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Mission Accomplished: An Elite Twins Bullpen

As the month of July came to an end, Minnesota Twins fans watched with anticipation hoping that their club was going to make the necessary bullpen acquisitions. When the dust settled it was Segio Romo and Sam Dyson that were brought into the fold. Since then though, Rocco Baldelli has managed the second best bullpen in the big leagues and its been for every reason but the ones that were expected.
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For months there was a growing notion that the Twins would make a move. This club looked the part and jumped out to a big divisional lead. With a relief corps that could use some reinforcements, the front office would almost assuredly deal from depth to bolster the bullpen. Although it didn’t happen in as timely of a matter as some may have hoped, and there could have been some hiccups avoided mid-summer, moves came. Two veteran arms with high ceilings would be added to a back end that already had some promise.

But then, two became one, and a handful emerged.

Dyson was the best reliever dealt at the deadline. There were bigger names that weren’t moved, but it was he who had previous closing experience and top-notch stuff. He has since been shut down and it looks like his season may be over. Romo and his wipe-out slider are still getting the job done, and he’s stuck in high leverage as expected. One of the two moves worked, but it’s the ones set into motion many months before that are truly paying off.

Back in February I suggested that the Twins would win 92 games en route to a Central division crown. Chief among the reasons was the revamped coaching staff and infrastructure within the organization. The current group is a collaborative power that is constantly changing on the fly and looking for an opportunity to exploit the next level out of each player. For some, it takes longer to unlock then others, but if there’s a way this contingent of coaches is going to find the right buttons. There’s no more apparent area currently reflective of that then the bullpen.

Since the trade deadline the Twins have posted 2.9 fWAR (2nd in MLB). Their 2.06 BB/9 is the lowest in baseball as is the 3.58 FIP that suggests they’re even better than a fifth best 3.67 ERA. The 1.54 WPA is fifth in baseball and one of just 12 teams currently putting up positive numbers. No one has opponents chasing more than the Twins' 35.2% and the arms they’re doing it with are virtually all home grown.

You already know Taylor Rogers is an absolute menace. He’s a lefty with high velocity stuff that doesn’t care what side of the plate you stand on. Tyler Duffey owns 0.8 fWAR since August 1st and hasn’t given up a run since July 23 (a streak of 18.2 IP). He has a ridiculous 30/5 K/BB in that time, and looks the part of the elite closer that Minnesota drafted out of Rice way back in 2012.

Looking for his calling with the Twins, there’s no denying Trevor May appears to have found it. Despite an ugly breaking pitch against Cleveland, and one that Rafael Devers beat him on in Boston, his 20 innings since the deadline have been exceptional. May has generated 0.5 fWAR and has allowed just those two earned runs in 20.0 IP. He has a 25/4 K/BB and opposing batters have mustered a sad .325 OPS against him.

Arguably the most impressive work comes from the guy that the least was expected of. Still just 23-years-old, Zack Littell was asked to take a game against the Rays on the chin in May. He went back to Triple-A and transitioned to relief. Ramping up the velocity in shorter stints, he showcased his stuff in brief call-ups throughout the year. Now adding the time up, he’s pitched 24.2 innings in relief since June. Littell has allowed just two runs, both in the same outing, and has 21 strikeouts to his credit. He’s still working through command issues at times, but the .209 batting average against is exceptional.

With just two weeks left until postseason baseball, Minnesota’s earliest bugaboo has now become an area of strength. This isn’t a lineup that needs to pad a starter’s lead bridging a gap to Taylor Rogers. The Twins are something like six or seven deep in quality arms, and none of those guys could care less who is in the opposing batter's box. Opponents may not have heard of anyone aside from the elder statesmen Romo, but this is a group that will generate name recognition as they turn from the plate watching the ball go around the horn following any given at-bat.

There’s no denying that Rocco Baldelli is going to need a healthy dose of mix and match in October. Only the Astros go deep enough to throw starting cares to the wind. Teams like Minnesota will need to get what they can from the first man on the bump and then turn it over to the reinforcements behind the wall. Fortunately for this group, everyone from Baldelli to Wes Johnson, Jeremy Hefner, and the entirety of the minor league pitching support staff deserves a significant pat on the back for the speed with which they turned a deficiency into an asset.

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49 Comments

Couldn't have waited to post this until after the game was over? ;)

    • h2oface and KirbyDome89 like this
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yarnivek1972
Sep 18 2019 05:16 AM
This post didn’t age very well. 4 bullpen homeruns allowed yesterday.
    • h2oface and KFEY93 like this
4 homers given up to a team that ranks 25th in home runs doesnt exactly scream elite.
    • h2oface and KFEY93 like this
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diehardtwinsfan
Sep 18 2019 05:36 AM

Problem with pens is SSS... and while the last monthor two have been nice, we're still in SSS territory before we can safely say the pen is elite...

