1974 Minnesota Twins
Manager: Frank Quilici 3rd Season (3rd with Minnesota 204-204-1)
82 W 80 L 1 T 673 RS 669 RA 3rd AL West 8.0 GB (Oakland 90-72)
4.13 RPG (AL = 4.10) 3.64 ERA (AL = 3.62)
.690 DER (12th AL)
All Stars (1) Rod Carew
Franchise (1901-1974) 5415-5918-110; 11-21 Post Season; 11-15 WS
Washington (1901-1960) 4214-4864-104; 8-11 WS
Minnesota (1961-1974) 1201-1054-6; 3-10 Post Season; 3-4 WS
The Twins were just about average in runs scored and allowed per game. The hidden trouble in 1974 was their fielding. The Twins’ .976 fielding percentage put them towards the bottom of the league, though not by much. It was their range as a team that hurt them, as evidenced by the last-place ranking in AL defensive efficiency rating (.690). Based on the numbers, the only position in which the Twins had a clear strength was second base, the same position where Rod Carew was such a lightning rod for criticism of his defensive effort. Beyond Carew, third baseman Eric Soderholm had a decent season, but the rest of the team wasn’t doing the pitching staff any favors when it came to defensive range.
In that regard, it was probably a minor victory that the Twins were able to slightly improve on their two consecutive seasons of .500 baseball. Once again, the team got off to a horrible start. They were as many as 13 games below .500 in June, and were 10 games below even as late as the first few weeks of July. Though the team came storming back to the tune of a 47-34 record from July 6 on, the same voices that began calling for Bill Rigney’s firing a few years earlier were starting to call for Quilici’s job as well.
Bold = Player new to WAS/MIN in 1974
C Glenn Borgmann .252/.323/.307 3 HR -0.4 BFW 12 WS 13 FRAR 2.1 WARP3
Borgmann had been with the Twins since 1972, but this was his first crack as a regular. He led all AL catchers with a .997 fielding percentage, though most of the numbers indicate he was about an average catcher. Still, management liked how he called a game, so Borgmann earned another season as a starter despite his less-than-stellar performance at the plate.
1B Craig Kusick .239/.353/.403 8 HR 0.3 BFW 7 WS 3 FRAR 1.8 WARP3
1B Jim Holt .254/.302/.310 0 HR -0.5 BFW 2 WS 7 FRAR 0.8 WARP3
Kusick was called up in early June when it became clear to the Twins that Killebrew would not be able to play first base every day. He basically platooned with Holt until the lefty was traded to Oakland. Believe or not, Holt’s numbers actually went down after the trade; he went .143/.182/.143 to finish out the season in Oakland.
2B Rod Carew .364/.433/.446 3 HR 6.9 BFW 32 WS 23 FRAR 10.4 WARP3
Carew, by now widely considered the best hitter in baseball, had another outstanding season. Carew was also able to win his manager over. Just more than a year after fining Carew for lack of hustle, Quilici was publicly backing his All Star second baseman when Calvin Griffith floated the idea of moving him to first base. Said Quilici: “He has been playing his tail off. He has the best range of any second baseman in our league, in the major leagues.”
SS Danny Thompson .250/.311/.326 4 HR -0.7 BFW 3 WS 8 FRAR 1.2 WARP3
Thompson’s 1973 struggles continued in the spring of 1974. He batted just .118 on his way to losing the starting short stop job to a rookie named Sergio Ferrer. Ferrer hit well over the first couple weeks of the season, but was erratic in the field, forcing the Twins to put Thompson back in the lineup. When Thompson pulled his thigh muscle late in April, the Twins placed him on the 21-day disabled list and called up another young short stop, Luis Gomez, to replace him. When the 21 days were up and Thompson’s leg was healed the Twins did not immediately activate him. Griffith initially cited Thompson’s white cell count as a concern, but when he was corrected (Thompson’s count at the time was 11,000 – normal according to team doctors was between 5,000 and 10,000) Thompson was still not activated. The truth came out shortly after that Griffith and the Twins liked Gomez’ fielding (Griffith called him the “best fielding short stop in the American League”) and did not want to risk losing Ferrer by sending him to the minor leagues to make room for Thompson. Ultimately, however, the Twins did send Ferrer down to make room for Thompson, who started most of the games from June to the end of the season.
