2005: 74 Pitches

May 21, 2012

May 20, 2005

In December 2003 the Twins sent Eric Milton to the Phillies in exchange for Nick Punto, Carlos Silva, and the famous player-to-be-named-later. To that point in his career, Silva had been used only out of the bullpen. The Twins thought he had the stuff to be a starter, and immediately plugged the Venezuelan into the starting rotation. Silva responded with a solid 2004 season in which he won 14 games and allowed only 35 walks in 203 innings pitched.

2005 started out even better for the 26-year-old Silva. In his first six starts he had a 3.77 ERA and had allowed, incredibly, only two walks in 43 innings pitched. Silva was scheduled to go against the Brewers in a Friday night game at the Metrodome on May 20, 2005; but Silva’s pitching performance could have just as likely have happened 100 years earlier.

The game was a perfect combination of a sinking sinker and an opponent that was more than happy to swing at it. Silva allowed just one run and five hits in a complete game victory. The complete game was rare enough, particularly in the Ron Gardenhire era, but that is not what made this effort by Silva special.

At the end of the night, Silva completed the 7-1 Twins’ victory by throwing just 74 pitches, 50 for strikes. It was, and is, the lowest pitch count in a complete game since 2000, when Elias started keeping track of low pitch counts in complete games.

LaVelle E. Neal offered some perspective in his game story in the Star Tribune (5/21/05):

Chew on this for a minute. A pitcher throws eight warmup tosses before each inning. That means Silva entered the ninth inning with 64 warmup throws and 64 actual pitches. And that means he threw more warmup pitches than actual pitches in the first, second, sixth and seventh innings.

Silva finished the 2005 season leading the league with an incredible 0.4 walks per nine inning rate and 7.89 strikeout to walk ratio. His numbers weren’t great in 2006 or 2007, but he managed to get a big contract with Seattle, where he has struggled for the past season and a half.

1988: Brunansky for Herr

April 26, 2012

Originally posted at Tony, the Killer, and Carew on 4/26/2007. For more on the trade, here is the report from my Hot Stove 1988 series a few years back.

April 22, 1988

Fresh off of the club’s first ever World Championship, the Twins’ front office was looking for another. Impatient with the team’s 4-10 start, it seemed inevitable that a shakeup was going to occur. That shakeup was announced shortly after an 11-6 home loss to lowly Cleveland.

The Twins announced that they were trading 27-year old Tom Brunansky, a six-year regular in right field for the Twins, to the Cardinals for 32-year old second baseman Tom Herr.

Brunansky originally came to the Twins from the California Angels in a 1982 trade that sent Doug Corbett and Rob Wilfong to the Angels. Brunansky immediately became the team’s starting right fielder, and didn’t relinquish that spot until he was traded to the Cardinals. The Twins had come to expect pretty consistent numbers from Bruno, who quickly became a fan favorite in Minnesota. He generally only hit in the .240-.250 range, but was a patient hitter and had some power. He started slowly in 1988, batting only .184/.286/.265 with one home run; a line that likely made him expendable in the eyes of GM Andy MacPhail.

The previous fall, Tom Herr had competed against the Twins in the World Series. He batted .250/.300/.357 in seven games against his future team in a losing effort in the series. From the time he had signed as an amateur free-agent as an 19-year-old in 1974, Herr had been a part of the Cardinals’ organization. He had some good offensive seasons, most notably in 1985 when he hit .302/.379/.416 for an NL Championship team; but Herr was mostly known for his glove, although today’s defensive metrics indicate that he was a touch overrated in that department.

Andy MacPhail, quoted by Mark Vancil in the Star Tribune (4/23/88), explained his reasoning.

“It’s tough to do when a guy has done so much for the club for several years,” said MacPhail. “We just felt we needed to improve our balance, and I think Tommy Herr is one of the four or five best second basemen in all of baseball. He gives us a lefthanded bat at the front of the order and he can steal a base.”

It was speculated that this move would be followed by a move sending Steve Lombardozzi away in exchange for a starting pitcher, but that move never came to fruition. Lombo was never a big hitter, and, like most Twins, had a poor start in 1988 (.094/.194/.188 at the time of the trade).

To replace Brunansky in right, the Twins looked to 29-year-old Randy Bush. Bush made his reputation as a versatile back up and a good left-handed pinch hitter, but had few chances to play a regular position with the Twins. Bush figured to give the Twins a similar hitting line as Brunansky, with a lower slugging percentage and fewer home runs.

