Twin Power

May 18, 2014

Beau left this comment in response to The Franchise 1998 (Part 1):

I know it’s been beat to death, but what’s the prevailing theory as to why the Twins haven’t had a lot of boppers? Unlike the Royals, the Twins have had success lately, and even then, there wasn’t a lot of homers.

Many blame the Twins philosophy on stunting David Ortiz. Perhaps that’s partly true, but if Ortiz had flashed 50 homer power early on, I think the Twins would have let him do that.

Has it just been the lack of focusing on power in the draft? Or is home run power too hard to predict that early on?

Also, go Sano!

I figured this is worth its own post.

When the franchise first moved to Minnesota in 1961, the team had several boppers and were at or above league average in home runs every season from 1961-1967, including AL-leading totals in 1963 and 1964. In 1968, when nobody hit home runs, they were slightly below the AL average, then were above average in the two years in which they won the division (1969, 1970).

The 1971 season began a stretch in which the team was below league average in home runs 14 out of 15 years, with the lone exception being the 1983 season when they hit 141 home runs and the league average was 136.

Then, 1986 happened. The Twins hit 196 home runs, just two behind the league leading Detroit Tigers. They hit the same number in 1987, but that is the crazy outlier year when balls started flying out of parks everywhere, so they only had the 5th most home runs in the league (Detroit led again with 225). By 1989 the team was back below average. In  1991, the Twins were the league average home run team with 140.

Since 1991, the Twins have been above the AL average mark in home runs exactly once: 2004. They were dead last in 2011 and 2012.

One season in the last 22.

While 30, 40, and 50 home run players have been a dime a dozen in baseball since 1991, the Twins have produced exactly six seasons of 30 or more home runs for a single player (Morneau 2006, 2007, and 2009; Hunter 2006; Cuddyer 2009; Willingham 2012). Not a single Twin has hit more than 40 home runs in a season since Harmon Killebrew hit 41 in 1970.

Beau’s question, of course, is why this has been the case.

It does not appear to be a function of park factors. While Target field has slightly favored pitchers in its short history, the Metrodome averaged out to be a park that slightly favored batters. Neither park has been a launching pad but they weren’t exactly Yellowstone to the rest of the league either.

So, it’s the players. Is that the way the Twins prefer to draft them, or have they just had bad luck?

Seems to me like it might be a little bit of both. There was a time when it was common to hear Dick and Bert drop the old cliche about pitching and defense, or how you can’t expect to hit home runs every game but you can always bring speed to the ballpark. There is certainly an organizational emphasis on fundamentals, but it is hard to imagine that any team would completely avoid all power hitters.






Triple Triples II

July 7, 2010

It has been almost a week since Denard Span became the 29th player in major league baseball history to hit three triples. To put that in perspective, there have been 21 perfect games in major league history, so it is a feat just slightly more common than the perfect game.

The Minnesota/Washington franchise has been involved in five of those games – three times on the “right” side, including Span’s game.

The last time a member of the Minnesota Twins hit three triples in a game was on July 3, 1980 when Ken Landreaux did it against the Texas Rangers.

One of the more recent occurences came at the expense of the Twins. Lance Johnson, then with the Chicago White Sox, hit three triples in a 14-4 win late in the 1995 season.

Interestingly, all three events were home games for the Twins, one at each of the parks the team has called home.

Washington was involved twice, once when Joe Kuhel did it against the White Sox in 1937, and once when the Nats were the victims of Charlie Gehringer and the rest of the Tigers in a 21-5 loss in 1929. Since Gehringer had his three triples at Griffith Stadium, that makes four ballparks in franchise history that have played host to a three-triple game.

Franchise WAR Leaders

April 7, 2010

via Twinkie Town, a list of the Washington/Minnesota all-time WAR leaders.

WAR (wins above replacement) is the stat-du-jour for baseball geeks these days, so it is kind of fun to look at the list that includes players from the entire 110 year existence of the Twins/Nats franchise.

First, top ten position players:

1. Rod Carew 62.7
2. Harmon Killebrew 61.4
3. Sam Rice 51.0
4. Kirby Puckett 44.8
5. Joe Judge 43.5
6. Tony Oliva 42.4
7. Goose Goslin 41.4
8. Buddy Myer 39.4
9. Joe Cronin 35.5
10. Chuck Knoblauch 35.4

More recent/current players are 14. Joe Mauer 33.1 and 30. Torii Hunter 16.9.

