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  1. Nelson Cruz has been everything the Twins could have expected for 2019 and 2020. He's stayed relatively healthy, hit both with power and for average, he's been available to play except for two ten-day stays on the Injured List and he has been a team leader and mentor for all players on his team. Cruz has been far and away the best hitter both last year and this year. Despite all of his contributions, I am not sure my favorite team should bring back Nelson Cruz for the 2021 season. There is a truism that it is better to move off a player a year too soon than a year too late. Father Time is looking hard at Nelson Cruz and at some point he will slow down. Actually, I wonder if he might have started slowing down at this point. Cruz is striking out more lately and not hitting with as much power as he did in the first half of this shortened season. Cruz has managed to keep his batting average up, but he only has three homers and 3 RBI in the 20 days of September. I don't know what will happen next year, but I would think that there is a chance Cruz' production will drop, perhaps dramatically. Also to consider is what the roster will look like next year and how Nelson would fit in it. The team has probably three corner OF/DH/1B prospects ready to play next year. Keeping Cruz would mean that for 90% of the games that Cruz isn't injured, he will fill the DH role. That leaves no real place for Kirilloff, Rooker and Larnach. Letting Eddie Rosario go could allow playing time for one of these guys, but still leaves a bit of a logjam. Using the DH spot as a half day off for regulars might be a better plan. Nelson Cruz has provided 1.7 WAR this year after 55 games, which would translate into over 5 WAR for a full season. His OPS this year is 1.026, just down from last year's 1.032. Cruz's OPS+ is actually higher this year 178 vs. 168 and he achieved 4.2 WAR for the full season last year. He has served as a role model for the younger players, particularly Hispanic players.It would certainly be a tough call to let him leave the Twins, but I don't think it is out of the question.
  2. The debate for a designated hitter (DH) in both the American and National Leagues has been ongoing ever since the DH was first introduced in the American League back in 1973. Now, nearly fifty years later, we will finally see that play out as the MLB has adopted a universal DH for the 2020 season. On the face of it, it doesn’t seem like it would be a big benefit to the Twins, who already play with a DH, but when you dive into it, it could actually benefit the Twins in multiple ways.The first benefit that the universal DH will have for the Twins will affect them directly in the 2020 season. As part of the shortened 60-game schedule, the Twins will play 20 interleague games against NL Central opponents, with 10 of those games coming on the road. In past years, the Twins would not have had the benefit of a DH in road interleague games, but now the Twins will be able to use a DH in those games. This will allow the Twins to keep Nelson Cruz in their lineup, as opposed to having to leave their best hitter on the bench for 17 percent of their schedule. While it would be possible to simply play Cruz in the field during those games, the Twins already showed last year they were not willing to do that, as he didn’t start in any of their 10-road interleague games last season, and instead was reduced to a late inning pinch hitter role. In addition to getting to have Nelson Cruz in the lineup for their road interleague games, there is another benefit that a universal DH could have for the Twins that comes via the trade market, especially if the universal DH stays in effect beyond the 2020 season. The Twins organization is loaded with hitters like Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Alex Kirilloff, Brent Rooker, Trevor Larnach and the newly acquired Aaron Sabato, who don’t bring a lot in the way of their defensive abelites, but have big and powerful bats at the plate. This would bring a lot of interested National League teams calling, who would suddenly need to change the structure of their lineup, if the universal DH were to stick. While some National League teams like the Chicago Cubs or the Los Angeles Dodgers would be well equipped with their current roster for a transition to the DH, that is not the case for most National League teams, who will, as a result, create a whole new market of teams looking to increase the power potential in their lineups, and will create a much higher demand for these players. For anyone that knows anything about economics, demand for a product is only one side of the equation. The other import factor that determines the price is the supply of product, in this scenario the product being potential designated hitters. Both the Yankees and Astros are intriguing teams for potential supply, as they are loaded with powerful bats up and down their lineups. The Yankees especially, who have an abundance of quality bats on the corners already at the MLB level, could look to shop