Thursday, February 15, 2007
Top 10 Twins Hitters of the '90s
Are you a bandwagon Twins fan, or are you a true Twins fan? Well, if you're over the age of 25 and you admit to being a big Twins fan even in the 1990s, you are a true Twins fan. The Twins were the worst team in the American League in 1990. They won the World Series in 1991. Their best season of the decade came in 1992. And after that, it was not good times for the Twins or their fans. But that's not to say that there weren't still plenty of quality players hitting for the Twins during the decade. Today, I thought I would share my choices for the Top 10 Twins hitters of the 1990s. To be eligible, a player only had to be on the Twins roster in more than two seasons and 1,000 at bats. Chili Davis would be nearly a Top 10 choice, but since he only played for the Twins in 1991 and 1992, I took him off my ballot. So, let's get right to the list with a Tie for #10.
*Note - all stats only include the 1990-1999 seasons. Statistics from the '80s or '00s not included.
#10 (Tie) Rich Becker, OF, and Pedro Munoz, OF
This was a tough one to decide between the two, so I went with both of them. Pedro Munoz was a solid role player for the Twins from 1990-1995. He showed some power, but was very slow and poor defensively. He comes in 10th place in Games Played for the decade. His .275 batting average was 8th, but his .444 slugging percentage ranks 5th. His 61 home runs are tied for fifth in the decade.
Becker was a very good outfielder for the Twins from 1993-1997. Although he was only a regular for two seasons, he was really very good in those two seasons. I know he is the brunt of some Twins jokes, but in 1996, Becker hit .291/.372/.434 with 31 doubles, 12 homers and 71 RBI. He stole 19 bases in 24 attempts. The lone negative with Becker was his frequent strikeouts. In 525 at bats, he struck out 118 times. In 1997, he hit .264 with an impressive .354 on-base percentage. However, he struck out 130 times in just 443 at bats. That was his final season with the Twins. Becker's .267 batting average ranked 9th in the decade, but his .349 on-base percentage is 7th. He had 51 stolen bases, which was 5th best for the decade.
#9 Paul Molitor, DH
Molitor came back home in 1996 to play for the Twins, and to play with Kirby Puckett. Unfortunately, he never got that chance. In 1996, he put together an excellent season. He hit .341 with a league-leading 225 hits. He hit over 300 in two of his three seasons. In his three years, he hit .312 which is tied with Kirby Puckett for tops in the decade. His .362 on base percentage ranks 6th, one point behind Puckett, to my surprise. His .432 slugging percentage ranks seventh. His 530 hits ranked 8th, as did his 271 RBI and 237 Runs. His 38 stolen bases ranked 10th.
#8 Pat Meares, SS
I remember when the Twins came out with their protective list for the Expansion Draft of 1992 and Pat Meares was on it. He was an unknown at that time. However, he was the Twins shortstop from 1993 to 1998. He was very solid defensively, but well below average offensively. Meares played in 742 games for the Twins in the decade which ranked third. He also ranks third with 2,464 at bats. 653 hits ranks fourth for the decade. He also tied Chili Davis for 10th in HR with 41. He ranks sixth in RBI (303) and 5th in Runs Scored (304). His 42 stolen bases ranks 8th.
#7 Marty Cordova, OF
Cordova came into the league and won the 1995 AL Rookie of the Year Award by narrowly edging out the Angels' Garrett Anderson. He came back with a solid 116 RBI sophomore season. However, it seemed that after that, he just got too muscle-bound and became injury-prone and never was the same again. Cordova ranks fifth in Games Played (628), 4th in At Bats (2,322), 8th in batting average (.277), 8th in on-base percentage (.348), 3rd in slugging percentage (.451), 5th in hits (643), 3rd in home runs (79), 3rd in RBI (385), 4th in runs scored (336) and 4th in stolen bases (52).
#6 Matt Lawton, OF
Matt Lawton was an incredibly underrated player with the Twins starting in 1995. Like Rich Becker, his ability to take a walk and get on base was not noticed. Lawton is the lone member of the Soul Patrol on this list as both Torii Hunter and Jacque Jones arrived too late to be included. For the decade of the '90s, Lawton ranks 9th in Games played (512) and 9th in at bats (1,735). Despite just a .264 batting average, his .367 on-base percentage ranks third for the decade. His .416 slugging percentage is tied for 10th. He also ranks 10th in hits (458), 7th in home runs (49), 10th in RBI (245), 7th in runs scored (268), and third in stolen bases (54).
#5 Brian Harper, C
Harper may get a bonus point or two for being part of the 1991 World Series championship team. OK, maybe not, but he was one of the key cogs on that team. Harper could definitely hit. In three of his four seasons (thru 1993) with the Twins, he hit over .300. He rarely struck out, leading the league in AB per strikeout twice and finishing second once. Of course, part of that was because he swung at everything and never walked. He hit .381 in the 1991 World Series. He ranks in the Top 10 in many statistical categories for the decade. He ranks 7th in Games Played (544), 7th in At Bats (1,952), tied for 4th in Batting Average (.304), 10th in on-base percentage (.339), 8th in slugging percentage (.428), 6th in hits (593), 9th in RBI (269) and 9th in Runs Scored (225).
