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March 17, 2009

Infield Win Shares: 30 and up

As noted in the previous post in this series, Kent Hrbek never had 30 win shares in a season. Nor has Justin Morneau.

Thirty win shares is a high standard, a standard for MVPs and guys bound for Cooperstown.

The Twins have had 10 infield seasons of 30 or more win shares. Four of them are Harmon Killebrew — 33 in 1966, 38 in 1967, 34 in 1969, 30 in 1970. (Why is his 1967 season better than his 1969 season, when his numbers were bigger? Context. In 1969, the pitchers mounds were lowered and the strike zones shrunk; offensive production rose.)

Four others are Rod Carew: 32 in 1974, 30 in 1975, 30 in 1976, 37 in 1977. The first two, incidentally, were as a second baseman; the second two in that sequence came at first base.

The other two are Zoilo Versalles in 1965 (32) and Chuck Knoblauch in 1996 (32.) Versalles won the MVP in 1965; looking at his career as a whole, Zoilo was probably the worst position player ever to win the MVP, not that he wasn't a deserving winner. It was a great season, just out of context with the rest of his seasons.

Knoblauch's 1996 is probably long forgotten even by serious Twins fans. It was a bad team. But Knobby hit .341, drew 98 walks, led the league in triples, had 62 extra base hits and scored 140 runs — plus he played Gold Glove-caliber defense at the time. When he left Minnesota for the Yankees, he seems to have train ticket for Cooperstown. That train got derailed, of course, but his 1996 season was legitimately great.

So if you could cherry-pick the best infield seasons without having the same player at two diffferent positions, how would it go?

1B:Carew, 1977, 37 points.

2B: Knoblauch, 1996, 32 points

3B: Killebrew, 1969, 34 points

SS: Versalles, 1965, 32 points.

That would be a 135 win shares infield. (The real-life record, accordingto Bill James, is 119 by the 1914 Philadelphia Athletics, the famed $100,000 infield: Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Collins, Home Run Baker and Jack Barry.)

e-mail Edward Thoma

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