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Go get Verlander

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http://www.espn.com/...astros-audition   Best possible combination of help in 2017 and help in the next couple years, right where th...
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Offseason 2017/2018 Manager Updates

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I figured it would be good to start a forum on the managerial changes and new hires.   As we all know, the Tigers will replace Brad...
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Didn't see that coming.
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Cubs Pitching Coach fired. Buddy of Molitor.

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Guess who was a Molitor teammate on the Brewers? Chris Bosio. He was just let go by the Cubs and Molitor looked at getting him on his sta...
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Playoff Hate-watch

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Hi gang!     Had a whale of a busy August-September, so couldn't spend much time on the threads. But things now leveling o...
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2016 Report Cards: Bullpen

Having charged through the infield, outfield and rotation in our player-by-player review of the 2016 Minnesota Twins, let's round out this series with a look at the bullpen.

This one won't be nearly as rough as the starters.
Image courtesy of Patrick Gorski, USA Today
You can find the previous breakdowns by unit through the links below:

For this edition, our criteria for inclusion will be that the reliever pitched in at least 20 games with the Twins and remains in the organization presently. Each player on the list will at least be a candidate to make the bullpen out of spring training, if not a lock.

Of course, not listed is longtime mainstay Glen Perkins, whose season ended after two appearances. His uncertain future is reflective of a relief corps that carries many question marks as a whole.

Let's wrap this up:

Buddy Boshers, LHP
2016 Stats: 36 IP, 4.25 ERA, 37 K, 7 BB, 1.16 WHIP, 2.84 FIP
Contract Status: Pre-arbitration, under team control for ~$550K in 2017

I was particularly intrigued by Boshers when the Twins signed him: a former fourth-round pick with big strikeout rates in the minors who had latched on with an independent team and dominated before resurfacing. It had the makings of a pretty good story. And that it was.

Ignoring the inflated ERA – entirely the result of one August outing where he allowed six earned runs (and went on the disabled list immediately after) – Boshers pitched brilliantly. His K/BB ratio was sterling and he allowed only three homers in 37 appearances. He went from facing washed out pros in the Atlantic League the previous summer to taking on big-league hitters, and barely missed a beat.

Unleashing a filthy curveball and routinely hitting his spots, Boshers put up the highest swinging strike rate on the team outside of Trevor May. In 60 match-ups against lefties, he allowed only three extra-base hits (all doubles) and two walks.

2016 Grade: A-

2017 Outlook: His lack of a track record may work against him, but Boshers showed plenty in 2016 to punch his ticket for next year's bullpen. Given the relatively small sample, will he have to back it up in spring training?

J.T. Chargois, RHP
2016 Stats: 23 IP, 4.70 ERA, 17 K, 12 BB, 1.61 WHIP, 3.36 FIP
Contract Status: Pre-arbitration, under team control for ~$550K in 2017

Four years after being drafted in the second round out of Rice University, Chargois arrived in the majors with special heat that has rarely been seen from a Minnesota Twin. In fact, the rookie had one of the 15 hardest fastballs in the majors . He coupled it with a zippy slider in the mid-80s for a repertoire that exuded dominant potential.

He was far from dominant in his MLB debut, on June 11th. The 25-year-old had been eviscerating hitters in Double-A and Triple-A, but on that date, he received a very rude welcome to the majors from the Red Sox. Chargois came on to pitch the ninth inning of a blowout loss, and his sequence looked like this: lineout, single, single, groundout, HBP, single, walk, run-scoring wild pitch, walk, removal. Five runs charged in total. Ouch.

Chargois was demoted right after the game, but would return two months later with renewed confidence and determination. He made 24 appearances in August and September, and posted a 2.82 ERA. His control gradually improved to the point where he issued only one walk in his final 10 outings.

The overall numbers weren't great, and it would have been nice to see his high-powered arsenal produce more strikeouts (he whiffed only 17 percent of MLB hitters after fanning nearly 30 percent in AA/AAA), but all in all Chargois had the kind of year you're looking for from a highly regarded first-year player getting through his initial big-league speed bumps.

2016 Grade: C+

2017 Outlook: Chargois is poised to make a big jump forward in his second season, and should be in line for a setup job with the Twins out of the gates. There's a pretty decent chance he's closing games by year's end.

Brandon Kintzler, RHP
2016 Stats: 54.1 IP, 3.15 ERA, 17 SV, 35 K, 8 BB, 1.23 WHIP, 3.61 FIP
Contract Status: Under contract for ~$2.5 million (arbitration estimate)

In 2013 and 2014, Kintzler was a reliably solid sinkerballing middle reliever for the Brewers. In 2015, a knee tendon issue that had long bothered him required surgery, costing him nearly the entire season. Milwaukee decided to move on from the 31-year-old and Minnesota snagged him on a minor-league contract.