The 1988 numbers tell part of the story of this trade:

Tom Brunansky STL 143 G .245/.345/.428 22 HR 79 RBI 121 OPS+ 7.6 WARP3
Tom Herr MIN 86 G .263/.349/.326 1 HR 21 RBI 89 OPS+ 2.9 WARP3

The story the numbers don’t tell is that Tom Herr did not want to play for the Twins. The first wind of it showed up in the papers three weeks after the trade, when Herr was quoted saying that he felt like an “intruder” in Minnesota. By the end of May, Herr had already announced that he would not return to the team in 1989. He took a trip on the DL in the middle of the season, though many on the team and in the media privately believed that the injury may have been in Herr’s head.

The Twin Cities media had passed judgment on Herr, and the writing was on the wall. Herr was eventually traded to Philadelphia as part of the deal that brought Shane Rawley to the Twins. The Twins had some trouble filling the second base position for several years, and didn’t really settle on a regular until Chuck Knoblauch’s rookie season in 1991.

The immediate impact of the trade looked horrible for the Twins, but as the years passed history was a little more kind to MacPhail. Brunansky lasted in the majors until 1994. Aside from a mini-resurgence with the Red Sox in 1992, he never really returned the the form that had made him a favorite in Minnesota. The Twins ultimately got one poor season from Tom Herr and one poor season from Shane Rawley in exchange for Bruno. While it wasn’t as bad as it initially looked, it is not one of the proudest trades in Twins’ history.

1988: “Bean Ball” Blyleven

April 24, 2012

Friday April 22, 1988

In a losing effort against the Cleveland Indians at the Metrodome, Bert Blyleven tied a league record by beaning four Cleveland batters. Blyleven also hit the final batter he faced on the day.

He started on his record pace quickly, hitting Julio Franco on the second pitch of the game. He also hit Ron Kittle in the first inning. Both Franco and Kittle came around to score in the inning (along with just about every other member of the Cleveland lineup).

In all, it was a forgettable day for Bert Blyleven.

Bert made another run at history when he hit three Oakland A’s in the same inning on September 28 of the same year.

1983: Deflated

April 16, 2012

April 14, 1983

For the third time in its brief history, the Metrodome deflated.

The first time it happened was in November of 1981, just weeks after the dome was inflated for the first time. The cause was a 10-inch snowfall.

A little more than a year later, in December of 1982, the roof collapsed again, this time as a result of melting snow.

An April snowfall in 1983 didn’t figure to cause too many problems for the roof. Snow removal at the time was handled by people on the roof with shovels. One of the shovelers ran into a chunk of ice which tore a hole in the roof as the crew attempted to move it. The roof deflated on the evening of April 14. Though there was a game scheduled that night, it had been already been canceled due to the fact that the California Angels weren’t able to fly in due to the winter storm.

Though it was the last time that the roof collapsed, the issue was not dead. Seven years later, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission was awarded $3.6 million in damages from the Dome’s builders.

The roof, of course, collapsed one more time in December of 2010. By that time the Twins had already played a season in their new home, and didn’t have to worry about the dome anymore.

1982: RD

April 9, 2012

Ed: I originally wrote this in 2007, but have reposted it several times. I don’t get a large amount of comments here, but I have to excerpt this one from a 2009 version of this same post from a commenter named “hurt for life”:

Oh God, do I remember RD. RD is an icon. Any given ineffectual relief pitcher the Twins now bring in is to be referred to as RD. The year is 1984….

…I’ll omit the details about 1984 blown saves….

I made an oath at this time: I will not listen to the Twins until RD is GONE. It took one entire year plus, until I could listen again.

April 10, 1982

The Twins traded veteran infielder Roy Smalley to the New York Yankees for relief pitcher Ron Davis and minor leaguers Greg Gagne (SS) and Paul Boris (P).

Ever since the mid-1960’s, the Twins have had a revolving door for players to fill the role of “bullpen ace”. The most recent was Doug Corbett, who filled the role pretty admirably in 1980 and 1981 (220 and 154 ERA+, respectively).

In early 1982, the Twins went into full cost-cutting mode (or “build for the future” mode, depending on your point of view), and unloaded a lot of veteran players. Roy Smalley was the first to go.