players like Giovanny Urshela, Mike Tauchman, Luke Voit or Miguel Andújar to calling National League teams. However, both the Yankees and the Astros lack top end power talent in their minor league systems, which could give them pause at trading away too much depth. A couple other American League teams to watch on the DH trade market are the Seattle Mariners and Chicago White Sox, who both have some intriguing young and powerful bats in their respective organizations. While the Seattle Mariners have some excellent options in their minor league system, like Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez and Evan White, they don’t have a lot at the MLB level outside of Daniel Vogelbach for potential trade options, especially after they non-tendered Domingo Santana and traded away Omar Narváez to the Milwaukee Brewers at the beginning of the offseason, which will likely take the Mariners out of the market. For the White Sox, they could be a candidate for a trade, but there do not seem to be any log jams in their system, as they seem more focused on using those young bats as their core for the future. This leaves the Twins as really the only team in the American League with both an abundance of big bats at both the MLB and minor league level. This means that if they wish to trade away one or two of these bats to help the roster elsewhere, they have more flexibility than any other team to do so. It also means that they can set the market price for National League teams looking to acquire a big and powerful bat to insert into the middle of their lineups. Unfortunately, this all relies on the big if of the MLB adopting the universal DH full-time beyond 2020, but if they do, look for the Twins to be at the center of the action in a game that will change overnight. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Follow Andrew Thares on Twitter here Click here to view the article
  3. The first benefit that the universal DH will have for the Twins will affect them directly in the 2020 season. As part of the shortened 60-game schedule, the Twins will play 20 interleague games against NL Central opponents, with 10 of those games coming on the road. In past years, the Twins would not have had the benefit of a DH in road interleague games, but now the Twins will be able to use a DH in those games. This will allow the Twins to keep Nelson Cruz in their lineup, as opposed to having to leave their best hitter on the bench for 17 percent of their schedule. While it would be possible to simply play Cruz in the field during those games, the Twins already showed last year they were not willing to do that, as he didn’t start in any of their 10-road interleague games last season, and instead was reduced to a late inning pinch hitter role. In addition to getting to have Nelson Cruz in the lineup for their road interleague games, there is another benefit that a universal DH could have for the Twins that comes via the trade market, especially if the universal DH stays in effect beyond the 2020 season. The Twins organization is loaded with hitters like Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Alex Kirilloff, Brent Rooker, Trevor Larnach and the newly acquired Aaron Sabato, who don’t bring a lot in the way of their defensive abelites, but have big and powerful bats at the plate. This would bring a lot of interested National League teams calling, who would suddenly need to change the structure of their lineup, if the universal DH were to stick. While some National League teams like the Chicago Cubs or the Los Angeles Dodgers would be well equipped with their current roster for a transition to the DH, that is not the case for most National League teams, who will, as a result, create a whole new market of teams looking to increase the power potential in their lineups, and will create a much higher demand for these players. For anyone that knows anything about economics, demand for a product is only one side of the equation. The other import factor that determines the price is the supply of product, in this scenario the product being potential designated hitters. Both the Yankees and Astros are intriguing teams for potential supply, as they are loaded with powerful bats up and down their lineups. The Yankees especially, who have an abundance of quality bats on the corners already at the MLB level, could look to shop players like Giovanny Urshela, Mike Tauchman, Luke Voit or Miguel Andújar to calling National League teams. However, both the Yankees and the Astros lack top end power talent in their minor league systems, which could give them pause at trading away too much depth. A couple other American League teams to watch on the DH trade market are the Seattle Mariners and Chicago White Sox, who both have some intriguing young and powerful bats in their respective organizations. While the Seattle Mariners have some excellent options in their minor league system, like Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez and Evan White, they don’t have a lot at the MLB level outside of Daniel Vogelbach for potential trade options, especially