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One-season wonders: Tapani, Mays and other Twins pitchers

Songs like My Sharona and Ice Ice Baby burst on to the scene with huge success, but only maintained that level of fame for a short period of time.

Well, the same has been true during the long and storied history of the Minnesota Twins. There have been plenty of Twins over the years who had one season that stood out above the rest.

Here’s a few of the standout “one-season wonders” in Twins history — pitchers edition (previously: hitters edition):

JOHN BUTCHER, 1984

Used sparingly with Texas from 1980-83, Butcher had a breakout season after being acquired by Minnesota in the offseason. Making 34 starts, Butcher went 13-11 with a 3.44 ERA (122 ERA+) and 1.311 WHIP in 225 innings – all career highs. Butcher would slip to 11-14 with a 4.98 ERA and 1.358 WHIP in 1985. He was traded midway through the ’86 season to Cleveland, combining to go 1-8 with a 6.56 ERA in what would be his final MLB season.

BILL DAILEY, 1963

After pitching 19 innings with Cleveland in 1961, he had a 3.59 ERA and 1.406 WHIP in 42 2/3 innings. Acquired from the Indians right before the start of the 1963 season, Dailey pitched to a 1.99 ERA, 0.911 ERA and 6.0 K/9 in 108 2/3 innings – and garnered three MVP votes. However, the following year he gave up 16 runs (14 earned) on 23 hits and 17 walks in just 15 1/3 innings. He wouldn’t pitch in the majors again.

 

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JOE DECKER, 1974

The Twins acquired Decker in a trade with the Chicago Cubs, where he pitched in just 54 games over four seasons from 1969-72, recording a 4.37 ERA and 1.561 WHIP. After a mediocre first season with Minnesota (10-10, 4.17 ERA, 1.497 WHIP), Decker was 16-14 with a 3.29 ERA and 1.331 WHIP in 1974. Decker would pitch two more seasons with the Twins but had an 8.54 ERA in 26 1/3 innings in 1975 and a 5.28 ERA in 58 innings in ’76.

JIM HUGHES, 1975

A 33rd-round pick in 1969 by the Twins, Hughes made his debut in 1974, allowing eight runs (six earned) in 10 1/3 inning. After pitching just 7 1/3 innings in April 1975, Hughes went 6-0 with an 0.87 ERA in May, allowing just 29 hits in 52 innings. He’d have a strong second half as well, posting a 3.25 ERA in 18 starts and overall win 16 games with a 3.82 ERA. Hughes would dip to 9-14 with a 4.98 ERA in 1976 and pitch just two games in relief in 1977 before pitching a couple of more seasons in the minors.

 

TIM JOHNSON, 1977

A native of St. Paul, Johnson pitched sporadically for Minnesota from 1974-76 appearing in 40 games with 94 innings and sporting a 6-3 record with four saves. In 1977 he pitched in 71 games, all in relief, and 146 2/3 innings (only two relievers who made no starts in a season pitched more innings since) , going 16-7 with 15 saves and a 3.13 ERA. He also received two MVP votes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Johnson had arm issues in 1978 and pitched just 32 2/3 innings over 18 games, posting a 5.51 ERA in what would be his final year in the majors.

 

JOE MAYS, 2011

Mays pitched seven year in the major leagues, six with the Twins, but never had anything close to the season he had in Minnesota in 2011. Named an All-Star, Mays would go 17-13 with a 3.16 ERA (a league-best 143 ERA+) and 1.151 WHIP over 233 2/3 innings. He allowed just 7.8 hits per 9 innings. In his six other MLB seasons, Mays not only never had a winning record but he also didn’t post more than eight victories in any other year. His next-best ERA was 4.37 as a rookie. His other four seasons saw him at 5.38 or higher. In addition, Mays’ never had a WHIP below 1.430 and other than his rookie season (9.4), he allowed at least 10.7 H/9 every other year.

 

PETE REDFERN, 1979

In his first three seasons, Redfern made 56 appearances with 53 starts and posted a 14-19 record with a 4.48 ERA (85 ERA+) with a .562 WHIP, 4.6 BB/9 and 5.1 K/9. In 1979, Redfern largely pitched out of the bullpen and in 108 1/3 innings over 40 games (with six starts), he went 7-3 with a 3.49 ERA (127 ERA+), 1.302 WHIP, 2.9 BB/9 and 7.1 K/9. He’d pitch three more seasons for the Twins, mainly as a starter, but would have a below-average ERA+ each season with a WHIP no lower than 1.355 and he’d have only one winning season (9-8 in 1981).

 

KEVIN TAPANI, 1991

Here’s a name you probably didn’t expect to see on this list, especially since he pitched 13 major-league seasons. However, in his 12 full seasons, 11 saw him have an ERA+ of 107 or less, with six seasons below average (100 being average). But in 1991, Tapani put it all together. He made 34 starts, pitching a career-high 244 innings, with a 16-9 record, 2.99 ERA and 1.086 ERA. Tapani’s next-best ERA in a full season was 3.83 in 1989.

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