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Article: MIN 12, DET 1: Once Again, The Twins Bounce Back

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 06:41 AM
That’s more like it! After a demoralizing sweep, the Twins opened up a stretch in which they’ll face the Tigers in seven of their final 1...
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Fun with Numbers: 2017 edition

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 06:38 AM
Twins on pace to win 162 games this season. Twins team ERA on pace to be 1.0 Sano on pace to hit 162 home runs. Santana on pace to have t...
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Article: Where Are We Now? (152 Down, 10 To Go)

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 06:29 AM
On Wednesday, the Twins lost in New York to the Yankees (Rinse. Repeat.) Fortunately, the Twins got help from the American League Central...
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Should the Twins offer Mauer a Koivu-like extension?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 06:27 AM
Wild GM made a shrewd move I thought giving Koivu an extension at an affordable price in a cap-driven world.   No cap in baseball. N...
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The Twins Bullpen Is Set (And You’re Not Going To Love It)

The Twins made their final bullpen roster moves today, reassigning Nick Tepesch and Alex Wimmers to minor league camp. While the official roster is not set, those moves clarify the likely bullpen. It is not an impressive group.

Brandon Kintzler will return as a closer. The 32-year-old took over the closer job for the Twins last year when Glen Perkins was injured and saved 17 games. He also struck out 5.8 guys per nine innings pitched, which puts him well below the average strikeout rate of a major league pitcher (which is 8.1 K/9), let alone a major league closer.
Image courtesy of © Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Free agent signee Matt Belisle will be one of the right-handed setup men. He is 36 years old and this is his fourth team in the last four years. His strikeout rate last year was 6.8 K/9. He and Kintzler have been effective, but It is safe to posit that on many teams, they would be trusted to be seventh inning setup men, at best. Indeed, that was their role on their teams the year before they joined the Twins.

The other right-handed setup men have a little more upside, but fewer results. Ryan Pressly is 28 years old and put up an average strikeout rate (8.0 K/9) and showed added velocity during spring training. Michael Tonkin is even younger (27 years old) and had an even higher strikeout rate (10.0 K/9), but was homer-prone last year (13 HR in 71.1 IP) and again in spring training (3 HR in 12.1 IP). He had a poor spring training and it is likely that being out of options (which means the Twins could lose him if he didn’t make the roster) is why he made the roster.

The left-handed relievers have a similar "veteran/youngster" profile as the right-handers. The veteran is Craig Breslow, a 36-year-old who the Twins signed on a minor-league deal this offseason. The “youngster” is 26-year-old Taylor Rogers who is truly tough on lefties (547 OPS against in 2016) but is unlikely to expand that role due to his troubles against right-handed hitters (811 OPS against in 2016).

Finally, the swingman will be 25-year-old Justin Haley, who is also likely on the roster due to his status as a Rule 5 pick. If he did not make the roster, the Twins would need to return him to the Red Sox.

It’s not difficult to justify each of these players having a spot in a major league bullpen. And with the exception of the decision to demote JT Chargois, it’s probably the best group that could come north with the team. But this is a group of back-of-the-bullpen talents, some of which are going to be saddled with high-leverage bullpen roles.

Twins manager Paul Molitor seems to understand this. “I think we’re going to have to do some mixing and matching towards the end,” said Molitor last week, “with Kintzler on the backside, so, we’ll see how it goes.”

There is a scenario where this bullpen is successful. “My hope is that between the experience and the talent - some still developing - that it’s going to be better,” said Molitor. But there are a lot of scenarios where the opposite is true and the lack of tools that are at Molitor’s discretion is an organizational problem.

The one thing a bad team should be able to do is find good relief arms; they have all the advantages in that area. They have the first pick in waivers. They have innings to invest. They have opportunities for under-the-radar free agents. They have higher draft picks. They can trade veterans for younger, still developing arms. The advantages go on and on. That the Twins have utterly failed in this area after six years of futility is the most damning indictment of the Terry Ryan front office.

But just so we’re clear, the new leadership has not garnered immediate results either. The biggest change so far is adding the journeyman reliever Belisle. There were no obvious diamonds in the rough discovered in spring training this year that provide hope that 2017 will be any better than the previous six years.
We'll see how it goes. The tension that Twins fans will feel at the end of ballgames is, for now, the same as the tension fans of the other 29 teams feel as their bullpen tries to nail down a win. But the feeling today - of skepticism after six years of cringing - is uniquely their own.

