Is Taylor Rogers the AL’s Most Valuable Reliever?
Image courtesy of © Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY SportsMinor Leagues
With his college experience, it made sense for Rogers to try to stick as a starting pitcher. During his professional debut (15 appearances), he split time between Elizabethton and Beloit with a 2.27 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, and a 74 to 17 strikeout to walk ratio. In 2013, he continued to be utilized as a starter. Between Low- and High-A, he posted good numbers as he made 24 starts and posted a 2.88 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP.
Over the next two seasons, he would continue to start, and he made multiple trips to the Arizona Fall League. New Britain was his home for all of 2014 as he had a 3.29 ERA and a 1.29 ERA. He made only three appearances in the AFL that season, but he limited batters to four hits and one earned run. He continued to climb the ladder in 2015 as he pitched to a 3.98 ERA at Triple-A. A return trip to the AFL saw him start six games with a 2.88 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP.
It was time to see what he could do at the big-league level, but it would come with a new role as a relief pitcher.
During his rookie season, Rogers made 57 relief appearances (61 1/3 innings) and had a 3.96 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. Batters were making solid contact against him on a regular basis. His 89.7 exit velocity and 40.8% hard hit percentage were in the bottom 6% of the league. Opponents hit .260/.318/.401 (.719) against him that year as he surrendered a career high seven home runs.
The 2017 campaign saw Rogers still trying to acclimate to life as a reliever. His WHIP rose to 1.31 and his strikeouts per nine dipped from 9.4 to 7.9. Obviously, this isn’t a good sign in the transition to the bullpen. However, opponent's exit velocity dropped nearly three miles per hour (89.7 to 86.9) and his hard-hit percentage finished at 35.4%. One of the biggest intentional changes was his decreased use of his fastball. He used his four seamer 3.9% of the time, which was a steep drop from 17% in 2016 (see chart below).
From this point forward, Rogers made other pitching changes to transform into one of baseball’s best relievers.
Among Baseball’s Best
Besides his fastball usage, Rogers made two other pitching changes to become dominant. He implemented a slider in 2018 and it has become his second most used pitch during the 2019 campaign. Other than that, his curveball has almost disappeared. He used this pitch over 33% of the time last year and he has only used it 1.3% of the time this season.
Rogers has provided unbelievable value to the Twins this season. His 2.78 win probability added (WPA) leads all Twins pitchers. It’s almost a full win higher than Minnesota’s All-Star starters Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi. No position player has a higher total than Rogers. He also might be on pace for one of the best relief seasons in Twins history.
Since Target Field opened in 2010, Glen Perkins (2.79 WPA) has the best WPA of any Twin reliever. Jared Burton (2.41 WPA) and Glen Perkins (1.85 WPA) in 2012 have the other top totals. Doug Corbett’s 1980 season was Minnesota’s all-time best WPA mark from a reliever. His 7.58 total is likely untouchable for Rogers, but he could have enough to catch Joe Nathan’s 5.77 WPA for second place all-time.
During a record-setting year, Rogers might be the AL’s most valuable reliever. He is the lone AL relief pitcher with a WPA over 2.0 and he is closing in on 3.0. He’s up 0.85 WPA over Alex Colome, the second-place relief arm. Former Twins Liam Hendricks (1.87 WPA) and Ryan Pressly (1.78 WPA) round out the top-four.
It’s been quite the journey, but Rogers could end this season as the most valuable reliever in the American League. Do you think Taylor Rogers is the most valuable reliever in the AL? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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