As we’ve been working through our team-by-team single-season home run leaderboards, there have been occasions where one player has dominated most of our digital ink. It’s happened for teams like the Yankees, Giants, and Mariners, to name a few. But has there been a team that has one player dominate their leaderboard as much as the Twins home run leaders?
I’m not so sure. Based on what Harmon Killebrew did during his time with the organization, it wouldn’t be outrageous for a petition to get started in order to rename them the Minnesota Killebrews.
OK, that’s probably a little extreme, but still, just look below and you’ll see what I mean. This man has each of the top six most powerful seasons in Twins history, eight of the top 10, and nine of the top 15. Let’s dig into some of the details.
Related: Twins All-Time Home Run Leaders
Twins Home Run Leaders
Based on how often he appears here, it’s not a surprise that Killebrew not only holds the Twins’ single-season home run record but is also the franchise’s all-time home run leader. Although the legendary slugger never officially recorded a 50-homer season, he did surpass 40 eight (!) different times.
Here are his eight seasons that appear in the top 10:
- 49 homers in 1964 and 1969
- 48 homers in 1962
- 46 homers in 1961
- 45 homers in 1963
- 44 homers in 1967
- 42 homers in 1959
- 41 homers in 1970
There were actually a couple of occasions when Killebrew didn’t slug at least 40 home runs in a season between 1959 and 1970 (the first and last times he accomplished the feat). Despite that, his season-long averages during this stretch are just incredible. During these 12 seasons, which spanned more than 7,300 plate appearances, Killebrew slashed .265/.386/.543 with an average of 40 homers, 103 RBI, and 88 runs scored.
Averaged! From his age-23 to his age-34 campaigns! That’s longevity personified if I’ve ever seen it.
After a number of close calls over the years, Killebrew did capture that elusive MVP award in 1969 when he led the league in homers (49) and RBI (140). He got there by finishing in a powerful fashion. Through the end of June, the right-handed hitter had 18 homers and 54 RBI. From July through the end of the season, he slugged 31 homers with 70 RBI.
Brian Dozier‘s 2016 campaign was notable for a number of reasons. One of them was because we don’t see many 40-homer campaigns from second baseman. Another was that it’s very rare to see someone hit that many dingers in a Twins uniform not named Harmon Killebrew.
Dozier also drove in 99 runs, making this the first of two straight years where he went 30-30-90-100 (homers, doubles, RBI, runs scored). He finished 13th in AL MVP voting but didn’t get selected to appear in the All-Star Game. That may make some scratch their head, but it’s because the majority of the second baseman’s work happened in the second half. And, whenever I think of Dozier’s 2016 performance, what he did down the stretch is the first thing that comes to mind.
Through his first 359 plate appearances, he owned a .786 OPS with 14 home runs and 43 RBI. But over his final 332 trips to the plate, Dozier posted a .990 OPS while doubling his homer output with 28 dingers and adding 56 RBI for good measure.
He only had five homers and 17 RBI through the end of May, so he really went to work after that. Dozier saved his best work for last, as he combined to hit 23 homers in August and September alone, reaching double digits in each month.
Before Killebrew began making the Twins’ single-season home run leaderboard a one-man show, Roy Sievers was Minnesota’s home run king (or, Washington’s since when he played for the organization, they were the Senators). He slugged 42 homers in 1957, which led the league in that category, as did his 114 RBI. This was easily the apex of Sievers’ power, but it was right in the middle of a nine-year stretch where he slugged at least 20 per season.
Sievers paired those power numbers with a solid .301/.388/.579 line, which helped him earn a trip to the All-Star Game, along with finishing third in AL MVP voting.
His OPS between home (.988) and away (.943) games weren’t that different from one another, but he had a clear preference when it came to hitting his dingers. Of the 42 he hit in 1957, 26 came in front of the home crowd, while the other 16 happened on the road. He also never had a month with double-digit homers, but he got more consistent in the second half. Through the first three months, he hit at least seven dingers once (eight in June). Over the final three months, though, he met or surpassed that number each time (nine in July, seven in August, eight in September).
I’ve said this a few times, but I’ll say it again — I’m convinced Nelson Cruz is a machine and his internal battery is limitless. He’ll just continue to hit dingers for the rest of eternity. For someone who collected an inside-the-park home run as one of his first big-league round-trippers, it’s been fascinating to watch his late-career power surge.
It started in 2014 when he led the American League in home runs with a then-career-high 40 for the Baltimore Orioles, and it’s just continued from there. After a powerful four-year stint with the Mariners, he landed with the Twins. His only full season in Minnesota was 2019, and he made it count with another 41 homers. This made Cruz just the third player in Twins history not named Killebrew to reach or surpass that number.
Of all the great seasons Cruz has put together in his career — especially recently — 2019 involved his best triple slash. It was .311/.392/.639, which yielded a single-season career-high 1.031 OPS. He received a similar number of plate appearances in the first and second half, but the slugger saved his best work for the end. Prior to the All-Star Game, he owned a .921 OPS with 16 homers and 46 RBI. After the midsummer classic, those numbers increased to 1.148, 25, and 62, respectively.
Twins Home Run Leaders: The Rest
Here’s what the rest of the Twins’ top-21 most powerful seasons in franchise history look like:
- Harmon Killebrew, 1966: 39 home runs
- Roy Sievers, 1958: 39
- Jim Lemon, 1960: 38
- Max Kepler, 2019: 36
- Bob Allison, 1963: 35
- Josh Willingham, 2012: 35
- Brian Dozier, 2018: 34
- Gary Gaetti, 1986: 34
- Kent Hrbek, 1987: 34
- Justin Morneau, 2006: 34
Find out who is on the outside looking in by taking a peek at the rest of this list at FanGraphs.