The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Baseball Blog

March 17, 2009

Infield Win Shares: Hrbek and Morneau

Kent Hrbek had a cup of coffee in 1981 and took over the Twins first base job the next season. He would be the regular for 13 seasons, be a mainstay of two World Series winners and have his number retired.

What is striking in looking at his win shares is the consistency. He never had a really big year — the 30-plus win share season that is typical of an MVP orf a Hall of Famer. He had a high of 25 and only broke 20 twice (24 in 1984, 25 in 1987). But in the first 10 seasons of his career, before shoulder separations , age and added weight took their toll on his skills and playing time, he never dipped below 17 win shares.

18, 19, 24, 19, 17, 25, 19, 18, 19, 19 — which takes us through 1991, his last strong season. Then he fell off to the low double digits (10, 12, 10) and retired.

The point being, you basically knew what Hrbek was going to do each season.

Justin Morenau is another matter. He's had four full seasons, plus a half season, as the regular. He's yo-yoed: Nine in 2004 (the half season), seven in 2005, 26 in '06, 18 in '07 (basically a Hrbek season), 28 last year.

We don't know yet what shape Morneau's career is going to take. Injuries can always derail a player. But the up-and-down pattern he's displayed so far makes him even more difficult to predict.

e-mail Edward Thoma

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