1973 Minnesota Twins
Manager: Frank Quilici 2nd Season (2nd with Minnesota 122-124)
81 W 81 L 738 RS 692 RA 3rd AL West 13 GB (Oakland 94-68)
4.56 RPG (AL = 4.28) 3.77 ERA (AL = 3.82)
.695 DER (8th AL)
All Stars (2) Bert Blyleven, Rod Carew
Franchise (1901-1973) 5333-5838-109; 11-21 Post Season; 11-15 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-1973) 1119-974-5; 3-10 Post Season; 3-4 WS
The Twins were widely expected to have major problems in 1973. In that regard, it is possible to see their second consecutive .500 season as a bit of a success. The teams’ quick start, they were 9-4 after 13 games and 29-21 after play on June 8, may have set the bar a little high for a rebuilding year. Still, the taste of success early was enough to make the rest of the season bitter for the Twins and their fans.
Among the positives for the Twins, however, was a 14-4 record against the eventual World Series Champion Oakland A’s. Additionally, they got another solid season from Bert Blyleven, while Rod Carew fully returned to his Hall of Fame form.
Bold = Player new to WAS/MIN in 1973
C George Mitterwald .259/.326/.405 16 HR 1.0 BFW 15 WS 23 FRAR 4.6 WARP3
The 28-year-old catcher matched a career high with 125 games played and had more plate appearances in 1974 than an any other year of his 11-season major league career. Mitterwald responded by posting his best career batting stats, including a 102 OPS+. Mitterwald was traded to the Cubs after the season.
1B Joe Lis .245/.325/.403 9 HR -0.7 BFW 5 WS 3 FRAR 1.4 WARP3
1B/DH Harmon Killebrew .242/.352/.347 5 HR 0.0 BFW 5 WS 4 FRAR 1.5 WARP3
Lis came from the Phillies in the Cesar Tovar trade. Though originally slated to be a late-inning defensive replacement for Killebrew, Lis’ fielding “skills” were the subject of many clubhouse jokes. Lis, known to have a good sense of humor, piled on by selecting “Trolley Song” from the musical Streetcar Named Desire to be played when his name was announced, explaining that the lyric “clang, clang, clang goes the bell” resembled the sound of a ball hitting his glove. Defensive pedegree aside, Lis got more playing time than anybody expected when the 37-year-old Killebrew went down with a knee injury in late June. After starting the 1974 season with a .195/.298/.195 line, Lis was sold to Cleveland on June 5.
2B Rod Carew .350/.411/.471 6 HR 5.8 BFW 28 WS 30 FRAR 10.1 WARP3
Carew won his second consecutive (and third overall) batting title with a personal best .350 average in 1973. Even with his success in traditional batting statistics, Carew didn’t seem to get much national attention for his on the field performance. Despite putting up great numbers year in and year out, Carew had a reputation is some circles as a player that didn’t try hard and an overrated second baseman. True, Carew’s running style looked effortless, but a lot of the fuel for the critics came from an incident early in the 1973 season when Quilici fined Carew for lack of hustle, though there had been other occasions when the press surrounding the young star was unfavorable. For his part, Carew continued to put up numbers and answered his critics on the field.
SS Danny Thompson .225/.259/.282 1 HR -0.4 BFW 3 WS 24 FRAR 1.3 WARP3
UT Jerry Terrell .265/.297/.315 1 HR -2.0 BFW 7 WS 20 FRAR 2.1 WARP3
Thompson, understandable after a leukemia diagnosis in the off season, had a miserable season in 1973. Because of a clause in his contract that called for a bonus if he played in at least 130 games, Thompson played through several injuries early in the season. By the time his season ended prematurely due to a broken foot with a month left in the season, he was batting just .225/.259/.282 in 99 games played, way down from his production the season before. When Thompson was out it was usually Jerry Terrell in his place. Terrell was a native Minnesotan who was known early on as the “bespectacled” player in reference to the eye glasses he wore while playing.
3B Steve Braun .283/.408/.438 6 HR 1.2 BFW 16 WS 11 FRAR 5.1 WARP3
Braun’s third season in the majors was probably the best of his 15-year career. It was also his last as a regular third baseman. The Twins moved him to left field before the 1974 season.
LF Jim Holt .297/.341/.442 11 HR 0.5 BFW 12 WS 13 FRAR 4.1 WARP3
Despite being well-liked a fairly successful as a pinch hitter/fourth outfielder for the Twins in 1970 and 1971, Holt found himself playing at AAA Tacoma for the 1972 season, even after Tony Oliva went down with an injury. Critics of Calvin Griffith suggested that Holt’s demotion was a product of his race; that Griffith didn’t want an odd number of black players on the major league club because that would mean at least one of them would have to share rooms with a white player. Whether that was true or not, Holt returned to the majors in 1973 thanks to his spring training performance. He impressed so much, in fact, that he was one of five black players on the roster. In what Bob Fowler called “one of Minnesota’s most progressive moves” the Twins assigned Larry Hisle, a black player, to room with Danny Monzon, a white utility player.
CF Larry Hisle .272/.351/.422 15 HR 0.7 BFW 17 WS 22 FRAR 6.1 WARP3
After a very promising rookie season with the Phillies in 1969, Hisle struggled over the next couple of years. It got so bad that he didn’t see a single major league pitch in 1972. His career was revitalized when the Twins made a trade with St. Louis in which Hisle seemed to be little more than a throw-in player. After a successful and somewhat surprising spring with the Twins, Hisle became the team’s center fielder and lead off hitter. Hisle has some insight into his earlier career, as express in TSN: “I was one of those guys you hear about who climbs too far too fast and don’t know what to do once they get there.” Hisle’s success in 1973 almost matched his rookie season, and he became a mainstay in the outfield for the Twins. Hisle’s claim to fame from his first season in Minnesota was the fact that, in an exhibition game on March 6, 1973, he became the first designated hitter in major league history.
