3 Things That May Be Worth Worrying About
Image courtesy of © Matt Marton-USA TODAY SportsDobnak’s Control
Regression was always expected for Randy Dobnak, just not in the way we’ve seen so far. The sinkerballer may have benefitted from batted ball luck and an improved defense, but we always figured the floor was set.
Dobnak is successful because of a pitch to contact profile complemented by a “no free passes” approach. Unfortunately, the last few starts have seen the walks creep up along with his ERA. A 6.8% walk rate is still good, though it’s the second highest it’s ever been in his professional career. Paired with just a 13% K rate, success is going to rely on every single ball put in play being an out, or sometimes even a double play for Dobnak to keep that ERA at respectable levels.
Dobnak surely won’t be starting game 2 of the playoffs this year. That being said, he’s going to pitch some important innings down the stretch and it would be nice to pencil him into the back end of the rotation for 2021. However, a 6.04 ERA and 5.06 FIP in his last 5 starts gives us a look at the tightrope Dobnak walks. His control in his next few starts will be interesting to watch after his last two starts have uncharacteristically yielded walk rates over 10%.
Going into Tuesday’s double header, the story was Donaldson and Cruz returning from injury to play both games even though Buxton sat out game two. However, people seem to have overlooked Polanco’s absence in game two after getting a “breather” the day before as well. At this point we just assume every injury is more complicated than the update provided by the Twins. It’s very uncharacteristic of Polanco to sit out two games in such close proximity.
It could have very well been a small nagging injury the likes of which will recover after the two off days. There’s always risk however that it’s a lingering issue that could get worse. We saw last year that it takes a lot to get Polanco off the field, and the lineup will rely on his bat which has recently heated up heading into October. Keep an eye on Polanco.
Duffey’s Missing Velocity
Tyler Duffey’s fastball currently sits at 92.6 mph on the season, missing about a tick and a half from his 2019. Especially for relievers, this can be more than enough to be a pitcher’s undoing. In Duffey’s case, he’s still the dominant reliever he was last year with a 2.16 ERA and 3.00 FIP. Regardless of this, it’s fair to wonder if his success can continue to this extent with so much missing on the fastball that’s crucial for pairing with his curveball. So far the one difference we’ve seen is Duffey’s average exit velocity allowed increasing from 89.4 mph to 92.2, putting him in the 4th percentile. This could be a case where things aren’t bad until they are, as the rest of his peripherals check out.
On top of hoping for the velocity to come back, it’s also fair to wonder where it went. The season has had far from a normal ramp up time for pitchers, and IL trips are at an all time high. We’ve also seen occasions where he’s gone 5-6 days without making an appearance, which is strange to see considering Duffey is likely the Twins best overall reliever. If he has a nagging injury, time is running out. Any kind of aches and pains may affect not only Duffey’s effectiveness, but his durability. Hopefully Duffey continues to look great and we see some 95 mph fastballs to finish the season.
All three of these situations may prove to be unnecessary worries looking back, but if one of them turns out to be an ongoing issue the repercussions could leave the Twins limping into the playoffs like last year. The finish to the season will provide plenty of fun baseball to watch on the field, but it may be worth keeping an eye on these issues that currently seem to be flying a bit under the radar.
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