Smalley came into the league with Texas in 1975. He came to the Twins in 1976 as a part of the deal that sent Bert Blyleven to Texas. The second-generation ballplayer put up solid if unspectacular numbers in his first stint with the Twins (’76-’82); his best season being 1978 when he went .273/.362/.433 and had a 122 OPS+ and 10.4 WARP3.

In exchange for Smalley, the Twins got something they really didn’t seem to need and a couple of minor leaguers. With Corbett pitching so well in previous years, it seemed odd that Davis was the player the Twins went after. About a month later, a struggling Corbett was traded to California in exchange for a couple of young players (including Tom Brunansky) and cash.

Though Corbett had been good for the Twins, Davis had been even more impressive for the Yankees. As a rookie in 1979, he compiled a 14-2 record with 2.85 ERA (144 ERA+). In 1981, he was able to strike out 13 of 15 batters he faced in one three-game stretch of appearances. Davis did it all as a middle reliever, however. The role of closer in New York belonged to Goose Gossage.

The trade represented a chance for Davis to be a closer. This is what he had been waiting for. Instead, the trade in 1982 marked the beginning of the most miserable seasons of his career.

It wasn’t so much that his numbers were bad in his tenure with the Twins. They were actually pretty good until his final season with the team:

1982 3-9 4.42 96 3.8
1983 5-8 3.34 128 5.8
1984 7-11 4.55 92 3.5
1985 2-6 3.48 126 4.0
1986 2-6 9.08 47 -1.2

The numbers weren’t Davis’ problem. His difficulties seem to come from the fact that he tended to blow saves in memorable ways. He quickly earned a reputation for blowing leads in big games, a legend that seems to have been fanned by the local media. One of RD’s critics during his Twins years, Patrick Reusse, still seemed bitter years later when he recalled some of the memorable blown saves on the 20th Anniversary of the trade that sent Davis out of town to the Cubs.


Two words: Jamie Quirk

Sept. 27, 1984: Davis relieved Mike Smithson with two runners on in the bottom of the eighth and the Twins leading 3-1 at Cleveland. Both runners scored and, with the score tied in the bottom of the ninth, Davis gave up a two-out home run to Jamie Quirk, who was making his only plate appearance in a one-week stint with the Indians. The game basically eliminated the Twins from the AL West race.


Saturday the 13th

April 13, 1985: The Twins led the Mariners 7-4 in the bottom of the ninth inning. Davis came in with a runner on and no outs, struck out two and walked two, then gave up a game-winning grand slam to Phil Bradley.


Monday the 13th

May 13, 1985: The Twins led 8-6 in the bottom of the ninth at Yankee Stadium. With two outs and a runner on, Ken Griffey walked and Don Mattingly hit a three-run home run for a 9-8 victory.


Roof collapses, then Twins collapse

April 26, 1986: The roof collapsed at the Metrodome, causing a delay in the bottom of the eighth inning. In the top of the ninth, with a 6-1 lead, Frank Viola gave up a two-run homer to the Angels’ George Hendrick. Davis relieved. Rob Wilfong singled and Ruppert Jones homered. Davis walked Reggie Jackson and, with two outs, Wally Joyner homered. The Angels won 7-6.


Ifs, ands and butts

May 19, 1986: The Twins led the Red Sox 7-6 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth at Fenway Park when Marty Barrett walked and Wade Boggs doubled. Bill Buckner was intentionally walked, loading the bases. Davis walked Jim Rice, forcing in the tying run, then hit Marc Sullivan in the butt, bringing in the winning run.

The fact that Reusse and the editors at the Star Tribune felt the need, 20 years later, to mark the Anniversary of the Davis trade by remembering his top blown saves is indicative of the strong feelings that still exist in this town towards Davis.

It is surprising, then, to learn that Davis was 106 for 134 in save opportunities during his Twins career, a 79% rate of success. Take away his miserable 1986 season, when he was successful in only two of eight save situations, and Davis converted 83% of his save opportunities. Not a great number, but it certainly seems high for a guy who, based on reputation, couldn’t save a game if his life depended on it (in 1987, Jeff Reardon was called the team MVP by many with only 77% of his save opportunities converted).

Whether he deserved it or not, most of the negative feelings of Twins fans over the course of some losing seasons fell squarely on the shoulder of Ron Davis. It was a relief to him when he was traded to the Cubs late in the 1986 season.

