April 13, 2011

Top 40 Minnesota Twins: #20 Camilo Pascual

Camilo Alberto Pascual | SP | 1961-1966 | Career Stats

Signed by Washington as an 18-year-old out of Havana, Cuba in 1952, Camilo Pascual made his debut two years later. He struggled to throw strikes in his first two seasons, going 6-19 with a 5.23 ERA and 142-to-131 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 248 innings primarily spent as a long reliever. Pascual moved into the Senators' rotation in 1956 and began to rack up strikeouts with his world-class curveball, but went 14-35 with a 5.01 ERA over the next two seasons.

Pascual's first good season came as a 24-year-old in 1958, when he posted a 3.15 ERA and 146/60 K/BB ratio in 177 innings, leading the league in strikeout rate and finishing second in strikeout-to-walk ratio. Unfortunately, the Senators were an awful team, finishing dead last in the AL with a 61-93 record, and Pascual went just 8-12. Washington finished dead last again in 1959, but this time Pascual at least managed to win when he was on the mound.

He led the league with six shutouts and 17 complete games on the way to going 17-10 with a 2.64 ERA and 185/69 K/BB ratio in 239 innings. Pascual made his first All-Star team and ranked among the league's top five in ERA, wins, innings, and strikeouts. He was great again in 1960, making his second All-Star team while posting a 3.03 ERA and boasting the AL's top strikeout rate by a wide margin, but injuries limited Pascual to just 152 innings.

Tagged with the nickname "Little Potato" after his older brother, Carlos "Big Potato" Pascual, Camilo came to Minnesota along with the rest of the Senators when they became the Twins in 1961. He shook off prior arm problems to complete 15 of 33 starts while tossing 252 innings with a 3.46 ERA and AL-high 221 strikeouts. Unfortunately the Twins continued the Senators' tradition of awful play and Pascual went 15-16 despite leading the league with eight shutouts.

With a young core of 27-and-under players that included Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison, Jim Kaat, Earl Battey, and Zoilo Versalles the Twins emerged as a surprise contender in 1962 and finished second to the Yankees with a 91-71 record. Pascual was 28 by then, making him an elder-statesman among the team's big contributors, but led the charge by going 20-11 with a 3.32 ERA in 258 innings while pacing the AL in strikeouts, complete games, and shutouts.

As great as that performance was, Pascual was even better in 1963, going 21-9 with a 2.46 ERA in 248 innings while again leading the league in strikeouts and complete games. Thanks in large part to Pascual's second straight 20-win season--along with an MLB-best 225 homers from a scary lineup that had Killebrew, Allison, Battey, and Jimmie Hall all going deep 25-plus times--the Twins won 91 games for the second year in a row, this time finishing third in the AL.

Pascual and the Twins both declined in 1964, as the 30-year-old right-hander went 15-12 with a 3.30 ERA in 267 innings for a 79-83 team. The Twins came back stronger than ever in 1965, going 102-60 to capture the AL pennant, but Pascual wasn't as fortunate. After going 8-2 with a 3.06 ERA in a great first half injuries limited Pascual to nine relatively ineffective second-half starts and he lost his World Series matchup with Claude Osteen in Game 3.

A decade of buckling hitters' knees with his sweeping curveball had taken a toll on Pascual's right shoulder. He made 17 first-half starts in 1966, but posted a 5.07 ERA and then managed just 16 innings after the All-Star break. That winter the Twins sent Pascual and once-promising second baseman Bernie Allen to the new Senators for 35-year-old relief pitcher Ron Kline, who spent just one season in Minnesota.

Pascual was no longer a durable, top-of-the-rotation workhorse able to rack up strikeouts, but he still had a little gas left in the tank for his return to Washington. He went 25-22 in 58 starts over the next two seasons, before getting off to a brutal start in 1969. Washington sent him to Cincinnati, where he gave up seven runs in seven innings before being released. Pascual bounced around after that, with brief stints as a reliever in Los Angeles and Cleveland.