after they non-tendered Domingo Santana and traded away Omar Narváez to the Milwaukee Brewers at the beginning of the offseason, which will likely take the Mariners out of the market. For the White Sox, they could be a candidate for a trade, but there do not seem to be any log jams in their system, as they seem more focused on using those young bats as their core for the future. This leaves the Twins as really the only team in the American League with both an abundance of big bats at both the MLB and minor league level. This means that if they wish to trade away one or two of these bats to help the roster elsewhere, they have more flexibility than any other team to do so. It also means that they can set the market price for National League teams looking to acquire a big and powerful bat to insert into the middle of their lineups. Unfortunately, this all relies on the big if of the MLB adopting the universal DH full-time beyond 2020, but if they do, look for the Twins to be at the center of the action in a game that will change overnight. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email — Follow Andrew Thares on Twitter here
  4. For years I have argued that pitchers hitting remains among the silliest things in the sport. Despite playing at the same level, the National League has run out watered down lineups for decades. Although there’s been plenty of discussion regarding a universal DH rule, it took a global pandemic to bring about the shift. Now we wonder if it’s here to stay.For every Madison Bumgarner or Zack Greinke, there are literally hundreds of guys that look the part of a hitter who hasn’t stepped into the box in literal years. The entire premise of paying hurlers significant sums of money only to have them haphazardly compete against 100-mph darts remains questionable at best. Doing it under the guise of strategy or uniqueness only further complicates the situation. Going into 2019 the Minnesota Twins put up $14 million (with another $12 million likely) on a player that had no value besides his bat. Nelson Cruz hasn’t routinely played a defensive position since 2016, and a position hasn’t been his primary responsibility since 2013. He is very good at hitting the baseball, and the designated hitter role allows him to focus on just that. In an effort to create uniformity and allow pitchers a heightened ability to focus on their intended job, proposals for the 2020 season include a universal DH. While any hitter presents a greater probability of success in the batter’s box than a pitcher, it is true that National League teams are not specifically equipped with a resource solely intended for that role. In former times, no NL team would get in a contract discussion with a player like Cruz, and only 15 of these jobs traditionally existed within the sport. Expanding the designated hitter rule this close to the start of a season presents more than fair arguments in respect to preparedness. Given the shifting landscape of squeezing a season in amidst a pandemic though, there are plenty of ways to mitigate the advantage. With the assumed 82 game regional schedule, teams would only be competing against a traditional DH if the American and National League’s were to regularly intermingle. Keeping the divisions as is would entirely wipe out a discussion about one team having an advantage over another on a nightly basis. Then there’s the fan experience that Rob Manfred has been so aimlessly seeking. In an effort to rejuvenate the game, he’s given us pitch clocks and limited mound visits, but it’s in allowing a traditional hitter to bat in all nine spots of the order that you’d see a more substantial impact. Jobs open up for players on 15 new teams, and careers are lengthened solely by continuing to execute on the most foundational skill in the game. There’s no denying that baseball, and many that follow it, are traditionalists in every sense of the word. Not early adopters, and often risk averse, changing the game in any significant way is going to be met with hesitation. A monumental move such as this being forced by an outside force likely doesn’t make the acceptance any easier. However, taking a step back it’s hard to see how this isn’t a positive for everyone. Regardless of any outside feelings, the Twins are in a good place here. Nelson Cruz was brought in to fill this role, and Miguel Sano may be waiting in the wings. We don’t yet know if this rule will be instituted going forward, but on a trial run basis, I’d hope for a best foot forward approach and a strong desire to not regress after such an exciting step ahead. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email Click here to view the article
