A lot of my formative memories of the game of baseball are centered around verbal passage of stories, especially of both of the World Series winning teams, and to a lesser extent, the great teams of the late 60s.
But as I’ve grown to be a critical thinker as an adult, I’ve grown to be skeptical that these Twins teams had so many legends. Was Gary Gaetti really as good as people said, even though his OBP wasn’t very good? Greg Gagne didn’t hit much; was he that good of a fielder?
These are the types of questions I set out to research.
I’ve used a rather rudimentary method of WAR/season, fully understanding the caveats of partial seasons and all that, so I’ve adjusted as necessary (WAR/500PA included). For instance, some of these players never really played many full seasons, and while it’s tough to be overrated in that instance, I’ll let you the reader be the judge. Part of being overrated, however, is having an adequate sample size upon which to be ‘rated’ by Twins fans.
This week, we’ll tackle the overrated hitters. Then pitchers, followed by underrated lists for both. Let the fun begin:
6.0 WAR (1.2 WAR/season; 1.3 WAR/500 PA)
Accumulated/70th place among OF in that time frame
Allegedly the straw that stirred two World Series-sipping drinks, Gladden was simply a decent left fielder who could go from good to bad with the glove at the drop of a hat. Gladden was the leadoff hitter in name only; his highest OBP as a Twin was .325, and his wOBA hovered around .300 for almost his entire Twins tenure. Among all hitters, Gladden’s on-base percentage of .318 was 192nd among ‘qualified’ hitters during that time frame. In that time frame, Gladden was the sixth-most valuable hitter the Twins rostered, notably behind Shane Mack, who was worth 8.1 wins to Gladden’s 5.9 despite Mack only garnering 31.2 percent as many plate appearances as the mulleted one.
On the overall WAR leaderboard during his Twins tenure, he appears between Jay Buhner and future -- at the time, anyway -- Twin Otis Nixon, both of whom had fewer than half as many plate appearances in that time frame as Gladden. He wasn’t elite; he wasn’t even particularly good. And yet to hear him speak or be spoken of, at times you’d think he was an all-timer. He was overrated.
0.2 WAR (0.03 WAR/season; 0.06 WAR/500 PA)
Accumulated/134th place among OF in that time frame
By most accounts, Munoz -- known as ‘Petey’ to those around him -- was a likable enough guy. As someone whose formative years came in the early-90s, my baseball upbringing resulted in seeing a pretty good share of Munoz’ time with the Twins. And maybe it was just me, or maybe just the situation I was raised in, but I always felt like Munoz was considered to be a pretty good player. Granted, he was never really a full-timer, and thus hard to include on this list, but the more I look back, the more I realize he wasn’t really any good, especially with the glove, where he was a stunningly bad 35 runs below average over his six years with the Twins, which kills any steam his .333 career wOBA with the club would have created. Munoz ranks 28th among Twins batters in WAR during his tenure, behind such luminaries as Terry Jorgensen, Donnie Hill, Nelson Liriano, Jerald Clark, Junior Ortiz, and the venerable Jeff Reboulet.
I don’t anticipate Munoz will get any strong steam in this vote -- nor should he, probably -- but I think he’s one of the more overrated Twins of my generation.
0.5 WAR (0.1 WAR/season; 0.2 WAR/500PA)
Accumulated/40th place among 2B in that time frame
Walker was supposed to be the next big thing at second base in the wake of Chuck Knoblauch’s departure, but the only thing about the LSU product that made waves was his public rift with skipper Tom Kelly. Walker’s bat seems good enough on the surface -- he hit .285/.341/.413 with the club -- but his defense was downright atrocious (-32.0 runs below average) and his time with the team was smack dab in the steroid era, leaving his production lagging behind that of his inflated colleagues.
Walker went on to success later in his career with the Cubs, Rockies, Reds, and a handful of other clubs, but as a Twin, he was overrated. In his time frame, Walker was 17th among Twins hitters in WAR, behind Scott Stahoviak (a poor hitting 1B at a time where those guys MASHED), Roberto Kelly, Greg Myers, Dave Hollins, and Pat Meares.
