Minnesota Twins Opening Day Countdown: 75, True ’91 Ace

26 May 1993: An official confers with pitcher Kevin Tapani of the Minnesota Twins during a game against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California.
26 May 1993: An official confers with pitcher Kevin Tapani of the Minnesota Twins during a game against the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California. /

The Minnesota Twins are just 75 days away from opening day in Baltimore. As we near that day, we will tap into Twins history related to each number as we get closer!

The Minnesota Twins are preparing for a 2018 season with expectations after making the playoffs in 2017 as a Wild Card. We will have bring out numbers from team history that represent the number of days until opening day on March 29th in Baltimore.

This year’s memorable World Series had many fans harking back to the 1991 World Series and that great Minnesota Twins team, especially the rotation. Many remember Jack Morris as the guy who pitched Game 7 of the victory. Others see that Scott Erickson won 20 games in 1991, but most will not realize that the pitcher who had the highest WAR on the 1991 Twins team was neither of these. It was Kevin Tapani.

Coming to Minnesota Twins

Tapani was drafted by the Oakland Athletics out of college at Central Michigan University in the 2nd round of the 1986 draft. In his professional career, Tapani was part of three trades that each involved at least six players moving teams.

His first move was in December of 1987, when he was moved from Oakland to the Mets system in a deal that sent Bob Welch and Matt Young to the Oakland Athletics and Alfredo Griffin, Jay Howell, and Jesse Orosco to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Each would be important in the Dodgers/A’s 1988 World Series matchup.

After working his way up to the major leagues for his debut in 1989, he was part of a mid-season deal that sent Twins ace Frank Viola to the Mets for a package of pitchers that included Tapani, Rick Aguilera, Tim Drummond, and David West. Those core pitchers would figure heavily into the 1991 Twins World Championship.

Tapani took his spot in the Minnesota rotation for good in 1990, with a 4.07 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP, posting a 29/101 BB/K over 159 1/3 innings. He would have his career-best season in 1991 in the season the team needed it most.

1991 Twins staff

Morris led the 1991 team in innings pitched with 246 2/3 innings on 35 starts. He finished with an 18-12 record, a 3.43 ERA, and a 1.29 WHIP with a rough 92/163 BB/K in the regular season.

Tapani averaged more innings per start than anyone else on the team (7.18 IP/GS for Tapani compared to 7.05 IP/GS with Morris). He had 244 innings in 34 starts. Interestingly, Morris had 10 complete games on the season, while Tapani had just 4, further highlighting Tapani’s consistency on the season.

Tapani put up a 16-9 record with a 2.99 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and a 40/135 BB/K ratio.

Scott Erickson led that 1991 staff with 20 wins, going 20-8 over 32 starts and 204 innings, tallying a 3.18 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and a 71/108 BB/K ratio. At the back of the rotation were Allan Anderson and David West, though five other pitchers also made starts for the Twins in the season behind the front three in the rotation.

Post-Twins career

Tapani threw three more seasons before he was traded midway through the 1995 season in a large deal that also sent away reliever Mark Guthrie in exchange for a package of four players highlighted by Ron Coomer.

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Perhaps the peak of Tapani’s post-Twins career came in 1998 with the Chicago Cubs as he threw 9 innings in his start against the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS, allowing just a solo home run and striking out 6, though that solo home run was allowed in the 9th inning and sent the game into extra innings, where the Braves would end up winning in the 10th inning.

Tapani finished his 13-year career with 143 wins over 2,265 innings. He posted a career 4.35 ERA and 1.31 WHIP with a 5.8% walk rate and a 15.4% strikeout rate.

With the Twins, he pitched 7 seasons, totaling 1,171 1/3 innings, posting a 4.06 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 5.2% walk rate, and 14.8% strikeout rate. He won 75 games, which makes him our highlight with 75 days until opening day!

Next: Twins 5 best OFs

With the career he had with the Minnesota Twins, it’s surprising to say the least that Tapani has not been elected to the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame!

We look forward to that first day of the season against Baltimore!