A new tournament is on its way to Twinkie Town.
Sixteen teams in Minnesota Twins franchise history, including their years as the Washington Senators, made it to the playoffs. Those 16 teams have been placed into a bracket in Out of the Park 21 and will compete to determine which is the Greatest Simulated Twins Team of All Time.
I’ll be playing through this bracket over the next few weeks, dedicating an article to each in-game day of play. Once I get to the finals, I’ll start keeping score, as that’ll be the only series where I play out each game. (See near the bottom for details as to why.)
Before we meet the contenders, here are some rules I’ve set in place for the bracket.
- In forming the roster for each team, I tried to balance presenting an accurate portrayal of each team with setting the best possible roster for them. As such, I used a combination of three factors — number of games played, statistics, and if they made the actual postseason roster — to fill out the squads. Players who were injured midway through certain seasons, such as Rod Carew in 1970 or Justin Morneau in 2010, were allowed onto these rosters.
- However, the six teams that made it to the World Series are locked into their Series roster... which generally means nine-man pitching staffs. Bullpen management will be key.
- Because not all teams have a reserve roster available, once 25-man rosters are set at the start of the bracket, I cannot change them.
- On the same lines regarding some limited pitching staffs, I’ll be using more modern roster management and strategy, so the lineups and rotations will not necessarily be like those used by the actual teams.
- All teams are using a four-man pitching rotation, but I have enabled the ability for starters to pitch out of the bullpen.
- The designated hitter rule is in effect, so teams that played before 1973 will still be able to use their pitcher exclusively in the field.
- Injuries have been turned off. A player could get injured in an early round of the bracket and be unable to return through the finals, which seems too unfair for this type of tournament, especially with World Series teams unable to pull from a reserve roster. If injured players could return at the end of each round, I’d have allowed it, but as that’s not possible, I’ve disallowed injuries entirely.
The format will be a single-elimination bracket, with the round of 16 and the quarterfinals best-of-five series, and the semis and finals best-of-seven.
Additionally, as this is a Twins bracket, I’ve renamed each round after an iconic player from each era in franchise history, from past to present. As such:
- the round of 16 is the Walter Johnson round,
- the quarterfinals are the Harmon Killebrew round,
- the semifinals are the Kirby Puckett round,
- and the finals are the Joe Mauer round.
(Now that I’ve renamed the rounds, I really should name the regions of the bracket too. Um... the T.J, Maija, Tawny, and Sandwiches regions. Done. And the penultimate series will consist of the Minneapolis semifinal and the St. Paul semifinal.)
Anyhow, let’s meet the competitors.
Teams were seeded using a combination of their total fWAR and how far they advanced in the playoffs. (Yes, I know the postseason used to be a lot shorter.)
1: 1991 Minnesota Twins (95-67, won World Series, 42.6 fWAR)
Twins fans know this story well: the 1991 Twins went from last in their division to first and defeated the Atlanta Braves in what many argue is the greatest World Series in history. The team featured Jack Morris (18-12, 3.43 ERA) and Kevin Tapani (16-9, 2.99) atop their rotation, with a strong heart of the order in Kirby Puckett (.812 OPS), Kent Hrbek (.834), Shane Mack (.893), and Chili Davis (.892).
2. 1933 Washington Senators (99-53, lost World Series, 44.8 fWAR)
The ‘33 Senators are the Series-making team that no one remembers, since Walter Johnson had retired by then, and they lost in five games to the New York Giants. But their lineup featured three Hall of Famers with an OPS of .800 or higher in player-manager Joe Cronin (.843), Heinie Manush (.831), and Goose Goslin (.800), with first baseman Joe Kuhel (.851) and second baseman Buddy Myer (.810) also topping that mark. Their rotation of Lefty Stewart, General Crowder, Earl Whitehill, and Monte Weaver all posted sub-4.00 ERAs, and only Stewart’s FIP was above 4.00... at 4.06.
3. 1969 Minnesota Twins (97-65, lost ALCS, 52.5 fWAR)
With Harmon Killebrew (1.011), Rod Carew (.853), and Tony Oliva (.851) at full strength, plus a career year from first baseman Rich Reese (.875), the ‘69 Twins were a force at the plate. They matched that performance from the mound with Jim Perry (20-6, 2.82) leading a rotation with their top five starters putting up an ERA+ over 100. Unfortunately, they ran into the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS, losing two games in extra innings before being routed in the deciding game.