As for the other players involved in the 1982 trade the brought Davis to Minnesota: Roy Smalley ended up back with the Twins for the 1985 season. Paul Boris pitched in 23 games for the Twins, all in 1982, and that was the extent of his career. Greg Gagne became the everyday shortstop by 1985 and had a long and productive career with the Twins, including a big role on the two World Series teams in 1987 and 1991.

1974: A Royal Beating

April 4, 2012

April 6, 1974

After defeating the Royals a day earlier in the season opener, the Twins took one on the chin in game two of the 1974 season.

Bill Hands started the game on the mound for the Twins, but his day was over after just 2/3 of an inning. In that time he allowed seven runs on seven hits, including six singles and a double. Additionally, Hands hit first baseman Paul Schaal with a pitch, and allowed a stolen base to Freddie Patek. The only two outs Hands recorded both came on strikeouts.

Patek had a particularly good first inning. He singled twice, both off of Hands, knocked in two runs, and stole two bases (the second came with Ray Corbin on the mound). Corbin temporarily stopped the bleeding when he got Jim Wohlford to ground out for the third out of the inning.

After the Twins went down in order in the second inning, Corbin ran into some trouble of his own. The Royals added three more on Hal McRae’s home run. Though Corbin made it through the second, he would not return for the third with is team down 10-0.

Larry Hisle singled home a run in the top of the third. Danny Fife came in relief and finally held the Royals scoreless in the bottom of the third inning. A Steve Braun three run home run in the top of the fourth cut into the Kansas City lead, which was cut even further when Bobby Darwin hit a two run home run in the fifth. The score was 10-6 and the Twins looked as though they might make a game of it.

That all changed, however, when Danny Fife ran into trouble in the bottom of the fifth. Kansas City added six more runs to take a 16-6 lead. The Royals went on to score three more in the sixth, one in the seventh, and three again in the eighth. The final tally was a 23-6 Royals’ victory.

The 23 runs allowed was a record for the Twins that still stands today. There has been only one other occasion on which the Twins have allowed more than 20.

1996: An April Fool’s Joke on the Twins

April 2, 2012

April 2, 1996

The second game of the 1996 regular season provided one of the most unique stolen bases in major league history. The play itself was unspectacular. Up by 3 in the top of the 9th inning, the Tigers called for a hit-and-run with one out and Melvin Nieves at the plate. On a 3-2 delivery by Twins pitcher Dan Naulty, the runner at 1st base took off. Nieves offered at the pitch but failed to make contact. Catcher Greg Myers fired to second base, but the throw nicked the runner’s batting helmet and kicked off the heal of shortstop Pat Meares’ glove, allowing the runner to slide safely into second for a stolen base.

What was remarkable about the play, however, was that it ended the longest recorded streak of games played without a stolen base. The runner had been involved in 1,096 games prior, and was 0-for-5 in stolen base attempts. The runner was also listed anywhere between 230 and 250 pounds, though most observers thought he was closer to 300. After the game, Cecil Fielder suggested that maybe his manager would start moving him more often now that he had a stolen base under his wings. He may have been on to something, because later that season he successfully stole his second base, the last of his career.

1905: Washington Nationals

March 30, 2012

March 29, 1905

Prior to the introduction of the American League onto the sporting public in 1901, there was a National League franchise in Washington that from 1891-1899 went by the nickname “Senators.” Before settling on Senators, the team went by “Statesmen” and “Nationals” in previous incarnations, but neither of those names stuck longer than a few years. By the time the National League Washington Senators disappeared in 1899, the name “Washington Senators” was established as the name for the baseball team in the D.C. area.

When the Washington American League club was established, they were essentially without an official nickname. Newspapers didn’t really go for the name “Washington American League club” so, out of habit perhaps, they were stuck with the label “Senators.”

In 1905, the team’s owner Thomas C. Noyes made an effort to distance his team from the National League version of the Senators by allowing a committee of writers to vote for a new nickname. On March 29, 1905, just prior to the start of the team’s fifth season, the writers voted to call the team “Washington Nationals.”

For 50 years, the club’s official nickname was “Nationals.” They were rarely called that, however, in large part because the very writers who voted for the new nickname had such trouble applying it the actual team. Through the years the references to the Senators in the newspapers outnumbered the references to the official nickname. Finally, in 1955, Calvin Griffith made the name official, changing the team from the “Nationals” to the “Senators.”