  5. For every Madison Bumgarner or Zack Greinke, there are literally hundreds of guys that look the part of a hitter who hasn’t stepped into the box in literal years. The entire premise of paying hurlers significant sums of money only to have them haphazardly compete against 100-mph darts remains questionable at best. Doing it under the guise of strategy or uniqueness only further complicates the situation. Going into 2019 the Minnesota Twins put up $14 million (with another $12 million likely) on a player that had no value besides his bat. Nelson Cruz hasn’t routinely played a defensive position since 2016, and a position hasn’t been his primary responsibility since 2013. He is very good at hitting the baseball, and the designated hitter role allows him to focus on just that. In an effort to create uniformity and allow pitchers a heightened ability to focus on their intended job, proposals for the 2020 season include a universal DH. While any hitter presents a greater probability of success in the batter’s box than a pitcher, it is true that National League teams are not specifically equipped with a resource solely intended for that role. In former times, no NL team would get in a contract discussion with a player like Cruz, and only 15 of these jobs traditionally existed within the sport. Expanding the designated hitter rule this close to the start of a season presents more than fair arguments in respect to preparedness. Given the shifting landscape of squeezing a season in amidst a pandemic though, there are plenty of ways to mitigate the advantage. With the assumed 82 game regional schedule, teams would only be competing against a traditional DH if the American and National League’s were to regularly intermingle. Keeping the divisions as is would entirely wipe out a discussion about one team having an advantage over another on a nightly basis. Then there’s the fan experience that Rob Manfred has been so aimlessly seeking. In an effort to rejuvenate the game, he’s given us pitch clocks and limited mound visits, but it’s in allowing a traditional hitter to bat in all nine spots of the order that you’d see a more substantial impact. Jobs open up for players on 15 new teams, and careers are lengthened solely by continuing to execute on the most foundational skill in the game. There’s no denying that baseball, and many that follow it, are traditionalists in every sense of the word. Not early adopters, and often risk averse, changing the game in any significant way is going to be met with hesitation. A monumental move such as this being forced by an outside force likely doesn’t make the acceptance any easier. However, taking a step back it’s hard to see how this isn’t a positive for everyone. Regardless of any outside feelings, the Twins are in a good place here. Nelson Cruz was brought in to fill this role, and Miguel Sano may be waiting in the wings. We don’t yet know if this rule will be instituted going forward, but on a trial run basis, I’d hope for a best foot forward approach and a strong desire to not regress after such an exciting step ahead. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  6. I see Larnach homered again today. Again, he was the DH (actually pinch hit for the starting DH). Does he have an injury that is preventing him from playing in the field? I haven't seen anything written that explains this, but it would seem to be the most likely explanation. If Larnach has an injury, is it something that might be chronic or is this just a short time issue?
  7. MLB.com's Cut4 reminds us of a weird little bit of Twins history: "on March 6, 1973, Larry Hisle took the first at-bat as a DH in the history of the game." It was spring training, of course, and in fact Hisle -- who the Twins had acquired the prior November to be their primary center fielder -- wouldn't play a regular game as designated hitter until 1975. As the article notes, the first regular-season DH was the Yankees' Ron Blomberg, who was born to play the "position." Still, though, Hisle was the first guy ever to fill the slot of "designated hitter" in a Major League Baseball game, 43 years ago yesterday, and that's kind of cool. It got me thinking about the Twins and the designated hitter. In my mind -- in which the days when Ron Gardenhire would just plug in Jason Tyner or Mike Redmond are still fairly fresh, along with the more recent (and hopefully temporary) disappointments of Oswaldo Arcia and Kennys Vargas -- it's just always been a position they've struggled to fill with anyone who wasn't something approaching embarrassing.And it's worth noting that in 43 seasons with the DH, only 13 times has a Twins player put up more than 1 win above replacement during a season in which he spent 50% or more of his time as the DH. I didn't have a great sense of what that means either, but the Yankees have had 21 such seasons, the Royals 18, and the Rangers 23, to take the first three I checked. I'm pretty comfortable saying 13 times is not great. At the same time, though, there have been some good performances, and maybe more than you remember. Here are the ten best, ranked by Baseball-Reference's batting runs component of WAR (since WAR itself would include credit or demerits for time spent in the field, which I don't particularly care about here): 10.) Jose Morales, 1980: No relation to the late-last-decade backup catcher, this Morales was a journeyman first baseman who appears to have been viewed as a strict platoon player, getting almost twice as many plate appearances against lefties as against righties--a bit strange, since his splits are hardly overwhelming (744 OPS against LHP, 733 against RHP). In 1980, he was used almost exclusively as a designated hitter against lefties, or as a pinch hitter when a lefty came into the game, hitting .303/.361/.490 in 269 PA, 212 of them against southpaws, even though he fared at least equally well in his 57 PA against same-sided pitching. He gets held down a bit (9 batting runs) due to his low playing time; the 125 OPS+ is 8th among Twins DHs with at least 200 PA in a season. 