Kintzler came back, completely recapturing his previous form and then some with a 1.3 BB/9 rate that ranked sixth in the majors among relievers and a 61.9 percent grounder rate that ranked ninth. That was a recipe for consistently solid results, and the righty thrived for a long time after assuming the closer role in June. Kintzler converted 13 of his first 14 save attempts while regularly turning in clean and efficient innings.

But his high contact rate left the door open for opposing lineups to string together hits, and it eventually caught up with him. In his final 12 appearances he gave up 22 knocks over 12 2/3 innings, blew two saves, and sparked the worst bullpen meltdown of the year against Kansas City on September 6th when the unit turned a 3-3 tie into a 10-3 loss.

The ugly finish does not, however, overly diminish a resurgent campaign for the veteran right-hander.

2016 Grade: B+

2017 Outlook: He may reclaim the closer role simply because he's the incumbent, but flaws that showed through during an ugly final month cannot be ignored. As an efficient grounder machine, Kintzler seems better suited for a role that involves pitching multiple middle innings.

Trevor May, RHP
2016 Stats: 42.2 IP, 5.27 ERA, 60 K, 17 BB, 1.31 WHIP, 3.80 FIP
Contract Status: Pre-arbitration, under team control for ~$550K in 2017

The hope that May's pitches would play up in shorter bullpen stints was certainly fulfilled. The righty gained zip on all of his offerings and boasted impressive swing-and-miss stuff. His 12.7 K/9 rate ranked 10th among big-leaguers with 40-plus innings.

But the increase in power came attached to a dramatic decrease in command. May's walk rate nearly doubled from the previous year and he astonishingly uncorked 10 wild pitches in 44 appearances.

Outside of his occasional ugly hiccups, though, May was largely effective on the mound. His biggest problem was an inability to stay there. Recurring back problems cost him a month in the middle of the season, and most of August and September. He was diagnosed with a stress fracture near the end of the year, but should be fine with an offseason to heal.

2016 Grade: C-

2017 Outlook: It's not totally clear the switch in routine was responsible for May's physical breakdown, but it likely played a part given his record of durability in the past. Though he showed all the qualities of an impact late-inning reliever, and looked the part at times, he deserves another shot at starting and it sounds like he'll get it.

Ryan O'Rourke, LHP
2016 Stats: 25 IP, 3.96 ERA, 24 K, 10 BB, 1.12 WHIP, 4.11 FIP
Contract Status: Pre-arbitration, under team control for ~$550K in 2017

Throughout the minor leagues, O'Rourke was nearly invincible against left-handed hitters. This skill was on display as a rookie in 2015 (.560 OPS vs. LHB) and even more so this year, as he held same-sided opponents to a measly .077/.167/.192 slash line.

For some reason, however, he faced twice as many righties, against whom he was far less effective (though not disastrous). He was designated for assignment in early May, but made it through waivers and returned to the Twins in August, finishing with a good six weeks. During his time in Rochester, he was straight-up deadly (1.93 ERA).

When strategically deployed in the right spots, O'Rourke is capable of being one of the league's better bullpen specialists and he proved that again this year.

2016 Grade: B-

2017 Outlook: Given that he was removed from the 40-man roster at one point this summer, O'Rourke is probably behind Boshers and Taylor Rogers in the southpaw reliever pecking order. But his ability to dispatch lefty hitters has been superior to both. His status depends on what type of bullpen Paul Molitor – and his higher-ups – wish to go with.

Ryan Pressly, RHP
2016 Stats: 75.1 IP, 3.70 ERA, 67 K, 23 BB, 1.35 WHIP, 3.74 FIP
Contract Status: Contract Status: Under contract for ~$1.5 million (arbitration estimate)

In his first year with the Twins after they acquired him in the Rule 5 draft, Pressly was a nice surprise, posting a 3.87 ERA over 49 appearances as a rookie. Three years later, he was sporting about 3 extra MPH on all of his pitches, and he nearly doubled his K-rate to 20.4 percent. Yet, the results were pretty much the same.

He was a perfectly serviceable seventh inning guy who was thrust into a higher-leverage role due to injuries elsewhere. "Good, not great" seems a very fair description of his season.

2016 Grade: B

2017 Outlook: Bringing a 95 MPH heater and, on some days, truly shutdown stuff, Pressly is a nice weapon to have in the middle innings. But in a good bullpen he should be the third or fourth option, and so the goal should be to build that kind of quality depth ahead of him.

