by 1965.

While not playing Marshall was able to defeat the stereotype of the dumb jock. While he played baseball in the spring and summer, he continually pursued advanced degrees in the fall and winter. In September of 1978 Marshall completed his PhD in Exercise Physiology – presumably by working on his dissertation, entitled “A Comparison of an Estimate of Skeletal Age With Chronological Age When Classifying Adolescent Males for Motor Proficiency Norms,” while waiting for the phone to ring in the bullpen.

RP Greg Thayer 1-1 3.80 ERA 101 ERA+ 1.56 WHIP 4.90 FIP 0.1 PW 2 WS 0.5 WARP3
RP John Sutton
0-0 3.45 ERA 112 ERA+ 1.38 WHIP 3.74 FIP 0.1 PW 2 WS 0.3 WARP3
Thayer and Sutton were both solid relievers for the Twins in 1978, and did well for themselves even in Marshall’s shadow. For one reason or another, neither returned to the majors after 1978.

The Franchise 1978 (Part 1)

September 28, 2009

1978 Minnesota Twins

Manager: Gene Mauch 19th Season (3rd with Minnesota 242-243)
73 W 89 L 666 RS 678 RA 4th AL West 19.0 GB (Kansas City 92-70)
4.11 RPG (AL = 4.20) 3.71 ERA (AL = 3.78)
.700 DER (11th AL)

All Stars (1) Rod Carew

Franchise (1901-1978) 5733-6244-110; 11-21 Post Season; 11-15 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-1978) 1519-1380-6; 3-10 Post Season; 3-4 WS

Roster/Stats (Hitters)
Bold = Player new to Minnesota in 1978

C Butch Wynegar .229/.307/.308 4 HR 73 OPS+ -0.7 BFW 10 WS 34 FRAR 1.9 WARP3
Wynegar’s offensive production fell after his initial two seasons, but he was still a valuable defensive catcher.

1B Rod Carew .333/.411/.441 5 HR 139 OPS+ 2.6 BFW 22 WS -3 FRAR 4.1 WARP3
One of the saddest chapters in Twins history is the chain of events that led to the departure of Rod Carew following the 1978 season. The official story was that Rod Carew had priced himself out of the Twins’ range by winning six batting titles in seven years. Many suggested that Griffith’s very public racist comments at the Waseca Lion’s Club were a factor as well, and they certainly didn’t help things. When Griffith’s final offer for Carew’s contract renewal in December called for only $2 million over five years, it seemed clear that the star’s future would be elsewhere. Carew took full control of his own destiny, seeking and gaining permission to negotiate with potential trade partners for the Twins (he still had a year left on his contract). The Twins looked to have a deal done with San Francisco, though it fell apart when Carew decided that he didn’t want to play for the Giants anymore. Interestingly, Carew seemed to have a change of heart about San Francisco when he announced very publicly that the city was growing on him and that there was a pretty good chance that he would wear a Giants’ uniform next season. Though there had also been talk about Carew to the Yankees, that ended quickly due to Carew’s lack of interest in wearing pinstripes. Ultimately, Carew signed with the California Angels for five years and $3.5 million. The Twins got Ken Landreaux, Brad Havens, Paul Hartzell, and Dave Engel. (For more on the bizarre circumstances surrounding the Carew trade and the 78-79 offseason check out Will Young’s article).

Carew was justifiably bitter when he left the Twins after 12 years of service. The feelings subsided after several years, however, and on Rod Carew day at the Metrodome in 1987, Carew said: “Even though I spent the last seven years of my career in an Angels uniform, Minnesota will be the No. 1 place in my heart…” “Hopefully, within the next few years, if I’m honored to be put in the Hall of Fame, rest assured that I will honor you by making sure that I’m in a Minnesota Twins uniform.”

2B Bob Randall .270/.329/.321 0 HR 83 OPS+ 1.5 BFW 9 WS 20 FRAR 1.3 WARP3
Randall’s value in the field was not enough to make up for his lack of offense. His playing time began to go down significantly in 1979, and he played his last major league game in 1980.

SS Roy Smalley .273/.362/.433 19 HR 122 OPS+ 5.1 BFW 22 WS 52 FRAR 8.1 WARP3
Jim Rice won the 1978 AL MVP award by batting .315/.370/.600 with 46 home runs. While I won’t argue with the voting here (although I would have put Ron Guidry ahead of Rice, but I can see the argument for either one),  the fact that Smalley did not receive any votes indicates how under-appreciated he was. While his batting numbers don’t sparkle like Rice’s, his defense at the second-most difficult position on the field should  have been worth some consideration. I would make an argument that Smalley was more valuable that #s 3-10 in the voting. He will start to get some national notice in 1979.