 

For the most part, I'm fine going into 2020 with our current pen. I do hope they make some effort on starting pitching though... that window is open. I'm hoping that Falvey/Levine were right when they said that money will flow when the window opens. 

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Dozier's Glorious Hair
Sep 18 2019 06:21 AM

 

This post didn’t age very well. 4 bullpen homeruns allowed yesterday.

 

I'm not sure how one game negates the past couple months. Tough crowd, I guess.

    • SQUIRREL, birdwatcher, Blake and 8 others like this
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yarnivek1972
Sep 18 2019 06:42 AM

Problem with pens is SSS... and while the last monthor two have been nice, we're still in SSS territory before we can safely say the pen is elite...

For the most part, I'm fine going into 2020 with our current pen. I do hope they make some effort on starting pitching though... that window is open. I'm hoping that Falvey/Levine were right when they said that money will flow when the window opens.


Romo is a FA. And I would want to upgrade there anyway. At some point his junk is going to stop fooling hitters. Dyson may or may not be healthy. I would expect him to be non-tendered. So that leaves a core of Rogers, Duffey, May and Littell. A high octane lefty would be my target.
    • tarheeltwinsfan and wabene like this

If they don't retain Dyson, that trade will have cost the Twins one great prospect, who could have spelled the oft injured Buxton. While Davis hasn't exactly lit it up in his debut with SF, he's definitely a good one. Well, you win some and lose some. I believe Dyson came to the Twins as damaged goods. Someone didn't do his homework.

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tarheeltwinsfan
Sep 18 2019 07:10 AM

Great positive article. Thanks.

    • IndianaTwin and Dozier's Glorious Hair like this

 

If they don't retain Dyson, that trade will have cost the Twins one great prospect, who could have spelled the oft injured Buxton. While Davis hasn't exactly lit it up in his debut with SF, he's definitely a good one. Well, you win some and lose some. I believe Dyson came to the Twins as damaged goods. Someone didn't do his homework.

I think the targeted Dyson specifically because of the additional year of team control he has next year. He will most definitely be back.

    • Shaitan likes this
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Only Here in Negative
Sep 18 2019 07:32 AM

 

Dyson may or may not be healthy. I would expect him to be non-tendered. 

 

This is insanity. Dyson has been a very good reliever for two years now. He has biceps tendinitis. While that sucks for this year, there's no reason to think that six months isn't waaaaaaay more than enough time to come back from that. He'll be non-tendered? That's a pretty big hot take. He'll be a nice bullpen piece next year.

 

The bigger question is the Twins starting staff. If they decide to rely on guys like Thorpe and Littel and Graterol, then there's a need to go shop the bullpen arms. If they trade/sign a few starters, then they can probably rely on their internal options. with the understanding that the bullpen is a crapshoot - most of Twins Daily was ready to flush the season down the toilet at the deadline when the Twins didn't make extensive bullpen moves and the bullpen has been the backbone of the team's success this past six weeks. Go figure.

    • birdwatcher, pbrezeasap, Dantes929 and 5 others like this
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Only Here in Negative
Sep 18 2019 07:50 AM

 

If they don't retain Dyson, that trade will have cost the Twins one great prospect, who could have spelled the oft injured Buxton. While Davis hasn't exactly lit it up in his debut with SF, he's definitely a good one. Well, you win some and lose some. I believe Dyson came to the Twins as damaged goods. Someone didn't do his homework.

 

Prospects always seem flashier in the rearview mirror. Jaylin Davis was a nice story but this won't be one that haunts the Twins:

 

(1) I believe he'd have been exposed to the Rule 5 draft this year. The Twins don't have a ton of room on the 40 man roster so he was potentially lost anyways.

 

(2) Davis had an unbelievable year but that's really his first extended success. He was a middling player all the way up the chain. Some guys Dozier expectations but odds are that Davis had a hot year.

 

(3) Outside of September, there's no real spot for Davis now. The Twins have four OF on the roster for next year with Gonzalez (I guess Rosario could be traded but that seems unlikely given his importance to a playoff team). Cave is less than 2 years older, is still cheap, and has done it at the MLB level and he's just the 5th OF. Arraez and Adrianza also will be around and have OF experience. Hard to see a lot of room for Davis unless things really change.

