Thursday, September 23, 2010

Nick Blackburn, double-digit wins, and how pitching has changed

Nick Blackburn on Wednesday became the sixth Twins pitcher credited with at least 10 wins. This is a new team record, if such a thing can be called a record.

A .500 pitcher: Nick Blackburn is 10-10
so far this season, 11-11 in both 2008 and 2009
Two previous Minnesota teams -- 2008 and 1970 -- had five double-digit winners. The 2008 team, you probably remember. Glen Perkins and Kevin Slowey had 12 wins each to lead the team, Blackburn and Scott Baker had 11 apiece, Livan Hernandez had 10. None of them threw 200 innings. They wound up losing a one-game playoff for the division title, which perhaps illustrates the difficulty in winning anything without an ace.

That wasn't the issue for the 1970 Twins, which had Jim Perry winning 24 games and the Cy Young Award. He threw 278 innings. Jim Kaat won 14 and worked more than 230 innings. The other three 10-game winners were Tom Hall (11), Bert Blyleven (10) and Stan Williams (10).

I remember that team fondly. They won 98 games and the old AL West title before succumbing to the Baltimore Orioles (the better team won). It was my first full baseball season, and I was enthralled by the idea of a teenager (Blyleven) pitching in the majors.

But what strikes me in reviewing that team now: They used just 13 pitchers all year.

The four-man rotation to open the season probably seemed ridiculously loaded. Perry and Dave Boswell were coming off 20-win seasons. Luis Tiant, acquired in a wintertime trade (which cost the Twins Craig Nettles), was one season removed from a 1.60 ERA. Kaat probably belongs in the Hall of Fame. So might Tiant.

In the event, only the Jims were good. Boswell, just 25, was awful (3-7, 6.42) and never bounced back. Tiant got hurt; it took him a couple of years to recover.

Blyleven, age 19, came up from Triple A to plug one hole. Swingmen Hall and Bill Zepp combined to plug the other (31 starts, 300-plus innings and a 20-10 record combined).

And the firemen were a couple of aging Dodger refugees, Ron Perranoski and Stan Williams, who pitched 111 and 113 innings respectively.

That's nine pitchers. The other four men to take the mound for Bill Rigney that season -- Dick Woodson, Steve Barber (the lesser), Pete Hamm and Hal Haydel -- combined for 83 innings.

Seven guys did most of the work. And almost all of them fell apart the next season.

No comments:

Post a Comment