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147 Comments

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tarheeltwinsfan
Mar 29 2017 10:40 AM

I was more optimistic about our bullpen 28 days ago.

    • Jerr, Mike Sixel, TheLeviathan and 8 others like this

I, for one, am looking forward to the 10-9 Twins wins. Nothing like a nail-biting one run game!

 

 

    • Oldgoat_MN and Platoon like this
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ChiTownTwinsFan
Mar 29 2017 10:43 AM
Love? How about even like? All I can say in trying to have hope is that I hope a few of these guys are on a short leash and being given one last final 'Are we sure' look before replacing and removing them for prospects that should be up.
    • luckylager, Jerr, ericchri and 8 others like this
Ugh, why are we rolling with 30 somethings in the bullpen when we wont contend? Wimmers, shaggy and mejia should be on this team, but I'm guessing Duffey will be the 5th starter and we'll keep DanSan
    • Oldgoat_MN, mikelink45, d-mac and 2 others like this

Brutal. Nothing about this makes me feel good about the new FO. 

    • mikelink45, laloesch, Penthang and 3 others like this
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Nick Nelson
Mar 29 2017 10:51 AM

I'm excited to see Tonkin let loose in a role that he's better suited for. Personally I believe that his struggles last year tied considerably to his being asked to throw tons of pitches while miscast as a long man. With Haley now occupying that role, Tonkin can unleash the fire in one-inning stints.

 

If they were to let him go elsewhere and he succeeded in that capacity, we'd have looked back at it as a critical misstep. 

    • diehardtwinsfan, LimestoneBaggy, pbrezeasap and 7 others like this
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Brock Beauchamp
Mar 29 2017 10:53 AM

Other than Chargois, very little here surprises me.

 

So I guess it's not so much that I dislike the bullpen, it's more that I already resigned myself to this happening.

    • Blake, LimestoneBaggy, Oldgoat_MN and 8 others like this

I'm excited to see Tonkin let loose in a role that he's better suited for. Personally I believe that his struggles last year tied considerably to his being asked to throw tons of pitches while miscast as a long man. With Haley now occupying that role, Tonkin can unleash the fire in one-inning stints.

If they were to let him go elsewhere and he succeeded in that capacity, we'd have looked back at it as a critical misstep.


I disagree we would ever look back at it as a critical misstep. Tonkin is nothing more than a typical 6th-7th inning reliever. They did not trust him to pitch in any high leverage situation last season.

I've posted this before. Let's say you walk into a bar mid-conversation. You hear "He's a decent reliever that throws hard." Would you narrow that down to Tonkin? Or is that describing 7 other relievers available in the minors?
    • birdwatcher, Blake, Mike Sixel and 8 others like this

I think we know how this will end up - but it is Spring and we can always hope for the best. We will see how Belisle and Breslow do - we could have signed some higher profile relievers.  I thought a given that Chargois would be in at least the setup discussion, so hopefully he performs well at AAA and comes up soon.  We have got to develop some power arms to at least get in the mix. 

    • Oldgoat_MN likes this

Hopefully Molitor will make better use of his relievers this year. It seemed like some of Tonkin's issues last year were due to mismanagement. Taylor Rodgers also seems like the definition of LOOGY. Hopefully Molitor doesn't try to make him pitch to righties too much.

    • Mike Sixel, beckmt, Oldgoat_MN and 4 others like this

 

Ugh, why are we rolling with 30 somethings in the bullpen when we wont contend? Wimmers, shaggy and mejia should be on this team, but I'm guessing Duffey will be the 5th starter and we'll keep DanSan

 

I mean, Duffey is still a young guy, he's only 26 to Mejia's almost 24. It's not like they put Vogelsong in the rotation over young guys. Duffey isn't eligible for arbitration for two more years, he wouldn't be picking an old guy with no future.

 

And I'm not sure which young guy should have made it over Danny Santana. Santana is 26 and is younger than Adrianza, JB Schuck and Vargas (albeit by three months), the other guys who could have taken that last spot. There's no young guy Santana is blocking. The Twins don't have anyone young who they want to be the 25th man - we all want Vielma, Garver and Granite to be playing every day and working on their game, not languishing as a backup who starts once every week or two and gets a few late innings every once in awhile.

