January 31, 2006

Top 40 Minnesota Twins: #38 Eric Milton

ERIC ROBERT MILTON | SP | 1998-2003 | CAREER STATS

G GS IP W L ERA ERA+ WARP WS
166 165 987.1 57 51 4.76 101 24.0 55

Taken by the Yankees with the 20th overall pick in the 1996 draft out of the University of Maryland, Eric Milton was named New York's Minor League Pitcher of the Year after going 14-6 with a 3.10 ERA in 171 innings between Single-A and Double-A in 1997. That turned out to be Milton's only season in the Yankees organization, as he was shipped to the Twins along with fellow prospects Cristian Guzman, Brian Buchanan, and Danny Mota for Chuck Knoblauch on February 6, 1998.

While he likely would have spent at least another season or two in the minors had he stayed with the Yankees, following the trade Milton was immediately thrust into the majors as a member of the Twins' starting rotation despite a grand total of just 14 starts above Single-A. His big-league debut came on April 5, 1998 against the Royals, and Milton tossed six innings of shutout ball to pick up the win.

Milton continued to pitch fairly well during the first four months of the year, going 6-7 with a 4.64 ERA through July. Then, as you might expect from a 22-year-old rookie, he fell apart down the stretch. Milton went a combined 2-7 with an 8.10 ERA in 11 starts between August and September, and finished the season a disappointing 8-14 with a 5.64 ERA in 32 starts for a Twins team that went 70-92.

Despite a sub par rookie year, Milton had clearly shown flashes of potential and it was no surprise when he put things together in his sophomore season. While his 7-11 record was underwhelming, it was more reflective of the Twins' 63-97 record and league-worst offense than Milton's performance. In fact, Milton's 1999 season was arguably the best of his career, as he tossed 206.1 innings with a 4.49 ERA in a high-scoring environment, struck out 163 batters, and allowed opponents to hit just .243.

The highlight of Milton's second season was undoubtedly his no-hitter against the Angels. Milton was brilliant that afternoon, striking out 13 batters on his way to the fifth no-hitter in team history, but the game isn't exactly etched in memory of many Twins fans. Not only did the no-hitter come against an Angels lineup that was almost entirely made up of September callups, the game wasn't on television in the Twin Cities and the first pitch was pushed up because of a Gophers football game later that day. At most, 11,222 people saw Milton's gem.

After going 13-10 with a 4.86 ERA during his third year, Milton began the 2001 season 8-3 with a 3.73 ERA in the first half and was selected to his first All-Star team. The Twins came out of nowhere to lead the division by five games at the All-Star break, but ended up six games behind the Indians as guys like Milton faded badly in the second half. Even with the fade, Milton finished the year 15-7 with a 4.32 ERA in 220.2 innings and the Twins finished above .500 for the first time since 1992.

Milton was in the middle of what had become a fairly typical season for him in 2002, going 13-7 with a 4.60 ERA in his first 24 starts. Then, after a 131-pitch complete-game shutout against the White Sox on August 1, he reportedly heard his left knee "pop" while warming up for his August 6 start against the Orioles. He was scratched from the start, immediately went to the hospital, and underwent surgery to repair a tear in his lateral meniscus a couple days later.

He ended up missing less than a month of action, returning to the mound on September 2 as the Twins started him off slow and gradually increased his workload with an eye towards having him on track for the postseason. Milton struggled, going 0-2 with a 6.64 ERA in five September starts, but went 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in two playoff starts as the Twins made it all the way to the ALCS. Sadly, Milton was far from done with the injury.

After an offseason filled with stories about his surgically repaired left knee swelling up and Milton "toughing it out," the Twins finally announced in March that he would need a second surgery. It was initially reported that he would miss around two months, but instead Milton missed nearly six months and didn't make it back until the final two weeks of the season. He made just three regular-season starts and then pitched 3.1 scoreless innings as a reliever in Game 4 of the ALDS loss to the Yankees.