#4 Kent Hrbek, 1B
Hrbek is another hometown hero. He had an excellent career, and it very quietly ended with the strike of 1994. He was certainly no longer at his best once the '90s started. Twice he had batting averages under .250 and he too fought injuries. However, in his five seasons in the '90s, he stills ranks high in many statistical categories including Isolated Discipline. He ranks 6th in Games Played (591), 6th in at bats (2,014), 10th in batting average (.267), 4th in on-base percentage (.365), 4th in slugging percentage (.449), 7th in Hits (537), 2nd in Home Runs (92), 4th in RBI (362) and 6th in Runs Scored (279).
#3 Shane Mack, OF
If not for that Johan Santana guy, Shane Mack would still be a pretty good guy to show that the Twins have done well in a previous Rule V draft. After struggling in the Padres system, the Twins selected Mack in December of 1989, and it was great for them. Right away in 1990, he hit .326. He hit over .310 in four of his five seasons with the Twins and flashed occasional power. He also was an excellent defensive outfielder whether he was in CF or RF. For the decade, Mack ranks 4th in Games Played (633), 5th in At Bats (2,161), 3rd in Batting Average (.309), 2nd in on-base percentage (.375), 2nd in slugging percentage (.479), 3rd in Hits (668), 4th in HR (67), 5th in RBI (315), 3rd in Runs Scored (351) and 2nd in Stolen Bases (71).
#2 Kirby Puckett, OF
It's hard to imagine any Minnesota Twins list in which Puckett comes in second, but in this case, it has to happen. Of course, how far up this list and the statistical rankings would Puckett be if not for the glaucoma that ended his career before the 1996 season? In the six '90s seasons he played, Puckett hit over .300 four times. The other two seasons, he hit .298 and .296. He was an All-Star all six seasons. He won two Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers. Three times he finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting including finishing second behind Dennis Eckersley in 1992. He was the 1991 ALCS MVP, and the 1993 All Star Game MVP. So where does he rank among the Twins players of the '90s? Well, he ranks 2nd in Games Played (859), 2nd in At Bats (3,400), tied for 1st in Batting Average (.312), 5th in on-base percentage (.363), 1st in Slugging Percentage (.485), 2nd in Hits (1,061), 1st in Home Runs (111), 1st in RBI (579), 2nd in Runs Scored (529) and 6th in Stolen Bases (50).
#1 Chuck Knoblauch, 2B
I know that he requested a trade and really became too big for his britches as the end of his Twins tenure was happening. As a matter of fact, from everything we have heard or read about Knoblauch, he was never what you would call a real good guy. However, the guy was an excellent baseball player. He could hit for average. He could hit for a situation. He could bunt. He could hit and run. He could steal bases any time. He was a great defensive second baseman. He won just one Gold Glove, but that is only because Roberto Alomar was amazing! Knoblauch was the 1991 American League Rookie of the Year. From 1991-1997, he appeared in four All-Star games and won two Silver Slugger Awards. Three times he hit over .300. Finally, when he did force the Twins hand and was traded, the team got a package including Cristian Guzman, Eric Milton, Brian Buchanan, Danny Mota and some cash. That trade is still benefiting the Twins through players like Nick Punto, Bobby Korecky, Carlos Silva and Jason Bartlett. Anyway, Knoblauch was terrific throughout his Twins tenure, and here is where he ranks among Twins hitters in the decade of the '90s. He ranks 1st in Games Played (1,013), 1st in At Bats (3,939), tied for 4th in Batting Average (.304), 1st in on-base percentage (.391), tied for 10th in slugging percentage (.416), 1st in Hits (1,197), 8th in Home Runs (43), 2nd in RBI (391), 1st in Runs (713) and 1st in Stolen Bases (276).
The '90s started off really bad, but then came 1991 and 1992, and things all just went downhill from there. But that isn't to say that Twins fans had nothing to watch throughout the decade. Puckett and Molitor were a Hall of Famers (and so was Dave Winfield). Kent Hrbek was a Twins Hall of Famer. Chuck Knoblauch should be a Twins Hall of Famer soon. And finally, there were some very underrated hitters for the Twins during the decade like Shane Mack and Matt Lawton. By the end of the decade, we started seeing the nucleus that ended up winning division titles in 2001. Also, it was in the late 1990s when Terry Ryan took over and started making some great trades of veterans for other young players.
Any thoughts on the Top 10 Twins Hitters of the '90s? I came up with this list relatively quickly, so please feel free to argue and debate. Send me an e-mail or leave some Comments below.
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