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.


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