60-game breakdown: History of Twins hitters
Strange things can happen on a baseball field in a 60-game span.
Random players who put together one monster month, like Chris Colabello in 2014 when he shattered the Twins franchise record with 27 RBI in April, will be in the conversation for league MVP. Teams that get out to fast starts, like the 2019 Seattle Mariners who began 13-2 but finished with a 68-94 record, will be in the postseason hunt longer than they deserve.
For context, Minnesota played its 60th game last season on June 5. The Twins were 40-20 and held a comfortable 9.5-game lead over Cleveland in the AL Central.
In 1991, the eventual World Series champion Twins were 35-25 after 60 games and 1.5 games behind Oakland in the AL West. Minnesota went on to win the division by eight games that year.
In summation, 60 games doesn’t tell the full story of a 162-game MLB season. Weird things are going to happen in 2020.
As we prepare for this 60-game venture on the diamond, we were curious to see which players in franchise history had excelled over the team’s opening 60-game schedule.
The criteria to qualify for this article was a player had to play at least 30 contests of the team’s initial 60.
For example, catcher Mike Redmond logged a .388/.400/.463 slash line over the Twins’ first 60 games in 2006, but he only appeared in 18, so he doesn’t qualify.
Make sense? Let’s get to it:
The first milestone that comes to mind when discussing statistics over a 60-game season is if someone can become the first player to hit .400 since Ted Williams in 1941. The last player to do so through a team’s first 60 games (min. 40 games played) was Chipper Jones in 2008.
Sixty games into the Twins’ 2009 season, future MVP Joe Mauer was batting .415, although he missed the first month with a back injury and had appeared in only 36 contests at the time.
Rod Carew is all over this list. Playing in 58 of Minnesota’s first 60 games in 1974, Carew hit .398. During his MVP campaign in 1977, Carew was batting .388 (and finished the season with the same average). It is worth noting, too, that he logged a .411 batting average over the California Angels’ first 60 games in 1983 while appearing in 50 contests.
Justin Morneau had an absurd start to 2010, registering a .365/.474/.665 slash line in 58 contests. That .474 on-base percentage is the best in Twins history through 60 games.
Of course, there are a few entertaining outliers as well.
Third baseman Rich Rollins, a career .269 hitter, registered a .348 average over the opening 60 games of 1962. Alex Cole was looking like the Twins’ center fielder of the future in 1994 when he batted .339 in 56 games, but he slumped to .242 the rest of the way. In his first 44 contests of 1988, outfielder Mark Davidson was hitting .340. By the end of the season, that number read .217.
Harmon Killebrew, Eddie Rosario and Justin Morneau are the only Twins players to smack 17+ homers over the team’s first 60 games, but Killebrew did it three times in 1964, 1967 and 1970.
A few unexpected players found a short-term power surge, too.
Utility man Ron Jackson smacked nine over his first 58 games of 1979. It was the only season of his 10-year career he finished with over eight dingers. Lew Ford hit eight of his 35 career homers over the first 60 games of 2004. Doug Mientkiewicz, who never mashed more than 15 homers in a season, had nine 60 games into 2001.
When it came to triples, shortstop Christian Guzman was a force early in the season. In the opening 60 games, Guzman racked up nine in 2001 and eight in 2000 and 2003. He ended up leading the AL in triples all three years. But still, Guzman couldn’t top Carew’s 11 triples over the first 60 games of 1977.
Chuck Knoblauch had an incredible 28 doubles in 57 contests to start the 1994 campaign. Eduardo Escobar ranks second with 24 in 2018, followed by Kirby Puckett with 23 doubles in 1989 (59 games).