9.) David Ortiz, 2002: Ortiz owns the seasons with the 5th, 11th, 12th, 26th, 28th, 34th, 46th, 60th, 66th, 78th, 110th and 198th most batting runs all-time for a DH, but all of those seasons came with some other team, because Doug Mientkiewicz's defense was just that good. He's also got the third-most batting runs for a DH all-time, behind Edgar Martinez and Frank Thomas. He's only on this list the once, though: he played in 125 games for Minnesota in '02, 95 of those as the DH, and hit .272/.339/.500 (120 OPS+), good for 10.1 batting runs, with 20 homers. That represented a huge step forward from 2001, but the Twins must've figured the 26-year-old had peaked. Whoops! 8.) Craig Kusick, 1976: Quick, click that link and check out those shades and that 'stache. Then guess where he was born, and look below and see if you were right! Wasn't that fun? Anyway, Kusick filled a similar role in 1976 and '77 to the one Morales filled a couple of years later. The plate appearance difference wasn't quite as stark, but maybe it should have been, as Kusick hit just .223/.264/.379 against right-handed pitching in '76 and .193/.282/.339 against them in his career. Kusick still got most of his PA against lefties in '76, and crushed them, winding up with a .259/.344/.432 overall line in 306 PA. He did about the same thing in '77, but quickly fell off after that. 7.) Glenn Adams, 1977: Brought over from the GIants to serve as Kusick's platoon partner that second year, Adams faced a lefty only 7 times, going 0-for-5 with two walks, but hit an eye-popping .345/.378/.477 in 283 plate appearances against righties to give him a 130 overall OPS+. He'd never approach that kind of success again, putting up an 88 OPS+ in his five remaining seasons. 6.) Chili Davis, 1992: Thanks mostly to the 60% drop in home runs from the previous season, Davis's year, like so many other things about 1992, felt like a huge disappointment--and it was disappointing, a little. Still, though, Davis hit .288/.386/.439, good for a 130 OPS+--third on the team behind Puckett and Mack--and 17.5 batting runs. 5.) Miguel Sano, 2015: Only 80 games, 335 PA, and with 18.4 batting runs, it was still the fifth-most productive DH season in Twins history. He also holds the Twins DH strikeout record, with two more than Jim Thome's 117, but never mind that. That was fun. 4.) Paul Molitor, 1996: With the benefit of park factors and normalization, it's not quite as amazing as it seemed at the time that Molitor could come home at age 39 and bat .341. The park-adjusted league average line that year was .278/.352/.447, so Molitor's .341/.390/.468, which would've generated MVP talk 20 years later, was good for "just" a 118 OPS+. Still a great season, though, and Molitor played all but one of the team's games, leading the league with 225 hits and the team with 113 RBI. That was about all he had left in him, as it turned out, but Molitor and Knoblauch provided a good deal of excitement on what otherwise was a pretty depressing '96 team. 3.) Jason Kubel, 2009: Oh man, oh man. Remember this? Former top prospect busts out at age 27, hitting .300/.369/.539 (137 OPS+) with 28 homers and 35 doubles, appears poised for a six-to-eight-year run of dominance. That was as good as it got, of course; he'd never play in as many as 146 games again, and never came particularly close to that level of production again. But that was a helluva year. Kubel was a special kind of terror against right-handed pitching, batting .322/.396/.617 with 26 of his 28 homers when he had the platoon advantage. 2.) Chili Davis, 1991: You knew this would be here, right? Davis is one of only two players on this list who played as few as two seasons in Minnesota (see #1), and is the only player who appears twice on this list. It turns out I had another homer-related prejudice against Davis; I had always thought he tailed off badly that season, since he had 19 homers at the All-Star break but finished with "just" 29. But it turns out he was probably even better in the second half, just different: .269/.366/.521 before the break, .287/.407/.492 after it. It was an all-around great year at a really tough time to be a hitter, and of course, helping to lead the team to a world championship helps, too. 1.) Jim Thome, 2010: There have been a few hitters in my time as a Twins fan who I felt like I had to drop everything to watch: Mauer, Puckett, Knoblauch, and Shane Mack for me, at various times in their careers, each for his own idiosyncratic reasons. But Thome is the only