 

I'd have liked to have seen Wimmers over Haley (I still hold some hope for Tonkin, I never wanna give up early on a guy with his tools) but get wanting to hold onto a guy with Haley's upside. Wimmers will be first one up if anyone gets hurt/sucks. Chargois can use a few months in the minors before forcing his way onto the team. Not too worried about him.

 

Unlikely as it may seem, Belisle, Breslow and Kintzler may be worth something at the deadline. I'm okay with keeping them - I just want a short leash if one of them goes Jepsen's way.

    • birdwatcher, Blake, pbrezeasap and 5 others like this

 

Hopefully Molitor will make better use of his relievers this year. It seemed like some of Tonkin's issues last year were due to mismanagement. Taylor Rodgers also seems like the definition of LOOGY. Hopefully Molitor doesn't try to make him pitch to righties too much.

 

Agreed, as long as Molitor is here, I don't know how anyone could feel good about the bullpen.

    • Blake, beckmt, Oldgoat_MN and 5 others like this
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Brock Beauchamp
Mar 29 2017 11:05 AM

I care less about the Opening Day bullpen than I do the front office's willingness to pull the rug out from under some of these guys in May.

 

That will be more telling than the motley crew of mediocrity they assembled out of the gate.

 

I don't mind occasionally winging it and hoping for the best - particularly in a situation as bad as the one they inherited last November - but I very much mind the refusal to cut loose bad players in a timely fashion.

    • Blake, pbrezeasap, Twins33 and 17 others like this

 

I care less about the Opening Day bullpen than I do the front office's willingness to pull the rug out from under some of these guys in May.

 

That will be more telling than the motley crew of mediocrity they assembled out of the gate.

 

I don't mind occasionally winging it and hoping for the best - particularly in a situation as bad as the one they inherited last November - but I very much mind the refusal to cut loose bad players in a timely fashion.

 

Sure, whatever, but giving them a pass on this seems a bit overly forgiving to me....I'd like to see this team "wing it" by betting on an unproven young guy as a RP, just one time, out of the gate.  

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Rhino and Compass
Mar 29 2017 11:08 AM

No matter how good or bad your bullpen is, it will be helped exponentially by a rotation that can work deep into games. I'm more concerned that the rotation still doesn't seem to have much positive momentum than I am that the bullpen is still underwhelming

    • D.C Twins likes this

Sure, whatever, but giving them a pass on this seems a bit overly forgiving to me....I'd like to see this team "wing it" by betting on an unproven young guy as a RP, just one time, out of the gate.


How lucky is Rogers?! He gets not 1, not 2, but 3(!!) veteran pitchers giving him constant guidance and attention. Are the veterans going to set up 8 hour shifts to hold his hand throughout the day?
    • Blake, Mike Sixel, alarp33 and 11 others like this
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Brock Beauchamp
Mar 29 2017 11:20 AM

 

Sure, whatever, but giving them a pass on this seems a bit overly forgiving to me....I'd like to see this team "wing it" by betting on an unproven young guy as a RP, just one time, out of the gate.  

I'm not giving them a pass. I question the Chargois move, for sure... but what bothers me the most was the acquisition of Belisle and Breslow, really.

 

Just go get a decent reliever and pay a few bucks. Big deal, this payroll is too low anyway. No $12m contract over two years is going to hurt this team in any meaningful fashion. Nick's latest article sold me a bit on the Breslow deal, though. Really good info in that piece but more could have been done with the bullpen and it wouldn't cost much to do it.

 

There was enough room in the pen to fit a decent reliever, a mediocre vet, and a young guy.

    • birdwatcher, Oldgoat_MN, mikelink45 and 1 other like this

It's okay, we only have like 50 guys in the minors waiting to take their spots. 

    • mikelink45, Circus Boy, Hosken Bombo Disco and 2 others like this

Can't wait to see the breakout at Rochester and Chattanooga with more than 30 pitchers vying for roster spots, many that will be returning for another season at the same level.

    • sploorp and BoofBonser like this
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LA VIkes Fan
Mar 29 2017 11:28 AM

 

I care less about the Opening Day bullpen than I do the front office's willingness to pull the rug out from under some of these guys in May.

 

That will be more telling than the motley crew of mediocrity they assembled out of the gate.