3B Eric Soderholm .276/.349/.392 10 HR 1.1 BFW 15 WS 22 FRAR 5.4 WARP3
The Cortland, New York native was the Twins’ first round draft pick in 1968 and had played some with the team since 1971, but this was his first season as a regular.
UT Jerry Terrell .245/.279/.314 0 HR 0.5 BFW 3 WS 14 FRAR 1.3 WARP3
Terrell, helped by a switch-hitting experiment, led the team with a .476 batting average when the Twins broke camp in the spring, but he knew that his role would be as a utility man, particularly considering the fact that Rod Carew was the man ahead of him on the depth charts at his natural position. When Terrell’s bat cooled off significantly in the regular season, he abandoned switch-hitting and batted right-handed the rest of his career. Terrell’s biggest mark on the 1974 Twins and beyond was his role as bench “cheerleader” for the Twins. Terrell’s enthusiasm, accompanied by his local roots, made him a fan favorite in Minnesota.
LF Steve Braun .280/.361/.364 8 HR 0.1 BFW 13 WS 15 FRAR 4.2 WARP3
OF Larry Hisle .286/.353/.465 19 HR 0.9 BFW 18 WS 11 FRAR 6.0 WARP3
Braun had played mostly at third base in his first three seasons with the Twins, but found out in the spring of 1974 that the Twins were going with Soderholm at third. The team asked Braun to move to the outfield, and he did so without complaining. After a few adventures in the field early in the season, Braun settled in to become a reliable left fielder. Larry Hisle’s primary job was as a platoon partner for the lefty Braun, but he filled in the other outfield spots regularly, and was considered by many to be the Twins’ third most valuable player behind Carew and Blyleven.
CF Steve Brye .283/.319/.365 2 HR -1.0 BFW 11 WS 13 FRAR 2.8 WARP3
Early in June Brye was called into Calvin Griffith’s office. Griffith told Brye that he was disappointed with the 25-year-old’s progression as a player since he joined the club in 1971. Griffith’s advice as Brye recalled it: “He told me to get a haircut, that I’d see the ball better if I did.” Brye responded by seeking the advice of his former minor league manager Ralph Rowe, now third base coach for the Twins. Rowe’s advice helped Brye to improve at the plate- he was batting just .257/.311/.322 through June 22. Brye finished the season by going .295/.322/.384 from June 23 on. With regards to Griffith’s advice, Brye got what was described as a “minor trim” but Bob Fowler explained in TSN that Brye’s hair was still “modishly cut.”
RF Bobby Darwin .264/.322/.442 25 HR -0.7 BFW 16 WS 3 FRAR 4.0 WARP3
Darwin, at 31, was having another very good season. He regularly wowed fans with tape-measure home runs, earning himself the reputation as the strongest hitter in the league. Unfortunately, the Twins were not happy with one particular stat: 1974 was the third straight season in which Darwin led the American League in strikeouts. That fact, and a rough start to the 1975 season, meant that Darwin was a candidate to be traded. The Twins sent him to Milwaukee in early June of 1975.
DH Tony Oliva .285/.325/.414 13 HR 0.1 BFW 9 WS 0 FRAR 2.3 WARP3
DH/1B Harmon Killebrew .222/.312/.360 13 HR -0.5 BFW 5 WS 2 FRAR 1.2 WARP3
Calvin Griffith had a bit of a dilemma in 1974. With two aging Twin icons both relegated to the DH role and making a combined $180,000 in salary, it did not seem like both would be able to stick around for long. The 38-year-old Killebrew played some at first base early in the season, but it was clear that in order to continue playing he would need to DH. Though Oliva was three years Killer’s junior, four knee operations meant that his future was in the DH spot as well. When Killebrew learned that it was not in the Twins’ plans to give him regular playing time, the veteran of 21 seasons began to test the waters elsewhere. The final straw for Harmon was the offer from Griffith: a $50,000+ pay cut to play part time and coach the Twins’ hitters. Killebrew called Griffith in January of 1975 and asked for his release so he could sign with the Kansas City Royals. He played there for one season before retiring.
Killebrew, WAS/MIN Career: 2,329 G .258/.378/.514 (145 OPS+) 559 HR 93.5 WARP3
Not only was Killebrew the last remaining tie to the franchise’s Washington years, he was (and is) the greatest player in Minnesota Twins history. Despite the hard feelings towards the end of his career, Killebrew remains active with the Twins’ organization and continues to contribute his name, time, and energy to a lot of charitable work, most notably with the Miracle League of Minnesota.
