Twins All-Decade Team, the '80s (The Pitchers)
Image courtesy of Daniel MickSome of the Twins teams in the early '80s were really bad. However, it was a time for some development, and one of the players developed turned into one of the bettter pitchers in team history. There is no question that Frank Viola was the team's top pitcher of the 1980s, and he helped lead the 1987 Twins to a World Series title before the end of the decade.
However, there is a big drop-off after Viola, and after reading today's article, you probably won't be surprised that the Twins had questions regarding a third starter even on a World Series team. Question marks in the pitching staff may have been an understatement in the early '80s.
So, read my all-decade pitchers below and then discuss the pitchers. Did I leave someone out? What surprised you?
Don't forget that on Thursday night, I'll be posting another podcast in which I talk about the Twins decade with a beat reporter who covered the team during the decade. It's a ton of fun and I really think you'll enjoy it... In fact, the writer actually convinced me to make one change in the bullpen below, the first time that has happened during this series.
SP - Frank Viola (1982-1989)
260 games, 259 starts, 112-93 with 3.86 ERA in 1,772 2/3 innings. 1,214 K. 521 BB.
Viola was the Twins second -round pick in 1981 out of St. Johns. Just over a year later, he made his debut for the Twins. In the early years, he was working innings for a struggling team, but as he got better, the Twins got better. He won 18 games in both 1984 and 1985. He won 17 games and posted a 2.90 ERA in 1987. That season ended with him named the MVP of the World Series. In 1988, he went 24-7 with a 2.64 ERA and won the AL Cy Young Award. 1988 was his lone All-Star appearance with the Twins. He was traded to the Mets during the 1989 season. He pitched more than twice as many innings as any other pitcher for the Twins during the decade.
SP - Bert Blyleven (1985-1988)
120 games, 120 starts, 50-48 with 4.22 ERA in 860 innings. 633 K. 236 BB.
Blyleven was easily the Twins top pitcher during the decade of the 1970s. He was traded to Texas, won a World Series with the 1979 Pirates, and pitched for Cleveland. He was traded back to the Twins in the middle of the 1985 season. While he was no longer the same pitcher as in his first stint with the Twins, he still provided solid pitching and innings for the Twins. He posted a 4.01 ERA in both 1986 and 1987. He was the second reliable starter on the 1987 World Series team as well.
SP - Allan Anderson (1986-1989)
88 games, 75 starts, 37-35 with 3.72 ERA in 495 2/3 innings. 206 K. 130 BB.
Anderson was the Twins second-round pick in 1982 out of high school in Ohio. He moved up the ladder and debuted in June of 1986. He pitched in 21 games that summer and then another four games in 1987. In 1988, he made 30 starts and went 16-9 with a league-leading 2.45 ERA. The following season, he made 33 starts and went 17-10 with a 3.80 ERA. During those seasons, he struck out just 3.7 and 3.2 batters, respectively, per nine innings. However, he also had elite control and command which made him good for a couple of seasons.
SP - Albert Williams (1980-1984)
120 games, 97 starts, 35-38 with 4.24 ERA in 642 2/3 innings. 262 K. 227 BB.
The back story of Albert Williams, whether it is true or embellished, is fascinating, but the right-hander from Nicaragua had a couple of mediocre seasons for the Twins during the decade. That qualifies him as a Top 5 starter of the decade. He spent parts of five seasons with the Twins, mostly as a starter. In the three seasons in which he threw 150 or more innings, he had ERA+ of 97, 101 and 103. In those seasons, his strikeout rate dropped from 4.6 to 3.6 to 3.2. In 1984, it was just 2.9, and he was let go.
SP - Mike Smithson (1984-1987)
128 games, 126 starts, 47-48 with 4.46 ERA in 816 innings. 438 K. 227 BB.
Smithson came to the Twins with John Butcher from the Rangers after the 1983 season for Gary Ward. He made a good first impression when he won 15 games and posted a 3.68 ERA in 252 innings over 36 starts in 1984. He won 15 games again in 1985, though his ERA rose to 4.34 (exactly league average) in 257 innings. He went 13-14 with a 4.77 ERA in 1986, and he was 4-7 with a 5.94 ERA in 1987 before losing his job and being left off of the Twins postseason roster. Oh, and his 438 strikeouts for the Twins was third-highest among Twins starters in the decade.
