August 9, 2006

Finally 30

It took 19 years and at times the drought seemed like a lot longer than that, but the Twins finally have another 30-homer hitter. Justin Morneau smacked his 30th homer of the season last night, becoming the first Twins batter to reach that mark since I was four years old. Seriously.

(Torii Hunter reacts after being asked by Morneau if he "ever hit 30 homers for the Twins.")

Morneau picked one hell of a time for No. 30 too, turning around a 99-mile-per-hour Joel Zumaya fastball and sending it into the seats in right field for a two-run homer that gave the Twins a 4-3 lead. Juan Rincon, Dennys Reyes, and Joe Nathan finished things up for Johan Santana, and thanks to losses by both the White Sox and Red Sox, the Twins took over the Wild Card lead:
WILD CARD       W      L     WIN%      GB
Minnesota 67 46 .593 ---
Chicago 66 46 .589 0.5
Boston 65 47 .580 1.5

Prior to Morneau, the last time a Twins hitter homered 30 times in a season was back in 1987, when Kent Hrbek (34), Tom Brunansky (32), and Gary Gaetti (31) all did so. Kirby Puckett nearly made it a foursome with 28 homers that year, which makes it all the more difficult to believe that it took nearly 20 years for the team to produce another 30-homer season.

Between Hrbek, Brunansky, and Gaetti all going deep 30 times in 1987 and Morneau's game-winning blast last night, 471 different 30-homer seasons took place across baseball. Included among those 471 were 139 seasons of at least 40 homers, 20 seasons of at least 50 homers, six seasons of at least 60 homers, and two seasons of at least 70 homers. The Twins, of course, had none of them.

The two-run homer also pushed Morneau's RBI total into triple digits, which is something only two Twins hitters had done over the past nine seasons. Morneau joins Harmon Killebrew (seven times) and Gaetti (twice) as the only three hitters in team history to produce a 30-homer, 100-RBI season, which is amazing given that those numbers have long been the standard for power-hitting.

Breaking a 19-year drought is great--I was sick of reading and writing about it--but the real beauty of Morneau's season is that it's still early August. He has another 49 games to add to those totals, which are already among the best in Twins history. Here's how Morneau's current 43-homer, 145-RBI pace would stack up in team history:

                      YEAR     HR                              YEAR     RBI
Harmon Killebrew 1964 49 JUSTIN MORNEAU 2006 145
Harmon Killebrew 1969 49 Harmon Killebrew 1969 140
Harmon Killebrew 1962 48 Harmon Killebrew 1962 126
Harmon Killebrew 1961 46 Harmon Killebrew 1961 122
Harmon Killebrew 1963 45 Kirby Puckett 1988 121
Harmon Killebrew 1967 44 Harmon Killebrew 1971 119
JUSTIN MORNEAU 2006 43 Larry Hisle 1977 119
Harmon Killebrew 1970 41 Harmon Killebrew 1970 113
Harmon Killebrew 1966 39 Paul Molitor 1996 113
Bob Allison 1963 35 Harmon Killebrew 1967 113

It seems like that Killebrew guy could hit a little bit.

Lost somewhat in the homers and RBIs is that Morneau is also hitting .322. In the entire history of baseball, a .320-40-140 season has taken place only 38 times, including just 10 times over the past 50 years. In other words, not only is he about to re-write the Twins record book, Morneau has a chance to place himself in some pretty rarefied air well beyond the team's power-starved history.

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