That was Milton's final game with the Twins. With one season and $9 million remaining on the four-year contract he signed in March of 2001, the Twins shipped Milton to the Phillies for Carlos Silva, Nick Punto, and Bobby Korecky on December 3, 2003. At the time of the deal I wrote that not having Milton's salary on the books had "a lot of value" considering his uncertain health status, and opined that the players Terry Ryan got in return were "just an added bonus."

Milton ended up posting a 4.75 ERA in 201 innings for the Phillies in 2004, but that certainly wouldn't have been worth $9 million to a small-market team. Meanwhile, Silva stepped right into the rotation for Milton, out-pitched him by going 14-8 with a 4.21 ERA in 203 innings, and made $340,000 while doing so. Silva has become a dependable middle-of-the-rotation starter who is every bit as good as Milton ever was in Minnesota.

In doing the research for this and other installments of my Top 40 Minnesota Twins countdown, I noticed some striking similarities between Milton and Scott Erickson, who I profiled last week as the 39th-best Twins player of all time. The most obvious comparison is between their actual numbers with the Twins, which were nearly identical:

                GS        IP      W      L     ERA+    WARP     WS
Milton 165 987.1 57 51 101 24.0 55
Erickson 153 979.1 61 60 104 26.8 56

That's amazing, and the similarities run deeper. Both pitchers were in the rotation at 22, and the way their careers with the Twins played out tells the story of the team during each time period. Erickson peaked early, winning 20 games in his second season for the 1991 team that won the World Series, and then went downhill from there as the team fell into a funk for the rest of the decade. On the other hand, Milton struggled early as the team continued its post-1992 tailspin, and began to truly come into his own as the Twins finally became contenders again in 2001.

Even the differing returns the Twins received for trading each pitcher paved the way for the franchise's fate. Erickson was shipped to Baltimore for prospects who failed to pan out in a period defined by the team's inability to develop young talent. At the other end of the spectrum, Milton went to Philadelphia in a deal that brought back a young pitcher who immediately became a key contributor on a team that has been filled with prospects who blossomed together over the past five years.

The end result is the same for both pitchers -- just short of 1,000 innings of slightly above-average pitching over six seasons in Minnesota -- but the way they got there was very different. One was a right-handed ground-ball pitcher who peaked early and struggled with an arm injury, while the other was a left-handed fly-ball pitcher who developed gradually and struggled with a knee injury. At the same time, their Twins careers were striking in that they were each typical of the franchise at the time. It's probably fitting that they are back-to-back in these rankings.

TOP 25 ALL-TIME MINNESOTA TWINS RANKS:

Starts 165 9th
Innings 987.1 10th
Strikeouts 715 11th
Wins 57 11th

Finally, some random trivia about the 38th-best player in Minnesota Twins history. Eric Milton ...

... led the NL in homers allowed in both 2004 (43) and 2005 (40).

... has a 1.65 ERA in 16.1 career postseason innings.

... hit .300 in 20 career at-bats with the Twins, but then batted just .154 and .143 in two NL seasons.

... threw a no-hitter in the Cape Cod League while in college.

... was three outs away from a second no-hitter while with the Phillies on July 25, 2004, but Michael Barrett broke it up with a leadoff double in the ninth inning.

... signed a three-year $25.5 million free-agent contract with the Reds last offseason, and then went 8-15 with a 6.47 ERA in 2005.

... has a tattoo of each team he's pitched for, from the University of Maryland's terrapin to the logos for the Yankees, Twins, Phillies, and Reds.


January 30, 2006

Twins Notes

Between kicking off the top-40 countdown and breaking down a horrible Wolves trade, quite a few interesting Twins-related notes popped up in various places ...

  • While they essentially put an end to the meaningful portion of the offseason by declining to trade for Corey Koskie, the Twins are reportedly still trying to fill out the bottom of the roster by finding a left-handed bench bat. Here's the scoop from the Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, La Velle E. Neal III, in the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
    That could mean they are looking at such players as Erubiel Durazo, Dave Hansen and Timo Perez. Hansen's agent has been in touch with the Twins, but it's unclear how much interest the Twins have in him. Perez has played in two World Series, in 2000 with the Mets and last season with the White Sox.