RP - Doug Corbett (1980-1982)
137 games, 0 starts, 10-14 with 43 saves and a 2.49 ERA in 246 innings. 164 K. 86 BB.
Corbett made his MLB debut at the beginning of the 1980 season as a 27-year-old for the Twins. He posted a 1.98 ERA over 136 1/3 innings in 73 games. He went 8-6 with 23 saves. He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting. The following year, he went 2-6 with 17 saves and a 2.57 ERA in a league-leading 54 games and 87 2/3 innings. No truth to any rumors that his right arm sent a thank you note to those involved in the strike. After just ten games in 1982, the Twins traded him to the Angels in a deal that brought Tom Brunansky.
RP - Juan Berenguer (1987-1989)
160 games, 7 starts, 25-8 with 9 saves and a 3.79 ERA in 318 innings. 302 K. 155 BB.
When Berenguer came to the Twins as a free agent in 1987, he had already pitched in parts of nine MLB seasons. While he hadn’t been a great starter, Tom Kelly used him a lot in his four seasons with the Twins. In 1987, he went 8-1 with four saves in 47 games and 112 innings. He worked over 100 innings all four years. Unlike most pitchers of the decade, Berenguer actually had a fastball that reached up to 93 or even 94 mph. He averaged just shy of a strikeout per inning during his time with the Twins. That is now just below league average, but at that time, it was very strong. Berenguer became a popular Twins player thanks to the Berenguer Boogie, along with very strong pitching.
RP - Jeff Reardon (1987-1989)
191 games, 0 starts, 15-16 with 104 saves and a 3.70 ERA in 226 1/3 innings. 185 K. 55 BB.
Reardon came to the Twins before the 1987 season. He had been an All-Star in 1985 and 1986. His biggest attribute to Twins fans was that he was not Ron Davis. However, he got off to a slow start early in his Twins career. After that, however, he became quite reliable. Despite an 8-8 record and 31 saves, his 1987 ERA was just 4.48. However, he received both MVP and Cy Young Award votes. His 104 saves was second in the organization during the decade. In 1988 ,he posted a 2.47 ERA in 74 innings and was an All-Star.
RP - Ron Davis (1982-1986)
286 games, 0 starts, 19-40 with 108 saves and a 4.51 ERA in 381 1/3 innings. 349 K. 185 BB.
After a couple of great years in the Yankees bullpen, Davis came to the Twins before the 1982 season with Greg Gagne for Roy Smalley. Goose Gossage was the Yankees closer, so Davis would get an opportunity in that role with the Twns that he did not get with the Yankees. While Davis has unfortunately become almost a punch line for Twins fans, and at times he really did struggle mightily, most of the time he did get the job done. He finished the games he came into 87% of the time. It isn’t impressive relative to today’s closers, but when he was going two or more innings most times, it was good. That said, when he was dealt to the Cubs in 1986, it was understandably welcomed.
RP - Keith Atherton (1986-1988)
155 games, 0 starts, 19-18 with 15 saves and a 3.91 ERA in 235 innings. 153 K. 87 BB.
After three-plus seasons in Oakland, Atherton came to the Twins in a May 1986 trade and became a generally reliable relief option for the Twins for the next three seasons. He was the #3 most used reliever in 1987 behind Berenguer and Reardon. As we saw at the back end of the starting group, Atherton was simply solid for three seasons with the Twins and that put him in my top five.
What do you think?
Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Hitters)
Twins All-Decade Team, the '60s (The Pitchers)
Episode 15: Get t o Know the 1960s Twins (with Dave Mona)
Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Hitters)
Twins All-Decade Team, the '70s (The Pitchers)
Episode 16: Get to Know the 1970s Twins (with Patrick Reusse)
Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Hitters)
Twins All-Decade Team: the '80s (The Pitchers)
Episode 17: Get to know the 1980s Twins (with TBD)