Minnesota Twins: The 10 Best Outfield Combinations
As the Twins head into the winter there are some questions that need to be answered.
Among them, who will be the starting outfield for the second season in Target Field?
Will Michael Cuddyer return to right field, pushing Jason Kubel to a backup role?
Perhaps Joe Mauer will move to left field in order to save the wear tear of catching an entire season, and Delmon Young would move to right.
Is Denard Span better suited as a platoon player? As the everyday center fielder this past season he had the lowest batting average and slugging percentage in his short three year career.
I compared the outfield for every Twins team since they moved to Bloomington in 1961.
Here are the top 10 outfields in Minnesota history.
The ranking is based on fielding percent, total errors, and assists.
Home runs and RBI were included because, especially for corner outfielders, these are typically considered power positions.
The total wins for each team was included to break any ties.
No. 10—2010: Delmon Young, Denard Span, Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer
The 2010 Twins' outfield had the 10th best fielding percentage in Minnesota history at 0.9846.
Combined they committed only 15 errors, eighth among Twins' outfields.
Their 29 assists ranks ninth.
The 94 wins ranks seventh among all Twins' teams, and their 343 RBI is tops on the list.
Yet, it seemed like the outfield, although with a decent fielding percentage, did not get to as many balls as previous defenses.
No. 9—1976: Larry Hisle (LF), Lyman Bostock (CF), Dan Ford (RF), Steve Brye
In 1976 the Twins would go 85-77, tied for the lowest win total in this ranking.
The outfield consisted of Larry Hisle in left, Lyman Bostock in center, Dan Ford in right with Steve Brye as the backup.
Their combined fielding percentage of .9817 is 13th overall for Minnesota.
They had 33 outfield assists between them, tied for the second highest in the ranking.
No. 8—1967: Bob Allison (LF), Ted Uhlaender (CF), Tony Oliva (RF), Cesar Tovar
The Minnesota outfield of Bob Allison, Ted Uhlaender, Tony Oliva, and Cesar Tovar would have the best combined outfield fielding percentage in team history at 0.9948.
They would commit only 11 errors in 957 chances.
The starting trio of Allison, Uhleaender and Oliva would play along each other for three seasons starting in 1967.
No 7—1969: Bob Allison (RF), Ted Uhlaender (CF), Tony Oliva (RF), Cesar Tovar
This is the only outfield combination that was ranked twice in the the top 10.
In 1969 the Twins went 97-65 for the third most victories in Minnesota Twins' history.
While their fielding percentage was not as good as in 1967 at 0.9884, their 36 outfield assists is the best of all outfields in this ranking.
No. 6—1962: Harmon Killbrew (RF), Lenny Green (CF), Bob Allison (RF), Bill Tuttle
Harmon Killebrew played 21 seasons with the Washington Senators/Minnesota Twins organization.
From 1961 to 1964 he played in left field before moving to the infield playing first and third base.
The 1962 season was the second in Minnesota for the Twins franchise.
The outfield of Killebrew, Lenny Green, Bob Allison, and Bill Tuttle would lead the Minnesota Twins to a 91-71 record, the first winning season in 10 years and the first team to exceed 90 wins in 40 years.
Their combined fielding percentage of .9812 is eighth among all Twins' outfields.
Combined they hit 92 home runs and had 304 RBI, both second among Twins' outfield combinations.
No. 5—1992: Shane Mack (LF), Kirby Puckett (CF), Pedro Munoz (RF), Gene Larkin
In 1992 the Twins won 95 games. This is the fifth most in team history.
The outfield of Shane Mack, Kirby Puckett, Pedro Munoz and Gene Larkin played together in 1992 and 1993.
Their fielding percentage of 0.9893 ranks fourth, and their 13 total errors ranks sixth among Twins' teams in this ranking, and their 31 outfield assists is fifth.
Combined they had 298 RBI, good for third among Minnesota outfield combinations.