Taylor Rogers, LHP
2016 Stats: 61.1 IP, 3.96 ERA, 64 K, 16 BB, 1.29 WHIP, 3.57 FIP
Contract Status: Pre-arbitration, under team control for ~$550K in 2017

Though he came up through the minors as a starter, it was always fairly evident Rogers would wind up in the bullpen due to his ineffectiveness against righties. Perhaps having learned from the Brian Duensing experience, the Twins skipped the step of having Rogers fail in the big-league rotation, instead using him exclusively in relief and reaping the benefits.

Rogers spent most of his year in Minnesota, operating as a trustworthy situational weapon (.547 OPS vs. LHB). His weakness against those swinging from the other side was glaringly visible, though, as righties knocked him around for a .291/.349/.462 line in 172 plate appearances. Much like O'Rourke, he was damaged by misuse, but it was generally an encouraging first year in the majors for the 26-year-old.

2016 Grade: B

2017 Outlook: Rogers should be entrenched, having spent the majority of 2016 in Molitor's bullpen with strong output. All he needs to do is repeat his rookie performance to be a very helpful contributor.

Michael Tonkin, RHP
2016 Stats: 71.2 IP, 5.02 ERA, 80 K, 24 BB, 1.45 WHIP, 4.40 FIP
Contract Status: Pre-arbitration, under team control for ~$550K in 2017

Finally receiving an overdue prolonged look in the majors, Tonkin showed some nice signs. His potent fastball/slider combo produced plenty of strikeouts. In fact, his 80 whiffs were the most by a Twins reliever since Joe Nathan notched 89 back in 2009.

The strikeouts didn't do enough for him though. When opponents made contact it was loud, leading to an .831 OPS and 13 home runs. Tonkin's performance especially unraveled in the final leg of the campaign. Personally, I tend to think this related to the former Triple-A closer's ill-fitting assignment as a long reliever, but in any case, he finished with poor numbers pretty much across the board.

2016 Grade: D+

2017 Outlook: I'd be curious to see what Tonkin and his big fastball could do in a more traditional one-inning relief role. Will Molitor and the new front office feel the same way? With no minor-league options remaining, Tonkin will face an uphill battle to remain in the organization in March.


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27 Comments

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HitInAPinch
Jan 03 2017 05:18 AM

Overall, I'd say any weakness on the part of this bullpen was due to overuse.A starting staff that doesn't explode before the 5th inning would be very helpful.

    • Cory Engelhardt, Oldgoat_MN, dgwills and 2 others like this

Seems like several of these guys had numbers that suffered from "misuse."I think Molitor will have a short leash this year.Another guy I can see gone from the organization is Trevor May...he never has been able to put it together and the new regime has no botched trade connection to him as an incentive to give him one more try.

 

    • mikelink45 and hybridbear like this

 

 

Seems like several of these guys had numbers that suffered from "misuse."I think Molitor will have a short leash this year.Another guy I can see gone from the organization is Trevor May...he never has been able to put it together and the new regime has no botched trade connection to him as an incentive to give him one more try.

to be sure, some of the "misuse" was out of necessity....but Molitor has made a lot of questionable decisions that leave you scratching your head (Danny Santana the last two years,) which leads me to believe that Falvey and Molly ultimately won't end up on the same page.

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Cory Engelhardt
Jan 03 2017 07:41 AM

Curious if the bullpen will be upgraded simply by switching out Duffey for May. Also, any chance a free agent arm (Drew Storen?) is added? Will be interesting to see if the starting rotation can pitch long enough into games (on average) so the bullpen isn't overused this year.

    • dgwills likes this
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theBOMisthebomb
Jan 03 2017 07:51 AM
Nice summary. The bullpen wasn't as bad as remembered for a 103 loss team. Then I realized that Mr. Jepsen wasn't included in this recap. Anyway, it's nice to remember we have some building blocks in the bullpen. What to do with the closer spot - I don't see Kintzler as the long term answer there.
    • Cory Engelhardt and Sconnie like this

Boshers - B, nice story, but not an A reliever.

Chargois - C.  Nice that he had a decent finish, but the grade has to include the entire season.

Kintzler - completely agree.

May - I am in the minority, but May has been too inconsistent in any role when you look at his abilities.  I give him a D for the year.  He needs to stay healthy and consistent.

O'Rourke - I am fine with his grade based on what his talent is, but if he is going to be used like last year he is a C.  Which leads me to hope you will be giving grades to the Twins Coaches and front office in your next posting.

Pressly - you said, good not great - I believe you were describing a C pitcher.

Rogers - once again your comments call for a grading of coaches.

Tonkin - F.  Lots of potential, a long minor league record, poor results.