 

I don't mind occasionally winging it and hoping for the best - particularly in a situation as bad as the one they inherited last November - but I very much mind the refusal to cut loose bad players in a timely fashion.

This is the key analysis.  The FO  didn't have a lot of other options other than keeping Wimmers over Tonkin with neither being a particularly intriguing option. Chargois pitched himself to the minors this spring and we want both Duffy and Mejia to remain starters, albeit one in AAA. I didn't see a lot of other good options out there on the free agent market unless you went to the top and paid top dollar on a multiyear contract which seems to be setting yourself up for an albatross contract and also a waste of money since this team is not likely to contend. The bigger question is whether this FO will be willing to bring up younger guys doing well and cut loose some of the others, starting with Tonkin (unless he dramatically improves) and Breslow.  Boston wasn't willing to make a trade so we could keep Haley and I guess the  FO decided they wanted to see more, particularly when the other options were Tepesch and Wimmers.

 

Quick question. I see people complaining about Dan Santana on the roster and Duffy as a starter. Have those decisions been made and announced?

    • birdwatcher, sploorp, terrydactyls1947 and 1 other like this

There were several bounce back candidates waiting and available in FA. They just decided to go with the same route as usual.... Mediocre placeholders hoping that the 3rd year is the charm waiting for these awesome RP prospects in the minors. 

    • birdwatcher, Mike Sixel, Willihammer and 2 others like this

Nothing this spring gives the FO a worst grade than the bullpen.  Haley, Belisle, Breslow!  Is this analytics? As Haley and Beslow struggled it was still apparent they would stay which is similar to the old TR regime.  If we sign them they stay on the roster because otherwise we would not look good.

 

Tell me that we have not spent the last three years talking about all the relievers in the system to just be at this place in roster construction.

 

I understand that good teams roll with vets, we are not a good team and the vets are not good vets.  If we put our bullpen up for auction amongst the rest of mlb would we get back the value of their low contracts?

 

I am trying to figure out the music that will accompany them when they stroll to the mound.  I think the Beatles "Help!"  might be needed or the Isley Brothers - "Here we go again",  or Kris Kristofersons' "Why me Lord?"

    • Mike Sixel, Vanimal46 and wsnydes like this

Pretty meh.  Best case is that KBB (see what I did there?) hold serve until midseason and get traded for lottery tickets, as the Young Guns (Jake BurdoTakEnbergeRio).  Not to mention Tyler Jay.

 

Wimmers will be up if Tonkin flops one last time.

 

Haley still intrigues me.  Not just because he is a Rule V pick, but because the Twins maneuvered around so much to get him, essentially spending the top pick to get him.  (I haven't checked, but I'm pretty sure there are some Rule V picks pitching better than him this spring.)  Still hoping the braintrust saw something special in him and he's worth it.  Whatever they saw in him probably wouldn't show up in a smaller spring sample.

 

Thats the most lipstick I can smear on this, but like others have said, its not like we didn't see this coming- with the exception of Chargois choking and Duffy pitching himself back into the rotation.

    • birdwatcher, Oldgoat_MN, 70charger and 1 other like this
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Tom Froemming
Mar 29 2017 11:44 AM

I actually kinda like Kintzler as closer. Out of 135 qualified relievers, he ranked 4th in BB% and 9th in GB% last season. A good amount of the time, you're just asking him to get three outs before he gives up three runs anyway. Looks like he entered the game with a three-run lead in eight of the 17 games he got saves in last year.

 

My bigger concern is getting to the save situations in the first place. Who's the shutdown guy you can turn to to get a key strikeout with runners on in the 6th/7th/8th innings to keep the game in reach? Pressly, I guess? Will be interesting to see how things shake out. 

    • Oldgoat_MN and Deduno Abides like this

 

Other than Chargois, very little here surprises me.

 

So I guess it's not so much that I dislike the bullpen, it's more that I already resigned myself to this happening.

This is kind of my mindset.  Not getting excited about the opening day bullpen was pretty much a foregone conclusion when I read the names reporting to camp and figuring that the youth movement wouldn't happen.  Just more of the same...hard to get overly excited about much on this team.  

 

Yet, here I am anxiously awaiting Opening Day anyway!!!

    • Mike Sixel, beckmt, Oldgoat_MN and 3 others like this

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