RF Bobby Darwin .252/.309/.391 18 HR -1.8 BFW 10 WS -2 FRAR 1.4 WARP3
Darwin came back down to earth a bit after his surprising 1972 season, but was still a very productive member of the Twins’ outfield. His numbers would rebound again in 1974.
DH Tony Oliva .291/.345/.410 16 HR 0.2 BFW 13 WS 0 FRAR 2.9 WARP3
Oliva, at 34 years of age and with bad knees, was the prototype player who 1973’s new designated hitter rule benefited. He played in 142 games in 1973, all at the DH position. Oliva, when learning about the new rule, said “if all I have to is hit, maybe I can play until I’m 50.”
SP Bert Blyleven 20-17 2.52 ERA 1.12 WHIP 5.3 PW 29 WS 13.6 WARP3
At 22 years of age, Bert Blyleven had his best season so far. Not only did he impress with career highs in the traditional stats (20 wins, 2.52 ERA), but his peripherals were very good as well (7.14 K/9, 1.86 BB/9, 0.44 HR/9, 2.31 FIP – all career highs up to 1973 except for strikeout rate). Blyleven pitched in three games in which his Bill James game score was 90, and finished the season with a league-leading nine shut outs. Quilici said of his young pitcher “There is a different feeling in the dugout before a game when he is pitching. The guys seem to sense that the other team isn’t going to get many runs, if it scores at all, and they’re more relaxed.” A relaxed team might have been a problem for the Twins. In an incredible 12 of Blyleven’s 17 losses, the Twins offense scored 2 or fewer runs. Only once all season did Blyleven lose a game in which the Twins scored more than three runs.
SP Jim Kaat 11-12 4.41 ERA 1.35 WHIP -1.0 PW 7 WS 3.2 WARP3
Kaat had a pretty good first half of the season, just about what should have been expected from the 34-year-old lefty. After shut out of the Yankees on July 18, Kaat had a 10-9 record with a 3.50 ERA – better than league average. From his next start on July 22 through August 12, Kaat had a string of ineffective outings. Over that stretch, he was 1-3 with a 10.88 ERA in 6 GS and 22.1 innings pitched. Of those six games, Kaat lasted past the third inning only half of the time. Thanks to another contract dispute in the offseason, it wasn’t a huge surprise when the Twins sold Kaat to the White Sox for the waiver price of $20,000. Though Griffith and the Twins thought the winningest active lefty in the majors was on a career decline, it turned out Kaat had some of his best years ahead of him. He won at least 20 games in both 1974 and 1975 for the White Sox with ERA+ of 129 and 125 respectively. He bounced around baseball for a few years before he finally retired in 1983. Kaat remains the second winningest pitcher in franchise history with 190 wins. His Twins career line: 15 seasons 190-159 3014.3 IP 3.34 ERA (110 ERA+) 1851 K 69.1 WARP3. Kaat’s departure in late August meant that Harmon Killebrew was the only remaining player on the Twins who had moved with the franchise from Washington.
SP Joe Decker 10-10 4.17 ERA 1.50 WHIP -0.3 PW 8 WS 3.9 WARP3
The Twins acquired Joe Decker from the Cubs before the 1973 season began. He was one of three Cubs that came to Minnesota in exchange for Dave LaRoche. Decker was coveted by Twins’ scouts despite the fact that he struggled with control. Calvin Griffith once said that Decker could be another Nolan Ryan if he found the plate. In his first season with the Twins, Decker walked 4.5 batters every nine innings, just about what his career average had been up to that point in his career.
Incidentally, here is a comparison of Decker to Ryan
Decker 1.50 WHIP 4.5 BB/9 6.4 K/9
Ryan 1.23 WHIP 4.8 BB/9 10.2 K/9
Decker 1.33 WHIP 3.6 BB/9 6.5 K/9
Ryan 1.27 WHIP 6.7 BB/9 10.1 K/9
SP Dick Woodson 10-8 3.95 ERA 1.45 WHIP 0.1 PW 8 WS 3.3 WARP3
Woodson had a decent season to follow up his career best season from 1972, but he made more headlines in the off season after the year was over. In February of 1974, Woodson became the first player to invoke the new arbitration procedure. Woodson was asking $29 K while Griffith was offering $23 K. Woodson won, and was traded to the Yankees in May of 1974.
SP/RP Bill Hands 7-10 3.49 ERA 1.26 WHIP 0.5 PW 8 WS 3.9 WARP3
Hands was another product of the LaRoche trade. At 33 years of age, it seems that his glory days of the late 60’s and early 70’s had all but come to an end. Still, Hands had some success with the Twins both as a starter and as a reliever.
SP/RP Dave Goltz 6-4 5.25 ERA 1.60 WHIP -1.1 PW 2 WS 1.2 WARP3
Goltz was throwing in the back yard of his parents’ Minnesota home when he was discovered by a Twins scout in 1966. He became the first native Minnesotan to make the home team’s roster.
RP Ray Corbin 8-5 3.03 ERA 1.24 WHIP 1.4 PW 15 WS 5.5 WARP3
1973 was Corbin’s best career season.
RP Bill Campbell 3-3 3.14 ERA 1.24 WHIP 0.7 PW 6 WS 2.5 WARP3
“Soup” made his major league debut as a 24-year-old rookie in 1973. Campbell would quickly become the Twins’ bullpen ace.