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Jorge Polanco Entering Rod Carew Territory

Over most of the last two decades, Minnesota has struggled to find consistency at the shortstop position. Jorge Polanco and his tremendous start might be the person to stop this revolving door. Maybe it’s the newfound security of his off-season extension. Maybe he’s trying to make-up for his suspension from last season.

Or maybe, just maybe, this is the player he was always going to be.
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.

Honorable Mention
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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Apparently, this was quite the controversial article. 


I didn't see the harm in it but after reading the responses... I decided to go back and read the article again. 


At no point did he compare the CAREER of Polanco to the CAREER of Carew.


He listed the top OPS+ performances from Twins middle infielders.


My personal all-time favorite Twin Mr. Rod Carew is sitting at the top and Cody was pointing out that Polanco is above that mark. 


If all Cody or anyone is allowed to write is:


Polanco is having a great start to the season but let's see him do it for another 10 years... well, there won't be much point in writing that.  



    • diehardtwinsfan and Twins33 like this
It doesn’t matter if is one year or a career. To compare Polonco (who I like) to Carew is ridiculous. He would have to perform at his career all time level for the rest of this year for an annual comparison and another 10 years for a career comparison.
    • Vanimal46 likes this

Oh, at first I thought this was a "first 40-50 games" thing, but now I see it's a full-season comparison for middle infielders. I don't think Polanco finishes in the top 5 as we have a long season ahead of us, but I do think he's a top 10 offensive option as a shortstop in the MLB, which is a terrific outcome for him.

May 15 2019 12:54 AM


100 is a league average OPS+.

I guess that was obvious. Thanks anyway, though.

Kelly Vance
May 15 2019 09:25 AM

Rod Carew was always one of my favorite players of all time. And it doesn't bother me in the least that Jorge is compared to him. Carew's swing was more for contact and Jorge tries to go yard much more, so I expect him to hit under .300 by season's end. But with 20 + homers. 


There is a reason the Twins wanted to lock up Jorge for an extension. He is a young and very talented player on the come. I wish they's extend Eddie and Buck too. It would be nice to have that OF intact for five years.


BTW, did anyone notice that they clocked Buck's throw to the plate last night at 98 MPH?

Kelly Vance
May 15 2019 09:31 AM


It doesn’t matter if is one year or a career. To compare Polonco (who I like) to Carew is ridiculous. He would have to perform at his career all time level for the rest of this year for an annual comparison and another 10 years for a career comparison.

So add me to the list of the ridiculous. Cody wrote a good piece. And nostalgia ain't what it used to be. We don't live in the past... 


I loved watching Rod Carew. Sure, Rod did it for longer. Amazing hitter.But that is no reason not to note that Jorge is on the climb and showing that he is reaching that level of play.Hope he can keep it up over a long career.

    • Riverbrian likes this

I think some people read the title of this article and went straight into typing a response.


The article is pretty clearly not about what people are objecting to.

    • Twins33 and Riverbrian like this

To the people that think the article is claiming Polonco will be as good as Carew for his career, you missed the point of the article.The point is that it was showing he is putting up similar numbers, which is true.Many players at Polonco's age put up big numbers that never get sustained like Carew did.  


I find it interesting when anyone points out numbers are similar, or state best numbers since player X, that people draw the conclusion people are comparing those two players.Take the article as it is, a showing that Polonco is putting up some nice numbers that if he can repeat several times over he will be knocking on HOF door, but no where in article was it suggesting he is at that point.  

    • Riverbrian likes this

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