1991 Rewind: Game Eight

SEATTLE 3, MINNESOTA 0 IN SEATTLE

Date:  Tuesday, April 16.

Batting stars:  None.  The Twins had five hits, all singles.

Pitching stars:  Scott Erickson pitched 7.2 innings, giving up three runs on nine hits and five walks and striking out six.

Opposition stars:  Brian Holman pitched a complete game shutout, giving up five hits and two walks and striking out three.  Ken Griffey, Jr. was 2-for-2 with two walks and a stolen base.  Alvin Davis was 2-for-3 with a walk.  Jeff Schaefer was 2-for-4.  Pete O'Brien was 1-for-4 with a home run.

The game:  Chili Davis and Mike Pagliarulo opened the second with singles, but Davis was picked off second.  Shane Mack followed with a single, but the Twins did not get anyone past second.  Three of the Twins' five hits came in the same inning, but they still did not score and would not threaten again.

The Mariners got on the board in the third.  They had one-out singles by Schaefer and Harold Reynolds and two-out singles by Griffey, Jr., and Edgar Martinez to take a 2-0 lead.  They added a run in the eighth on O'Brien's two-out home run.  And that was that.

WP:  Holman (1-1).  LP:  Erickson (0-2).  S:  None.

Notes:  Randy Bush was in left field, replacing Dan Gladden.  Junior Ortiz was behind the plate, replacing Brian Harper.  Al Newman was at short, replacing Greg Gagne.  Shane Mack remained in center, with Kirby Puckett in right.

As I recall, Ortiz served as Erickson's catcher in 1991.

Puckett was 1-for-4 and was batting .387.  Chuck Knoblauch was 0-for-4 and was batting .321.  Erickson's ERA was 2.45.

Ortiz was 0-for-2 with a walk and was 0-for-9 on the season, so his batting average was the same as his uniform number.  Kent Hrbek was 0-for-4 and was batting .100.  Mack was 1-for-3 to raise his average to .150.  Bush was 1-for-4 to raise his average to .182.

I hadn't remembered that the Twins got off to such a slow start.  They were in a stretch of "when we hit we can't pitch and when we pitch we can't hit".  As you can see, they had a lot of good batters who were not hitting.  They also had some pitchers who were not pitching well.  The schedule didn't do them any favors, either, not so much because of the teams but because of the travel.  Train in Florida, open with three in Oakland, come home for three with California, then back to the west coast for three in Seattle and three in California.  That's a lot of travel and a lot of time-zone changes.  Yes, they're professional ballplayers and they have to deal with it, but they're still human beings, and that's not easy.

Brian Holman was a fairly good pitcher for four seasons.  He came up with Montreal at mid-season of 1988 and went 4-8, but with an ERA of 3.23.  He was traded to Seattle in late May of 1989 with Gene Harris and Randy Johnson for a player to be named later (Mike Campbell) and Mark Langston.  He was in the Mariners rotation through 1991 and went 32-35, 3.73 over 80 starts.  He was only twenty-six at that point and looked like he would be around for a long time.  Unfortunately, he tore his rotator cuff and would never pitch again.  He went through a lot of rehab, but finally gave up in 1994.  He does not seem to have let it get him down, however, as he has had a successful career as a financial advisor, a motivational speaker, and a high school baseball coach.

Record:  The Twins were 2-6, tied for sixth with Seattle in the American League West, five games behind the White Sox.

8 thoughts on “1991 Rewind: Game Eight”

  1. As I recall, Ortiz served as Erickson's catcher in 1991.

    That’s correct. Here’s a breakdown of innings pitched among any pitcher with more than 10 starts in 1991:

    Catcher Anderson Erickson Guthrie Morris Tapani West
    Harper 122.1 5.2 69.0 219.0 209.0 59.1
    Ortiz 11.0 172.1 23.2 27.2 22.2 12.0
    Webster 1.0 26.0 5.1 0.0 12.2 0.0

    Lenny Webster was called up for a couple weeks in June, when it looks like Junior Ortiz spent some time on the DL, and then again in September when rosters expanded.

    From what I remember, Erickson was always something of a flake. I think Ortiz caddying for Erickson might’ve had something to do with Erickson preferring how Ortiz received pitches, perhaps in combination with Ortiz being better at blocking Erickson’s hard sinkers in the dirt than Harper. Erickson seems like the kind of guy who would let things like passed balls get to him.

    Despite after-the-fact criticism of his arm for poor results in 1991, up until then Brian Harper had shown himself to be capable enough of preventing stolen bases. His 35% CS rate over 1988–1990 wasn’t elite, but he was actually a bit better than league average every year.* Only once during that time did Harper make the MLB’s top ten for stolen bases surrendered (8th in 1990), but he also finished 2nd in MLB in total runners caught stealing that season. Junior Ortiz tied for 10th in stolen bases surrendered with the Pirates in 1989, but then finished 8th in CS% (41.67%, a career high to that point) with the Twins in 1990. Suffice it to say, I don’t think the Twins would have had enough reason, at least early in 1991, to put Ortiz behind the plate instead of Harper because Erickson got rattled by stolen bases.

    * After 1991’s miserable 22% CS rate, runners got the green light against Harper — in 1992 & 1993 he led the league in stolen bases surrendered. But the funny thing is, the league didn’t readjust; Harper rebounded a bit, throwing out 31% of stolen base attempts. While that rate is modest at best and dropped Harper from a bit above league average to a bit below average, I still don’t think he was the liability some made him out to be. Rather, I wonder if the Twins’ pitching staff in 91–‘93 might have contributed to some of his reputation for a mediocre arm.

    1. Rather, I wonder if the Twins’ pitching staff in 91–‘93 might have contributed to some of his reputation for a mediocre arm.

      I think the current consensus is that pitchers are the primary limiter, or enabler, of stolen bases. Catchers with elite arms can still shut down the running game regardless of the pitcher but they are the exception. The long windups of old were very conducive to stealing.

      I don't know how much that factors into caught stealing numbers or if there's an adjusted caught stealing percentage.

    2. I don't really recall Junior Ortiz as being a particularly good defensive catcher. I know he had that reputation, but Bill James once wrote that, before good defensive metrics, every weak-hitting catcher was assumed to be a superior defender because, well, he must do something to keep getting put in the lineup.

Leave a Reply