Former pitcher Willie Hernández, a stalwart reliever for the Tigers during their 1980s glory days, died Monday, Detroit announced Tuesday afternoon. He was 69.
“The Tigers are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Willie Hernández,” the team said in a statement on social media. “Hernández was a key member of the Tigers 1984 World Series championship team… Our thoughts are with the Hernández family, his friends, and teammates.”
Hernández pitched 13 years in the major leagues—seven with the Cubs, one with the Phillies after a midseason trade, and six with the Tigers.
With Detroit, the Aguada, Puerto Rico native became one of the most feared high-leverage relievers in baseball. In 1984, Hernández went 9-3 in relief with 32 saves and a 1.92 ERA. That performance—validated in the sabermetric era, in which he was credited with the 10th-highest win probability added in history—earned him the AL MVP and Cy Young awards, along with his first All-Star selection.
Hernández remained potent throughout the middle part of the decade, garnering All-Star honors in 1985-86. Upon his retirement, he received two votes in the 1995 Hall of Fame balloting; he went on to careers in construction and ranching in Puerto Rico.