MLB 9s: For Minnesota Twins, a Strong 2009 Helps Joe Mauer and Jason Kubel

Ash MarshallSenior Analyst IDecember 3, 2009

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 23:  Jason Kubel #16 of the Minnesotta Twins is congratulated by teammate Joe Maur #7 after hitting a two-run home run off pitcher Jered Weaver #36 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the first inning of the baseball game on July 23, 2009 in Anaheim, California.  mauer scored on the home run.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Who would you rather have in your outfield: Torii Hunter or Larry Hisle?

What was more impressive: Ed Battey's 26 home runs in 1963 or Joe Mauer's 28 in 2009?

Is power more important than speed? Do achievements from the past outweigh successes in the present?

It all points to one question with hundreds of possibilities: Which Twin had the greatest offensive season at his position?

Major League baseball has been asking fans this same question in an effort to choose each team's best-ever collection of stars.

They are calling it MLB 9s.

Here I have separated the contenders from the pretenders in an effort to pick my dream Twins lineup, based on their one career year. Have your say by commenting below.

My other MLB 9s you might want to check out are:

Diamondbacks , Braves , Orioles , Red Sox , Cubs , White Sox , Reds , Indians , Rockies , Tigers , Marlins , Royals , Angels , and Dodgers .

Catcher: Joe Mauer (2009)

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Mauer certainly swung a power bat in 2009, setting the high marks for a Twins catcher in runs batted in (96) and home runs (28). His 94 runs scored is second all-time.

More impressively is his league-leading .365 batting average, .444 on-base percentage, and .587 slugging percentage.

His batting average put him over the top against Mark Teixeira in the MVP voting, and between being selected as an All-Star starter and Silver Slugger, he is an easy choice here for the Twins.

Highlight Game: May 21, 2009 @ Chicago White Sox. When your team puts 20 runs up on the board, there is a better-than-average chance that you got a little piece of the action.

Mauer went 3-for-4 with a home runs, two doubles, a pair of runs, and a sac fly in seven innings of action as the Twins trounced the Sox 20-1.

Competition: Earl Battey hit 26 home runs in the 1963 season—the most ever by a Twins catcher until Joe Mauer’s 28 in 2009.

Battey drove in 84 runs, batted .285, and was selected to represent the American league at the All-Star game.

His .476 slugging percentage is third all-time, and Battey ranked inside the AL top 10 in runs batted in, on-base percentage, home runs, and intentional walks.

First Base: Rod Carew (1977)

In my opinion Carew is the best Twins first baseman of all time. He was a .334 lifetime batter in his 12 seasons in Minnesota, an All-Star every year, and one of the top players of the 1970s.

Carew’s 1977 season was the highlight of his time with the Twins. He led the American League with a .388 batting average, 128 runs and 16 triples.

His .449 on-base percentage was also the best in the league, fueled mainly by his career-high 239 hits.

He hit 14 home runs and drove in 100 batters, while stealing 23 bases and romping away to the MVP award that had alluded him the previous four years.

Highlight Game: August 7, 1977 vs. Cleveland. Carew went 4-for-5 with three doubles, four runs, and a steal in an 11-1 victory over the Indians.

It was one of eight four-hit games on the season for Carew, who failed to record a base hit in just four of the 155 games he played in.

Competition: From one MVP to another, Justin Morneau finishes this race second. In the 2006 season, Morneau hit 34 home runs, batted .321, and recorded 130 runs batted in—the most most by any Twins player in the history of the franchise.

Mickey Vernon deserves a mention for his 1953 season with the Washington Senators. He won the batting title with a .337 average, led the league with 43 doubles and finished third on the MVP ballot to Al Rosen and Yogi Berra.

Second Base: Chuck Knoblauch (1996)

Knoblauch’s speed and plate discipline made him a dangerous proposition at the top of the Twins order.

In 1996 he batted .341, stole 45 bases, and scored 140 runs. He led the league with 14 triples, and he also hit 13 home runs, and walked 98 times.

He ranked second in the AL for runs scored, fourth in stolen bases, and second in the number of times hit by a pitch. His 197 hits ranked fifth, and his batting average fourth.

His 140 runs is still a Twins record for a second baseman.

Highlight Game: June 29, 1996 @ Kansas City. Knoblauch hit a pair of three-baggers and a double as the Twins beat the Royals 12-7.

Knoblauch finished 3-for-5 with three RBI, a sacrifice fly, and two runs scored.

Competition: Todd Walker is a deserving second place. In the 1998 season, Walker hit a dozen home runs, swiped 19 bases, and batted .316. His 62 runs batted in are on a par with Knoblauch, but he scored 55 fewer runs—largely because he played more than half of his games batting in the bottom half of the lineup.

Third Base: Harmon Killebrew (1969)

No Twins player has ever hit more home runs in a single season than the 49 hit by Killebrew in 1969.

The third baseman—who played in 162 games—drove in 140 runs and scored 106 times on his way to winning the AL MVP ahead of Boog Powell and Frank Robinson.

He led the league with 145 walks and a .427 on-base percentage, and to this day no Twin has ever had a better RBI tally at the end of the season.

His 145 walks rank second all-time in the Twins franchise.

Highlight Game: September 7, 1969 @ Oakland. Killebrew hit a three-run home run in the first inning, a grand slam in the second inning, and he walked and was thrown out at home plate in the fourth inning.

With the Twins up 12-3 in the middle of the fourth, Killebrew was replaced in the field.