No. 4—1988: Dan Gladden (LF), Kirby Puckett (CF), Randy Bush (RF), John Moses (OF)
Like the 1992 team, the 1988 was coming off of a World Series Championship.
Dan Gladden, Kirby Puckett, Randy Bush and John Moses with a .9912 would combine for the third best fielding percentage.
They had 31 outfield assists and had only 13 total errors in 1,142 chances.
Combined they would drive in 298 runs, good for third best.
Now onto to the medal winners—the top three in the ranking.
No 3—2002: Jacques Jones (LF), Torii Hunter (CF), Dustin Mohr (RF), Bobby Kielty
Torii Hunter played nine seasons as the Minnesota Twins' center fielder.
This is second only to Kirby Puckett's 10 seasons in the middle of the outfield.
Of all the players that helped turn around the Minnesota franchise from their losing ways in the late 90's, Hunter may have had the biggest impact.
It's a shame the Twins could not have found a way to keep him until Target Field opened. Like Puckett and Kent Hrbek, he should have played his entire career in Minnesota.
In 2002 Hunter roamed center field with Jacques Jones to his right and Dustin Mohr to his left.
Along with reserve Bobby Kielty, this outfield led the Twins to a 94-67 record and the first playoff appearance since winning the World Series in 1991.
Their 10 total errors is tied for the least in Twins' history of any outfield foursome.
Their 0.9914 fielding percentage ranks second.
No. 2—1987: Dan Gladden (LF), Kirby Puckett (CF), Tom Brunansky (RF), Randy Bush
The 1987 Minnesota Twins would go on to shock the world winning the World Series 4-3 over the St. Louis Cardinals.
At the time the team's 85 victories were the fewest for a World Champion.
Left fielder Dan Gladden, center fielder Kirby Puckett , right fielder Tom Brunansky, and outfield reserve Randy Bush, would lead the team the AL West Division title and a 4-1 series victory over the Detroit Tigers in the American League Championship series.
It was seventeen years since the Twins had been in the playoffs.
In the second game of the ALCS, Bush, the DH in the game, would steal second and third consecutively off of Jack Morris as the Twins would win the game 6-3.
Their combined 33 outfield assists is second and their 0.9857 fielding percentage is eighth.
Led by Brunansky's 32 home runs, they would combine to hit 79 for the season, the fourth most for a Twins' outfield.
No. 1—1963: Harmon Killebrew (LF), Jimmie Hall (CF), Bob Allison (RF), Lenny Green
The 1963 Minnesota Twins would go 91-70 on their way to a third place finish for the American League pennant.
The outfield of Harmon Killebrew, Jimmie Hall, and Bob Allison would all hit more than 30 home runs, led by Killebrew's 45.
Including reserve outfielder Lenny Green's four home runs, they would combine for 117—the most of any outfield group in Twins' history.
Their fielding percentage was only 0.9804, 15th on the list, but they would make 31 outfield assists, good for fifth of all teams.
Conspicuously Missing—The 1991 World Champions: Gladden, Puckett, Mack, and Larkin
How is it possible that the 1991 Twins outfield, one of only two teams to win the World Series, did not make the top 10?
According to the criteria used, and World Series victories were not included, this outfield finished 16th.
The combined fielding percentage of Gladden, Puckett, Mack and Larkin was 0.9821, 12th overall.
They committed 18 errors and only had 13 outfield assists.
Their 41 home runs was 17th in the ranking, and their 234 RBI was 15th.
This is just another confirmation of Samuel Clemons famous statement: "There are lies, damn lies and statistics!"
Minnesota Twins Best Outfield by Position
I could not wrap up without putting together my opinion of what would be the best lineup combination of all time.
Left field: Harmon Killebrew
Center field: Kirby Puckett
Right field: Tony Oliva
Reserve: Cesar Tovar (only because he was listed as an extra outfielder for three separate seasons.)
The best of the bunch—Number 34, Kiiiiiiiiiiiirby Puuuuuckett!