Friday, July 07, 2006

All-Star Arcana

In a game thread at the SBG site during the Houston series, the question came up, "Is Ron Coomer the worst Twins All-Star?

So I did some research to find all the Twins All-Stars who finished the season with an OPS+ below the league average. You can find my complete list and comments here.

These were the Twins to finish their All-Star seasons with a VORP under 10.0:

Line at Break
Final Line
Win Sh.
R. Coomer, '99
D. Engle, '84
E. Battey, '66
J. Roseboro, '69
B. Wynegar, '77
G. Gaetti, '89
J. Perry, '71
12-8, 4.10 ERA
17-17, 4.23 ERA
*signifies ERA+

Since then, of course Francisco Liriano in the midst of a phenomenal season has been robbed of his rightful place on the 2006 All-Star team, which makes me wonder: what were the best seasons posted by a Twins player who did not make the All-Star team in that year?

First we'll look at the hitters, then the pitchers.

Line at Break
Final Line
Win Sh.
C. Knoblauch, '95
L. Bostock, '77
K. Hrbek, '84
S. Mack, '92
K. Hrbek, '88
T. Walker, '98
R. Smalley, '78
P. Molitor, '96
C. Davis, '91
C. Koskie, '01
K. Hrbek, '87
C. Tovar, '70
J. Jones, '02
Minimum 25 Win Shares or 40 VORP

Justin Morneau is hitting .301/.355/.596 with a 27.0 VORP as of today, and 11 Win Shares through 7/2.

Chuck Knoblauch made 4 All-Star teams in his Twins career, but missed the '95 Game because Indians fans stuffed the ballot boxes for Carlos Baerga, and Roberto Alomar was chosen as the 2B reserve. Knobby responded by hitting .345/.442/.547 in the last 3 months of the season.

The '77 Twins apparently filled their quota of All-Stars with Rod Carew, Larry Hisle, and Butch Wynegar, leaving great performances by Lyman Bostock and Dave Goltz unrewarded.

Kent Hrbek in '84 had the strange distinction of finishing 2nd in the MVP vote, but was passed over as the Twins' token rep at the All-Star Game in favor of Dave Engle, one of the least deserving Twins ever to get the honor. Hrbek lost out again in the World Series year of '87 when Kirby Puckett was the Twins' lone rep. Incredibly, when Tom Kelly had the authority to pick All-Star reserves the next summer, he didn't pick his man Hrbek, although Hrbek was enjoying one of his very best seasons. TK later did the same thing to Shane Mack in '92. Of course, you see Todd Walker up there, another part of TK's player relations legacy.

Cesar Tovar established himself through his first four years with the Twins as a Super-Utility regular in the lineup. In a late-September game in 1968, he even played all 9 positions on the field, striking out Reggie Jackson in his scoreless inning on the mound. But, by 1970, he had moved to the outfield nearly full-time, usually in Centerfield. He must have been an extraordinary fielder in the Twins outfield that year, because he rates 28 Win Shares despite a 118 OPS+ and a VORP that ranks 51st in the majors that season, and yet he didn't win a Gold Glove and isn't listed by Win Shares amongst the top three defensive outfielders in the AL for 1970. So I'm a bit skeptical of those 28 Win Shares, but that's what the book says.

Jacque Jones was one of the AL's best defensive Leftfielders in 2002 with an .899 ZR and league-leading 2.60 RF, earning 4.57 Win Shares for his fielding, just 0.75 Win Shares less than Torii Hunter's defensive value in Centerfield that season. Jacque also led the Twins with 97 Runs Created and 19.89 Offensive Win Shares, but his VORP takes a hit because of all the Leftfielders who could mash, particularly in the NL, that season. Had he been the one groomed to take over Centerfield instead of moving over for Hunter in 1999-2000, he well might have been the one to sign the big multi-year contract and become the "Face of the Franchise" in 2002, instead of his good buddy.

Line at Break
Final Line
Win Sh.
J. Santana, '04
7-4, 3.89 ERA
20-6, 2.61 ERA
F. Viola, '87
8-6, 2.96 ERA
17-10, 2.90 ERA
K. Tapani, '91
5-7, 3.14 ERA
16-9, 2.99 ERA
J. Koosman, '79
11-6, 3.52 ERA
20-13, 3.38 ERA
C. Pascual, '63
9-5, 2.57 ERA
21-9, 2.46 ERA
B. Blyleven, '74
8-10, 3.06 ERA
17-17, 2.66 ERA
D. Goltz, '77
10-6, 3.67 ERA
20-11, 3.66 ERA
B. Blyleven, '75
7-4, 3.42 ERA
15-10, 3.00 ERA
J. Perry, '69
11-4, 3.07 ERA
20-6, 2.82 ERA
F. Viola, '84
9-7, 3.02 ERA
18-12, 3.21 ERA
D. Corbett, '80
2.15 ERA, 8 Sv
8-6, 1.98, 23 Sv
B. Blyleven, '71
7-11, 3.13 ERA
16-15, 2.81 ERA
Minimum 20 Win Shares and 50 VORP

First, it's interesting to note that Santana in '04 and Viola in '87 posted the two best seasons of pitching, by VORP, in Twins history, and yet both also were excluded from the All-Star Game in those years.

Francisco Liriano has a 10-1 record and 1.83 ERA through tonight's game, and 13 Win Shares and a 37.4 VORP prior to his latest start. So he's on a pace to hit at least #3 on the list, and clearly he is the most dominant Twins pitcher through this point of the season not to get an invitation to the All-Star Game.