Now pitchers:

1. Walter Johnson 127.7
2. Bert Blyleven 45.7
3. Brad Radke 41.4
4. Johan Santana 32.1
5. Camilo Pascual 30.5
6. Jim Kaat 26.7
7. Frank Viola 24.5
8. Firpo Marberry 23.8
9. Dave Goltz 23.7
10. Dutch Leonard 23.5

The gap between Johnson and the rest is sizable.

Click on the link for the whole list, but here is where it gets interesting to me: when considered as a rate stat, WAR ranks two current Twins on top of the respective lists. Joe Mauer tops the position players with 7.83 WAR/700 PA. Joe Nathan tops pitchers with 9.46 WAR/200 IP. For what it’s worth Walter Johnson ranks fifth among pitchers with 4.32 WAR/200 IP.

2010 Game 1: Angels 6, Twins 3

April 6, 2010

Some notes from Game 1:

-According to WPA (here is the graph from B-R), three of the five most important plays were Delmon Young plate appearances. The two-run home run was at the top of the list, and the major positive play for the Twins. Almost canceling that out, however, were his GIDP to end the 8th inning and the flyout with the bases loaded in the 6th. It is fair to say that in this game, the Twins lived and died with Delmon Young.

-The loss ends the Twins’ five-game regular season winning streak that dates back to the loss on September 30th, 2009 to the Tigers, and includes last year’s tiebreaker win.

-If one were prone to worry about the individual statlines from a single game, one might draw the conclusion that the Twins were a bit premature in letting Carlos Gomez go (especially considering the 0-for-5 with 3 strikeout performance of the current occupant of centerfield). Still, it is good to see Gomez having success with his new team.

-Billy Crystal’s SNL character Fernando used to say that it’s “better to look good then to feel good” and I would say that is a positive from this game because the Twins’ new road unis look “mahvelous.”

-Among the other bright spots from a tough night for the Twins were the performances of Jesse Crain and Pat Neshek – both of whom are even more important in a Nathan-less environment, but particularly Neshek who made his first major league appearance in close to two years.

-For what it’s worth, here is the AL Central Standings after one game(W-L, R-RA, GB):
Chi 1-0, 6-0, –
Det 1-0, 8-4, –
Min 0-1, 3-6, 1
KC 0-1, 4-8, 1
Cle 0-1, 0-6, 1

2010 Twins Similarity Scores Lineup

March 30, 2010

I enjoy comparing players using similarity scores, the stat invented by Bill James but made more accessible by It can put a player’s career in perspective, particularly when reviewing those most similar by age. A comparison starts with 1000 points. Then, points are subtracted for differences in statistics. Additionally, points are subtracted for different positions – so a player is more likely to have players at the same position on his list (here’s more).

Here is the 2010 Twins lineup and the player with the highest age-equivalent similarity score. The Twins players’ names are linked to a statistical comparison of the top 10 similar players at the same age.

1. Denard Span CF – Most similar through age 25: Homer Summa. Also of note on the list are Ken Griffey Sr.  and Lyman Bostock. Summa played for 10 years and ended with a .346 OBP. Hopefully Span will out-perform those numbers in a long career with the Twins.

2. Orlando Hudson 2B – Most similar through age 31: Todd Walker. Terrible memories of those late ’90s teams. Also on the list are Carlos Guillen and Adam Kennedy.

3. Joe Mauer C – Most similar through age 26: Bill Dickey. The catchers on the rest of the list sort of indicates the two ways things can go from here (I include non-catchers as well because, well, it’s interesting): 2. Yogi Berra, 3. Jason Kendall, 4. Mickey Cochrane, 5. Derek Jeter, 6. Frankie Hayes, 7. Shanty Hogan, 8. Tony Lazzeri, 9. Robinson Cano, 10. Joe Torre.

4. Justin Morneau 1B – Most similar through age 28: Paul Konerko. Ugh, Richie Sexson is on the list as well (number 4). I like the comparison with Hrbek (number 8) and I would be okay if that were to hold up.

5. Jason Kubel DH – Most similar through age 27: Jason Giambi. Former Twins similar to Kubel through 27: Pedro Munoz (4), Marty Cordova (6) and Butch Huskey (10).