0.5 WAR (0.13 WAR/season; 0.13 WAR/500PA)
Accumulated/115th place among OF in that time frame
Young’s hype is well-documented; not only was he a number one overall draft pick, but he was supposed to hit for average and for power, be a good runner, and have a rocket of an arm. But Young’s utility basically amounted to that of a flickering light bulb, one which only shows its true usefulness a very limited amount of time, while providing next to no other reason to be kept around otherwise.
Like the dog that limps around until you get ready to take it to the vet, Young is prone to revitalizing himself just often enough for someone to see a possible future for him. His entire 2010 season was such a time, as has been the past few months with the Tigers. But on the whole, he doesn’t hit enough to play corner outfield, and he doesn’t field enough to find his way around left field without a map. Guys like Young fall off the map after their late-arb years because they can’t hang around as fourth outfield types, and don’t really have any sort of clubhouse-glue personality either. He could be out of baseball before age 30, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit. Young finished his Twins tenure trailing Luke Hughes, Orlando Cabrera, Brian Buscher, Jason Repko, and Joe Crede on the WAR leaderboard for the ‘08-’11 window.
3.1 WAR (1.0 WAR/season; 0.8 WAR/500PA)
Accumulated/18th place among DH in that time frame
Let me first preface by saying this is in no way fair to the Hall of Famer; Molitor was a DH at the tail end of an illustrious career amidst a steroid era which tainted/inflated offensive marks, especially at his position. Additionally, getting his 3000th hit, a triple no less, as a member of the hometown Twins is a memory that I’m sure he and many Twins fans -- myself included -- will never forget.
But I’m still struck at just how invaluable he was despite putting up a rather good offensive line (.312/.362/.432). In that sense, I suppose he had to be overrated. Still, he was third in WAR among Twins hitters during that time, trailing only Chuck Knoblauch, Rich Becker, and Matt Lawton. The uglier comps come from the MLB list, such as Geronimo Berroa, Julio Franco, Reggie Jefferson, Jim Leyritz, John Jaha, Dave Nilsson, late-career Chili Davis, and Mike Stanley. I don’t expect Molitor will get much steam in this vote, but by rule I think he’s at least somewhat overrated.
3.9 WAR (0.6 WAR/season; 0.7 WAR/500PA)
Accumulated/156th place among OF in that time frame
Kubel’s an excellent hitter who just doesn’t do enough all-around to be a valuable player when considering all facets of the game. And when Kubel’s offense is bad -- and at times, it has been -- he provides next-to-no value at all. Arizona has been a good landing spot for him -- it’s a LHH launchpad -- but Kubel is also the kind of guy who will fall off quickly after his bat starts to slip.
There are plenty of Kubel memories that people will fondly recall, such as the grand slam off Julian Tavarez or the cycle, but by and large, Kubel was simply decent over his time with the Twins. One unfairness of this process is that Kubel missed the entire 2005 season, so he’s measured against players who did accumulate WAR in that season. However, given how Kubel played in 2006, it’s probably for the best, because one can’t simply forget the injury happened, but rather dream about how much better he and the Twins might have been if he had never gotten hurt. In his time frame, Kubel is the 10th most valuable Twins hitter, trailing the likes of Lew Ford, Nick Punto, and about a season’s worth of amazing plate appearances from Jim Thome. On the MLB side, Kubel is sandwiched around all-timers like Jody Gerut, David Dellucci, Chris Duncan, and the deposed Garrett Jones.
4.8 WAR (1.2 WAR/season; 1.3 WAR/500PA)
Accumulated/82nd place among OF in that time frame
One of my favorite Stewart anecdotes -- one I can’t attribute to anyone in particular -- was that he "played left field like he was on rollerskates." It was true, as Stewart never really got comfortable out there, and had a noodle arm to boot. Stewart was extraordinary right off the bat when he came over from Toronto, and sort of fizzled after that. A good return on Bobby Kielty, to be sure, but a bit overrated. Among Twins hitters he was the ninth most valuable hitter while employed, and he’s sandwiched between Emil Brown and Rob Mackowiak for outfielders during that time frame.