Santana's 2004 season tops the list, and most of us remember how he was slow to get going that season: at the end of May, he was 2-3 with a 5.61 ERA. When he beat Milwaukee on June 25, his ERA was still just a so-so 4.38 to go with a 6-3 record, and then he took the Loss in a 2-1 defeat to Chicago on July 1, albeit dropping his ERA to 4.22. He wouldn't generate a national buzz about him until August, when he beat Mike Mussina and the Yankees on the 18th to put his record at 13-6, 3.23, and people started talking about him as a short-list candidate for the Cy Young Award.

The usual trouble for the pitchers above seems to be a mediocre W-L record at the break, or a low Saves total in Doug Corbett's case (Joe Nathan, give him a call). Last night during the Twins TV broadcast, Dick once joked, "You know what they say down on the field, 'It all evens out in the end,'" but Bert wouldn't play that. As he muttered that he didn't believe in that aphorism, he sounded all of the man who was cheated out of 300 Wins, his fair share of All-Star Games, and possibly a plaque in the Hall of Fame because of bad breaks that decidedly did not even out in the end.

Jim Perry's chances of making the All-Star team in '69 might have been hurt because there were already 4 Twins getting the nod, but he also might have rallied just too late to get serious consideration. After pitching on July 1, Perry had a 6-4 record and 3.68 ERA, only about league-average that season. But in his next 6 starts before the break in late July, he racked up 5 Wins and lowered his ERA to 3.07. He ended up 3rd in the Cy Young voting, and would go the All-Star Game and win the Cy Young Award the next year.

Camilo Pascual in '63 was already a veteran of 4 straight All-Star Games, and would play in the Mid-Summer Classic again in 1964, but in 1963 he was out of action for the better part of June and early July, spoiling his All-Star streak. He would finish the season 2nd in the league with 21 Wins, 3rd with a 2.46 ERA, and best in the league with 202 strikeouts.

Jerry Koosman in '79 was a 36 year-old veteran taken off the Mets' scrap heap before the season in exchange for Greg Fields and prospect Jesse Orosco. He had posted a 3-15, 3.75 mark (94 ERA+) the previous year in New York, but the waters of Minnesota revived him. The 3rd place Twins (48-41 at the break) were only represented at the All-Star Game by Roy Smalley; but, on the last day of the season, Koosman had his moment of glory when he not only earned his 20th Win but also blanked the Brewers, spoiling Milwaukee's bid to be the first team since the '32 Yankees to play an entire season without being shut out.


At 7/09/2006 9:58 AM, Blogger SBG said...

Hrbek was obviously jobbed in 1984, but did you know this? Kirk Gibson never played in an All-Star Game, not even in his 1988 MVP season.

At 7/09/2006 12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I recall it, Hrbek had been so thoroughly snubbed by '88 that he had declared his intention to never participate in the All-Star game, which is probably why TK did not select him.

At 7/09/2006 12:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian Harper was not on this list?
He should have made it in 1993, as he was clearly the secound best C in the league that year.

At 7/09/2006 7:51 PM, Blogger frightwig said...

Brian Harper in '93 was worth 25.7 VORP, 17 Win Shares, and hit .310/.349/.456 at the break. He misses my cut-off, which I set because there were just too many Twins worth 25-39.9 VORP in a season but did not make the All-Star team. I made exceptions for Tovar-70 and Jones-02 because they had such high Win Shares values.

The AL All-Star Catchers in '93 were Ivan Rodriguez, by fan vote (13.1 VORP, 13 WS; .272/.316/.404 at the break), and Terry Steinbach, chosen by Cito Gaston as Oakland's token rep that year (13.9 VORP, 20 WS, .301/.345/.436 at the break). Harper had a good season and would have deserved a spot in place of either of those guys, but there were some AL Catchers that year who probably deserved it even more:

Chris Hoiles, 60.4 VORP, .300/.403/.581 at the break; Mike Stanley, 48.3 VORP, .316/.388/.522 at the break; Chad Kreuter, 30.2 VORP, .303/.372/.494 at the break; Mike MacFarlane, 28.7 VORP, .283/.363/.518 at the break.

Really too bad for Hoiles. What a monster year, and he was a good hitter throughout his career too, but he never did make the All-Star team.

At 7/09/2006 8:21 PM, Blogger frightwig said...

SBG, that's especially amazing, considering that Gibson was a household name since the '84 World Series, always a popular player, and he played his MVP season in LA, where the Dodgers drew 2.98 million fans that season. Gibby also was hitting .299/.384/.517 at the break in '88, better than his final line. You'd think at least the fans would have been punching his name on more ballots. What the hell?

So which outfielders made the '88 NL All-Star team? Vince Coleman, Andre Dawson, and Darryl Strawberry were the starters. Willie McGee and Andy Van Slyke were named as subs. I'd give the fans a pass on Coleman because he created excitement with all those stolen bases, but McGee really didn't belong that year. Of course, his own manager was in charge of picking the reserves.

At 7/09/2006 8:40 PM, Blogger frightwig said...

If anyone is wondering about Radke, he missed the cut because he's never earned 20 Win Shares in a season. If I only considered 50 VORP as a minimum criterium for pitchers, however, he would be listed for his '96, '97, '99, 2000 and '04 seasons.

The list then would also include Jack Kralick in '61, Bert Blyleven in '87, Allan Anderson in '88, and Johan Santana in '03.


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