6. Michael Cuddyer RF – Most similar through age 30: Milton Bradley. Obviously similarity scores do not account for personality. Maybe if Bradley had gotten into magic…

7. Delmon Young LF – Most similar through age 23: Carlos May. Perhaps some hope for Delmon in that future HOF’ers Carl Yastrzemski (2) and Roberto Clemente (7) were similar in their first few years.

8. J.J. Hardy SS – Most similar through age 26: Miguel Tejada. Interestingly, Orlando Cabrera, the guy Hardy replaces, is number 5 on the list.

9. Nick Punto 3B – Most similar through 31: Chick Fewster. Chick might not be a bad nickname for Punto, though it should be noted that Fewster did not play in the majors past age 31.

So, the lineup most similar to the Twins (based on 2009 numbers) would be Summa, Walker, Dickey, Konerko, Giambi, Bradley, May, Tejada, and Fewster.

Where does Mauer’s 2009 season stand among Twins greats?

October 9, 2009

With all of the excitement of the Twins’ late season comeback to overtake the Tigers, it has been easy to overlook the historic nature of the season that Joe Mauer posted in 2009. There will certainly be more time for this later, after what hopefully becomes a deep run into the playoffs, but it is worth taking an initial look at some numbers.

Twins single-season VORP leaders (taken partially from SBG’s work):
1. Chuck Knoblauch 1996 – 99.3
2. Rod Carew 1977 – 92.4
3. Joe Mauer 2009 – 91.0
4. Rod Carew 1974 – 75.4
5. Harmon Killebrew 1969 – 75.2
6. Kirby Puckett 1988 – 75.1

Mauer is in good company in a number that only measures offense. Knoblauch’s 1996 campaign was off the charts, and I still don’t think that he gets the credit for just how dominant he was that season (part of the reason, of course, is what happened after). One would guess that this list would be littered with Carews, Killebrews, and Pucketts. Now, some more traditional numbers:

1. Carew 1977 .449
2. Knoblauch 1996 .448
3. Mauer 2009 .444

1. Killebrew 1961 .606
2. Mauer 2009 .587
3. Killebrew 1969 .584

So not only is Mauer right up there with the two seasons you would expect on the OBP list, he is right up there in the all time great slugging seasons, eclipsed only by some guy named Killebrew. Interesting…

1. Mauer 2009 1.031
2. Carew 1977 1.019
3. Killebrew 1961 1.012
4. Killebrew 1969 1.011

I wasn’t aware that Joe Mauer’s 2009 season was the top OPS season in Twins history. I guess you won’t hear that from Dick and Bert. What about if you adjust those numbers relative to context.

Adjusted OPS+
1. Carew 1977 178
2t. Mauer 2009 177
2t. Killebrew 1969 177

Just about indistinguishable from the two seasons that are largely considered the best in Twins history.

So it is safe to say, then, that Joe Mauer’s 2009 season ranks right up there with the greatest in Twins history. Among the four that popped up in most of the lists above (Killer 1969, Carew 1977, Knoblauch 1996, Mauer 2009), Mauer had the fewest plate appearances, 88 fewer than the next closest due to missing the month of May:

Killebrew 1960 709
Knoblauch 1996 701
Carew 1977 694
Mauer 2009 606

Some of Mauer’s counting stats, including VORP, are going to look a little less impressive due to the time off. Still, he stacks up favorably in many of those categories.

Still, none of the stats above take defensive value into account. Given that Mauer plays the most demanding position on the defensive spectrum, you would think that accounting for defense might put him over the top. WARP3 does account for defense (flawed as is might be):

Killebrew 1969 8.7
Carew 1977 9.4
Puckett 1988 8.9
Knoblauch 1996 9.9
Mauer 2009 10.5

It is not hard, looking at these numbers, to jump to the conclusion that we just witnessed the greatest individual season by a position player in Twins history. I would imagine that Mauer in 2009 compares favorably to the greatest pitching seasons in team history as well.

