StaTuesday: Torii Hunter’s supremely productive career
Torii Hunter — decorated slugger, locker-room leader, clubhouse choreographer — announced his retirement on Monday.
Hunter saw action in 19 big-league seasons, 12 of which were played with Minnesota. He spent 2008-12 with the Angels and 2013-14 wearing Tigers fatigues.
But Hunter will largely be remembered as a Minnesota Twin. And, he’ll largely be remembered as a winner.
While the longtime outfielder never won a World Series, he was a key cog for eight playoff teams. And he was reliable ’til the very end; Hunter played at least 135 games in 14 MLB seasons, including in 2015, a campaign in which he often roamed right field at Target Field, despite turning 40 at midseason. The man with the megawatt smile made five All-Star teams, earned nine Gold Glove awards and earned Silver Slugger accolades in 2009 and 2013.
Of all Hunter’s abilities, durability and productivity seemed to be two calling cards.
The longtime Twin will retire as a career .277 hitter, with 2,452 hits, 353 homers, 1,391 RBI and 1,296 runs scored (in 12 seasons with Minnesota, Hunter had 214 home runs, 792 RBI and 735 runs). Hunter’s 162-game average over his career: 167 hits, 24 homers, 34 doubles, 95 RBI and 13 stolen bases.
COMPARING HUNTER’S 162-GM AVGS. TO OTHER TWINS GREATS
Of Hunter’s 353 career round-trippers, 214 of them came while wearing a Twins uniform.
Hunter helped lead the Twins to the postseason four times, from 2002-04 and again in 2006. All told, he owned a career batting average of .274 over 11 postseason series, with four homers and 20 RBI.
The Arkansas native had five seasons with 90 RBI or more for Minnesota. His time with the Twins built to a crescendo in 2007, when he hit .287, with 28 homers, 107 RBI and 18 stolen bases.
Then, when he was deemed too expensive to re-sign, Hunter went on to decent success with the Angels (he hit .313 in 2012, as a 36-year-old) and the Tigers (he had 167 total RBI from 2013-14).
Hunter’s greatest feat may have come in his farewell season in Minneapolis. After all, in 2015 Hunter helped the Twins — who had averaged 66.3 wins from 2011-14 — improve their record to 83-79. With Hunter leading postgame dance parties, the 2015 Twins quickly morphed into a loose, happy-go-lucky bunch that very nearly earned a wild-card berth.
Hunter hit .130 last August and looked his age defensively, but still managed to produce a respectable 22 homers and 81 RBI for the season, despite an uncharacteristically low .240 average.
According to Baseball Reference, had he returned for the 2016 season, Hunter projected to hit .261, with 17 homers and 71 RBI. That offensive production — decent by Twins standards — won’t be easily replicated, not by youngsters like Byron Buxton and Aaron Hicks, who, for all their defensive gifts, lack power.
Yes, from a reliability standpoint — and from a leadership standpoint — Torii Hunter might very well prove to be irreplaceable.
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