Continuing with a rundown of the Royals’ AL West opponents heading into 1977, we move on to the Minnesota Twins, who finished third in the division in 1976, just five games behind Kansas City.
Unlike the Oakland A’s, Minnesota had an uneventful offseason. They lost starting pitcher Bill Singer, backup outfielder Steve Braun, and backup infielder Dave McKay in the expansion draft, relief pitcher Bill Campbell as a free agent, and sold backup outfielder Steve Brye to Milwaukee, but only offset those by adding starting pitcher Geoff Zahn and outfielder Glenn Adams. Owner Calvin Griffith spent much of the offseason crying poor, so the Twins were certainly not going to be players in the newfangled world of free agency.
Manager Gene Mauch presided over an offense that led the league in runs scored in 1976. Future Hall of Famer Rod Carew was the linchpin of the Twins’ offense, but the starting outfield of Larry Hisle, Lyman Bostock, and Dan Ford all posted OPS+ numbers well over 100. Catcher Butch Wynegar, shortstop Roy Smalley (Mauch’s nephew), and third baseman Mike Cubbage were also coming off above-average offensive years. In fact, the only Twins regular with an OPS+ below 100 was second baseman Bob Randall, a native of Norton, Kansas, who played collegiately at K-State and would later be the head coach at both Iowa State and Kansas. Minnesota didn’t hit many home runs (81 in 1976, eighth in the AL) but led the league in batting average and on-base percentage.
On the other hand, the Twins’ pitching was slightly below-average in 1976. Their 3.69 ERA was 10th out of 12 teams, and they led the league in walks issued. The staff’s 97 ERA+ was ninth in the league. Minnesota pitchers were not helped by their defense, which committed the most errors in the AL in 1976 (172).
Without improvements to the pitching staff, most observers expected Minnesota to remain around the .500 mark and, therefore, in the middle of the standings.
Today’s birthdays: Jim Wohlford (1951), Brian Bannister (1981), Tug Hulett (1983)