This series is going to have little-to-no rhyme or reason for the selections. Sometimes it's going to be because of a player in the news, other times simply a random franchise and year. For the teams after 2002 I will use FanGraphs value data, for those prior to 2002, I will use BaseballProjection's data. Simple enough.
The 2002 Twins went 94-67 in the regular season and outperforming their Pythagorean record by eight games. They go on to defeat the Oakland Athletics in the ALDS, then lose to the Anaheim Angels in the ALCS.
The first thing you notice when you look over this roster is that the name value seems to exceed the actual value. Torii Hunter, Corey Koskie, David Ortiz, and heck even A.J. Pierzynski. This is a team that had four or five three-plus win players, right? Actually no. Koskie lead the way with five wins - mostly derived from a batty 18.3 fielding runs performance - and then you have Jacque Jones and Hunter sitting around 4.3 and 4.2 wins, but after that you have exactly zero three win players, and only two players with two or more wins: Bobby Kielty and Pierzysnki.
Doug Mientkiewicz (1.8), Dustan Mohr (1.8), Ortiz (1.3), and even Cristian Guzman (0.8) contributed a bit. Now comes the real fun names: Tom Prince and Luis Rivas. Casey Blake, Brian Buchanon, Jay Canizaro, Matt LeCroy, and eternal wonder Mike Restovich - currently with the Chicago White Sox -- all made cameos. Finally, there's Denny Hocking. -11.5 batting runs, -2.7 fielding runs, and yet he somehow got about 300 plate appearances. To be fair, that was a drop from the previous handful of years.
More on Koskie. From 2002 on, he posted win values of 5, 4.8, 3.1, 2.2, 1.7. That's not in descending value order, that's by years. I'm a fan of averaging the past three years rather than trying to trend spot, yet that's a pretty impressive slope downwards. Injuries played a role here, and it is too bad. Interestingly, J.P. Ricciardi found a way to spin Koskie for a somewhat useful player - somewhat - when he dealt Koskie for Brian Wolfe.
Clearly, the pitching staff is where this team shined through. 23-year-old Johan Santana manned close to 30 innings of relief and 80 starting innings while putting up a team leading 3.6 pitching wins. Eric Milton finished second (3.4), Rick Reed (2.9), Brad Radke (2.4), and Kyle Lohse (2) finished above two wins as starters. Joe Mays, Tony Fiore, Juan Rincon, and Matt Kinney also contributed a bit as starters.
J.C. Romero, LaTroy Hawkins, and Eddie Guardado lead the relievers.
It is funny that Hawkins was often maligned as a Cub despite not being that bad. His ERAs during his north side stay were 2.63 and 3.32 while his FIPs were 3.54 and 5.49. That means this is not a case of the casual fan seeing an awful ERA and being in disgust, instead it seems like Cubs fans noticed the abundance of homeruns (1.10 per nine in 2004) and got sick of that. Hawkins did blow nine saves, but he pitched in 77 games and was successful in a non-saves way. I guess you could say he undependable in the big moments, but is it really his fault that he was placed in those situations.
This was the first season the Twins had a non-Tom Kelly manager in ages, and I can recall Tim McCarver's voice echoing with compliments thrown Ron Gardenhire's way. Remember, this was before Moneyball was even thought of, so the Twins weren't the "good small market team" for the traditionalists quite yet. They were scrappy. They bunted. They stole bases. They played the game the right way, using wooden bats to hit and store brand baseball gloves and spikes. Much unlike the Yankees who batted with new school aerodynamic friendly bats made by NASA while wearing Louis Vuitton leather gloves and alligator skinned boots.