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  • Twins All-Decade Team, the '00s (The Pitchers)

    Seth Stohs

    The 2000s Twins were again quite successful, winning six AL Central division titles. As has been the case in other decades, it was largely due to the hitters. But there were some really strong pitching performances as well from some very recognizable names.

    Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

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    While the player names from the 1960s have a certain lore about them, the pitchers from the decade of 2000 were really good too.

    The staff was led by Brad Radke, a Twins Hall of Famer who was part of the Twins 1990s staff. Johan Santana came to the organization and immediately was good. Very soon after, he became the best pitcher in baseball for a dozen years. In addition, the bullpen you will see is very strong, led by a couple of Twins Hall of Famers.

    What you will see if a lot of strike throwers... which won't surprise you at all.

    So today, enjoy looking back at the top Twins pitchers from the first decade of the 21st century.

    SP - Johan Santana (2000-2007)

    251 games, 175 starts, 93-44 with 1 save and a 3.22 ERA in 1,308 2/3 innings. 1,381 K. 364 BB.

    Santana was the left unprotected by the Houston Astros in the December 1999 Rule 5 draft. The Twins had arranged a trade with the Marlins to acquire Santana. They kept him around, working primarily out of the bullpen in 2000. He posted a 2.99 ERA in 108 1/3 innings in 2002. He went 12-3 with a 3.07 ERA in 158 1/3 innings in 2003. He increased his workload and made 18 starts. Finally in 2004 he became a full-time starter. He responded by going 20-6 with a 2.61 ERA and won his first Cy Young Award. He finished third in 2005 despite going 16-7 with a 2.87 ERA. He won his second Cy Young Award in 2006 when he went 19-6 with a 2.77 ERA. He led the league in ERA in 2004 and 2006. He led the league in WHIP, FIP, strikeouts and K/9 each year between 2004 and 2006. He won another 15 games in 2007. He received Cy Young votes each season between 2003 and 2007. He was traded to the Mets before the 2008 season.

    SP - Brad Radke (2000-2006)

    214 games, 214 starts, 82-71 with 0 saves and a 4.16 ERA in 1,366 innings. 803 K. 206 BB.

    The Twins eighth-round pick in 1991, he was the Twins top pitcher of the previous decade and still was a top starter in this century’s first decade. He fought some shoulder issues, but in five of his seven seasons this decade, he worked at least 200 innings. Even with his shoulder tendons barely hanging on in 2006, he pitched 162 innings. Blessed with impeccable control, Radke was consistent. In all but his injured seasons, he posted better-than-average ERA.

    SP - Scott Baker (2005-2009)

    111 games, 109 starts, 43-33 with 0 saves and a 4.27 ERA in 653 innings. 499 K. 149 BB.

    Baker was the Twins second-round draft pick in 2003 out of Oklahoma State. He moved quickly and made his debut in May of 2005. He was a slightly better than average pitcher for the Twins through his seven seasons with the team. He went 11-4 with a 3.45 ERA in 172 1/3 innings in 2008. In 2009, he worked a career-high 200 innings and was 15-9 with a 4.37 ERA. After missing the 2012 season due to Tommy John surgery, he pitched for the Cubs, Rangers and Dodgers over the next three seasons.

    SP - Carlos Silva (2004-2007)

    129 games, 124 starts, 47-45 with 0 saves and a 4.42 ERA in 773 2/3 innings. 306 K. 112 BB.

    In 2001 and 2002, Silva pitched in 130 games out of the bullpen for the Phillies. After that season, he was part of the trade that sent Eric Milton to Philadelphia. The Twins moved him into their starting rotation. He went 14-8 with a 4.21 ERA over 33 starts and a career-high 203 innings in 2004. In 2005, he went 9-8 in 27 starts, with a 3.44 ERA. As impressive, he had the same number of walks as Wins that season, over 188 1/3 innings. He struggled in 2006, but in 2007, he went 13-14 with a solid 4.19 ERA in 202 innings. Over his four seasons with the Twins, he struck out just 3.6 batters per nine innings. He survived by working fast, getting a lot of sink and throwing a ton of strikes. He left after the 2007 season for a four-year, $48 million deal with the Mariners.

    SP - Eric Milton (2000-2003)

    100 games, 99 starts, 42-26 with 0 saves and a 4.60 ERA in 608 2/3 innings. 445 K. 136 BB.

