Bold = Player new to Minnesota in 1987
SP Frank Viola 17-10 2.90 ERA 159 ERA+ 1.18 WHIP 3.66 FIP 4.5 PW 24 WS 7.6 WAR
Viola showed flashes of brilliance in his first few years in the majors, and even put together a solid season in 1984. Still, the left-hander was not living up to expectations. That changed in 1987 – the year Viola took a huge leap forward. What accounted for the difference? Tom Kelly had a theory: “Frank is realizing that umpires miss pitches for all pitchers, that balls are lost in the lights for all pitchers, that all pitchers get a pitch up in the strike zone – not just Frank Viola. He’s pitching through a lot of situations that used to give him trouble.” Viola’s success extended into the post season. He was named MVP of the 1987 World Series after winning two games, including the clincher.
SP Bert Blyleven 15-12 4.01 ERA 115 ERA+ 1.31 WHIP 4.88 FIP 1.6 PW 18 WS 4.1 WAR
A year after allowing a major league record 50 home runs in a season, Blyleven allowed 46. The way the ball was flying out of the park in 1987, however, made the improvement larger than it seemed. While he was still susceptible to the long ball, Blyleven was one of the starters that Tom Kelly could count on. He led the team in innings pitched (267.0) and in complete games (8). Blyleven, one of the few players on the roster with post season experience, won three of the four games he started in the 1987 post season.
SP Les Straker 8-10 4.37 ERA 106 ERA+ 1.35 WHIP 5.09 FIP 0.5 PW 9 WS 2.1 WAR
The Venezuelan who had bounced around the minor leagues since signing with the Reds as a 17-year-old in 1977 finally made his major league debut with the Twins in 1987. He regular season performance was solid yet unspectacular, but he turned a few heads with his performance in Game 3 of the World Series.
SP Mike Smithson 4-7 5.94 ERA 78 ERA+ 1.50 WHIP 5.22 FIP -1.2 PW 2 WS -0.5 WAR
Smithson started the season with three consecutive wins, but it was just about all downhill from there. His struggles in July landed him at triple-A and sent the Twins on a search for more starting pitching that ultimately ended with the trade for Steve Carlton. Smithson returned to the major league club for September, but was not on the post season roster. He was released by the Twins in December, landed with the Red Sox where he finished his career.
SP Joe Niekro 4-9 6.26 ERA 74 ERA+ 1.66 WHIP 4.82 FIP -2.0 PW 0 WS -1.1 WAR
Niekro came from the Yankees in a trade that sent Mark Salas to New York. He didn’t pitch particularly well for the Twins, but did manage to provide one the season’s most memorable moments when he tried to throw his nail file away in Anaheim.
SP Steve Carlton 1-5 6.70 ERA 69 ERA+ 1.79 WHIP 5.80 FIP -1.1 PW 0 WS -0.5 WAR
All the Twins needed to send to Cleveland in exchange for a future Hall-of-Famer was a player to be named, but at age 42 Carlton didn’t have a lot left.
CL Jeff Reardon 8-8 4.48 ERA 103 ERA+ 1.22 WHIP 4.33 FIP 0.4 PW 12 WS 0.8 WAR
After the Ron Davis experience, Andy MacPhail seemed to put just about every player on the table in an effort to trade for a closer in the off season. Among the players rumored to be on the trading block were Tom Brunansky, who was reported to be headed to Detroit if not for Willie Hernandez’ no-trade clause, and Kent Hrbek (though those rumors were officially denied). The price was significantly smaller than the rumors indicated, and the Twins were able to acquire Jeff Reardon and Tom Nieto for Neal Heaton, Jeff Reed, and a pair of minor league pitchers. Reardon struggled early, but regained the form that earned him the nickname “The Terminator” by the end of May. Reardon was on the mound for the final out in all three major clinching victories, and is often cited as the major difference for the 1987 World Series team.
RP Juan Berenguer 8-1 3.94 ERA 117 ERA+ 1.31 WHIP 3.33 FIP 0.7 PW 10 WS 1.8 WAR
Juan Berenguer was a 32-year-old veteran by the time the Twins signed him prior to the 1987 season. The Panamanian right-hander pitched for five different teams prior to Minnesota, but his most clear memory was of the 1984 season with the Tigers. Though Berenguer went 11-10 with a 3.48 ERA as a starter during the regular season, he was left off of the post season roster. After a successful season with the Twins in which Berenguer might have been the most valuable pitcher of the first half of the season for his relief work and spot-starting efforts, he had chance to get some revenge on his former team in the ALCS. The Twins put Berenguer on the post season roster, and the world was rewarded with the “Berenguer Boogie.”
RP George Frazier 5-5 4.98 ERA 93 ERA+ 1.57 WHIP 4.84 FIP -0.4 PW 4 WS -0.1 WAR
Frazier was the key player the Twins acquired in the Ron Davis trade with the Cubs. He made one appearance in the World Series, pitching two scoreless innings in what would end up to be his final innings pitched in the major leagues.
RP Keith Atherton 7-5 4.54 ERA 102 ERA+ 1.40 WHIP 4.51 FIP 0.0 PW 5 WS 0.0 WAR
Atherton had been the closer after Ron Davis left in 1986, but became more of a setup man in 1987.
RP Dan Schatzeder 3-1 6.39 ERA 73 ERA+ 1.88 WHIP 5.18 FIP -0.8 PW 0 WS -0.8 WAR
The Twins acquired Schatzeder in a June trade in an attempt to bring in a left-handed option out of the bullpen.