Monday, July 14, 2014

#250 Chuck Knoblauch

About the Front: Twins at Athletics, Willie Wilson ostensibly trying to break up the double play. Can I find the game? Willie's 1992 gamelog tells me that he only reached base in two of his six home games against Minnesota that season. Of those two games, June 28 meets our criteria. In the bottom of the seventh inning, with the Twins waxing the A's 10-0, Wilson drew a leadoff walk against Scott Erickson. Mike Bordick hit a grounder to third baseman Donnie Hill, who tossed to Chuck Knoblauch for the force at second; Bordick was safe at first. The Twins went on to win 10-2, and Knoblauch went 2-for-5 with a double, a steal, and a couple of runs scored.

About the Back: Chuck was the 25th overall pick in the 1989 draft. Using Baseball Reference's WAR statistic, Frank Thomas (73.7) was the only first-rounder that year with more career value than Knoblauch (44.6). That puts him ahead of Mo Vaughn, Ben McDonald, Todd Jones, and Charles Johnson.

Triple Play:

1. His father Ray pitched for eight seasons in the minor leagues (1948-1950, 1953-1957), topping out at the AA Texas League.

2. Chuck won the 1991 A.L. Rookie of the Year Award, but his best all-around season was probably 1996 (.341/.448/.517, 140 runs scored, 35 doubles, league-high 14 triples, 13 homers, 72 RBI, 45-of-59 in steals).

3. The penny-pinching Twins traded Knoblauch to the Yankees after the 1997 season. He famously developed a problem with his throwing accuracy, and was eventually moved to the outfield in 2001. After his hitting cratered in Kansas City the following season (.210/.284/.300 in 80 games), he retired at age 34.

11-Year-Old Kevin Says: Back when Jon Miller was still the radio voice of the Orioles, one of his favorite impressions was former Twins' PA announcer Bob Casey. It seemed like every time the O's played the Twins, Miller would riff on Casey's exaggerated, nasal pronunciation of "Chaaaauuuuuuucccckkk...Knaaaaaaaablaaaaaauuuuuch!"

Bill James Said: "A great number-two hitter, a classic second baseman." When Bill James says somebody is great in the two-hole, you can bet he's talking about on-base skills (.378 career OBP) and not bunting ability.

On This Date in 1993: July 13. In the 64th All-Star Game, hosted at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the American League dispatches the National League, 9-3. Gary Sheffield, Kirby Puckett, and Roberto Alomar each hit a home run in the first three innings. Puckett also drives in a run with a double and is named the game's MVP. John Kruk famously has a near-death experience with an overthrown Randy Johnson fastball. (Yes, this is yesterday's date. Oh well.)

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