    Milton came to the Twins from the Yankees before the 1998 season in the Chuck Knoblauch trade. He had been a first-round pick by the pinstripers. He debuted in 1998. In 2000, he won 13 games. In 2001, he made the All-Star team and won 15 games with a 4.32 ERA in 220 innings. He won 13 more games in 2002. He missed most of the 2003 season with injury but returned late in the season for three starts. It was enough to impress the Phillies who acquired him after that season.

    RP - Joe Nathan (2004-2009)

    412 games, 0 starts, 22-12 with 246 saves and a 1.87 ERA in 418 2/3 innings. 518 K. 120 BB.

    Nathan came up with the Giants in 1999 and remained with them through the 2003 season. That final season, he was a very good set-up man. That offseason, the Twins acquired Nathan and two other pitchers in exchange for AJ Pierzynski. Nathan wasn’t handed the closer job, but he quickly earned it and he absolutely took off. That first year, he posted a 1.62 ERA and 44 saves. Over his first six seasons with the Twins, he posted an ERA over 2.10 just once (2.70). He had at least 36 saves each season and a career-high 47 saves in 2009. He never had a WHIP over 1.02. He pitched in four All-Star Games. The Twins all-time saves leader became a Twins Hall of Famer.

    RP - LaTroy Hawkins (2000-2003)

    267 games, 0 starts, 18-13 with 44 saves and a 3.09 ERA in 296 2/3 innings. 233 K. 101 BB.

    Hawkins was the Twins seventh-round pick in 1991. He debuted with the Twins in 1995. He was tried as a starting pitcher through the 1999 season. He moved to the bullpen in 2000. He recorded 42 saves between 2000 and 2001 but he struggled in that role. When Eddie Guardado took over as the team’s closer, Hawk moved into the set up role and became a force. He went 6-0 with a 2.13 ERA in 80 1/3 innings in 2002. In 2003, he went 9-3 with a 1.86 ERA in 77 1/3 innings. He had struggled with control to that point, but he walked just 15 batters each season. He left after the season as a free agent… and then he kept pitching through the 2015 season. Pitching very well.

    RP - Eddie Guardado (2000-2003)

    280 games, 0 starts, 19-14 with 107 saves and a 3.42 ERA in 268 1/3 innings. 254 K. 82 BB.

    Guardado was the Twins 21st-round pick in 1990 and was in the big leagues by 1993. By 1996, he earned the moniker “Everyday Eddie” because the southpaw was used so much. By the turn of the century, he had become very reliable. He saw his ERA drop from near-5, to mid-4s, to high-3s. Between 2000 and 2001, he won 14 games. By the end of the 2001 season, he took over the closer role. In 2002, he went 1-3 with a 2.93 ERA. He led the league with 45 saves and pitched in his first All-Star Game. He returned to the mid-summer classic in 2003. That season, he went 3-5 with a 2.89 ERA and 41 saves. After the season, he left for the Mariners via free agency. He returned to the Twins in September of 2008 and pitched in nine games.

    RP - Matt Guerrier (2004-2009)

    319 games, 3 starts, 14-18 with 4 saves and a 3.41 ERA in 401 innings. 268 K. 125 BB.

    Following the 2003 season, the Twins claimed Guerrier after he had been DFAd by the White Sox. He pitched in nine games for the Twins in 2004, but he then became a mainstay in the Twins bullpen, eventually moving in to a high-leverage role. He led the AL in appearances in both 2008 and 2009. In 2009, he went 5-1 with a 2.36 ERA, which was 86% better than league average. He posted an ERA well above league average in four of his five full seasons with the Twins in the decade. He left via free agency after the 2010 season. Spent two years there, then one with the Cubs before returning to the Twins for about a half season in 2014.

    RP - Juan Rincon (2001-2008)

    386 games, 3 starts, 30-26 with 3 saves and a 3.69 ERA in 441 innings. 412 K. 182 BB.

    Rincon signed with the Twins in 1996 out of Venezuela. He made his debut in 2001 and spent most of the next eight seasons in a Twins uniform. He became a regular in 2003, but 2004 was likely his best season. He went 11-6 with a 2.63 ERA. In 82 innings, he struck out 106 batters. The following year, he posted a 2.45 ERA with more than a strikeout per inning. In 2006, he was 3-1 with a 2.91 ERA in 74 games. He wasn’t the same pitcher after his PED suspension in 2007 and was let go midway through the 2008 season. He continued to pitch into the 2010 season.