3B Mike Cubbage .282/.348/.401 7 HR 109 OPS+ 1.0 BFW 12 WS 22 FRAR 3.3 WARP3
On July 27 Mike Cubbage hit for the cycle against the Toronto Blue Jays. At the time, he was the fifth player in Twins history (ninth in franchise history) to accomplish the feat. It was the signature game in what was probably the 27-year-old’s best season.

LF Willie Norwood .255/.301/.376 8 HR  88 OPS+ -1.4 BFW 6 WS 8 FRAR 0.5 WARP3
In his only year as a regular, Norwood stole 25 bases, second most on the team behind Carew’s 27. He also committed 14 errors in left field, a team record.

CF Dan Ford .274/.332/.424 11 HR 110 OPS+ -1.1 BFW 15 WS 8 FRAR 1.9 WARP3
After playing the majority of his first three seasons as a right fielder, Ford shifted to center for the 1978 season. The numbers indicate that he was more suited defensively to right field, he remained a fan favorite in Minnesota.

RF Hosken Powell .247/.323/.333 3 HR 84 OPS+ -1.2 BFW 7 WS 11 FRAR 0.6 WARP3
Powell, a rookie, showed some promise in his first couple of major league seasons, but quickly earned the nickname “neutral” for his ability to seemingly coast through the games.

DH Glenn Adams .258/.297/.390 7 HR 91 OPS+ -0.8 BFW 4 WS 0 FRAR 0.0 WARP3
DH Jose Morales .314/.363/.401 2 HR 114 OPS+ 0.3 BFW 5 WS 0 FRAR 1.2 WARP3
Morales broke into the league in 1973 with the Oakland A’s. He spent several years in the Montreal Expos organization before he was purchased by the Twins in March of 1978. Never a regular in his career, that trend continued as he split time with Glenn Adams at DH. A native of the Virgin Islands, Morales was a catcher by trade but his defense left a lot to be desired and was the reason he spent 10 seasons in the minors before getting his break in Oakland. While with Montreal, Morales was primarily a pinch-hitter.

OF Bombo Rivera .271/.362/.355 3 HR 101 OPS+ 0.0 BFW 7 WS 13 FRAR 1.8 WARP3
Like Morales, Rivera had most recently been with the Montreal Expos and was purchased by the Twins following the 1977 season. Though he was mostly a platoon outfielder, Rivera was well received by Twins fans and became a fan favorite. Garrison Keillor even wrote a song about the Puerto Rico native.

The Franchise 1977 (Part 2)

September 21, 2009

Roster/Stats (Pitchers)
Bold = Player new to Minnesota in 1977

SP Dave Goltz 20-11 3.36 ERA 120 ERA+ 1.24 WHIP 3.42 FIP 1.8 PW 22 WS 5.2 WARP3
Goltz 20 wins earned him attention for a “breakout” season but the truth is that the peripheral statistics indicate that the improvement was probably not as dramatic as the record made it seem. His 1977 ERA was identical to his 1976 number, and the league-relative ERA+ was up only 15 points. Though 1977 is considered to be Goltz’ best season, an argument could be made that his 1978 was even better.

SP Paul Thermodsgard 11-15 4.62 ERA 87 ERA+ 1.38 WHIP 4.30 FIP -1.6 PW 9 WS 1.0 WARP3
Thermodsgard, a San Francisco native, was signed as a teenager by the Cincinnati Reds in 1971. The Twins picked him up as a free agent and he made his major league debut in 1977. After he played as a regular in his first season, he only saw a handful of games in subsequent years and played his final major league game in 1979.

SP Geoff Zahn 12-14 4.68 ERA 86 ERA+ 1.53 WHIP 4.24 FIP -1.8 PW 8 WS 0.2 WARP3
Zahn had spent a few injury-plagued seasons in the National League before signing with the Twins prior to the 1977 season. He had by far the best season of his career so far, using his hard slider to become a serviceable starter for a team that was not particularly deep in starting pitching.