 

(4) Davis seems likely to be passed by a number of better prospects in the near future. Kiriloff, Rooker, and Larnach are poised to move up to the MLB team in the next 18 months. There's also another wave in Badoo, Wallner, Celestino in A ball - any one of them could make a big jump. Not all of those will make it but the Twins are stacked in the OF.

 

(5) Small sample size but Davis has struggled thus far with the Giants. He could turn it around but adjusting from AAA to MLB is very hard. No one would be surprised if he's more of a AAAA player.

 

The Twins did exactly what you should do with guys like Davis, trade them for help at positions of scarcity. Davis was unlikely to be an impact for the Twins due to a short window of opportunity and may even have been lost in the Rule 5. Getting Dyson for next year is a great grab, even if Dyson never recovers (though he should, this is not a serious injury).

    • birdwatcher, Dantes929, Danchat and 9 others like this

 

This is insanity. Dyson has been a very good reliever for two years now. He has biceps tendinitis. While that sucks for this year, there's no reason to think that six months isn't waaaaaaay more than enough time to come back from that. He'll be non-tendered? That's a pretty big hot take. He'll be a nice bullpen piece next year.

 

The bigger question is the Twins starting staff. If they decide to rely on guys like Thorpe and Littel and Graterol, then there's a need to go shop the bullpen arms. If they trade/sign a few starters, then they can probably rely on their internal options. with the understanding that the bullpen is a crapshoot - most of Twins Daily was ready to flush the season down the toilet at the deadline when the Twins didn't make extensive bullpen moves and the bullpen has been the backbone of the team's success this past six weeks. Go figure.

Agree, they have been successful in converting the top prospects from starter to relief pitchers, but some of the prospects need to develop into MLB caliber starting pitchers.Relief pitching is up and down, so we might want to wait for additional proof before calling the Twins bullpen elite.But it's taken a nice step forward during the second half of the season.

    • birdwatcher likes this

Romo is a FA. And I would want to upgrade there anyway. At some point his junk is going to stop fooling hitters. Dyson may or may not be healthy. I would expect him to be non-tendered. So that leaves a core of Rogers, Duffey, May and Littell. A high octane lefty would be my target.


Romo has been a Major League pitcher for 12 years. He might might stop fooling hitters by retiring.
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IndianaTwin
Sep 18 2019 08:03 AM

And don't forget The Doof -- now at 22 appearances without a run. 

    • DocBauer likes this
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yarnivek1972
Sep 18 2019 08:18 AM

This is insanity. Dyson has been a very good reliever for two years now. He has biceps tendinitis. While that sucks for this year, there's no reason to think that six months isn't waaaaaaay more than enough time to come back from that. He'll be non-tendered? That's a pretty big hot take. He'll be a nice bullpen piece next year.

The bigger question is the Twins starting staff. If they decide to rely on guys like Thorpe and Littel and Graterol, then there's a need to go shop the bullpen arms. If they trade/sign a few starters, then they can probably rely on their internal options. with the understanding that the bullpen is a crapshoot - most of Twins Daily was ready to flush the season down the toilet at the deadline when the Twins didn't make extensive bullpen moves and the bullpen has been the backbone of the team's success this past six weeks. Go figure.

Given the life expectancy of typical relievers, it isn’t insanity to think he could be done. How many figured Addison Reed was cooked? Dyson is a year OLDER. At the $8 mil arb award he’s likely to get, I would want a little surer bet. I’m guessing some will be available.

 

Given the life expectancy of typical relievers, it isn’t insanity to think he could be done. How many figured Addison Reed was cooked? Dyson is a year OLDER. At the $8 mil arb award he’s likely to get, I would want a little surer bet. I’m guessing some will be available.

Who do you expect to be available that will be better? One of the reasons the Twins came into this season with a thin bullpen is because teams don't often let good relievers hit the market.

 

Your posts recently have poked holes at other people's opinions without adding any substantive thoughts of your own. If you are going to make the claim that you are "guessing some [better relievers] will be available" please provide names. Otherwise you are simply refuting someone's thought with the assumption the Twins can find the rarest resource in baseball; quality, cheap bullpen arms.

    • Dozier's Glorious Hair likes this

And what a job at turning what was the team's major weakness early in the season into an area of strength.Your explanation was an enjoyable read, Ted, Thanks.

 

Granted, last night didn't go well.Yet, other than May getting frustrated and then allowing the second dinger, most of the relievers other than Harper did a decent job.  

 

Will agree that next year's 8 man bullpen does need a good situational lefty.Expect they will rotate AAA starters in the long role as they did this year and other than the lefty don't see any changes in 2020.