4. 1965 Minnesota Twins (102-60, lost World Series, 43.9 fWAR)
Though they lost a close Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the ‘65 Twins had another packed lineup led by Killebrew (.885) and Oliva (.870), with Zoilo Versalles (.781) winning American League MVP and three additional players (Bob Allison, Don Mincher, and Jimmie Hall) topping 20 home runs. Jim Kaat, Mudcat Grant, Camilo Pascual, and Perry led the rotation, all four with an ERA+ over 100 and a FIP below 4.00.
5. 1970 Minnesota Twins (98-64, lost ALCS, 47.1 fWAR)
With Cy Young winner Perry (24-12, 3.04) atop the rotation; Kaat, Bert Blyleven, and Luis Tiant behind him; and a still-potent lineup led by Killebrew (.957), Carew (.930 in 51 games), and a career season from left fielder Brant Alyea (.897), the ‘70 Twins are among the most talented in this bracket, though 5.4 fWAR behind the ‘69 team. And like their prior season, they ran into the Orioles in the ALCS.
6. 1924 Washington Senators (92-62, won World Series, 41.8 fWAR)
Aside from Goslin (.937), Joe Judge (.843), and Sam Rice (.825), the ‘24 Senators’ lineup was fairly low in power. But in an era that was still transitioning from small ball, they won a championship with dominant pitching. Johnson (23-7, 2.72), Tom Zachary, and Curly Ogden all posted sub-3.00 ERAs, and starter/reliever Firpo Marberry was often deployed as what is now considered baseball’s first closer.
7. 2019 Minnesota Twins (101-61, lost ALDS, 55.0 fWAR)
Last year’s Bomba Squad boasts the highest fWAR of any team on this list, but as has seemed inevitable in the new millennium, got stomped by the New York Yankees in the playoffs. By season’s end, C.J. Cron was the only starting batsman with an OPS below .800, and three Twins — Nelson Cruz (1.031), Mitch Garver (.995), and Miguel Sano (.923) — topped .900. All-Stars Jose Berrios (14-8, 3.68) and Jake Odorizzi (15-7, 3.51) manned the front of the rotation, with the Taylor Rogers-led bullpen coming into form by the end of the year.
8. 2010 Minnesota Twins (94-68, lost ALDS, 45,1 fWAR)
When Justin Morneau (1.055) suffered a career-altering injury when on an MVP-caliber pace, Jim Thome (1.039) provided the power, while Joe Mauer (.871) remained a steady bat behind the plate. The rotation was a weakness, with Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano (2.66 FIP) the only starters with a sub-4.00 ERA; Jon Rauch and Matt Capps, both with sub-3.00 FIPs, provided bullpen relief at the end of games. However, they too got Yankee’d.
9. 1925 Washington Senators (96-55, lost World Series, 41.7 fWAR)
With many of the same players in their roles from the previous year, including Goslin (.941), Judge (.892), and Rice (.831) as the providers of power and Johnson (20-7, 3.07) atop the rotation, the Senators again claimed the American League flag only to fall to the Pittsburgh Pirates in seven in the World Series. Other key members of the squad included AL MVP Roger Peckinpaugh (.746) and future Hall of Famer Stan Coveleski (20-5, 2.84).
10. 2002 Minnesota Twins (94-67, lost ALCS, 41.9 fWAR)
Under the threat of contraction, the 2002 Twins won the AL Central and defeated the Moneyball Oakland Athletics in the Divisional Round before finally falling to the
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Angels in the ALCS. Though not a power-laden lineup, a trio of Twins (Torii Hunter, David Ortiz, and Jacque Jones) each hit more than 20 home runs and topped an .800 OPS, while a young soon-to-be changeup specialist named Johan Santana began to make his mark (2.99 ERA) in the Twins’ rotation. Additionally, reliever Michael Jackson became the last Twin to wear No. 42, one of a dozen players grandfathered in after the number was universally retired in 1997.
11. 1987 Minnesota Twins (85-77, won World Series, 26.9 fWAR)
Of course the team with by far the lowest fWAR is a World Series champion. Of course. But with a lineup whose centerpieces were Hrbek (.934), Puckett (.900), and Tom Brunansky (.841), and Frank Viola (2.90 ERA) leading a rotation with no other starter having an ERA below 4.00, the ‘87 Twins beat the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS and eked out a seven-game victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in the Fall Classic. Such is baseball.