SP Pete Redfern 6-9 5.18 ERA 78 ERA+ 1.67 WHIP 4.43 FIP -1.8 PW 3 WS -0.9 WARP3
Redfern had a disappointing sophomore season, due in large part to injury. After losing most of 1978 for the same reason, he will return to have his best season in 1979.

RP Tom Johnson 16-7 3.13 ERA 129 ERA+ 1.36 WHIP 3.59 FIP 2.4 PW 16 WS 4.4 WARP3
Johnson had been with the Twins for several years but had yet to appear in more than 18 games in a single season. A major bullpen overhaul due in large part to the departure of Bill Campbell gave Johnson a chance, and he seemed to grab it and run. He quickly became the team’s bullpen ace and put together one of the best seasons among relief pitchers in 1977. Pitching 146+ innings, however, (more than his career total in three seasons) took its toll and Johnson had just one more ineffective season before he was out of baseball.

RP Ron Schueler 8-7 4.41 ERA 91 ERA+ 1.43 WHIP 4.63 FIP -0.7 PW 7 WS 1.1 WARP3
By the time Schueler signed with the Twins just days before the 1977 season, he was a veteran long reliever and spot starter. His career began with Atlanta in 1972 where he started primarily as a starting pitcher. He was traded to Philadelphia following the 1973 season and eventually moved into the bullpen full time with just a few spot starts here and there. That is how the Twins used him in 1977. He left via free agency following the season, to be signed by the Chicago White Sox where he ended his playing career in 1979 and began his coaching career. He was among the front office members during the Oakland A’s run in the late 1980’s and was part of the St. Louis Cardinals’ front office for the 2006 World Series season.

RP Tom Burgmeier 6-4 5.09 ERA 79 ERA+ 1.50 WHIP 5.10 FIP -1.0 PW 4 WS 0.4 WARP3
Burgmeier’s final season with the Twins was also his worst. He became a free agent at the end of the year and signed with the Boston Red Sox prior to the 1978 season. Burgmeier regained his form in Boston and pitched into his 40’s before retiring as a member of the Oakland A’s in 1984.

RP Dave Johnson 2-5 4.58 ERA 88 ERA+ 1.50 WHIP 4.24 FIP -0.5 PW 2 WS 0.0 WARP3
Johnson’s baseball career was set aside in the middle of the 1975 season when he broke his wrist in a motorcycle accident. After missing the entire 1976 season, the Twins signed him and he made 30 appearances in relief in 1977.

The Franchise 1977 (Part 1)

September 14, 2009

1977 Minnesota Twins

Manager: Gene Mauch 18th Season (2nd with Minnesota 169-154)
84 W 77 L 867 RS 776 RA 4th AL West 17.5 GB (Kansas City 102-60)
5.39 RPG (AL = 4.53) 4.38ERA (AL = 4.07)
.690 DER (11th AL)

All Stars (3) Rod Carew, Larry Hisle, Butch Wynegar

Franchise (1901-1977) 5660-6155-110; 11-21 Post Season; 11-15 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-1978) 1446-1291-6; 3-10 Post Season; 3-4 WS

While the feel-good story of the 1977 Twins was Rod Carew, and the team had a winning season, there was a bit of an ugly subtext in terms of the relationship of the players to management. The Twins lost a number of free agents after the season, including standouts Larry Hisle and Lyman Bostock, continuing a trend in which Minnesota’s top players left for greener pastures at seemingly every opportunity, many of them with very public feuds with Calvin Griffith.

The team finished in fourth place and won more games than they lost in their second season with Gene Mauch as manager, but something had to give with all of the talent that was exiting.

Roster/Stats (Hitters)
Bold = Player new to Minnesota in 1977

C Butch Wynegar .261/.344/.370 10 HR 96 OPS+ -0.1 BFW 18 WS 33 FRAR 3.6 WARP3
Wynegar got off to a great start, improving on his impressive rookie season numbers in the first half of the season. He was rewarded for his first half performance with a second consecutive trip to the All-Star Game. His performance at the plate in the second half of 1977 tailed off, however, and his final numbers in 1977 were a lot more indicative of his career path.