    What are your thoughts? Agree with the choices?

    Previous Installments

    Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Hitters)

    Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Pitchers)

    Episode 15: Get t o Know the 1960s Twins (with Dave Mona)

    Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Hitters)

    Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Pitchers)

    Episode 16: Get to Know the 1970s Twins (with Patrick Reusse)

    Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Hitters)

    Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Pitchers)

    Episode 17: Get to know the 1980s Twins (with Howard Sinker)

    Twins All-Decade Team: the '90s (The Hitters)

    Twins All-Decade Team: the '90s (The Pitchers)

    Twins All-Decade Team: the '00s (The Hitters)

    Twins All-Decade Team: the '00s (The Pitchers)

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    Very nice - A strong Ace and #2 with acceptable fill ins for the rest of the rotation.  A very good BP.  This was definitely a good decade, although the lack of a World Series keeps it down in my list of the best decades as you have exposed them in this series. 


    Joe Mays and Kyle Lohse had interesting runs as SP for the Twins over a few years each and Kenny Rogers and Livan Hernandez were interesting footnotes for the decade.  Boof Bonser makes the all the favorite names list (if there is one) And Francisco Liriano was terrific when he paired with Santana.  


    Of course by the time we reached 2008 the rotation was Slowey, Blackburn, Baker and a guy named Perkins.   Perkins would start the rest of the decade,   The top three in this rotation were the epitome of hit them to the fielders philosophy.


    A good case could be made for J C Romero in the BP with six years of the decade.  And Jesse Crain won 12 games in the BP in 2005 and I think I would make a strong case for both Crain and Romero in the grouping above Rincon and Guerrier.

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    For much of the decade, Seth, that bullpen was about as good as it gets. Put Santana and Radke at the start of the rotation for a good part of the decade and you have the formula for a team to win a World Series. Kind of a shame they never got it.


    Lots of rocks have been tossed at the previous FO, but sure looks to me that they put the talent on the field to win it all.  

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    There were 4 teams competing for the WS in 87.   If it played out 20 times the Twins probably win 3 times.    The 2006 team in particular were competing against 7 other teams but if that one played out 20 times they also would probably have won 3 times.   Those were the odds IMO.   Nothing to do with talent, managing, choking or anything else.  The results were just baseball being baseball.

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    The rotation was excellent at the top but fell off pretty rapidly afterwards. I think I still put Liriano in there over the crew of Baker/Silva; injuries are what sapped him as a Twin but the upside and elite stuff were better than the rest of them. Baker only had 2 good seasons with the Twins in this decade, Silva really only had two good seasons...


    Milton's best skill was chewing up innings even if he wasn't often great; he might have been the most valuable from that group... which is not great.



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    I would love if you put ERA+ in the stats for context.

    Eyeballing it:

    -Radke is around a 120

    -Baker is around a 110

    -Silva is around 100

    -Milton is around 90

    -Santana is more of a guess. Maybe 160?


    That's kind of sad that we can't come up with better SPs than Milton and Silva for a decade that saw so many division championships. It's not a surprise they got bounced in so many playoff series.

    Not that I think pitching is the remedy for playoff losses per se, but league average pitching is. If this is the best team was running out on the bump to start each game, that means the team was likely starting league average, at best, SPs for most games.

    That is something I did not realize at the time. I understood we had worse pitching than the opposing team, but I always chalked it up to the opponent having really good SPs, not the Twins having below average SPs. The things you learn...

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    I think Rafael Palmiero, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Roger Clemens should not be in the HOF because they improved their performance by juicing. And that's why I think Juan Rincon should not be on this list.

    Absolutely love how you equate Seth's team of the decade to the HOF. :)  

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    Love the pen but agree Crain should be plugged in their somewhere.


    JC Romero had 2 not very good seasons and 3 good ones amongst his 5. He's honorable mention at least.


    Francisco Liriano...oh what could have been...had 2 poor seasons, and we all know why, and 3 good/great ones. I think I'd have to put him in the rotation ahead of Silva or Milton, though I'm torn which one I'd pull.

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