Jump to content

Providing independent coverage of the Minnesota Twins.
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

The Forums

Danny Salazar for the Twins?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 08:16 AM
He could be another buy low candidate that could be 2020's version of the Martin Perez signing. Health has been an issue with him for the...
Full topic ›

Front Page: Quick Hitter: New Rules for 2020

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 08:16 AM
During the 2019 offseason MLB and the MLBPA agreed on various rule changes. Some of these rule changes went into effect in 2019, but ther...
Full topic ›

Front Page: Offseason Blueprint: Hooking a Big Fish

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 08:15 AM
There’s no denying that the Minnesota Twins greatest need this offseason is pitching. The front office has stated their focus will be on...
Full topic ›

Front Page: Offseason Blueprint: Making Big Betts

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 08:09 AM
The Minnesota Twins are going to have money to spend and will need to spend to replenish the roster. What feels most Minnesotan is that t...
Full topic ›

Front Page: Offseason Blueprint: Building a Bullpenner

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 08:08 AM
If we're being honest with ourselves, the Minnesota Twins probably aren't going to go out and sign Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg this...
Full topic ›

A Relief Ace Rotation, Part 2: What Does A Relief Ace Rotation Look Like?

Yesterday, we looked at some of the Twins’ best relievers’ struggles with zero days rest. Is it time to consider scheduling the Twins' ace relievers into a rotation?

Before going forward, let me clearly lay out the system I’m envisioning. It’s a simple one. Just as five starting pitchers take turns doing the bulk duty from one game to the next, three top relievers should do the same.
Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY Sports
The Twins ought to prioritize re-signing Romo no matter what, but he’s an especially good fit for this kind of gig, so if they were to pursue it he’d become an even better target. They would pitch every third game. Almost every appearance for Rogers, Duffey, and Romo would thus come on either two or three days of rest.

Depending on the opposing lineup and the starter scheduled for that day, the day’s relief ace might serve as an opener, be called in immediately when the starter needs to be lifted, or saved for anywhere from three to eight outs at the end of the game. The point is that they would be given a firm schedule, with designated time for rest and recovery, a throw day to work on a given pitch or make mechanical tweaks, and the ability to game-plan for opposing teams and individual hitters in a more focused way.

Rogers showed the ability to work all the way through an opposing lineup within a game at times last year. He could do it semi-regularly under this system. Romo could be reserved for a segment of the opposing lineup loaded with right-handed batters, perhaps as an alternative to the starter facing that group a third time. As starters sometimes must, a relief ace might be asked to prepare differently from outing to outing, according to the path the team sees through the 27-out gauntlet of the contest. However, as a starter does, they would benefit from at least knowing in advance on which day they’d be asked to do so.

The loop would need to be three pitchers deep, because while one day of rest makes a huge difference relative to zero days under current usage patterns, a pitcher asked to throw roughly every other day would be on fumes by August. Three is the magic number here. It avoids both overrest and overwork, both in short windows and over the long season.

Involve more pitchers, by making a middle relief rotation for instance, and the staff might become too rigid. Unpredictable situations could demand that a team be ready to stretch a given pitcher out, or throw them on back-to-back days, and while a relief ace rotation can decrease the frequency of such incidents, a manager still needs flexibility further down the depth chart. Besides, there will always be some pitchers—Trevor May is an example, though far from the only one—who thrive on a less consistent usage pattern, finding rhythm and averting fatigue when working back-to-back games, and fluid roles should be held open for such players.

Let’s tackle the obvious objections here. First of all, yes: making this change would decrease the average leverage index of these pitchers’ appearances. Inevitably, it would mean that some percentage of Rogers', Duffey’s and Romo’s innings would end up being virtually meaningless. As currently constructed, bullpens concentrate the most important innings in the hands of the best few pitchers within them. This system would more evenly distribute those opportunities, and it could lead to more narrow leads being blown by the fourth or fifth arm in the bullpen.