1st half: 81 games .290/.368/.417/.785
2nd half: 63 games .224/.313/.310/.623

1B Rod Carew .388/.449/.570 14 HR 178 OPS+ 6.5 BFW 37 WS 15 FRAR 9.4 WARP3
Though Rod Carew had been great since his debut in 1967, the 31-year-old had his signature season in 1977. His quest for the first .400 season since Ted Williams earned him a national following. It took him a few games to get going – on April 16 (after nine games) he was batting just .270/.341/.459. From that date on, however, Carew went on a tear, batting .423/.478/.642 in 60 games. On June 26, Rod Carew jersey day at the Met, he went 4-for-5 in a Twins 19-12 win over the White Sox, moving his season average over the .400 mark for the first time. Carew became the story in major league baseball in 1977, and rightfully so. He made appearances on the cover of Time and Sports Illustrated, the latter of which was a cover story in which Ted Williams expressed his hope that Carew would hit over .400. Though Carew fell below the .400 mark for good early in July, his final average topped the AL by more than 50 points. He also finished first in OBP, and second only to Jim Rice (.593) in SLG. It was no surprise that Rod Carew was voted the American League MVP following the season. (More on Carew’s season here.)

2B Bob Randall .239/.289/.294 0 HR 61 OPS+ -0.1 BFW 5 WS 9 FRAR -1.1 WARP3
Though Randall did not distinguish himself as a hitter, he was considered a very good second baseman at the time, and set a Twins record for fielding percentage at second base (.985).

SS Roy Smalley .231/.316/.315 6 HR 74 OPS+ 1.5 BFW 13 WS 49 FRAR 3.7 WARP3
The 24-year-old Smalley, in his first full season as a Minnesota Twin, was still a year away from distinguishing himself as a hitter at the shortstop position. In 1977, however, his play at shortstop more than made up for his poor performance at the plate.

3B Mike Cubbage .264/.321/.391 9 HR 94 OPS+ 0.7 BFW 11 WS 43 FRAR 4.3 WARP3
Cubbage’s numbers were down a bit at the plate from the previous season, but he combined with Smalley to make one of the best defensive left sides of the infield in baseball.

LF Larry Hisle .302/.369/.533 28 HR 144 OPS+ 2.6 BFW 24 WS 16 FRAR 5.8 WARP3
Hisle had his best season as a Twin  in 1977. Unfortunately for the Twins, his relationship with Calvin Griffith had been so damaged by low-ball contract offers that Hisle left for Milwaukee following the 1977 season. He continued his success in 1978 with his career year in Milwaukee by batting .290/.374/.533 with 34 home runs – good enough to finish third in that season’s MVP balloting. A torn rotator cuff in 1979 essentially ended Hisle’s career, allowing him to play in just 79 games over the course of his final four seasons.

CF Lyman Bostock .336/.389/.508 14 HR 144 OPS+  3.3 BFW 27 WS 17 FRAR 6.3 WARP3
Bostock was another Twin who had a career season in 1977. At the age of 26 it looked as if the sky was the limit for Bostock, who cashed in after the season with a lucrative free-agent deal with the California Angels. He got off to a poor start in 1978, and offered to return his April salary to the Angels. When the team refused he donated the money to charity. Bostock returned to form and had another very good season. On September 23, 1978, Bostock was murdered in Chicago during a visit with his uncle. He was just a few months shy of his 28th birthday.

RF Dan Ford .267/.338/.426 11 HR 108 OPS+ -0.7 BFW 12 WS 10 FRAR 1.8 WARP3
Disco Dan had another solid season and remained a fan favorite in Minnesota.

DH/1B Craig Kusick .254/.370/.433 12 HR 120 OPS+ 0.5 BFW 7 WS -2 FRAR 1.4 WARP3
1977 is considered Kusick’s best season in the majors.

DH/OF Rich Chiles .264/.323/.368 3 HR 89 OPS+ -0.7 BFW 4 WS 2 FRAR 0.3 WARP3
DH/OF Glenn Adams .338/.376/.468 6 HR 130 OPS+ 0.8 BFW 9 WS 1 FRAR 1.6 WARP3
Chiles and Adams both filled in primarily as designated hitters. They were both originally drafted bt the Houston Astros. Chiles came as a Rule V pick directly from Houston, while Adams was purchased from San Francisco. Adams’ claim to fame was driving in eight runs on Rod Carew jersey day linked above.

IF Jerry Terrell .224/.263/.266 1 HR 46 OPS+ -1.5 BFW 2 WS 21 FRAR 0.6 WARP3
Though Terrell was popular among fans and teammates, he was never able to find a regular job with the Twins. He became a free agent after the season and signed with Kansas City, where he would play the same utility role until he retired in 1980.

