Who was Willie Hernández the legendary Detroit Tigers pitcher that passed away?
One of only a handful of players to have won both the league’s MVP award and the Cy Young Award in the same season, the Tigers legend will be missed.
If there is a lasting memory of the pitcher, it would have to be his incredible 1984 season which ended in a satisfyingly fitting two-inning save that brought the curtain down on a historic World Series win.
Former Detroit Tigers star Willie Hernández has passed away
According to an announcement from the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday, former MLB relief pitcher Willie Hernández has passed away. While no official cause of death was given, we do know that Hernández was fitted with a pacemaker in 2009. He was 69 years old. A native of Puerto Rico, the left-handed Hernández was signed out of his country as an amateur free agent by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1973. Upon reaching the Triple-A level three years later, he was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the Rule 5 draft of 1976, where he would enjoy varying levels of success across seven seasons. Among those was an impressive rookie season in 1977 which saw him post an ERA of 3.03 over 110 innings to the tune of a 3.2 WAR.
As fate would have it, Hernández was traded back to the Phillies during the campaign of 1983, only to be moved in the very next offseason to the Detroit Tigers in what turned out to be a four-player trade. That move turned out to be the one, as Hernández would register the best season of his career while developing a lethal screwball as well as a cutter. Indeed, it was that 1984 season that saw Hernández and Co. start the season with a 35-5 record before going on to win 104 games in the regular season. What followed was a 7-1 run in the postseason as the Tigers were finally crowned champions. During the playoffs, Hernández was responsible for three saves, a feat that is admired to this day.
1984 was a special year for Willie Hernández
It most definitely was, during that above-mentioned campaign, Hernández played in 80 games as he went 9-3 with 32 saves in 33 chances. With a 1.92 ERA and 0.94 WHIP to go with 112 strikeouts and a meager 28 walks in a staggering 140 1/3 innings, it was clear that he was well and truly a star of the game. To be clear the 4.8 WAR that he recorded that season is one of the 25 highest marks ever achieved by a reliever. Naturally, an All-Star appearance was on the cards, but it didn’t stop there either as he also won both that year’s MVP and Cy Young Awards for the American League, making him one of only 11 pitchers in MLB history to do so.