Jorge Polanco Entering Rod Carew Territory
Polanco is setting a record pace to start the season. Since the team moved to Minnesota, Rod Carew is the only middle infielder to post an OPS+ of 144 or more. Polanco entered play on Monday with a 165 OPS+. Polanco is on a record pace, so let’s see how the other top seasons stack up.
Brian Dozier (2016): 134 OPS+
Dozier’s 2016 campaign finished just outside the top-5 on this list but it seems fitting to include him as an honorable mention. He clubbed 42 home runs that season. He’s the only player not named Harmon Killebrew to pop more than 40 long-balls in one season. Unlike the other players on this list, Dozier didn’t hit for a high average. His 134 OPS+ was the highest total of his career. He finished 13th in the AL MVP voting, but five players in front of him had a lower WAR.
5. Chuck Knoblauch (1995): 136 OPS+
The Twins teams of the mid- and late-90’s were tough to watch but these are some of my first concrete baseball memories. During the strike-shortened 1995 season, Minnesota only won 56 games. Knoblauch finished with the second highest batting average of his career. His .911 OPS was aided by 34 doubles and eight triples. He had led the league with 45 doubles in 1994 but some of those balls went out of the park in 1995. He cracked double-digit home runs for the first time in his career. He finished 17th in the MVP voting but his 6.7 WAR ranked him fourth among position players.
4. Chuck Knoblauch (1996): 143 OPS+
Knoblauch’s 1996 campaign was clearly the best season of his career. He finished third in WAR trailing only Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez. He hit .341, a career high. In fact, he would never hit above .300 for the rest of his career. He led the AL with 14 triples, but he also had 13 home runs and 35 doubles. Minnesota was closer to .500 as the club finished 78-84. Clearly, the MVP voters paid little attention to the happenings in Minnesota. Knoblauch finished 16th in the MVP race. His 8.7 WAR was more than double that year’s MVP, Juan Gonzalez.
3. Rod Carew (1973): 144 OPS+
There were lots of firsts for Carew during the 1973 season. His first time leading the league in hits. His first time leading the league in triples. He would also finish in the top-5 for the AL MVP for the first time. All 24 first place votes went to Oakland’s Reggie Jackson, but a theme starts to emerge with Carew’s seasons. His WAR total was higher than the players between him and Jackson. Carew’s batting average was over 50 points higher than Jackson. Carew stole 41 bases during the season and the Twins finished 82-80.
2. Rod Carew (1974): 150 OPS+
For the first time in his career, Carew led all of baseball in hits. He would do this one other time during his MVP season. His .364 batting average was the second highest of his career and his .433 OBP was only 16 points behind the 1977 campaign. His 7.5 WAR was the third highest total of his career. He finished seventh in the MVP voting. However, only Fergie Jenkins had a higher WAR total out of the players ahead of him in the voting.
1. Rod Carew (1975): 157 OPS+
Carew’s best season for OPS+ wasn’t even the year he was named AL MVP (1977). For that season, he started all but five games at first base, so that season doesn’t qualify for this list. He posted a 178 OPS+ that year, a career high, and led the league in runs, hits, triples, batting average, OBP, OPS, and OPS+.
The 1975 campaign was his last season playing in the middle infield. He won his fourth consecutive batting title and his fifth batting title overall. That season marked on the second time he had led the league on OBP, which was assisted by a league high 18 intentional walks. He was hitting above .400 into the middle of June and flirted with getting back there in late July. He finished ninth in the MVP voting but his 7.9 WAR that season was higher than all but one player ahead of him in the voting.
Will Polanco be able to break the record? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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