The Franchise 1976 (Part 2)

September 9, 2009

Roster/Stats (Pitchers)
Bold = Player new to Minnesota in 1976
*FIP represents the full season, including time pitched for other teams

SP Bert Blyleven 4-5 3.12 ERA 1.43 WHIP 2.70 FIP* 0.4 PW 5 WS 2.3 WARP3
From Larry Batson’s Strib article dated June 2, 1976:

Our drama began as an old-fashioned salary hassle, depressingly familiar to followers of the Twins. But, hoo boy, did it escalate.

Blyleven, a pitcher of solid performance and enourmous potential, came to regard his employer as niggardly, to say the least. And that was the very least that Blyleven, an outspoken person, said about Griffith.

Three seasons ago, as Griffith tells it, Blyleven made a specific salary demand. Griffith immediately agreed. “I think that stuck in Bert’s craw,” Griffith said recently. “I believe he thought he could have got more money if he’d asked for it – and maybe he would have.”

The next year Blyleven took his case to arbitration and lost. He fumed.

This year Blyleven refused to sign, Griffith fumed.

Griffith is a merchant. He sells baseball and, quite often, baseball players. By playing a season without a contract, Blyleven could become a free agent. He could then sell himself.

Griffith had a potential competitor on his own payroll. Every fourth day, Blyleven would take the mound for the Twins and throw beanballs at Griffith’s corporate assets. It was galling – and Calvin had to pay Bert meal money on road trips to boot.

As Blyleven put it yesterday, he was merely setting up a little ma and pa store, taking a chance on the free-enterprise system of which he has heard so much from baseball owners.

“I had to think of my future, my career expectancy, and of security for my family,” he said. “Mr. Griffith should be able to understand that. He has a huge family.”

Observers will long debate and probably never agree on the motivation for Griffith’s next move. He told Blyleven that he could negotiate with any club interested in signing him. Was this frustration or genius? Was Griffith surrendering or baiting a trap?

If it was bait, Texas seized it. The Rangers talked to Blyleven in terms he could appreciate. He likes numbers with lots of zeroes, and who doesn’t? By Monday morning, Blyleven had decided that he was going to Texas.

As a parting gesture, Bert hoped to win his 100th game for the Twins that evening. He lost it, but improvised another gesture for jeering spectators which will probably be remembered longer.

“Fans pay good money and they’re entitle to boo,” Blyleven said yesterday. “But when they go too far, I think a player has the right to respond in kind.”

SP Dave Goltz 14-14 3.36 ERA 1.32 WHIP 3.45 FIP 0.4 PW 13 WS 5.0 WARP3
Aaron Gleeman noted the statistical anomaly that Goltz 14-14 record made him the first pitcher in history to win double-digit games with an exactly .500 record in three consecutive seasons. Goltz also led the league with 15 wild pitches.

SP Bill Singer 9-9 3.77 ERA 1.43 WHIP 3.88 FIP* -0.6 PW 7 WS 2.0 WARP3
The 32-year-old Singer came from Texas in the Bert Blyleven trade. He had a long career with some standout seasons (1969 and 1973, when he combined with Nolan Ryan for the highest strikeout total among two teammates), but was probably best described as an “injury plagued” pitcher. He was left unprotected in the expansion draft the next offseason and played his final season with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1977.

SP Jim Hughes 9-14 4.98 ERA 1.49 WHIP 4.27 FIP -3.2 PW 1 WS 0.2 WARP3
Hughes followed up a solid rookie season with a mediocre performance in 1976. He will only appear in two more games in 1977 before the end of his major league career.

SP Pete Redfern 8-8 3.51 ERA 1.42 WHIP 3.71 FIP -0.3 PW 5 WS 1.8 WARP3
Redfern, from USC, was the number one pick in the secondary phase of the 1976 amateur draft. He immediately made his major league debut and had a solid rookie season.

SP Eddie Bane 4-7 5.11 ERA 1.65 WHIP 4.48 FIP -1.7 PW 0 WS -0.3 WARP3
Bane, who compiled a record of 40-4 in his college years at Arizona State, was the Twins top pick in the 1973 draft. After a much publicized and hyped debut on July 4th, 1973, Bane spent two full seasons in the minor leagues before rejoining the major league team in September of 1975. He joined the Twins again in late June of 1976 in what would be his final chance to pitch at the major league level. Bane is currently the director of scouting for the Angels.

