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The Worst Twins Since 1989

Posted by PintoWF , 13 May 2016 · 1,194 views

minnesota twins
The Worst Twins Since 1989 The Minnesota Twins have struggled this year. They have been swept six times and have only two victories on the road. Instead of building on last year's success, they have brought plenty of things into question.

I could spend several days on what the reasons are behind the failures. That would just end up in a lot of head shaking and maybe even some tears. Instead, I intend to start a bar room type discussion.

Some of you remember the Twins of the 60s or 70s or even the 80s. For me, it is the 1990s to now. I was born in 1989 and have been alive for 15 losing seasons. Some of those 15 seasons have been worse than the others and at a different time I may rank them accordingly.

Today, though, I'm going to pick out the worst players for the Twins at each position, DH included, since 1989. Here are the stipulations.

1. The players have to come from a losing season.

2. They had to have played at least half of their season at the specific position during a losing season.

2a. For the DH position, they had to lead the team in appearances as a DH in that given year.

2b. The starting pitcher had to make at least 15 starts during the season.

3. While the Twins have strung together consecutive losing seasons, I am not allowing players to span seasons. They had to play in a specific year.

4. We are excluding 2016 because we are not even a quarter of the way into the season. We could revisit this at the end of the season.

5. I'm only picking one starting pitcher and no one from the bullpen. Again, that is a post for another time.

The rules are set! Let's do this.

Catcher - Matt Walbeck 1994
Walbeck was never known for his offense but really had no business ever being a starting catcher. He played in 97 games for the Twins in 1994, starting 89 of them at catcher. He hit a measly .204 and had a minus 20 runs above average.

His defense was above league average and he threw out a career high 39 percent of base stealers that season. That still wasn't enough to avoid putting him on this team. Especially when you consider the 1994 Twins had the fifth best team batting average in the American League.

First Base - Scott Stahoviak 1997
The Twins thought they had found the first baseman of the future in 1996 when Stahoviak hit .284 with 13 home runs and 30 doubles. Problem was that Stahoviak did not return in 1997. Stahoviak hit .229 in 91 games, was a minus 13 in runs above average and committed seven errors on defense.

Stahoviak also struck out a lot. He struck out 114 times in 1996 and 73 times in 1997. His career percentage of at bats that ended in strikeouts was 24. The league average over that time span was 16.3 percent. We should have seen the dramatic drop off. Stahoviak hit .364 on balls put in play in 1996. That dropped to .270 in 1997. The Twins would move on from one tough-to-spell last name to another in the next couple seasons.

Second Base - Wally Backman 1989
The Twins probably believed they were getting a middle-of-his-prime player in Wally Backman when they received him in an off-season trade. Backman, at age 28, had hit .303 in 99 games in 1988. He was a veteran and the term "professional" was probably thrown around a bunch of times when describing him. He ended up being pretty terrible in his lone season with the Twins.

A .231 average was just the half of it. His WAR, -2.7, and RAA, -18, were both career lows for Backman. He hit .268 on balls put in play and had a .306 on base percentage. Both were well below his career averages for those stats. He was never a great defensive second baseman but was solid during his time with the Mets. With the Twins, though, he had a minus 6 total zone fieldiung runs above average.

Backman would spend 14 years in the league and never have one more trying than his season with the Twins. He would move on to Pittsburgh the next season and only return to the American League in 1993 when he played 10 games in Seattle.

Shortstop - Cristian Guzman 1999
This one was hard. It was between Guzman and 2013 Pedro Florimon. Both were pretty terrible at the plate but it was Guzman's struggles in the field that give him the edge. He committed 24 errors as a shortstop that season. That ended up being tied for second in the American League for a shortstop and tied fifth most in the AL for any position that season.

His batting didn't win him any fans either. He hit .226 with 90 strikeouts. He was striking out in nearly 20 percent of his plate appearances. Considering that he played 131 games in 1999 shows you how committed the Twins were to the young man. It would eventually pay off as he led the league in triples three times and go on to be a career .271 hitter.

Third Base - Danny Valencia 2011
Known more for his looks than playing ability, Valencia surprised some people with a strong 2010. His power numbers were solid in 2011 but it was the strikeouts and defense that were down right ugly. He struck out 102 times in 608 plate appearances. He was a team leader in that category.

The defense was even worse. Valencia committed 18 errors at third base and had a total zone rating of minus 18. He would never again close in on the nearly 1,300 innings he played in 2011. In defense of Valencia, he was the Twins most consistent player in 2011. His 154 games led a team that was plagued by injury. There really was no other option but to play the guy.

Left Field - Josh Willingham 2013
Josh Willingham mashed 35 home runs and drove in 110 RBIs in 2012. Both career highs and numbers the Twins hoped he would duplicate in 2012. Instead they got a .208 hitter that had a runs better than average of minus 15. His homer per at bat rate in 2012 was 14.8. It dropped to 28.8 in 2013.

Never a great fielder, Willingham's defensive runs saved above average was minus 8. That number was minus 13 the year prior but you could ignore that when you are driving in 110 runs. The other problem Willingham tended to encounter was injuries and 2013 was no different. Maybe a healthy Willingham, much like the one the Twins had in 2012, would've performed differently. We will never know.

Center Field - Rich Becker 1995
Rich Becker's first full season in the majors was one to forget. He was not quite ready for the duties of patrolling the outfield. Add in the pressure of replacing the greatest Twins of all-time in Kirby Puckett and you have the makings of a disaster. Becker's runs above average was minus 24 as a hitter and his .303 on base percentage was the worst of his career.

His defense was not terrible but he was taking over for a six-time gold glove winner. Unless you are Torii Hunter, you are not going to win approval based on being average. Becker would improve and hit .279 while driving in 116 runs over the next two seasons. Numbers the Twins would gladly take from their center fielder today.

Right Field - Oswaldo Arcia 2014
Arcia hit 20 home runs in 2014 and at the age of 23 was believed to be an up-and-coming power hitter. However, the power numbers belied the reality behind Arica. He struck out 127 times or once every three at-bats. His patience was starting to go away as well as he swung at the 1st pitch 32 percent of the time. He struck out 31 percent of time and would have been 4th in the majors had he qualified.

His defense wasn't much better. He had a .975 fielding percentage, well bellow the league average of .986 for a right fielder. He would become way more impatient at the plate the next season and was eventually sent down to the minors. He's back, now, and showing more patience at the plate although the strike outs are still prevalent.

Designated Hitter - Ryan Doumit 2013
Doumit led the team with 49 games played as the DH in 2013. He hit .220 with a .351 slugging percentage and just five homers as a DH that season. He also struck out 43 times in 191 at-bats. He split time between there, right field and catcher in 2013. The Twins would trade him in the off-season to the Atlanta Braves.

Starting Pitcher - Nick Blackburn 2012
Nick Blackburn appeared in 19 games for the Twins in 2012, all of them starts. He had a 7.39 ERA, a ERA+ of 56, gave up an average of 2.1 home runs per nine innings over the span of 98.2 innings pitched. All 81 runs he gave up were earned and he only once got past the seventh inning.

You have to take into account the starting pitching rotation to really appreciate how bad Blackburn was. The Twins had Scott Diamond start 27 games. Francisco Liriano started 17 games. Cole De Vries and Liam Hendriks both started 16 games. Sam Deduno started 15 and P.J. Walters started 12.

Of all of those players, only Hendriks and Liarano are still in the league with several being out of the majors by 2013.

It might be the Twins worst starting rotation ever. Of course, that is a different discussion for a different post.