The award goes to the Twin with the fastest start within the first week to ten days of the season. The award gets its name from Bobby Darwin – who debuted with a hot start as a 29 year old rookie center fielder for the Twins in1972, right around the time I was forming my first baseball memories.
Darwin arrived with the Twins from the Dodgers organization for his first chance to play outfield at a major league level. He hit 5 home runs in his first 8 games.
My cousin Bobby was an early baseball mentor to me. Despite sharing a first name with Darwin, he told me not to get too carried away with Darwin’s fast start. Cousin Bobby, in his ten-year-old wisdom, warned me that every year some Twin would start off really hot, but would crash back to earth. Here, at 7 years old, I was receiving my first lesson with “regression to the mean.”
Darwin hit his 6th home run in game 12, but didn’t connect with his 7th of 1972 until game 45. Cousin Bobby had it down. In the end, Darwin had a respectable season — with 22 home runs and an OPS+ of 123. The Twins traded Darwin away in his fourth season with the team — perhaps tiring of his league-leading strike-out totals.
Interesting aside: Darwin debuted for one game with the Dodgers as a pitcher at age 19. He would get 3 more pitching appearances with the Dodgers at age 26 before going back to the minors to reinvent himself as an outfielder.
With last year’s atrocious start by the Twins, I had to look really hard to find someone to give the First Annual Bobby Darwin Award. I settled on Nick Blackburn for two early acceptable outings. That was for a team that started 3-6.
This years’ Twins have started even worse. Three series into the year and the Twins stand 2-7.
However, it is much easier this year to select the fast-starter. In a Bobby Darwin worthy start, Josh Willingham has 4 home runs, is batting .444 and his OPS is in the stratosphere at 1.508. According to an Aaron Gleeman tweet, he is only the fourth Twin to home 4 times in the first six games of the season. The other three: Kirby Puckett, Tony Oliva and, of course, Bobby Darwin. That’s two legendary Twins — Puckett in 1987 and Oliva in 1966 — having years where they were in the discussion for MVP. And one Twin who had a season that one young fan remembered enough to grow up and make up a silly blog award about.
How do you think Josh Willingham’s season will turn out?
Congratulations to Josh Willingham as the Second Annual VeryWellThen.Com Bobby Darwin Award winner.
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