    Durazo has a .381 career on-base percentage but was slowed by injuries last season. He also might be too expensive for the Twins. "I'm looking at it," Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said when asked about bench players. "If there's something there that makes some sense, we will address it. You also have to deal with chemistry and make sure he's happy on that bench."

    Grouping Erubiel Durazo with Dave Hansen and Timo Perez is like grouping Albert Einstein with Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson, in that it makes almost zero sense on any level. A healthy Durazo would be one of the Twins' best hitters, while a healthy Hansen or Perez would struggle to be Triple-A Rochester's best hitter.

  • According to Jason Williams in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Ron Gardenhire has already decided on the first five spots in his 2006 batting order: Shannon Stewart, Luis Castillo, Joe Mauer, Rondell White, Torii Hunter.

    The thing that makes little sense is Stewart leading off, rather than Castillo. Castillo has significantly less power and is far more of a base-stealing threat, which means you want him batting in front of the more powerful and less speedy Stewart. Much like Gardenhire playing Stewart over Lew Ford in left field over the past two years, this is another example of the manager not wanting to ruffle Stewart's feathers at the expense of actual performance.

    The other thing that sticks out is that Justin Morneau's name is nowhere to be found, which means he's likely slated to bat sixth. The importance of a batting order is almost always overstated, so I don't think this is much of an issue aside from giving a glimpse into Gardenhire's thought process heading into the season. It's encouraging that Tony Batista's name is also absent from the first five spots. The bad news is that Batista's name will still show up in spots six through nine.

  • Speaking of Morneau, LEN3 reports that he and Hunter patched things up at Twins Fest. Here's what Hunter had to say about it:
    We both apologized. We're going to go out there and play the game. We're like brothers. We're together every day, and you're bound to disagree on something. It's about making up and we made up. It's like a marriage. Well, not like a marriage.

    In other words, they're like brothers who are married. Hopefully the makeup sex was good, because "the only thing you're gonna have better than makeup sex is conjugal visit sex."

  • Within that same article, LEN3 reports that Morneau is feeling "great after being able to work out throughout the offseason." He's up to 230 pounds and unlike last winter has avoided contracting the illnesses usually reserved for people playing The Oregon Trail.
  • MLB.com's Twins beat writer, Kelly Theiser, wrote an article over the weekend that had some details on Jason Kubel's health status. Apparently Kubel tripped and fell off the stage he was standing on during Twins Fest, landed on his surgically repaired knee, and decided that the lack of pain was "a good sign for spring training." Just imagine how optimistic everyone would be if Kubel had dropped an anvil on his foot or something.
  • Former Twins outfielder Dustan Mohr has agreed to a one-year deal with the Red Sox. That should be a good fit for Mohr, who can platoon with Trot Nixon in right field and give Boston a capable backup in all three outfield spots.
  • CBS Sportsline's Scott Miller wrote an article about the Twins last week that had an interesting quote from Terry Ryan. Asked about the negative reaction some people have had in regard to the Batista signing, Ryan said:
    It's not exactly what people admire in statistical analysis. I know that. I'm not so much concerned with home runs. I'm concerned with winning games. I'm concerned for our pitching and bullpen -- we need more (offensive) pressure, more threats.

    It seems to me that the people in favor of the Batista signing -- Ryan included -- are unable to separate one offensive skill from a player's overall offensive package. Things like drawing walks, hitting homers, and bunting for hits are just part of the total value a player can bring to the table offensively. In Batista's case, many people seem to be saying that his ability to hit home runs or put "pressure" on opposing teams makes up for the fact that he doesn't get on base and eats up a tremendous number of outs.

    Not only isn't that true, it shows a lack of understanding about what leads to run scoring. Teams score runs not because they do certain things well -- like hit for power or draw walks or steal bases -- but because the overall makeup of their offense is good. The overall makeup of Batista's offense is horrible, and his ability to hit homers is accounted for within that.