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yarnivek1972
Sep 18 2019 09:13 AM

Who do you expect to be available that will be better? One of the reasons the Twins came into this season with a thin bullpen is because teams don't often let good relievers hit the market.

Your posts recently have poked holes at other people's opinions without adding any substantive thoughts of your own. If you are going to make the claim that you are "guessing some [better relievers] will be available" please provide names. Otherwise you are simply refuting someone's thought with the assumption the Twins can find the rarest resource in baseball; quality, cheap bullpen arms.


Falvey and Levine are supposed to be the pitching gurus. It’s their job to know names, not mine. But, no, I don’t think finding a guy for $8 mil who isn’t coming off an injury that basically cost him two months and who is younger than the 32 Dyson will be next May will be exceedingly difficult. And as I mentioned earlier, I’d rather have a lefty anyway.
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longstrangetrip
Sep 18 2019 09:33 AM

Some may find this hyperbole,but the current bullpen reminds me of the recent championship Kansas City bullpen.Rogers, Duffey, Romo, and Littell have all been terrific, and Graterol shows great promise.The Harper story was fun while it lasted, but it's clear it is time to move on from him.I'm not troubled having May though as our 5th (or 6th) guy in the bullpen.5-6 guys with great stats and swing-and-miss stuff is all you can ask for in a bullpen.  

    • JW24 and arby58 like this
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SpicyGarvSauce
Sep 18 2019 09:47 AM

Someone like Romero could really help the 2020 bullpen if he figures it out. I do agree with the post above that the Twins need another left handed arm in the pen to go along with Rogers.

 

Falvey and Levine are supposed to be the pitching gurus. It’s their job to know names, not mine. But, no, I don’t think finding a guy for $8 mil who isn’t coming off an injury that basically cost him two months and who is younger than the 32 Dyson will be next May will be exceedingly difficult. And as I mentioned earlier, I’d rather have a lefty anyway.

If you aren't going to bother to spend time identifying specific players, then perhaps making assumptions that the players you would like the Twins to target both exist and can be acquired with relative ease is short-sighted.

 

I agree, it would be GREAT (!!!!) to land another high-caliber left-handed reliever. It can't just be wished into existence.

 

I think, as fans, we assume filling the gaps left behind by solid contributors with automatic upgrades is easy. The talk at the trade deadline on this site was extremely optimistic about what the Twins could do, and I imagine free-agency will be similar (not a bad thing, it is a lot of fun to discuss). As it turns out, there might be a little more to the process than yelling, "We need better players than the above-average ones we have!"

 

Sam Dyson was worth 1.2 WAR with the Giants prior to being traded. There isn't a whole lot of upgrading ability from there, assuming his injury can be dealt with and he is back to full strength next season, which I hope is with the Twins.

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yarnivek1972
Sep 18 2019 10:36 AM
Maybe I have a life that doesn’t allow me to research the 50 or so relief pitchers that are going to be FA.
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Alex Schieferdecker
Sep 18 2019 11:20 AM

For the playoffs...

 

1. Rogers

2. Romo

3. Duffey

4. May

5. Littell

 

6. You need a lefty long-relief guy. Smeltzer has been better than Thorpe, but is maybe less able to be used as a true relief arm as well. Then again, should the Twins even use a traditional third and fourth starter? Maybe Perez can fill this role?

 

7. Dobnak has earned this spot.

 

8. Graterol, hell yeah.

 

Maybe I have a life that doesn’t allow me to research the 50 or so relief pitchers that are going to be FA.

We've deviated a bit from the original topic, which was about how incredibly well-constructed the Twins current bullpen is, and how well they have performed recently, so I apologize for the digression. This will be my last response in regards to the FA discussion we have had.

 

It is fine not to have the time to research who is available. Honestly, I don't have that much time myself, but Spotrac is a great resource for all things contracts/free agency/multi-year payroll views and can be quickly glanced over during lunch (which is what I am doing). Throwing out statements like "I expect Dyson to be non-tendered" with no additional information (is there a history of players with his injury this has happened to? who would replace him, where would his money be better spent?) is something I find disrespectful to other people on this site who share their opinions looking for actual discussion.

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Battle ur tail off
Sep 18 2019 12:47 PM

Look at how last year's reliever FA's panned out. I wouldn't go wasting tons of money on them this offseason. Especially when you have so many candidates here already that have performed well. Dyson will absolutely be in our pen next year. 

 

If it were me, I would be looking to land a #1-3 type starter in FA and resign some of the guys we already have. Get the BEST guy available and lets roll in and pair him with Berrios. 

    • DocBauer likes this

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