Top Single-Season Batting Among Catchers: 2009 Update

October 7, 2009

since 1900

1. mauer2.jpgJoe Mauer 2009 .365

2. piazza.jpgMike Piazza LA 1997 .362
3. dickey.jpgBill Dickey NYY 1936 .362*
4. cochrane.jpgMickey Cochrane PHA 1930 .357
5. davis.jpgSpud Davis PHN 1933 .349
6. Mickey Cochrane PHA 1931 .349
7. Joe Mauer MIN 2006 .347
8. Mike Piazza LA 1995 .346
9. lombardi.jpgErnie Lombardi CIN 1938 .342
10. hartnett.jpgGabby Hartnett CHC 1930 .339

*Bill Dickey was a few plate appearances  short of qualifying for the batting title in 1936 (3.1 PA’s per team game required; Dickey = 3.06 PA’s per game)

1969: A Very Good Inning

June 25, 2009

June 21, 1969

The Minnesota Twins and the Oakland A’s were tied 3-3 after nine innings of play at the Oakland Coliseum.

Ted Uhlaender singled to center field off of A’s reliever Paul Lindblad to start the inning.

Rod Carew followed with a single to right.

Harmon Killebrew sent a shot over the left field wall to put the Twins ahead 6-3, but they weren’t finished yet.

The Twins would score 8 more runs in the inning, for a total of 11. If that is not incredible enough, here are some numbers from that inning:

11 runs
8 hits
1 home run
7 singles
3 walks
3 Oakland errors
7 earned runs
16 Twins plate appearances
3 Oakland pitchers

The inning mercifully ended when Leo Cardenas hit a line drive to the pitcher, who caught Frank Quilici off of first for the double play.

The 11 runs were a record for most runs scored in an extra inning. The combined 12 runs in the 10th inning was also a record.

Here is the full boxscore.

Franchise All Time OBP

June 10, 2009

Fun with

OBP – Player – Years w/franchise

1. .405 Joe Mauer 2004-2009
2. .393 Rod Carew 1967-1978
3. .393 Buddy Myer 1925-1927; 1929-1941
4. .392 John Stone 1934-1938
5. .391 Chuck Knoblauch 1991-1997
6. .389 Eddie Yost 1944; 1946-1958
7. .387 Joe Cronin 1928-1934
8. .386 Goose Goslin 1921-1930; 1933; 1938
9. .382 Muddy Ruel 1923-1930
10. .379 Matt Lawton 1995-2001

The top two were pretty easy to guess. I was surprised to find that Harmon Killebrew was not in the top 10 (he checks in at 12 with a .378 OBP). Among the names I didn’t expect to see on this list were John Stone and Matt Lawton. The only other active player in the top 50 is Justin Morneau – #38 with .353 OBP.

2006 Playoffs Redux: ALCS Game 7

May 28, 2009

Wednesday October 18, 2006

Twins’ Season Ends in Extra Innings, Monroe Sends Twins Packing with Two Home Runs

Just days ago the Twins had a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and what seemed like an absurd advantage with Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano scheduled to pitch Games 5 and 6. That the series even made it to a seventh game was a miracle by the Tigers, and they completed the run with a dramatic Game 7 victory highlighted by Craig Monroe’s 10th inning, game winning home run – his second of the game.

Things looked better for the Twins early in the game. With Kenny Rogers on the mound, Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer each knocked in first inning runs, both on ground ball singles.

Then in the second inning, the multi-time Gold Glove winner Kenny Rogers committed two consecutive errors to allow the Twins a 3-0 lead.

Though Radke was perfect the first time through the Detroit lineup, Craig Monroe got to him in the fourth inning with a two-run home run. The score remained 3-2 until the ninth inning.

Joe Nathan had come on to pitch in the top of the eighth with two outs. He promptly retired Magglio Ordonez on a lazy fly ball. The Twins had a lead with Joe Nathan on the mound entering the ninth, about as automatic as it gets. In this series, however, nothing has been automatic for the Twins. Carlos Guillen led off the inning with a double. The next batter, Ivan Rodriguez, took a Nathan pitch between Hunter and Cuddyer for a run scoring triple. With the score tied, Alexis Gomez hit a sacrifice fly to right. Though Nathan retired the next two batters, the Twins entered the bottom of the ninth trailing by one.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Luis Castillo provided some hope when he lined a single to left off of Todd Jones. Nick Punto followed with a single of his own, pushing Castillo to third. Joe Mauer lined the thid consecutive Twins hit to right to tie the score, and Cuddyer grounded out to send the game into extra innings and set up Monroe’s heroics for the Tigers.

Box and Play-by-play below the fold

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