    Think of a hitter like a movie. There are a number of things that need to go right for a movie to be good, from the acting and directing to the script and cinematography. Batista is like a movie that has good actors, but they're doing scenes from a horrible script, being directed by someone who has no clue, and the whole thing is being shot with a camcorder.

    That movie would have some positive aspects and people who wanted to defend it would say things like, "It wasn't a great movie, but the acting was good." Sure, but the overall product would still be sub par because it's not as simple as the good canceling out the bad. In other words, good acting and all, the movie still stunk.



  • January 26, 2006

    Seven Players, No Hope

    I had the usual Link-O-Rama entry ready for today, but everything gets put on hold when the Wolves make a horrible trade. I have been very critical of Kevin McHale in the past, both for his inability to surround Kevin Garnett with talent and his maddening tendency to award mediocre players with long-term contracts worth way too much money. Yesterday's seven-player swap with the Celtics cements my view of McHale as, at the very least, the wrong man to rebuild the team back into a contender.

    Since advancing to the conference finals, the Wolves' problems have boiled down to a simple lack of top-line talent. Garnett is an elite player and Wally Szczerbiak is a capable second or third option, but the rest of the roster has been filled with role players forced into too-big roles. A team that counts Marko Jaric, Eddie Griffin, Trenton Hassell and Troy Hudson among its six best players isn't going anywhere unless it has two superstars leading the way, and Szczerbiak fell well short of that.

    All of which makes yesterday's trade such a disaster. Rather than trying to acquire draft picks to help provide the roster with some much-needed long-term potential or finding a way to trade a couple of those spare parts for another Szczerbiak-like borderline star, McHale chose to unload one of two players on the entire team who have performed at a high level.

    As I showed here last week, take a look at how Garnett and Szczerbiak stuck out from the rest of the team when it comes to True Shooting Percentage (a measure of offensive efficiency that goes beyond field goal percentage by accounting for free throws and three-pointers):

    Wally Szczerbiak      60.8
    Kevin Garnett 58.4

    NBA AVERAGE 53.2

    Trenton Hassell 53.1
    Marko Jaric 48.7
    Troy Hudson 48.7
    Michael Olowokandi 46.1
    Anthony Carter 45.7
    Rashad McCants 45.1
    Eddie Griffin 41.4

    Szczerbiak has his flaws and is not what I consider to be a great player, but he has consistently been one of the most efficient offensive players in basketball. On a team that is among the worst in the league offensively, that made him the equivalent of the last canteen full of water for a man trapped in the desert. Now he's in Boston, hitting mid-range jumpers alongside Paul Pierce and a promising young core, and Garnett's supporting cast is even weaker.

    To make matters worse, for the privilege of essentially swapping Szczerbiak for Ricky Davis (at best a push, and likely a downgrade), McHale gave up a future first-round pick and the cap room that comes along with Michael Olowokandi's expiring contract, and took on Mark Blount's bloated long-term deal. Blount will fit right in with Hudson, Jaric, Hassell, and Mark Madsen on the Wolves' roster full of overpaid players, and the lack of a first rounder is certainly something the Wolves are used to.

    A combination of the Joe Smith debacle, including first-round picks in trades, and McHale's inability to find talent in the draft of late leaves the team with a future that doesn't look much better than the present. Next year's first-round pick (lottery protected) is already property of the Clippers thanks to the misguided Sam Cassell-for-Jaric swap and McHale used the only two first rounders he's had this decade on Ndudi Ebi (since cut) and Rashad McCants (a poor pick bound for a mediocre career).

    There is no light at the end of this tunnel. Garnett turns 30 years old in May, the team has no hope for any meaningful salary cap room to pursue free agents, and McCants represents the best (and perhaps only) long-term building block the Wolves have. It doesn't get much worse than that, which is why a trade like yesterday's that fails to make things better now or in the future is maddening.