one that gave you the feeling that at any time the next pitch might just suddenly disappear somewhere over a neighboring county. He turned 40 in August of 2010, and he played in only 109 games, with only 340 plate appearances (and is the only one on this list not to take the field with a glove even once all season), but every one of them was An Event. I can't write responsibly about it, because his time with the Twins was just so great. Just , instead. I want to marry that clip.Thome's 31.7 batting runs top Davis's by nearly three runs in just over half the number of PAs, and his 182 OPS+ is second in Twins history (minimum 250 PA) to Justin Morneau, from that same 2010 season. He was just. I mean. I need some time here. So there's a lot of fun there at the top, but overall, it's a pretty underwhelming list. The Twins had the first DH, kind of, but have never quite found the right guy to take the job, or at least not for long. It will be interesting (I hope!) to look back at this at the end of the year to see where Byung-ho Park fits in, if he makes the cut at all. His ZiPS and Steamer projections would almost certainly put him somewhere in the top five, for whatever that's worth. Click here to view the article
  8. And it's worth noting that in 43 seasons with the DH, only 13 times has a Twins player put up more than 1 win above replacement during a season in which he spent 50% or more of his time as the DH. I didn't have a great sense of what that means either, but the Yankees have had 21 such seasons, the Royals 18, and the Rangers 23, to take the first three I checked. I'm pretty comfortable saying 13 times is not great. At the same time, though, there have been some good performances, and maybe more than you remember. Here are the ten best, ranked by Baseball-Reference's batting runs component of WAR (since WAR itself would include credit or demerits for time spent in the field, which I don't particularly care about here): 10.) Jose Morales, 1980: No relation to the late-last-decade backup catcher, this Morales was a journeyman first baseman who appears to have been viewed as a strict platoon player, getting almost twice as many plate appearances against lefties as against righties--a bit strange, since his splits are hardly overwhelming (744 OPS against LHP, 733 against RHP). In 1980, he was used almost exclusively as a designated hitter against lefties, or as a pinch hitter when a lefty came into the game, hitting .303/.361/.490 in 269 PA, 212 of them against southpaws, even though he fared at least equally well in his 57 PA against same-sided pitching. He gets held down a bit (9 batting runs) due to his low playing time; the 125 OPS+ is 8th among Twins DHs with at least 200 PA in a season. 9.) David Ortiz, 2002: Ortiz owns the seasons with the 5th, 11th, 12th, 26th, 28th, 34th, 46th, 60th, 66th, 78th, 110th and 198th most batting runs all-time for a DH, but all of those seasons came with some other team, because Doug Mientkiewicz's defense was just that good. He's also got the third-most batting runs for a DH all-time, behind Edgar Martinez and Frank Thomas. He's only on this list the once, though: he played in 125 games for Minnesota in '02, 95 of those as the DH, and hit .272/.339/.500 (120 OPS+), good for 10.1 batting runs, with 20 homers. That represented a huge step forward from 2001, but the Twins must've figured the 26-year-old had peaked. Whoops! 8.) Craig Kusick, 1976: Quick, click that link and check out those shades and that 'stache. Then guess where he was born, and look below and see if you were right! Wasn't that fun? Anyway, Kusick filled a similar role in 1976 and '77 to the one Morales filled a couple of years later. The plate appearance difference wasn't quite as stark, but maybe it should have been, as Kusick hit just .223/.264/.379 against right-handed pitching in '76 and .193/.282/.339 against them in his career. Kusick still got most of his PA against lefties in '76, and crushed them, winding up with a .259/.344/.432 overall line in 306 PA. He did about the same thing in '77, but quickly fell off after that. 7.) Glenn Adams, 1977: Brought over from the GIants to serve as Kusick's platoon partner that second year, Adams faced a lefty only 7 times, going 0-for-5 with two walks, but hit an eye-popping .345/.378/.477 in 283 plate appearances against righties to give him a 130 overall OPS+. He'd never approach that kind of success again, putting up an 88 OPS+ in his five remaining seasons. 