In Memory: A Previous Era of Twins Pitching
Image courtesy of © Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sportstwinsd3. Joe Mays
Joe Mays was classic early 2000s Twins. He actually debuted in 1999 and put up 1.5 and 1.9 fWAR seasons respectively in his first two years, right around a 2019 Martin Perez season in terms of value. It was 2001 however that everything went right for Mays. He rode a 3.16 ERA and 4.27 FIP through over 230 innings and put up 3.1 fWAR. In his lone All-Star season, Mays had a career low BABIP of .243 and struck out an outrageous 12.9% of hitters. For reference, Jose Berrios has struck out 23.1% of hitters he’s faced in his career.
Mays was rewarded with a 4-year $20 million contract with the Twins, a much more lucrative deal in those days. Unfortunately, Mays pitched three more seasons with the Twins and was worth -.2 fWAR. He never recaptured that season where the ball seemed to find his fielders' gloves consistently.
2. Scott Diamond
Scott Diamond was one of my favorite Twins pitchers of this era for a number of reasons. Who doesn’t love a big leaguer that wasn’t even officially drafted? He found his way to the Twins by way of the Rule 5 draft, where stories of even moderate success are rare. He was a bit unlucky in his debut season of 2011 with a 5.08 ERA and 4.36 FIP in 39 innings. In his second season however, Diamond managed a 3.54 ERA and 3.94 FIP. He walked less than 5% of his batters faced while spinning grounders at a 53.4% clip. He was worth 2.4 fWAR in 2012, which was more than the rest of his career.
Diamond also flamed out after his career year. Much like Mays, the groundballs just stopped going his way, and his career 10.9 K% just couldn’t keep him afloat.
1. Nick Blackburn
I don’t know about you, but when I think of Nick Blackburn, I think of Pirahna Baseball. Blackburn’s success actually matched up with some classic early 2000s Twins teams in 2008 and 2009. In those seasons he succeeded with an 87 mph fastball and a groundball rate of around 45%. He fit the mold of not walking or striking anybody out (5.7% and 10.8% respectively for his career) and was the exact style of pitcher the Twins front office loved during that era.
Blackburn at least managed to string two successful season together and they came in seasons where the Twins were competitive, with 2009 being the classic “Game 163 Season”. Unfortunately just like Diamond and Mays, Blackburn’s success had an expiration date. He pitched three more seasons and was worth -.4 fWAR, and I still remember the sadness of going to games and seeing Nick Blackburn banners in 2012 as he limped to a 7.39 ERA.
These pitchers are proof of how far the Twins organization has come. This strategy clearly wasn’t ideal for the long haul as we see with Mays', Diamond's and Blackburn’s careers. That being said, the previous era is full of forgotten pitchers that were tons of fun despite having no chance of making the current Twins roster. Which ones were your favorites?
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