    Davis is the type of player the Wolves should have been trying to add, but doing so at the expense of losing Szczerbiak makes absolutely no sense. Marcus Banks was one of my favorite college players while at UNLV and is one hell of an athlete, but he's shown little ability to be a quality NBA point guard. Blount is a stiff center who rebounds like a guard, and Justin Reed is Ronald Dupree without the cool-sounding name.

    With each forfeited draft pick, botched trade, and uninspired free-agent decision McHale and the Wolves move one step closer to wasting the career of one of the greatest big men in NBA history. I see no way for the team to provide Garnett with a championship-caliber supporting cast in the next three years, and even if a minor miracle allows them to get their act together to do so soon after that, it'll be just in time for his decline.

    The Wolves are a train bound for nowhere, and they're heading there fast.

    UPDATE: John Hollinger, who is my favorite basketball writer, opines on ESPN.com that the trade is "slightly in favor of Minnesota." He makes some fair points, but the fact that Davis' defense is better than Szczerbiak's likely doesn't offset the offensive dropoff for a team that was already doing well defensively while struggling to score.

    The Wolves are well past the point of "slightly in favor" doing them any good regardless of if it's true, and Szczerbiak has a significant edge in Hollinger's all-encompassing pet stat, Player Efficiency Rating:

                    TS%     AST%    REB%      TO%       PER
    Szczerbiak 60.1 12.9 7.4 9.9 18.67
    Davis 52.9 19.8 6.5 10.3 16.06

    UPDATE #2: I keep hearing that Davis is "a slasher" and "the type of aggressive scorer Garnett needs." That's all fine, but if he's so aggressive and can get to the basket so well, why is he averaging a measly 3.9 free-throw attempts in 41.7 minutes?


    January 25, 2006

    Top 40 Minnesota Twins: #39 Scott Erickson

    SCOTT GAVIN ERICKSON | SP | 1990-1995 | CAREER STATS

    G GS IP W L ERA ERA+ WARP WS
    155 153 979.1 61 60 4.22 104 26.8 56

    My mom's all-time favorite Twins player, Scott Erickson's career got off to about as fast a start as anyone in the team's history. A fourth-round pick out of the University of Arizona in 1989, Erickson posted a 2.97 ERA in 78.2 innings at Single-A after signing, went 8-3 with a 3.03 ERA in 101 innings at Double-A to begin the 1990 season, and then found himself in the big leagues at the age of 22.

    Erickson's big-league debut came against the Rangers on June 25, 1990, and he picked up a win with six innings of four-hit, one-run ball. His first hit allowed was a first-inning single to Rafael Palmeiro, and a 31-year-old Julio Franco was playing second base and batting second for Texas that day. Kirby Puckett and Shane Mack provided Erickson's run support, as each homered in the Twins' 9-1 win at the Metrodome.

    Despite finishing 8-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 113 innings during his rookie year, including 5-0 with a 1.35 ERA in September, Erickson failed to garner even one vote for Rookie of the Year. He made up for that in his second season, helping to lead the Twins into the postseason by going 20-8 with a 3.18 ERA in 204 innings. Erickson led the league in wins and finished second to Roger Clemens in the Cy Young balloting, but struggled in the ALCS and World Series as rotation-mate Jack Morris stole the show.

    At just 23 years old Erickson was a 20-game winner with a championship and had a 28-12 record with a 3.07 ERA. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there. He had a solid 1992 season, going 13-12 with a 3.40 ERA in 212 innings as the Twins narrowly missed the playoffs. Then, as was the case with the entire team, things began to fall apart in 1993. The Twins fell to 71-91 and Erickson won just eight games while leading the league in losses (19), hits allowed (266), and runs allowed (138).

    Improbably, in his fifth start of the 1994 season Erickson threw a no-hitter against the Brewers at the Metrodome. Puckett and Chuck Knoblauch combined for seven hits and Kent Hrbek launched a homer, as Erickson became the third pitcher in team history to toss a no-hitter. Sadly, that was just about the lone bright spot that year. Erickson finished 8-11 with a 5.44 ERA in 144 innings for a fourth-place team, and the season ended when the players went on strike with nearly two months left to play.

