Twins Daily Roundtable: Closing Time
Image courtesy of Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY SportsCody Christie
Closers have started to become a thing of the past in the world of baseball. Organizations and managers are becoming more acutely aware of utilizing their best relievers in high pressure situations. It might not be the best use of a team’s best relief pitcher if the other team’s seven, eight, and nine hitters are due up in the bottom of the ninth inning.
That being said, I think Minnesota’s bullpen will get quite the overhaul before the start of next year. This means guys like Trevor Hildenberger, Trevor May, Taylor Rogers, and Oliver Drake need to show they can handle some late inning responsibilities over the season’s final months.
If I am picking a closer off the current roster, I would give the May the bulk of the save situations. He’s got a fresh arm since he didn’t pitch in the first half of the season. Hildenberger has been the team’s best relief pitcher at times this season but he might be tipping his pitches. So for me, it’s gonna be May!
I've been anti-closer for very long time. And, hopefully, since the Twins traded their "closer" they are heading towards the anti-closer belief too. The correct answer to this question isn't about who the back of the bullpen guy is, it's a different answer that finally sees the club use their relief pitchers to a) their advantage and to the best of their ability.
Alan Busenitz has the highest leverage index of any players who has relieved multiple games and is still in the organization. "So, uh... hey, we have the most confidence in you... but we also don't have enough confidence in you to be on our active roster." What? Tyler Duffey has the lowest leverage index except for Oliver Drake. Both Busenitz and Duffey have FIPs that are really bad.
Here's how I'm running the bullpen. The first time I need to face a tough lefthander (with one exception), I'm calling in Taylor Rogers. He's destroyed lefties to the tune of a .408 OPS. The exception is if the tough lefty is followed by a tougher righty. In that case, I'm using Gabriel Moya, who isn't considerably better against lefties than righties, both have a sub-.700 OPS. If I need to face a tough right-handed batter, I'm bringing in Addison Reed. He's not been great lately, but he's getting destroyed by left-handed hitters (OPS over 1.000) this season, so he's not facing those guys. Oliver Drake would be my next choice to face righties and not lefties. The other guys I'd use against batters on either side of the plate at any time. Trevor May and Matt Magill are the two I'd use first. Right now, Hildenberger has seemed to hit a wall, so he (along with Tyler Duffey) would be relegated to lower-leverage situations. The great thing is, these roles are changing as guys have more or less success.
If you have a starting pitcher make it through eight innings, but decide he can't pitch the ninth... I'm looking at my opponent’s lineup card before deciding who to warm up. Maybe it's Moya; maybe it's Rogers; maybe it's May... really, it could be anyone.
The Twins not having a true closer puts them in a very good situation for the rest of the year. Minnesota needs to figure out what pieces are realistically going to be usable in 2019. If Paul Molitor can work Rogers, Hildenberger, May and Duffey into high leverage, that'd be a great start. Arms like Busenitz, Reed, Curtiss, and Anderson should also see time in the Twins pen over the next month or so.
The front office is again going to be in a position to supplement the pen, but giving some consistent run to internal options is a must. Forget who racks up the saves, just make sure to push every arm you have.
For once lately, I'm going to agree with the manager’s line of thinking here. There is a "proven closer" option with Addison Reed, but he's been dreadful since returning from the disabled list. Thus, I would go with the matchups in a committee approach and get some experience under multiple pitchers' belts.
The options for this include: Trevor Hildenberger, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Taylor Rogers, and Gabriel Moya.
Those names include three righties and two lefties so counteracting any lineup combination in the ninth should be easy on any given night.
If I had to pick one guy, however, I'd be putting Trevor May in that spot. He's got the power pitcher profile inherently familiar to closers, and very quickly has appeared to rebound in his recovery from TJS in the majors. He hasn't walked anybody since returning and has picked up some big strikeouts. I also like his fire and mentality on the mound in that role.
So closer by committee for now in a lost season, but I'd be giving an inside track to May.
If you missed any of the most recent roundtable discussions, here are the links:
Hall of Fame Impact
Baseball in 2028
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