5.3 WAR (0.9 WAR/season; 0.8 WAR/500PA)
Accumulated/27th place among SS in that time frame
Few players exhibited the natural speed Guzman possessed, and he used it to his advantage on the old Metrodome carpet, poking doubles down the right field line like it was his sole purpose. But beyond the triples and occasional nice defensive player, Guzman was an enigma. He never entirely figured out how to use his speed effectively or efficiently on the basepaths, and he never was much more than average with the stick while with the Twins. He and Luis Rivas paired to form one of the most breathtaking -- in both good and bad ways -- double play duos the Twins have ever seen. Guzman is the sixth-best hitter WAR-wise among Twins in that era, behind Corey Koskie, Torii Hunter, Jones, A.J. Pierzynski, and Doug Mientkiewicz. League-wide, Guzman’s company includes greats like Shane Halter, Tony Womack, Deivi Cruz, and Royce Clayton.
5.6 WAR (1.1 WAR/season; 1.1 WAR/500PA)
Accumulated/74th place among OF in that time frame
Cordova perhaps undeservingly garnered the 1995 AL Rookie of the Year award over Garrett Anderson, but that was likely the highlight of his career, as Anderson went on to win a World Series with the Halos and play more than a dozen season in the league, while Marty is more known for a tanning bed incident during his abbreviated MLB tenure. Among Twins hitters, Cordova is the second-most valuable hitter from that time frame, though the gap is incredible from Knoblauch (21.3) to Marty (5.6). As far as his MLB comrades, Cordova compared most closely to Jose Cruz Jr., Dmitri Young, and Jim Eisenreich.
12.0 WAR (1.7 WAR/season; 1.6 WAR/500PA)
Accumulated/60th place among OF in that time frame
First Jones was a centerfielder, then a left fielder, then a right fielder, then he was....OK, you get the point. The Twins moved him all around the outfield, and to Jones’ credit, he passed the eye test. Well, at least on the range side, and he wore out the Metrodome carpet with his worm-burning throws coming in from the outfield. Jones was never quite the same after he left Minnesota; though to be fair, he had one great season in Twinstripes and a few which were largely forgettable. And remember when Gardy batted Jones leadoff? Those were the days.
But I’m babbling. Jones was a part of the Soul Patrol outfield that saw the Twins to multiple division titles and one sustained playoff run, but by and large he was overrated, much like a lot of the Twins which debuted in 1999 or thereabouts. Jones’ WAR with the Twins is skewed, as 5.3 of the wins (44.2 percent) come from his magnificent 2002 season. On three instances in his time with the Twins, Jones was worth one win or less. Nonetheless, Jones finished third in WAR among hitters from ‘99-’05, trailing only Koskie and Hunter. By virtue of his 60th place finish league-wide, he’s in the company of Juan Gonzalez, B.J. Surhoff, and the defensively ridiculous Gary Matthews Jr.
14.6 WAR (1.3 WAR/season; 1.6 WAR/500PA)
Accumulated/xxth place among OF in that time frame
Cuddyer is credited as the backbone of the Twins for the last decade or so, but in all honesty he just wasn’t as valuable as the average fan might have been led to believe. He was an atrocious defensive right fielder, and was predictably no better at any premium defensive position. His bat, while pretty good, just wasn’t good enough to make him stand out in a corner, and he was actually a liability versus righties anyway. His arm was great, his personality just as good, but he just wasn’t all that special of a player overall.
True enough, Cuddyer was jerked around a lot as a young player, but the 0.3 difference between his per season WAR and per 500 plate appearance WAR illustrate that difference. During Cuddyer’s extended stay in Minneapolis, he was the fifth-most valuable hitter, trailing Joe Mauer, Hunter, Justin Morneau, and Koskie. Father time isn’t so kind to Cuddyer on a league-wide basis, though, as he checks in 70th overall, beside players such as Justin Upton (in about half as many PA), Carlos Gonzalez (in 600 fewer than Upton), and Brad Wilkerson (in 800 fewer PA than Cuddyer).
So TwinkieTown nation, who do you think is the most overrated Twins hitter of all time?