12. 2006 Minnesota Twins (96-66, lost ALDS, 43.3 fWAR)
With a core of MVP Morneau (.934) and Mauer (.936) just entering their prime, other core Twins such as Hunter (.826) and Michael Cuddyer (.867) in theirs, a Cy Young winner (Santana) and phenom (Liriano) topping the rotation, and perennial All-Star closer Joe Nathan shutting the door, the ‘06 Twins were an exciting team to watch, catching the Tigers on the last day of the season to win their division. Unfortunately, they would be swept in the ALDS by the A’s, starting a trend that Minnesotans are still waiting to cease.
13. 2003 Minnesota Twins (90-72, lost ALDS, 40.8 fWAR)
Midseason acquisition Shannon Stewart (.854) led off in the lineup and led the team (among regulars) in OPS, just ahead of Corey Koskie (.845), Doug Mientkiewicz (.832), Matt LeCroy (.832), and A.J. Pierzynski (.824). Though Santana had not yet staked a permanent spot in the rotation, he recorded a better ERA (3.07) and FIP (3.24) than any regular Twins starter (all above 4.00). These Twins also ran into the Yankees.
14. 2004 Minnesota Twins (92-70, lost ALDS, 39.6 fWAR)
The most recent team to win a playoff game — one, and of course it was against the Yankees — saw Santana win his first Cy Young (with closer Nathan finishing fourth in the voting) and Brad Radke (3.48 ERA, 3.55 FIP) step closer to his late-’90s-ace form. At the bat, Morneau (.875) laid claim to the first baseman’s job, while Lew Ford (.827) put up the best season of his career, with Koskie (.837) and Hunter (.805) also providing a decent amount of lumber.
15. 2009 Minnesota Twins (87-76, lost ALDS, 34.9 fWAR)
Memories of the Twins’ 2009 season mainly boil down to Mauer’s dominant MVP-winning campaign and Game 163. But despite the usual contributions from Morneau (.878), Cuddyer (.862), and Jason Kubel (.907), the team got Yankee’d in the playoffs. Their rotation, as may be sensed as a theme in the 2000s, was not ideal, as no Twins starter put up a sub-4.00 ERA or FIP except Pavano, who only did so in FIP and only started 12 games.
16. 2017 Minnesota Twins (85-77, lost ALWC, 34.9 fWAR)
Fans and media alike said at the time that the 2017 Twins overachieved, and they overachieved their way into the Wild Card game, where they promptly got Yankee’d. Brian Dozier (42 homers, .856 OPS) was the star of the year, becoming only the second Twin in history to hit 40 home runs in a season. Minnesota also saw regular power from Sanó (.859) and Eddie Rosario (.836), and regular contact from Mauer (.801), now at first base. On the mound, Ervin Santana (3.28 ERA) served as the team’s ace, while Berríos (3.89) was only just emerging.
And thus, the bracket is set:
If you’d like to take a closer look at each squad, a document with the complete rosters can be found here. (NOTE: Since I’m starting each team with a four-man rotation, several pitchers who were starters during regular seasons are listed under “relief pitchers” if I’m using them there. Depending on player performance, I may tweak rotations.)
As I can only play out one game for each in-game day of the tournament, I’ll start with the highest seed and work my way down. If the next-lowest team has ended its series, I’ll jump to the next one. (For each day of play, I’ll mark which game was the one I actually played.)
Which initial matchup excites you the most? Who do you think should be the odds-on favorite? Which team might make a run from the lower seeds? Make your picks in the comment section below.
(Links will be added beneath as each round is played. If all series within a round do not go the full length of games, the last “day” will link to the final day that was actually played, so as to avoid spoilers.)
Walter Johnson Round: Day 1 / Day 2 / Day 3 / Day 4 / Day 5
Harmon Killebrew Round: Day 1 / Day 2 / Day 3 / Day 4 / Day 5
Kirby Puckett Round: Day 1 / Day 2 / Day 3 / Day 4 / Day 5 / Day 6 / Day 7
Joe Mauer Round: Preview / Game 1 / Game 2 / Game 3 / Game 4 / Game 5 / Game 6 / Game 7