For more on the history and a little of my personal venting, here is my original post on the matter.

1996: Puckett’s Last Game

March 28, 2012

Originally posted in March 2007

March 28, 1996
The concern over Kirby Puckett in the spring of 1996 was starting to change to optimism. Puckett took a Dennis Martinez pitch to the jaw at the end of the 1995 season, and there was some fear among Twins’ fans that Puckett may never be the same. Spring training 1996 was a chance for Puckett to show that he was the same hitter he had always been. The spring numbers seemed to foreshadow another great season for Puckett. That all changed one day before the team planned to break camp.

On Thursday morning, March 28, Puckett woke up with a strange spot in the middle of his vision on the right side, and everything seemed just a bit blurry. From Jim Souhan’s story a few days later in the Star Tribune:

Puckett sounded doubtful that he will be able to play on Monday, when the Twins will open the season at the Metrodome against the Detroit Tigers.

“My right eye is my dominant eye,” he said. “If it was my left eye, then I think I’d be able to hit. But I need my right eye. I can’t hit right now. I’ll have to wait and see what happens.”

Puckett was placed on the 15-day disabled list, and all indication suggested that he would return when that time was up, April 12. As the date approached, it became more clear that Puckett’s vision problem was not going away as soon as expected.

The saga played out through the first half of the Twins’ 1996 season. Puckett was eventually diagnosed with glaucoma, and the severity was such that he ultimately retired from baseball in July.


Baseball Library

Souhan, Jim. “Vision problems might keep Puckett from Twins’ opener” Star Tribune 3/29/1996.

1992: Twins Acquire Smiley

March 19, 2012

ed. Most of this is lifted from a post here on 3/17/2007, but added some details this time around

March 17, 1992

Frank Viola spent enough time in the National League to know what a pitcher named John Smiley can do. Frankie V. also spent enough time in a certain American League clubhouse to know what Tom Kelly can do with a pitcher like Smiley.

“To go out and get a 20-game winner, without giving up a major leaguer, that’s pretty incredible,” Viola said. “Andy MacPhail has pulled off some good ones and this is, too. This guy’s not a No. 1 starter, but he’s a quality pitcher and he’s going to give you 210 or 220 innings. He’s a guy who only is going to give you five or six innings before tiring out. But for the way TK plays his team and works his bullpen, he’s going to be perfect for the club. The Twins are going to be right in the middle of it again.”

-From Dan Barreiro’s column in the Star Tribune 3/18/92

The World Champion Twins sent minor leaguers Denny Neagle and Midre Cummings to the reigning NL East Champion Pittsburgh Pirates for 20-game winner John Smiley. The move was universally considered a great one by Andy MacPhail for a franchise who just lost Jack Morris to free agency. Conventional wisdom, at a time when pitcher wins were still considered the way to evaluate a pitcher, said that getting a 20-game winner for two minor-leaguers was a great move.

The 27-year old Smiley had a good season with the Twins in 1992, perhaps his best. He finished 16-9 with a 3.21 ERA (127 ERA+) and a career-best 1.20 WHIP. He also had career bests in K/9 innings (7.3) and WARP3 (7.5). Jack Morris, on the other hand, had a high-profile season with the Blue Jays, but ended with an ERA+ of only 102.

Smiley didn’t hang around long after the Twins finished second in the AL West in 1992. He signed with the Cincinnati Reds where he played all but one of his remaining seasons.

Midre Cummings spent five seasons in Pittsburgh, but never was an every-day player. He had somewhat of a breakout season in 1997 between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, but never really returned to that form. He came back to Minnesota for a stint in 1999 and 2000, and ended his career after the 2005 season with a career .257/.318/.385 line.

Denny Neagle went on to have a solid pitching career. The former Golden Gopher had his first good season in 1995 with Pittsburgh. He traveled around a bit, had his best season with Atlanta in 1997 (20-7 2.97 ERA, finished third in NL Cy Young voting, 7.4 WARP3), and finished his career with some tough years in the thin air of Colorado.

The Twins got a good pitcher for a season in which they were contenders, and the immediate results seemed positive. Once Smiley left and Denny Neagle began to establish himself, it became more difficult to evaluate the trade.

It is unlikely that Neagle would have stayed in a Twins uniform his entire career, particularly considering that his prime came during the lean years in Minnesota. John Smiley was able to help the Twins in 1992, a year in which they had World Series hopes.


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