How Did the Twins Fare After the Rabbit Ball Season?
Image courtesy of © Brad Rempel-USA TODAY SportsThe Rabbit Ball Season (1987)
During the 1987 season, 79 players hit 20 home runs, a new record at the time. In the five seasons prior to the Rabbit Ball Season, the most players with 20+ homers in a season was 1986 when 60 players topping that mark. Four out of the top six home run totals all came in the 1987 season including Andre Dawson (49), Mark McGwire (49), George Bell (47) and Dale Murphy (44).
Minnesota’s 1987 season is remembered for the team’s first championship, but the club also took advantage of the Rabbit Ball Season. Four Twins hit more than 20 home runs: Kent Hrbek (34), Tom Brunansky (32), Gary Gaetti (31) and Kirby Puckett (28). For Hrbek, it would be the only time he would cross the 30-homer threshold while Brunansky tied his career high.
The Twins actually had five players in 1986 that hit 20 or more home runs but moving beyond the Rabbit Ball Season clearly put the Twins in a different light.
The Aftermath (1988 and Beyond)
MLB’s 1988 season saw a sharp decline when it came to home runs with only one player, Jose Canseco, topping the 40-home run mark. Overall, teams hit 3180 home runs compared to the 4458 home runs knocked out the year before. After a record- breaking 79 players had 20+ home runs, that total wouldn’t crack 50 again until 1991. Batters also saw their average OPS drop from .747 in 1987 to .696 in 1988.
Offensively, the Twins looked a little different in 1988. Three players (Gaetti, Hrbek, and Puckett) had more than 20 home runs, but only six players were able to hit 13 or more home runs. Puckett might have been the brightest spot on the team as he hit .356/.375/.545 (.920) and led the league in a variety of offensive categories (at-bats, hits, singles, and total bases). He lost the batting title to Wade Boggs who hit .366 and no other hitters were higher than .325.
In 1989, Kent Hrbek was the lone player on the team to hit more than 25 home runs. Gary Gaetti came close with 19 and Puckett dropped down to single digits in homers (9). In fact, the 1991 season was next season that saw anyone other than Hrbek hit more than 20 home runs. Chili Davis joined Hrbek in the 20-home run club and the club went on to their second World Series title in the last five seasons.
No one knows if the baseballs will be similar or different for the 2020 season. Looking back at the aftermath of the Rabbit Ball Season, there’s a good chance home run rates will decrease this year. Maybe the Bomba Squad will have enough power to overcome it.
Do you think the baseball will be different whenever MLB action is seen again?
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