Minnesota Twins Spring Training Countdown: 28, Bert Blyleven

COOPERSTOWN, NY - JULY 24: Bert Blyleven gives his speech at Clark Sports Center during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony on July 24, 2011 in Cooperstown, New York. Blyleven finished his 22 season career with 3,701 strikeouts (fifth on the all-time list) and 287 wins including 60 shutouts and 242 complete games. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
COOPERSTOWN, NY - JULY 24: Bert Blyleven gives his speech at Clark Sports Center during the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony on July 24, 2011 in Cooperstown, New York. Blyleven finished his 22 season career with 3,701 strikeouts (fifth on the all-time list) and 287 wins including 60 shutouts and 242 complete games. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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The Minnesota Twins are just 28 days away from spring training. As we celebrate the end of the blustery temps and the return of the game we love, let’s look at team history surrounding that number.

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 spring training from now until pitchers and catchers report on February 13th.

The Minnesota Twins have developed some tremendous arms over the time of the franchise, but none has debuted with the Twins and achieved as much in his career as Bert Blyleven.

Minnesota Twins career

Originally born in the Netherlands, Blyleven graduated from high school in California in 1969. The Twins drafted him in the 3rd round, and he moved quickly through the minor leagues, making his debut as a 19 year-old in 1970 for the Twins, going 10-9 over 27 games, 25 of them starts, throwing 164 innings, with a 3.18 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 47/135 BB/K ratio.

Blyleven had the poor fortune of joining the Twins as the team was on the decline after a year of competitiveness. He pitched his first five full seasons at an elite level, but due to the team’s lack of success, his won-lost record precluded him from receiving more notation in awards (something that would bite him later in his Hall of Fame candidacy).

Over those four years, Blyleven averaged 38 games started, 18 complete games, and 5 shutouts. He averaged 289 innings pitched, a 2.74 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP, and a 71/238 BB/K, but due to the Twins standing in those years, he averaged a 17-15 record.

Blyleven was traded in 1976 for what was hoped to be a monster package of four players headlined by shortstop Roy Smalley and also $250,000. In 1985, the Twins reacquired Blyleven in another big deal, sending away four players, one of whom would turn into a multi-time All-Star, to bring Blyleven back.

At that point, Blyleven was still a consistent pitcher, leading the American League in strikeouts in 1985, but more importantly, leading the major leagues that season with 293 2/3 innings pitched. With the Minnesota Twins young core, Blyleven became an elder statesman alongside young lefty Frank Viola at the top of the Twins rotation.

Blyleven found the new Metrodome to be less than kind to his curveball, leaving it hanging more than he was used to, leading to 96 home runs allowed his first two full seasons back with the Twins. He had two seasons with identical 4.01 ERAs in 1986 and 1987 (including a 2.77 ERA over 2 starts and 13 innings thrown in the 1987 World Series).

After a 5.43 ERA and a major league leading 17 losses in 1988, Blyleven was traded to the Angels for a prominent prospect package.

Blyleven dots the top of Twins pitching career leader boards:

  • 1st in complete games, shutouts, strikeouts, bWAR
  • 2nd in wins, innings

Non-Twins career

Blyleven’s seasons with the Twins were not far off what he would face the rest of his career. He found himself on a miracle 1979 “We Are Family” Pirates team that made a fun to the World Series, dominating for the Pirates in the playoffs, going 2-0 over 3 games, 2 of them starts, pitching 19 innings with a 1.42 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and a 3/13 BB/K ratio.

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Typically, Blyleven would be on a squad that jumped up for one big year and then found their way back down to a .500 or worse club, as he saw in 1977 with Texas, 1979 with the Pirates, or 1989 with the Angels. Due to that, he had one 20-win season and one 19-win season.

In 22 years with the Minnesota Twins, Indians, Pirates, Angels, and Rangers, Blyleven won 287 games with a 3.31 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. He remains one of the best strikeout artists of all time with 3,701 strikeouts.

He was elected to the Twins Hall of Fame in 2002 and to Cooperstown in 2011.

Next: Twins 5 best MIs

For 28 days to spring training, we’ll remember the guy who sported one of the best curveballs in the game’s history and continues to give life to Minnesota Twins games today!

Come soon, spring!!