RP Bill Campbell 17-5 3.01 ERA 1.23 WHIP 3.15 FIP 1.8 PW 17 WS 6.9 WARP3
Soup had his career season 1976. He set an AL record with 17 wins as a relief pitcher, and also led the Twins with that number. His 78 appearances in relief also led the league. Campbell received votes for both AL Cy Young and AL MVP after the season was over. He signed as a free agent with Boston before the 1977 season and put together a solid career as a relief pitcher with various teams before he retired in 1987. The 1976 season remained his best.

RP Tom Burgmeier 8-1 2.50 ERA 1.08 WHIP 3.89 FIP 1.2 PW 10 WS 4.0 WARP3
1976 was Burgmeier’s best season as a Twins, though it was probably overshadowed by the performance of bullpen-mate Bill Campbell.

RP Steve Luebber 4-5 4.00 ERA 1.43 WHIP 4.44 FIP -0.3 PW 5 WS 1.7 WARP3
After his debut with the Twins in 1971, Luebber spent several seasons in the minor leagues. He reappeared with the Twins in 1976, and set many personal statistical marks. After another season in the minors, Luebber was released by the Twins. He played a handful of games with other teams until his final major league appearance in 1981.

The Franchise 1976 (Part 1)

September 8, 2009

Ed. – I have taken a hiatus from the Franchise series due to the loss of access to the old Sporting News archives at in hopes that the site would reappear. It has not, but I have decided to plow ahead with the series. Here is a re-post of the first half of the 1976 write-up, with Part 2 coming tomorrow.

1976 Minnesota Twins

Manager: Gene Mauch 17th Season (1st with Minnesota 85-77)
85 W 77 L 743 RS 704 RA 3rd AL West 5.0 GB (Kansas City 90-72)
4.59 RPG (AL = 4.01) 3.69 ERA (AL = 3.52)
.695 DER (9th AL)

All Stars (2) Rod Carew, Butch Wynegar

Franchise (1901-1976) 5576-6078-110; 11-21 Post Season; 11-15 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-1976) 1362-1214-6; 3-10 Post Season; 3-4 WS

Though it had been seven years (and two Twins managers) since Billy Martin led the Twins to the first ever AL West Division title, he was still considered the standard by which all Twins managers would be compared. So it wasn’t surprising when Calvin Griffith set out to replace Frank Quilici before the 1976 season many fans and writers were looking for someone who would fill the significant shoes left by Martin those years ago.

Griffith looked outside of the organization and landed the most experienced manager he could find. Gene Mauch had 16 seasons under his belt when he became the seventh manager of the Minnesota Twins. All of his prior experience had been in the National League with Philadelphia (1960-1968) and Montreal (1969-1975). Mauch was given something that none of the six previous Twins’ managers had: job security. Calvin Griffith signed him to a three-year deal.

“I knew he was the man I wanted.” said Griffith, “I felt that we needed someone who would be tougher with our players. I felt we needed someone from outside our organization. I like the way Gene handled his teams in spring training. There was no loafing.”

When asked if the three-year deal meant that Mauch would be with the Twins for three years, Griffith responded with “no comment.”

The big news during the 1976 season was the Bert Blyleven trade (covered in detail in part two) and the team’s best record since 1970. The Twins finished with 85 wins thanks to their offense, the most prolific run-scoring offense in the American League in 1976. Unlike the Twins teams of the 1960’s who would home run their way to victory, this version of the Twins did not use the long ball. They totaled just 81 home runs, 8th in the American League. This version of the Twins scored runs by getting on base (AL leading .339 OBP as a team) and with their speed (51 triples – 2nd in the AL, 146 stolen bases – 5th in the AL).

Roster/Stats (Hitters)
Bold = Player new to Minnesota in 1976

C Butch Wynegar .260/.356/.363 10 HR 0.8 BFW 20 WS 21 FRAR 6.1 WARP3
The Twins took a prep catcher, Butch Wynegar, in the second round of the 1974 amateur draft. Harold Delano Wynegar, Jr was a switch-hitter who earned the nickname “Butch” due to his chubby frame as an infant. On his way to the majors, Wynegar won the Appalachian League batting title in his first professional season with a .346 batting average. His success continued for the next few years and, despite the Twins’ organization attempts to keep him in the minor leagues for seasoning, Wynegar’s performance would not allow them to do so. He made his debut in the 1976 season and made an immedate impact in the majors. At the age of 20, Wynegar made the American League All Star team and was named TSN’s AL Rookie of the Year following the season.