 

It is fun to think about this grading system and you do a really nice job.  My grade adjustments are just for my own entertainment and not a criticism.  Please keep doing this.  As someone who must give out grades I enjoy seeing how the process extends to the Twins.  

 

And how would the curve look if we graded them against the division, the league and MLB?

 

    • Vanimal46 likes this

Seems fair....and these grades point out 1 reason Molitor should be gone, imo. I imagine we'll either see him change a lot this year, or be gone at the end of the year.

 

It took too long for Chargois to get here, and he wasn't great when he did. Hopefully the plan of drafting RPs in rounds 1-3 is gone now.

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ashburyjohn
Jan 03 2017 08:35 AM

I guess I still don't understand the grading system. Is it relative to expectations going into the season? Because, a dumpster-dive bullpen is going to come out well by this method, and yet be a below average group.

 

The AL had an average ERA of 3.84 from relievers, and only Kintzler and (barely) Pressly managed to excel this mark. Since relief is characterized by Small Sample Size, you kind of expect at least one guy will have an ERA under 3 - not so with our team. I guess Kintzler counts as our SSS Wonder.

 

I usually like to factor advanced stats into my opinions, but when I watch Kintzler and Boshers, the eye-test tells me they have a ceiling of "grind it out". You hold your breath while watching them, I don't care what their results this year look like in the box scores. The younger guys still have a higher ceiling than that, but so far haven't produced.

 

Had this relief crew been grafted intact onto some contending team's staff, they would have been slaughtered in the postseason. Maybe O'Rourke would have come in to strike out a lefty batter, in an otherwise unmemorable loss on the way to a sweep; but you don't build your bullpen around your LOOGY anyway.

 

I give Kintzler and Pressly a C each, and successively lower grades for everyone else. For grading purposes, I'm sorry if someone was used improperly, but a bullpen with too many pitchers who can't function unless used optimally becomes unnecessarily hard to manage.

    • USAFChief, Willihammer and Vanimal46 like this
What I had forgotten, or hadn't quite hit home, was the number if SO per IP.

There is no question the pen, like far too many seasons of late, was over used due to necessity. But at the same time, using pitchers used to primarily 1 IP (Tonkin) or as a LOOGY (O'Rourke) and then turning them in to a long reliever and someone who primarily faces RH pitching shows a complete lack of grasp on how to handle a pen, IMO.

I DO like some pieces here.But how much better do all the listed names look if you had a Storen or Feliz at the end of the pen and everyone on this list sort of "bumps down" a notch, at least initially.
    • Mike Sixel and Dantes929 like this

I think that the bullpen situation shows why Molitor should have been among the coaching staff members that were let go. He proved completely incompetent at managing his relievers. The use of O'Rourke and Rogers against RHB on a regular basis is inexcusable. Same thing with the use of Tonkin as a long reliever. That made no sense.

 

I also believe that May's health & control issues at least partially relate to his move to the bullpen & the routine change it meant for him. Duffey should be in the bullpen & May should be starting.

    • Steve Lein, Mike Sixel and dgwills like this
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Nick Nelson
Jan 03 2017 09:02 AM

 

I guess I still don't understand the grading system. Is it relative to expectations going into the season? Because, a dumpster-dive bullpen is going to come out well by this method, and yet be a below average group.

Expectations, experience, role... it all comes into account. Rogers got a good grade because he was excellent against LHB and that's his main job. Ditto Boshers, who got a nudge because he was also solid against righties. And yeah, I gave a bit of extra cred since both were rookies.

 

To say you would give Kintzler a C seems... harsh. He pitched basically to the very utmost of his abilities, coming off a lost season. Adapted well to the closer role. What more could you really ask of the guy? He isn't a strikeout pitcher. 

 

 

    • HitInAPinch likes this

Fair grades.  This bullpen simply did not have the depth to deal with such a terrible starting staff.

 

This is NOT a championship caliber bullpen, though, and like everything else on the team it needs to be improved.  

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ashburyjohn
Jan 03 2017 09:17 AM

Expectations...

To say you would give Kintzler a C seems... harsh. He pitched basically to the very utmost of his abilities, coming off a lost season. Adapted well to the closer role. What more could you really ask of the guy? He isn't a strikeout pitcher. 

Thanks for clarifying. My recollection is of letter grades in school, at least past the early elementary years, being based on achievement, not on exceeding expectations. Ditto, though not assigned by letter, when receiving performance reviews at work. I find it odd that when the front office was shopping any and all veteran spare parts before the trading deadline, no one apparently offered much for the A- and B+ relievers in this rundown.