    The strike continued into the 1995 season, and when Erickson finally got back on the mound in late April he was a mess. After going 4-6 with a 5.95 ERA in his first 15 starts, the last-place Twins traded Erickson, still only 27, to the Orioles for prospects Scott Klingenbeck and Kimera Bartee. He never found the success from his first few seasons, but Erickson became an innings eater for Baltimore, throwing 220 or more innings in four straight seasons before arm injuries eventually did him in.

    Erickson's last effective season was 1999, when he won 15 games for the Orioles, yet he managed to stick around long enough to go 1-4 with a 6.02 ERA for the Dodgers in 2005. While fighting through injuries and spending more time on the disabled list than on the field from 2000-2005, Erickson went 12-28 with a hideous 6.39 ERA. Meanwhile, like many of the prospects dealt for in the mid-90s, Klingenbeck and Bartee were complete flops who combined for one win and zero hits as Twins.

    In many ways, Erickson's career with the Twins mirrored the entire team's story during the 1990s. He peaked in 1991 as the most effective pitcher on a championship team at 22 years old, but that success was short-lived (with sub par strikeout rates and strikeout-to-walk ratios foreshadowing the decline). Even the players the Twins received in return for Erickson were among the many prospects who turned out to be busts as the team failed to return to respectability throughout the last half of the decade.

    Like the Twins, when Erickson was good he was very good. An extreme ground-ball pitcher who wore black shoes with black socks, a black glove, and an intimidating stare, Erickson was a lot of fun to watch (and not just for the ladies). And like the Twins, when Erickson was bad he was very bad. When the sinker wasn't sinking, the right elbow was barking, and those grounders were finding holes and skipping through the infield turf, things got ugly.

    Had you told someone in 1991 that Erickson would win 61 games in a Twins uniform they never would have believed you, but he ended up staying in Minnesota for just six seasons and split them evenly between three very good years and three bad ones. The end result is a Twins career that could have been a lot better, but that still makes him one of the dozen or so most successful pitchers in team history.

    TOP 25 ALL-TIME MINNESOTA TWINS RANKS:

    Wins 61 10th
    Starts 153 10th
    Shutouts 7 10th
    Innings 979.1 11th
    Strikeouts 527 17th
    ERA 4.22 23rd

    Finally, some random trivia about the 39th-best player in Minnesota Twins history. Scott Erickson ...

    ... won 142 games in the majors, yet is probably best-known for marrying Lisa Guerrero.

    ... led the NCAA with 173 innings in 1988 and set a University of Arizona record with 18 wins.

    ... was Baltimore's starter when Cal Ripken Jr. tied Lou Gehrig's record for consecutive games played on September 5, 1995, and threw a shutout.

    ... once beat the Twins nine straight times after they traded him.

    ... had a 12-game winning streak from April 21, 1991 to June 24, 1991.

    ... tied Frank Viola for the team-record with a 30.1-inning scoreless streak in 1991.

    ... was the starting pitcher when the Twins turned two triple plays on July 17, 1990.

    ... was the starting pitcher in the September 27, 1996 game when Roberto Alomar spit on umpire John Hirschbeck.

    ... had a cameo on Baltimore-based Homicide: Life on the Street with teammate Armando Benitez.

    ... made over $40 million in salary during his career, but only 10% of it came from the Twins.


    January 24, 2006

    Top 40 Minnesota Twins: #40 Randy Bush

    ROBERT RANDALL BUSH | RF/LF/1B/DH | 1982-1993 | CAREER STATS

    G PA AVG OBP SLG OPS+ WARP WS
    1219 3480 .251 .334 .413 102 19.2 76

    Taken in the second round of the 1979 draft out of the University of New Orleans, Randy Bush struggled in his first two minor-league seasons before hitting .290 with 22 homers and 94 RBIs in 136 games at Double-A in 1981. After hitting well at Triple-A to start the 1982 season, the Twins called Bush up and he made his big-league debut against the Brewers on May 1, 1982.