He never recorded more than seven RBI or two home runs in the 1963 season, so who knows what he could have done with two more at bats in the game.

Competition: Corey Koskie had a very good season in 2001 with 26 home runs, 27 steals, 103 RBI, and 100 runs scored.

Gary Gaetti hit 31 homers in 1987, scoring 95 times and batting in 109 runs, but he was hampered by a .257 average.

Hall-of-Famer Killebrew is head and shoulders above the crowd.

Shortstop: Joe Cronin (1930)

Cronin had many good season with the Washington Senators. He came runner-up in the MVP race in 1933 and led the AL in triples in 1932.

His 1930 season, although not rewarded with an All-Star selection or single MVP vote, was the best all-round showcase of his talents.

He hit 13 home runs, stole 17 bases, batted .346, scored 127 runs, and batted in 126. Not too bad for a guy that was bought for $7,500 and traded six years later for a player a $225,000.

Highlight Game: July 23, 1930 @ St Louis. Cronin had his first multi-home run game of his career in a 10-9 win against the Browns.

He hit a solo shot in the third inning off Dolly Gray and another solo bomb off Chad Kimsey in the ninth to help the Senators avoid a four-game sweep.

Competition: The competition is pretty slim, to be honest. Christian Guzman stole 25 bases, hit 10 home runs, and batted .302 in 2001, and Roy Smalley launched 24 homers and drove in 95 runs in 1979.

Cecil Travis probably comes in between the two. In 1941 he batted .359 with 101 RBI and 106 runs. His .359 clip is still the most by any full-time shortstop in the history of the franchise.

Outfield: Ed Delahanty (1902)

Delahanty won’t get much recognition in the All-Time 9s voting. According to MLB.com, he isn’t even in the top five Twins outfielders, meaning he polled less than four per cent of the vote.

That is a shame, because based on the era he played in, he was one of the greats.

A Hall-of-Fame member, Delahanty hit 43 doubles in the 1902 season. His .453 on-base percentage and .590 slugging percentage were both league highs, and his 10 home runs and 14 triples ranked fifth and third respectively.

Oh, and he only played 123 games.

His OPS+ statistic—a measure of his on-base and slugging percentages compared to the league average in the year he played—is higher than any outfielder in the history of the organization, including Kirby Puckett.

Highlight Game: September 3, 1902 @ St Louis. Delahanty hit his 100th career home run in the top of the sixth inning off Willie Sudhoff. It was a two-out, three-run blast, his last of the 1902 season, and the penultimate home run of his career.

Kirby Puckett (1988)

Puckett played all 12 seasons of his Hall-of-Fame career with the Twins. He finished within the top seven on the MVP ballot seven times, so picking one incredible offensive season is hard.

The center-fielder’s 1988 season was probably the best though. He hit .356 and drove in 121 runs, both career highs. He also led the American League with 234 hits and 358 total bases, and he finished the season third in the MVP race for the second year running.

Highlight Game: August 31, 1988 @ Texas. Puckett hit two home runs and went 3-for-5 with four RBI as the Twins beat the Rangers 10-1.

It was the second multi-home run game of the season for Puckett, and just the second time he recorded four runs batted in in the same game.

Larry Hisle (1977)

In his final year with the Twins, Hisle hit 28 home runs, led the American League with 119 runs batted in, and batted .302.

It may have had something do to with it being a contract year, because the number of runs (95), home runs, doubles (36), hits (165) and RBI he recorded were all career bests.

He was granted free agency at the end of the season, picked up by the Milwaukee Brewers, and then had an even better season, finishing third in the MVP voting.

Highlight Game: June 8, 1977 vs. Kansas City. Hisle broke a 10th-inning 8-8 tie with a walk-off home run off Larry Gura to give the Twins a 9-8 victory.

Hisle finished the game 2-for-5, also hitting a three-run home run in the bottom of the first inning.

Competition: There is certainly depth in the outfield for the Twins. The fact that Tony Oliva, Torii Hunter, and Roy Sievers can’t make the cut speaks volumes to the quality they have paraded out there over the years.

Oliva batted .323 with 32 home runs, 94 RBI, 109 runs, and 12 steals in 1964 when he won the Rookie of the Year.

Hunter combined power and speed for 29 homers and 23 steals in 2002, and Sievers led the AL with 42 homers and 114 runs in 1957.

Designated Hitter: Jason Kubel (2009)

Kubel finished the season with a .300 batting average, 28 home runs, and 103 RBI. All three statistics were career highs for the DH who has struggled to find a regular spot in the Minnesota outfield.

Only Chili Davis has hit more home runs in a single season, while only Paul Moliter has recorded more runs batted in.

Kubel’s 103 RBI and .539 slugging percentage ranked eighth in the American League.

Highlight Game: October 4, 2009 vs Kansas City. Game number 162 of the season for the Twins, tied with the Detroit Tigers for the AL Central lead.

Kubel came up big for the Twins, going 3-for-4 with two home runs and six RBI. He hit a three-run shot in the first inning and then another three-run blast in the third to help the Twins to a comfortable 13-4 victory over the Royals.

As we know, the Twins would win the one-game playoff the following day to send Minnesota to the ALDS.

Competition: Paul Molitor came close with his 1996 season when he batted .341 with 113 RBI, 99 runs, and 18 steals.

Chili Davis also deserves a mention for his 29 home runs in 1991.

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