Guillermo "Willie" Hernandez, the esteemed relief pitcher who won both the Cy Young Award and American League MVP in 1984, passed away today at the age of 69.
Hernandez, born Guillermo Hernandez Villanueva on November 14, 1954, in Aguada, Puerto Rico, carved out an exceptional career in Major League Baseball, most notably with the Detroit Tigers. Hernandez was a key part of the Phillies' bullpen that reached the World Series in 1983 before coming over in a trade just as spring training was ending in 1984 when he, along with Dave Bergman, were traded for Glenn Wilson and John Wockenfuss.
In that stellar season, Hernandez notched 32 saves and a 1.92 ERA, earning the rare distinction of winning both the Cy Young Award and the MVP, a feat rarely achieved by a relief pitcher. His dominance on the mound and his unique screwball pitch made him a standout player and a key figure in Detroit's championship run. He learned the pitch from former Baltimore Oriole, Cuban left-hander Mike Cuellar.
During this remarkable season, Hernandez appeared in 80 games, a testament to his durability and reliability as Sparky Anderson called to him often that season. He pitched an impressive 140.1 innings that season, but the way managers used the bullpen then, it came as no surprise, especially Sparky, who was known to have a quick hook.
Following his historic 1984 season, Willie Hernandez continued to demonstrate his exceptional skills on the mound in 1985, a year that solidified his reputation as one of the game's top relievers and was again an All-Star in 1986. Here's his three-year numbers where he reached the All-Star game for Detroit.
- Games Pitched (G): 80
- Innings Pitched (IP): 140.1
- Saves (SV): 32
- Earned Run Average (ERA): 1.92
- Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched (WHIP): 0.94
- Strikeouts (K): 112
- Wins (W): 9
- Losses (L): 3
- Games Pitched (G): 74
- Innings Pitched (IP): 106.2
- Saves (SV): 31
- Earned Run Average (ERA): 2.70
- WHIP: 1.14
- Strikeouts (K): 61
- Wins (W): 8
- Losses (L): 10
- Games Pitched (G): 75
- Innings Pitched (IP): 93.1
- Saves (SV): 24
- Earned Run Average (ERA): 3.06
- WHIP: 1.28
- Strikeouts (K): 55
- Wins (W): 8
- Losses (L): 7
In remembering Willie Hernandez, we reflect not just on a series of statistics and accolades, but on the enduring impact of a player who brought excellence, determination, and a unique flair to the game of baseball. His remarkable journey from Aguada, Puerto Rico to the heights of Major League Baseball stands as a testament to his talent, work ethic, and passion for the sport.