6.) Chili Davis, 1992: Thanks mostly to the 60% drop in home runs from the previous season, Davis's year, like so many other things about 1992, felt like a huge disappointment--and it was disappointing, a little. Still, though, Davis hit .288/.386/.439, good for a 130 OPS+--third on the team behind Puckett and Mack--and 17.5 batting runs. 5.) Miguel Sano, 2015: Only 80 games, 335 PA, and with 18.4 batting runs, it was still the fifth-most productive DH season in Twins history. He also holds the Twins DH strikeout record, with two more than Jim Thome's 117, but never mind that. That was fun. 4.) Paul Molitor, 1996: With the benefit of park factors and normalization, it's not quite as amazing as it seemed at the time that Molitor could come home at age 39 and bat .341. The park-adjusted league average line that year was .278/.352/.447, so Molitor's .341/.390/.468, which would've generated MVP talk 20 years later, was good for "just" a 118 OPS+. Still a great season, though, and Molitor played all but one of the team's games, leading the league with 225 hits and the team with 113 RBI. That was about all he had left in him, as it turned out, but Molitor and Knoblauch provided a good deal of excitement on what otherwise was a pretty depressing '96 team. 3.) Jason Kubel, 2009: Oh man, oh man. Remember this? Former top prospect busts out at age 27, hitting .300/.369/.539 (137 OPS+) with 28 homers and 35 doubles, appears poised for a six-to-eight-year run of dominance. That was as good as it got, of course; he'd never play in as many as 146 games again, and never came particularly close to that level of production again. But that was a helluva year. Kubel was a special kind of terror against right-handed pitching, batting .322/.396/.617 with 26 of his 28 homers when he had the platoon advantage. 2.) Chili Davis, 1991: You knew this would be here, right? Davis is one of only two players on this list who played as few as two seasons in Minnesota (see #1), and is the only player who appears twice on this list. It turns out I had another homer-related prejudice against Davis; I had always thought he tailed off badly that season, since he had 19 homers at the All-Star break but finished with "just" 29. But it turns out he was probably even better in the second half, just different: .269/.366/.521 before the break, .287/.407/.492 after it. It was an all-around great year at a really tough time to be a hitter, and of course, helping to lead the team to a world championship helps, too. 1.) Jim Thome, 2010: There have been a few hitters in my time as a Twins fan who I felt like I had to drop everything to watch: Mauer, Puckett, Knoblauch, and Shane Mack for me, at various times in their careers, each for his own idiosyncratic reasons. But Thome is the only one that gave you the feeling that at any time the next pitch might just suddenly disappear somewhere over a neighboring county. He turned 40 in August of 2010, and he played in only 109 games, with only 340 plate appearances (and is the only one on this list not to take the field with a glove even once all season), but every one of them was An Event. I can't write responsibly about it, because his time with the Twins was just so great. Just , instead. I want to marry that clip.Thome's 31.7 batting runs top Davis's by nearly three runs in just over half the number of PAs, and his 182 OPS+ is second in Twins history (minimum 250 PA) to Justin Morneau, from that same 2010 season. He was just. I mean. I need some time here. So there's a lot of fun there at the top, but overall, it's a pretty underwhelming list. The Twins had the first DH, kind of, but have never quite found the right guy to take the job, or at least not for long. It will be interesting (I hope!) to look back at this at the end of the year to see where Byung-ho Park fits in, if he makes the cut at all. His ZiPS and Steamer projections would almost certainly put him somewhere in the top five, for whatever that's worth.
  9. That didn't last long. The Padres designated ex-Twin Josmil Pinto for assignment today. Where will he wind up? Should the Twins be interested in him? I wonder if the Pads are trying to sneak him through now while most teams have full rosters so that they can outright him to AAA. He was claimed before he was outrighted by the Twins, so San Diego can outright him, I believe.
  10. I listened to ninety-something year old Sid Hartman saying that the Twins should have signed Nelson Cruz as a free agent today. I thought since free agency started that if the Twins wanted a bat-first free agent, they should sign Kendrys Morales. Morales had a 123 OPS+ in a pitcher-friendly park last year. His lifetime OPS+ is 120 and he is a switch-hitter with no discernable platoon splits. He will turn 31 in the middle of the season. Morales would be an everyday DH who could start at first when Mauer gets a day off. I wonder is Morales is amenable to a one-year deal or perhaps one year plus an option. He would cost that precious second round choice. With Cruz signing for a low number, I can't see Morales getting much more.
  11. After seeing a bit of the Atlanta series and now watching Twins vs. Brewers, I will say it. I like National League ball better than American League ball (with the DH). NL ball rewards pitchers who can hit a little, it emphasizes versatile players and there is so much strategy to be debated on an almost daily basis. I know it's painful to watch some pitchers hit and somebody once said nobody goes to the game to watch the manager think, but I'll still take a crisply played 3-2 game won by a pinch-hitter or a guy brought in on a double switch over a 8-7 slugfest.
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