It would fall to May, Zack Littell, Cody Stashak, and another two hurlers of even less distinction to build bridges from the starter to the designated relief ace of the day, or to close things down if the day’s ace pitched early. Like the Boston Red Sox’s closer-by-committee experiment of 2003, the plan would risk ridicule and a certain degree of clubhouse turmoil should it not go well right out of the chute.

However, there’s a case to be made that the existing system- especially the one that came into vogue early in the 21st century, wherein a good bullpen would have a formulaic hierarchy of three hurlers lined up behind a starter the team hoped would go six innings: set-up, set-up, closer- creates its own set of problems. A winning streak becomes oddly taxing, when a team has to call on its trio of dominant relievers five times each in seven days. If a manager elects to be cautious with those arms, that streak might never even materialize. Pitchers further down the ladder get fewer chances to demonstrate their own value, and just as importantly can suffer either rust or overuse when the team gets very hot or very cold.

With the depth the Twins will hope they still have come Opening Day, rotating relief aces to get the best possible performance from them doesn’t even cost that much. May, Littell, and Stashak, among others, can provide adequate work in medium-leverage middle relief.

There are other concerns and challenges, too, should the Twins proceed down this road. We’ll cover those in Part 3 tomorrow.

 Here is Part 1 of this series.  

  • raindog, mikelink45 and bighat like this

  • Share:
  • submit to reddit
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

7 Comments

I like the idea of a new bullpen strategy. The Yankees BP was shot by the time they were in game four. If starters have to have 5 days between starts how can relievers be expected to go every day?

My old school instincts want to say let's quit babying the millionaires and look at some training methods (physical and mental) or try to find pitchers with the makeup to pitch two days in a row if needed. Mike Marshall where are you?

    • beckmt and PDX Twin like this

Makes you wonder how staffs ever had a 4-man rotation with starters possibly starting 35- 40 games, completing almost half of them and throwing 250-300 innings. Must have been the beer.

    • puckstopper1, PDX Twin and Huskertwin like this

I'm intrigued by approaching the bullpen like this, especially considering the new rule coming into effect next year for relievers.

 

They're going to have to face 3 hitters minimum or finish an inning before they can be lifted. This idea could help manage that some.

I savvy manager should be able to do this without a formal schedule. 

 

A short start or injury would throw it all offline anyway.

 

Honestly, who knows what will happen with the new rules next year. The way Rocco used Gibson at the end of the year, I could almost see a moment toward making SP bullpen sessions live action.

 

Of course, my preference is that you just get 6-7 innings from your starter. Then it takes care of itself.

    • Huskertwin likes this
Photo
tarheeltwinsfan
Oct 22 2019 09:47 AM

Very interesting scenario. However with the Twins proclivity to blast bombas andsometimes getearly leads, how would this Relief Ace Rotation work if the Twins were leading the Orioles 7 to 0 after 5 innings and it happens to be the day scheduled for the Relief Ace to pitch? Does he pitch anyway to protect the 7 run lead against a weak opponent? Or is the Relief Ace saved for the next day, when the score may be Yankees 12 and Twins 3 in the fifth inning? I think because this move is scheduled to take place later in an ongoing game, in which the probability of victory for one side or the other may be high, that there are too many variables for this to be the most productive use of the 3 best relievers, who would be wasted in a game which has, in all probability, already been decided. Maybe this issue will be addressed on the third article of this series tomorrow. Thank you for a thought provoking proposal.

    • Huskertwin likes this
Photo
In My La-Z-boy
Oct 22 2019 01:19 PM

Your thinking here is logical. Might even work better by implementing the "opener" strategy. I do like the idea of creating certain rhythms so relievers have the same advantage starters have in preparation. I also like the idea of niche relief. Everyone should carry at least 8 relievers next year. So you have 3 specialists who open games, 2 specialists who work middle relief, and 3 late game high leverage specialists who close games. 

    • tarheeltwinsfan likes this

Similar Articles


by Ted Schwerzler , 11 Nov 2019
Photo


by Cody Christie , 03 Nov 2019
Photo


by Matt Braun , 31 Oct 2019
Photo


by RandBalls Stu , 18 Oct 2019
Photo


by Jamie Cameron , 17 Oct 2019
Photo