 

But if you're using a different system, that's fair, and so be it. Good for Kintzler - a C from me or a B+ from you equally means he is in line for another year's salary from someone.

    • Vanimal46 likes this

I'm with Ash... I'd expect an A/B reliever to be a contributor on a playoff team at the very least. None of these guys would have made a contender's playoff roster. Lone exception being one of the many LOOGYs they have. 

Wonder how many of those A- and B+ and B pitchers would be wanted from a 2016 contender...

 

In other words, can we see Boshers and Kintzler and Pressly in a 2016 post-season bullpen?

 

I have a hard time to do so.  If they are rated that high, the Twins should have no trouble trading them, shouldn't they?  But I suspect that nobody is knocking on the Twins' door about Boshers and Kintzler.

 

The problem is the the Twins' pen was one of the worst in the majors.  Averaging C does not reflect this.  The average should be about a D or D-, if one wants to reflect the 2016 season, which might place Kintzler and Boshers appropriately as Cs or something, reflecting their perceived value around the league...

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Nick Nelson
Jan 03 2017 09:40 AM

 

Wonder how many of those A- and B+ and B pitchers would be wanted from a 2016 contender...

 

In other words, can we see Boshers and Kintzler and Pressly in a 2016 post-season bullpen?

Boshers did everything you want from a left-handed reliever, so yes. Kintzler was miscast as a closer out of necessity but yeah, I think a contender would like to have those numbers in their bullpen. Several playoff teams had Pressly-caliber guys as their third or fourth options.

    • Dantes929 likes this

Someone pointed out late in the season that Michael Tonkin had been well suited to a one inning role. That was not how he was used.

I wish I could find that post, but it was backed up with some good data.

The bullpen was badly managed. Is that on Molly or Allen?

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Nick Nelson
Jan 03 2017 10:33 AM

 

Someone pointed out late in the season that Michael Tonkin had been well suited to a one inning role. That was not how he was used.

I wish I could find that post, but it was backed up with some good data.

The bullpen was badly managed. Is that on Molly or Allen?

I wrote about this in late August, so you might be thinking of #3 here

 

Pointed out that the number of outings in which he threw 30+ pitches increased from 10% in AAA to 20% in MLB, where he was also asked to throw 40-50 on occasion.

    • Oldgoat_MN likes this
A perfect storm of a lack of talent, overuse due to poor starting pitching, and a manager who didn't play the odds well.
    • USAFChief, Mike Sixel, Blackjack and 1 other like this
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Willihammer
Jan 03 2017 10:54 AM

Which one does Mollie ask to be the multi-inning fireman to pitch on back to back days in the playoffs?

    • Mike Sixel, Sconnie and HitInAPinch like this

For those who are wondering, this is on Molitor.  

 

At one point he was quoted as not wanting to pull pitchers until they finish an inning.  It makes more sense to pull when the pitcher appears to be out of gas.  What invariably happens is the pitcher lets some runs go by and he ends up having to pull him before the inning is over anyway.

 

I think good managers need to have a strong pitching background, not only to know when to pull a pitcher but to know how to fill out the lineup card.  I don't think Molitor has a keen eye when it comes to pitching.

 

But ... per the boss Molitor is popular with fans so he gets another year......

This team really was snake bit from the get go. I know a lot of people were worried about starting the season with just Jepsen, May and Perkins being proven relievers and it turned out these three were the least reliable of all.  Perkins was perfect in save opportunities the first half of 2015. The staff had blew 5 saves in the first few weeks. Doc Bauer talks about getting a couple guys and the rest of the staff moving down a notch and probably being adequate.  In 2016 everyone had to move up three notches.  The early blown games can pretty much account for the BR Pythagorean number being in the negative. They should have been 66-96.  That 7 game differential is pretty rare from what I have seen..

 

    • Doomtints likes this
"...a bullpen with too many pitchers who can't function unless used optimally becomes unnecessarily hard to manage."

That's an excellent point.

Having a LOOGY in the pen is OK, even a valuable weapon if used properly.

More than one starts to become a liability, particularly when starters in general--and forthe Twins in particular--provide fewer and fewer innings. This is made worse for the Twins when they also feature RH relievers who struggle against LH hitters.

Molitor is part of the problem, but what the Twins really need in the pen is fewer questions and better talent.
    • Mike Sixel and Vanimal46 like this

 

Molitor is part of the problem, but what the Twins really need on their roster is fewer questions and better talent.

FTFY.

 


Molitor is part of the problem, but what the Twins really need in the pen is fewer questions and better talent.

 

I would think that if there is any position o the field where the field manager gets to make the call on which players are on the roster, it would be the bullpen.  I would wager this is still on Molitor if the talent isn't there.


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