1B Rod Carew .331/.395/.463 9 HR 2.7 BFW 30 WS 11 FRAR 9.2 WARP3
The long awaited move for Rod Carew finally came in 1976. After years of speculation by the media, Carew made the change from second base to first base. At the age of 30, Carew seemed to be on top of the world. Prior to the 1976 season, he signed a three year contract with the Twins and was set for his seemingly inevitable run at a fifth consecutive AL batting title. What Bob Fowler from TSN had called baseball’s only “sure bet” in the spring didn’t pan out as Carew finished third in the batting race behind a pair of Royals; George Brett and Hal McRae. Still, Carew finished fifth in AL MVP voting and made his 10th consecutive All Star team.

The batting race in 1976 was fascinating and controversial. It came down to the final day. Coincidentally, the Royals and the Twins were playing in Kansas City for the final series of the season so all three contenders were playing on the same field. Prior to game 161, Kansas CIty had already clinched the division, so Brett and McRae both were benched in preparation for the playoffs. During the warm ups for Game 2, McRae made a comment to Carew, as reported in TSN, saying “No way you’re going to win another title. We’re going to walk you the next two games and George and I aren’t going to play.” When Gene Mauch caught wind of this he approached Whitey Herzog and the two managers agreed there would be no intentional walks of the three contenders in the last two games. With McRae percentage points ahead of teammate George Brett, Carew went 3-for-4 to pull within two points of the leaders, meaning that Brett and McCrae would have to play on the final day to try and ensure a batting title.

All three had success on the final day, but George Brett won the title when his blooper was misplayed by Steve Brye in left field. Brye let the ball bounce over his head for an inside-the-park home run that ended Brett’s season at .333 thanks to a 3-for-4 afternoon. McCrae went 2-for-4 but grounded out in his final at bat. McCrae angrily accused Brye of delibrately misplaying the ball, and initially suggested that his race might have been a factor, but later backed off that statement. Carew went 2-for-4 that day as well to finish third in the batting race.

2B Bob Randall .267/.317/.328 1 HR -0.2 BFW 12 WS 14 FRAR 2.9 WARP3
Randall made his major league debut at the age of 28. He was drafted by the Dodgers in 1969 and spent seven seasons with various minor league teams prior to his debut as the Twins’ regular second baseman.

SS Roy Smalley .271/.353/.344 2 HR 2.5 BFW 14 WS 30 FRAR 5.6 WARP3
Smalley was a product of USC and the first overall pick in the 1974 amateur draft. He had played just over 100 games with the team that drafted him, the Rangers, when he was traded to the Twins as part of the Bert Blyleven deal. Smalley had been a bit of a disappointment early on in Texas, but had been trying to learn a new position (2B) after playing shortstop most of his life. Even with the slow start, at age 23 Smalley seemingly had a lot of promise. Though Minnesota was a new place for Smalley, there was at least one familiar face. He was now playing for his uncle, Gene Mauch. Mauch installed Smalley at shortstop, a position he manned for the rest of the decade in Minnesota.

3B Mike Cubbage .260/.344/.371 3 HR 1.2 BFW 12 WS 19 FRAR 4.3 WARP3
Cubbage was another product of the Blyleven trade. Like Smalley, Cubbage was young (25 years old) and seemed to have a great career ahead of him. At one time, Cubabge was conisidered the top hitting prospect in the Rangers’ system. The left-handed hitter was also valuable because of his versatility on defense, Cubbage could play at second or third. Cubbage, considered to be a “throw-in” at first, quickly became the Twins’ regular third basemen. On August 10 in Baltimore, Cubbage had the distinction of being the only Twin to get a hit off of Jim Palmer.

LF Larry Hisle .272/.335/.394 14 HR 1.2 BFW 19 WS 32 FRAR 7.8 WARP3
Hisle’s numbers were down a bit from the previous two years, but he was still a very valuable member of the Twins, finishing first or second on the team in many offensive categories (Rod Carew was the leader in most). On June 4, he became the seventh player in franchise history to hit for the cycle in a game. With all of his success, Hisle was very disappointed that Calvin Griffith offered a low-ball contract after the season was over.