    With the Twins trailing by one run in the bottom of the ninth, Bush pinch-hit for catcher Sal Butera leading off the inning and struck out against Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers. He recovered from that rough first at-bat to hit a respectable .244/.305/.412 in 55 games as a 23-year-old rookie and never went back to the minor leagues.

    A left-handed hitter, Bush immediately took on what would become a career-long role as a platoon player and bench bat. He never received 500 plate appearances in a season, but typically came to the plate 350-450 times and put up solid numbers. His career splits are extreme -- .255/.338/.422 against righties, compared to .152/.250/.232 against lefties -- and the most amazing thing is that Bush had an absurdly low grand total of 118 plate appearances against southpaws in 12 major-league seasons.

    Had Bush's career started in 2002, instead of 1982, Ron Gardenhire would play him every day and stubbornly watch him struggle against lefties. Instead, under managers Billy Gardner and Tom Kelly Bush was able to thrive in a role that magnified his strengths and downplayed his weaknesses. The fact that he averaged fewer than 10 plate appearances per season against lefties is remarkable considering he came to the plate nearly 3,500 times, and shows how valuable a fairly run-of-the-mill player can be when used optimally.

    Bush enjoyed hitting in the Metrodome (.796 home OPS, .699 road OPS) and his numbers rose in key spots. He posted a .711 OPS with the bases empty, but stepped it up to .798 with runners on base and .801 with runners in scoring position. Bush played right field most often during his career, but also spent substantial time at designated hitter, left field, and first base. He typically hit second, fifth or sixth in the Twins' batting order, but logged over 100 plate appearances in each the lineup's nine spots.

    It's difficult to identify the best season of Bush's career because he was so consistent with both his performance and playing time. His best overall production likely came in 1988, when he received a career-high 466 plate appearances and hit .261/.365/.434 with 14 homers, 51 RBIs, and 51 runs scored for a 121 OPS+. His most effective year was without question 1991, when at 32 years old Bush batted .303/.401/.485 for a 140 OPS+ in 192 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter and occasional starter.

    The best game of Bush's career came on May 20, 1989, when he batted cleanup and went 3-for-4 with two homers and a team-record eight RBIs in a 19-3 win over the Rangers. He was a member of both the 1987 and 1991 World Series winners and came up with a key two-run double against starter Danny Cox in the Twins' Game 2 win over the Cardinals, but hit just .227/.308/.364 in 11 postseason games. Interestingly, Bush had both his last productive season and his most effective season in 1991, and retired after hitting .156 in 1993.

    Bush's career spanned a dozen seasons, all with the Twins, and he finished with a .251/.334/.413 hitting line in 3,480 plate appearances. Those numbers aren't particularly impressive on the surface, but in the context of the low-offense era Bush played in they were solid. Bush's career OPS+ was 102, which means he was an above-average hitter over the course of his career, and he appears quite a bit on the Twins' all-time leaderboard.

    TOP 25 ALL-TIME MINNESOTA TWINS RANKS:

    Games 1219 8th
    Homers 96 13th
    RBIs 409 14th
    Walks 348 15th
    Doubles 154 18th
    Runs 388 20th
    Hits 763 21st

    Finally, some random trivia about the 40th-best player in Minnesota Twins history. Randy Bush ...

    ... broke up Jim Clancy's perfect game with a ninth-inning leadoff single on September 28, 1982.

    ... is tied with Dave May for the all-time lead in homers among players born in Delaware.

    ... led the league with 13 pinch-hits in 1991.

    ... ranked fifth in the league with 10 intentional walks in 1988.

    ... became a free agent and re-signed with the Twins three times.

    ... was paid a career-high $550,000 in 1989.

    ... hit .369 with a .764 slugging percentage in one season at the University of New Orleans.

    ... served as head coach of his alma mater from 2000-2003.


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