- December 14, 1954
- 6' 3"
- 180 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 4-09-1977 with CHN
- Allstar Selections:
- 1984 CY, 1984 MVP, 1984 TSN
When Willie Hernandez was acquired by the Detroit Tigers in a four-player trade in the last week of spring training in 1984, there was little way of knowing just how crucial he would be to the team's success that season. As a veteran reliever who had never saved more than 10 games or pitched more than 115 innings in a season, Hernandez was seen as a decent setup man with experience. But he mastered his screwball in '84 and baffled American League batters on his way to the Cy Young and Most Valuable Player awards. He converted 32 of 33 save opportunities and posted a stingy 1.92 ERA, as his carefully permed hair and cheek bulging with chew became familiar to Tigers' fans in his 80 games on the mound. Far from a one-year wonder, Willie followed with a similar season in 1985, and retired with more saves than any other Tigers pitcher.
Willie Hernandez was originally signed by the Philadelphia Phillies but was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 1976 Rule V Draft. In his first two years in the majors ('77 and '78), Hernandez went 16-9 with a 3.03 ERA in '77 and a 3.77 ERA in '78. Hernandez failed to be as impressive in the next few years. The Cubs gave him a try as a starter in 1980, but it failed miserably, as he went 1-9 that year in 7 starts and 53 games.
From 1979-1982, Hernandez was 9-19 and gave up 128 earned runs in that time. After being traded to the Phillies for Bill Johnson and Dick Ruthven, his talent seemed to be resparked. The May 22 trade marked a turning point in his career. With the Phillies that year, he went 8-4 with 3.29 ERA and 7 saves. The Phillies would make the World Series that year and lose to the Baltimore Orioles in 5 games.
Traded to Detroit March 24, 1984, Hernandez quickly became manager Sparky Anderson's stopper. His phenomenal season (9-3, 1.92, 32 saves in 33 chances, 80 games, 112 strikeouts in 140 innings) earned both the MVP and Cy Young awards. Beating out Dan Quisenberry for the Cy Young. He is one of three relivers to ever win the Most Valuable Player Award (the others are Jim Konstanty, Rollie Fingers, and Dennis Eckersley), edging out Kent Hrbek. He appeared in every non-complete postseason game for Detroit, with three saves in as many chances. Some refer to it as "The Perfect Season."
In 1985 he became the first Tiger with back-to-back 30-save seasons, but he lost 10 games and gradually fell into disfavor with the fans. Stating a preference to be called Guillermo (his given first name), the mustachioed screwballer took a back seat to Mike Henneman in Detroit's bullpen in 1987 and 1988. In 1988, his second-to-last year, he went 6-5 with a 3.06 ERA and 10 saves in 67 innings pitched. Hernandez's last game was on August 18, 1989, before being released by Detroit.
Quotes From Willie Hernandez
"I came into the world poor and naked, but I don't want to die with no clothes on." — Cubs reliever Willie Hernandez, explaining why he hoped to pitch as many games as he could in 1982 to reach an incentive clause in his contract.
Over the 1977 and 1978 seasons, Hernandez went 21 innings without allowing a run to the Pirates.
BR Bullpen, Wikipedia and Baseball Library
- Willie Hernandez