When you think of names that stand out from the last Twins world championship season (1991), the ones that immediately come to mind are probably Puckett, Hrbek, Gladden, Morris, Erickson, and maybe even Davis or Aguilera. However, a first-year second baseman (named Rookie of the Year upon the season’s conclusion) may have had as much to do with the proceedings as anyone.
Twenty-two year old Chuck Knoblauch was a Double-A Spring Training invitee in March of ‘91, and a strong Grapefruit league campaign convinced the club to put him on the major league roster straightaway. He basically never stopped hitting or playing solid defense the rest of the year. His raw stats added up to a .281 BA, .351 OBP, 25 stolen bases, and 59 BB versus 40 K in 636 PA mostly out of the second spot in the order (right behind the Dazzle Man). He accumulated a solid 2.9 WAR and especially heated up in September as the Twins put the AL West crown on ice.
Not a bad introduction to The Show.
This season, another 22-year old rookie second-sacker is providing similar value to what looks to be another playoff-bound Twins squad.
In just 221 PA, Luis Arraez has accumulated 1.3 WAR by slashing .349/.416/.456 (including three more hits as I write this watching Monday night’s contest) and whiffing just 15 times compared to 23 trots to first base.
Starting in mid-June, when Arraez made the Twins’ roster for good, he’s been an absolute hitting machine even as the bigger names around him have waxed & waned a bit due to injuries or slumps. He has basically relegated Jonathan Schoop to spot-duty or the bench at this point and may be making a late push for Rookie of the Year consideration himself.
After that ‘91 campaign, Knoblauch played six more solid seasons with the Twins, making four All-Star games and winning a Gold Glove award. Then things turned weird. He had a falling out with the Twins and was traded to New York, where despite being a key member of a few championship clubs he also got the yips and struggled throwing to first base. He re-invented himself as an outfielder with the Royals, came back to the Metrodome in 2001 and, well, you know. Just when it looked like the hard feelings had blown over and the Twins were about to induct Chuckles into their HOF, he was arrested for domestic assault and that ended that.
Right now, Arraez is riding that magical wave some talented rookies often catch, where major league pitching hasn’t quite caught up to them yet. Hopefully, he can parlay that into further success down the stretch and (hopefully) into the playoffs.
Maybe keep him out of LF (where he’s been stationed 10 times thus far) on Wednesday home nights, though, just to be on the safe side.