CF Lyman Bostock .323/.364/.430 4 HR 1.6 BFW 19 WS 13 FRAR 6.0 WARP3
While solid in his rookie season, Bostock broke out in his sophmore campaign, earning the owner’s award for most improved Twin in 1976. Bostock attributed his success to his uncle. In the midst of a slump during the 1975 season, Bostock visited his uncle looking for sympathy. Instead of sympathy, Bostock’s uncle gave him a tongue-lashing about his frequent arguments with umpires and hot dog attitude on the field. The encounter changed Bostock, and the difference was noticable not only in his attitude, but in his success on the field. On July 24, less than two months after his teammate hit for the cycle, Bostock did the same, becoming the eighth man in franchise history to hit for the cycle.

RF Dan Ford .267/.323/.457 20 HR 0.2 BFW 18 WS 4 FRAR 5.1 WARP3
Disco Dan was another among the Twins’ hitters who improved his performance from the year before. Ford also had the distinction of being the first player to hit a home run in the newly-remodeled version of Yankee Stadium.

DH/1B Craig Kusick .259/.344/.432 11 HR 0.9 BFW 10 WS 1 FRAR 2.7 WARP3
DH/OF/3B Steve Braun .288/.384/.353 3 HR 1.3 BFW 16 WS 7 FRAR 4.7 WARP3
Kusick and Braun essentially ended up platooning in the DH role, with Tony Oliva playing when he was able. With Oliva retired and Braun left unprotected and drafted by Seattle in the expansion draft, the DH job would be Kusick’s alone in 1977.

DH Tony Oliva .211/.234/.260 1 HR -1.0 BFW 0 WS 0 FRAR -0.7 WARP3
To say that Oliva’s final season was forgettable would be an understatement, but that doesn’t change the fact that he was one of the franchise’s all-time great players. In 15 seasons, all with the Twins, Oliva posted the following numbers:

.304/.353/.476 131 OPS+ 220 HR 135 FRAR 66.7 WARP3

After 15 years and seven knee surgeries, Oliva was forced to retire at the age of 37. Take away the knee problems and is difficult to argue that Oliva does not belong in the Hall of Fame.

1971: Killebrew’s 500th

August 10, 2009

August 10, 1971

At 35 years, 51 days old, Harmon Killebrew became the 10th member of baseball’s 500 home run club. He hit numbers 500 and 501 in a loss against Baltimore. The list at the time (* = still active as of 8/10/71):

1. Babe Ruth 714
2. Willie Mays* 643
3. Hank Aaron* 623
4. Mickey Mantle 536
5. Jimmie Foxx 534
6. Ted Williams 521
7. Eddie Matthews 512
8. Ernie Banks* 511
9. Mel Ott 511
10. Harmon Killebrew* 501

Number 500 came on a two-run blast that measured 396 feet into the left-field bleachers at Metropolitan Stadium. Despite Killer’s two homers, the Twins lost in extra innings thanks to a lead off home run by Merv Rettenmud in the top of the 10th inning.

At the time, Killebrew was the fifth youngest player to reach the mark. The youngest had been Jimmie Foxx, with Mays, Aaron, and Ruth also reaching the milestone at a younger age than Killer.

Killebrew hit number 500 in career at-bat number 6,671. At the time, only Babe Ruth had done it with fewer at-bats (5,801).

Today, there are 25 men who have hit 500 major league home runs. Killebrew sits at number nine on the all-time list with 573 career home runs, though he will be number 10 as soon as Alex Rodriguez hits two more.

1976 & 1978: A Couple of Twins Hit for the Cycle

July 24, 2009

Saturday July 24, 1976
Comiskey Park

In a 17-2 Twins victory over the White Sox, Lyman Bostock hit for the cycle. After walking to load the bases in the first inning, Bostock took care of the toughest part of the cycle early when he tripled in the top of the second. The home run came in the fourth inning (with the bases clear). He led off the eighth with a double, and was fortunate that his team batted around because the single came to lead off the ninth inning. Bostock also was credited with a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning.

It was the second cycle of the year for the Twins. Larry Hisle hit for the cycle on June 4.

July 27, 1978
Metropolitan Stadium

Two years and three days later, Mike Cubbage became the fifth player to hit for the cycle since the team began play in Minnesota. The cycle came as part of a Twins 6-3 win over Toronto. Cubbage doubled in the first, hit a two-run home run in the fourth, and singled in the fifth. The triple came in the bottom of the seventh, and scored the Twins’ fifth and sixth runs of the game.