SP Bert Blyleven 17-17 2.66 ERA 1.14 WHIP 3.7 PW 23 WS 10.8 WARP3
When asked what he was going to do to improve on his 20-win season of a year ago, Blyleven told Bob Fowler: “For one thing, I’ve got to cut down on my defeats, I can do that, too, by concentrating more when I am pitching, and relying more on my change up.” Blyleven must not have been concentrating early in the season. Despite a 2.72 ERA through May, almost a run better than the rest of the league, Bert had a 4-7 record in 12 starts. In an attempt to get him “straightened out,” the Twins skipped him in the rotation early in June. Blyleven was not happy to be skipped in the rotation, and made it known to the press. The move must have helped his concentration, however: Blyleven went 13-10 with a 2.63 the rest of the way. Once again, it seems, Blyleven’s season was defined by run support. The Twins scored fewer than three runs in 12 of his 17 losses, and scored more than three runs in only one of his losses.
SP Joe Decker 16-14 3.29 ERA 1.33 WHIP 1.2 PW 17 WS 7.0 WARP3
A year before Decker had been considered the hardest thrower in the majors. In 1974, partially due to the fact that he was in the starting rotation from day one, Decker dialed the velocity back a bit. He figured if he didn’t throw as hard it would help him to get through a full season for the first time in his career. The seemingly backwards strategy worked, and many in the Twins organization considered Decker’s season to have been better than Blyleven’s. Decker lost much of the 1975 season due to a virus, and when he returned so did his early career control problems. Decker appeared in just 23 combined games in ’75 and ’76 before the Twins released him in June of 1976.
SP Dave Goltz 10-10 3.25 ERA 1.36 WHIP 0.6 PW 11 WS 4.3 WARP3
After a solid start in his first appearance of 1974, Goltz struggled out of the gate – a theme that will become common in the Minnesota native’s career. Over the last two months of the season, however, Goltz was one of the better performers for the Twins, posting a 2.75 ERA (though he went only 6-5 over that stretch in Blyleven-like fashion). His season highlight was an October 1 two-hit shutout of the Texas Rangers.
SP Vic Albury 8-9 4.12 ERA 1.46 WHIP -0.6 PW 7 WS 3.0 WARP3
Albury, a Vietnam veteran, was acquired from San Diego in the 1970 minor league draft. This was his best major league season.
SP/RP Ray Corbin 7-6 5.29 ERA 1.54 WHIP -2.0 PW 1 WS 0.1 WARP3
Corbin had made his way through the Twins’ ranks with little fanfare. At each level, it seemed, management didn’t think that he had the stuff to make it. Corbin managed, however, and made the starting rotation in 1974 thanks to a career season the year before. Corbin numbers took a hit thanks to some games in which he allowed a lot of runs. The highlight of his season was probably a beanball war ignited by Corbin’s fastball that hit Milwaukee’s Bobby Coluccio on the left side of the helmet. TSN described the brawl as active on “three or four fighting fronts” including Brewers’ first baseman George Scott landing a right hand to the face of manager Frank Quilici.
RP Bill Campbell 8-7 2.62 ERA 1.36 WHIP 2.5 PW 15 WS 7.0 WARP3
In just his second season, Campbell became the go-to guy out of the bullpen for the Twins. Campbell had the makeup that the Twins still look for today in a closer. The former army radio operator who served in Vietnam, Campbell once said “I don’t know what’s worse, facing a rocket attack or a guy like Dick Allen.” Campbell got a lot of work in his first year as bullpen ace. He appeared in 63 games and compiled 120.3 innings pitched. Interestingly, his workload would only expand over the next couple of years.
RP Tom Burgmeier 5-3 4.52 ERA 1.29 WHIP -0.3 PW 5 WS 2.0 WARP3
RP Bill Butler 4-6 4.10 ERA 1.49 WHIP -0.3 PW 0 WS 2.3 WARP3
Burgmeier and Butler were both acquired before the season to give the Twins some left-handed options out of the bullpen. 30-year-old Tom Burmeier was already a veteran of relief pitching when the Twins sent a minor league prospect to Kansas City to acquire the lefty before the 1974 season. Butler came in a trade with the Cleveland Indians.
RP Bill Hands 4-5 4.45 ERA 1.34 WHIP -0.5 PW 5 WS 2.3 WARP3
Nagging injuries slowed Hands down a bit in 1974, and the Twins simply cut him in September. He was picked up by Texas where he finished his career.