His career fittingly ended with a strikeout, as Pascual got strike three past Earl Kirkpatrick in a scoreless ninth inning on May 5, 1971. That strikeout was the 2,167th of an 18-year career that saw him lead the league three times and finish second twice. Pascual possessed a good fastball, particularly in his prime, but it was his curveball that accounted for most of the whiffs. Tony Kubek, who struck out more against Pascual than any other pitcher, recalled facing him:

He'd come straight over the top with it and it would just dive off the table. The spin was so tight, you couldn't identify the pitch until it was too late. It didn't flutter, it didn't hang, it just kept biting. When Pascual was right, nobody had a chance. That curve was unhittable.

Of course, when the curveball hung it also accounted for lots of homers. He ranks 82nd all time with 256 homers allowed, which is a huge total for someone who pitched most of his career in the pitcher-friendly 1960s, and he was among the AL's top 10 in homers allowed four times. Mickey Mantle once said Pascual and teammate Pedro Ramos "would laugh and rag each other about which gave up the longest home runs to me." Mantle went on:

I hit two home runs into the tree beyond center field in old Griffith Stadium off Pascual, and Ramos is up waving a towel at Pascual while I'm rounding the bases. Later that year I hit one off the facade in Yankee Stadium off Ramos, and as I'm rounding third I see Pascual waving the towel at Ramos.

Although Pascual is often wrongly credited with being on the mound for it, Ramos served up what's generally considered one of the longest homers in baseball history against Mantle in 1956, the aforementioned shot that nearly exited Yankee Stadium. Mantle also smacked plenty of long bombs off Pascual, whom he took deep 11 times in total, but he viewed those homers differently: "I hit those off Camilo Pascual, one hell of a pitcher."

Pascual's career numbers are a mixed bag, with a 174-170 record and 3.63 ERA that was just slightly better than average in a pitcher-friendly era. However, he absorbed some beatings by debuting before he was likely ready, spent his first seven years pitching for horrible Senators teams, and then wound down his career away from Minnesota. In other words, his Twins-only career--which is what these rankings are all about--is far more impressive.

Pascual arrived in Minnesota with one of the greatest four-year runs in team history, winning 15, 20, 21, and 15 games while leading the league in strikeouts in the first three years and finishing second in the fourth. In six seasons with the Twins he made three All-Star teams, won 20 games twice, posted a 3.31 ERA in 1,284 innings, and went 88-57 for a .607 winning percentage that ranked as the best in team history until Johan Santana came around.

Shutouts               18     3rd
Complete Games         72     4th
Batters Faced        5362     7th
Strikeouts            994     7th
Opponents' OBP       .297     7th
Starts                179     8th
Innings              1285     8th
Wins                   88     8th
Opponents' OPS       .656     8th
Quality Starts        101     8th
Opponents' AVG       .233    10th
WHIP                 1.21    11th
ERA                  3.31    12th
Opponents' SLG       .358    12th
Adjusted ERA+         116    13th
Strikeout Rate       6.96    19th
K/BB Ratio           2.31    19th
  • Scott from So Cal


    Good write up, you’ve already surpassed the over/under of #24 I picked for you on the latest “restart”, I hope you make it all the way this time…keep it up buddy.

  • NTR

    Reusse says he isn’t voting for the Twins Hall of Fame any more because they haven’t put Pascual in yet and have put lesser pitchers (in his opinion) like Perry and Radke.

  • MacTheKnife

    Between Reusse’s whining & Sid’s homerism, I can’t read the sports section of the Trib anymore. They both need to be “forced” into retirement from the newspaper business. They can keep their radio gigs.

  • Christian

    That Mantle story is fantastic.

  • Rod

    I still remember win #20 in 1962. I was twelve, so my memory could be faulty, but I think it came on the last day of the season. I was living in Pennsylvania, and couldn’t wait to get home and check the evening paper, so I went to the school library to check the morning paper…there it was, win 20.

  • mike wants WINS

    Too many strikouts, not enough pitching to contact.

  • Longtimefan

    Every kid in the neighborhood learned to throw a curve, or wanted to because Camilo Pascual threw the hook like no other. We all wanted to emulate him.
    Reusse is absolutely right. Pascual should have been one of the first enshrined in the Twins Hall of Fame.