Monday, March 23, 2009

Twins Historical Player Profile: Doug Corbett

The Minnesota Twins finished the 1979 season smack-dab in the middle of the AL West at 82-80.  That season, the offense scored 4.71 runs per game led by shortstop Roy Smalley would provided 5.6 batting wins.  The pitching staff relied on the aging Jerry Koosman (20-13), Dave Goltz (14-13) and Geoff Zahn (13-7) and had a fairly supportive bullpen that possessed a cumulatively 3.42 ERA.  At the back-end of the relief staff the Twins had a workhorse in the 36-year-old Mike Marshall
Marshall, a former Cy Young winner in 1974, signed a two-year, $300,000 contract prior to the 1979 season and would make 90 relief appearances (most in the AL), throw over 140 innings, and save 32 games (most in the AL) that year.  The late innings specialist would grab 10 victories and post a 2.65 ERA but also led the team in losses with 15 while converting 76% of his save opportunities.  The surprising Twins found themselves in second-place in the AL West as late as August 15th, behind the division-leading California Angels by two games.  Marshall, however, would finish 0-6 in the final two months of the season as the Twins would tailspin to an 18-24 finish. 
The local ownership began to question Marshall's capabilities and began to look elsewhere for answers.  The front office identified an unprotected reliever in the Cincinnati Reds organization was intriguing enough to secure using a Rule 5 draft pick.  Doug Corbett, a former free agent signed by the Kansas City Royals out of the University of Florida, came equipped with a heavy sinker/slider combination and at the age of 27, the Twins felt that he was Major League-ready.   
Making 73 appearances in his belated rookie season, Corbett averaged 1.8 innings per outing, a trademark of manager Gene Mauch's usage of relief specialists.  Though the season was a disappointment for a team that had regressed from an 82-80 season in 1979 to 77-84, Corbett contributed 23 saves and posted an ERA+ of 220.  His 23 saves was a rookie record that stood until Baltimore's Gregg Olson topped that in 1989 as a 22-year-old rookie with 27 saves; it was an introductory performance garnered Corbett enough votes for third place in the AL Rookie of the Year award (Super Joe Carboneau for the Indians would go home with the hardware).  The Twins, smitten with their newest fireman, signed Corbett to a two-year, $500,000 contract. 
In the strike-segmented 1981 season, Corbett would pitch in 54 of the team's 109 total games finishing with 17 saves and a 2.57 ERA (ERA+ 154) while working an average of 1.6 innings per outing.  His save conversion rate would take a hit as he would save just 68% of his opportunities, a serious drop from his 76% in 1981.  As a team, the Twins took a turn for the worse as well.  The offense supplied the second-fewest runs per game (3.44) - leading only the anemic Toronto Blue Jays - a pitiful showing that less than 8,000 Twin Citians on average witnessed in person in the team's final season at Metropolitan Stadium.  Through all of the turmoil, Corbett was the Twins' only bright spot, earning the team's lone All Star representative berth. 
By 1982, the franchise had crash-landed in their new home in downtown Minneapolis - and so did Corbett.  In just ten games from April 7th to May 8th, opponents smashed him all over the field, hitting .300/.370/.467 in that time while blowing three saves.  Looking to employ the young, inexpensive talent, the Twins sent Corbett along with Rob Wilfong (28) to the California Angels in May for Tom Brunansky, Mike Walters and $400,000.  On America's right coast, Corbett's fortitude would be questioned when he would be known for yelling "Look out!" after releasing high-and-tight fastballs. 
Corbett would have several successful seasons with California, helping the bullpen in the 1986 playoffs, but would struggle in Baltimore a year later and made his last Major League appearance on July 30th, 1987.  He would later pitch in the short-lived Senior Professional Baseball Association in 1989 and 1990 and is now coaching in his home state of Florida. 

This article is also found at Baseball Digest.