2011 (Bobby) Darwin Award — for Best Start to Twins Season
Posted by verywellthen on April 10, 2011
As I write this, the Twins stand 3-6. The team is hitting horribly (team OPS = 0.527 — dead last in the majors, including those teams that have pitchers hit.) No one is off to a blinding start with the bat.
That wasn’t the case in 1972.
One of my earliest baseball memories was the red-hot start from the Twins 29 year old rookie center fielder Bobby Darwin. Fresh on arrival from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Darwin began his Twins days on a tear – hitting 5 home runs in the first 8 games to start the 1972 season and his career as a starting center fielder.
That spring, I was a fledgling little Twins fan. My Twins Cities relatives had come for a visit to Interior Dakota and in that group was my cousin Bobby – the first real die-hard Twins fan I had ever met. Bobby loved to talk about the Twins and that spring we were both sharing our enthusiasm for the new rookie who shared his first name. My untempered enthusiasm was that of an innocent 7 year old. Cousin Bobby, being 3 years older and a bit more jaded told me, “yeah, every year some Twin starts off really hot, but then they cool off.”
He was teaching me an important baseball lesson – what the statheads would later inform me is called “regression to the mean.”
I didn’t believe it. Bobby Darwin was going to keep hitting home runs all year I figured. But sure enough, just as cousin Bobby predicted – Bobby Darwin cooled off. He hit his sixth one in the 12th game of the season, but didn’t hit his 7th one until the 45th game. By then he fell off the league leader charts that occasionally provided filler in the local newspaper’s sports page.
In the end, it was a nice little debut season by Darwin. He ended up tied for ninth in the league with 22 home runs (those were tough days for hitters) and posted an OPS+ of 123. Darwin lasted 3+ years with the Twins, when he was shipped off to Milwaukee, perhaps because the Twins tired of his high strike out totals.
So now its 2011. And I had planned on giving some Twin a Darwin Award — as in Bobby Darwin — this Spring for the best start in the first week to ten days of the season.
Then the Twins go and put up offensive offensive numbers. But I was so clever in thinking up this award that I have to pick someone, I guess.
Well, it’s not going to come from the offense — Span leads the team with a 742 OPS. It’s Ruthesque in comparison to the rest of the Twins offense, but not league-leading and even below Denard’s career OPS.
So I’ll look over to the pitching side.
Joe Nathan has three saves in three attempts. One was shaky, but he’s done everything asked of him. All three team victories nailed down by Joe. He’s even on ESPN’s top-5 in saves.
But I like Nick Blackburn’s start a bit better. He’s on the AL leader board with an 0.77 ERA for qualified pitchers. Two starts, both winnable. Nothing dominating in his appearances (only 11.2 innings and 4 Ks), but Nick’s not a dominating-type pitcher.
The Twins are not off to an inspirational start. And it was exactly an inspirational start I was looking for in giving out this prestigious self-invented award. I don’t imagine any young Twins fans dreaming about these stats when they fall asleep in their Twins pajamas. But I’ll remind them of the lesson I learned years ago — that there is “regression to the mean.” The Twins hitters will get better this season. They have to.
Hopefully before they are naturally-selected out of the AL pennant race.
So, I present the inaugural 2011 VeryWellThen.Com (Bobby) Darwin Award for the best start of the season for a Twins player to… Nick Blackburn.