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Can the Twins Trust Taylor Rogers?

The Twins lost on Monday night and Taylor Rogers took the loss, falling to 1-4 and raising his ERA to 4.86 on the season. Ongoing struggles throw the former lockdown closer's status into question as October approaches.

What to make of this situation?
Before we go any further, let's get something clear: Taylor Rogers is a stud relief pitcher. Up until the 17-inning sample that represents this 2020 season, here's where he ranked across the two FULL seasons prior:

Taylor Rogers, 2018-2019:
  • 4th in fWAR among MLB relievers (4.0)
  • 6th in WPA among MLB relievers (6.15)
  • 5th in FIP among MLB relievers (2.59)
  • 4th in K/BB among MLB relievers (6.11)

That's among ALL major-league relievers, y'all. The names accompanying him on these lists are the best of the best: Kirby Yates, Aroldis Chapman, Josh Hader, Felipe Vazquez, etc. So, I think it's important to keep that piece of context in mind as we proceed.

It's been a struggle for Rogers in 2020. A disastrous eighth inning on Monday was just the latest in a string of rocky outings for the once-elite closer. With so many slip-ups in high-leverage spots, he now ranks 173rd out of 179 qualified relievers in Win Probability Added this year (-1.15).

But even after crumbling against the White Sox in Chicago, the underlying numbers give almost every indication of a pitcher who's been performing well and experiencing rotten luck. Rogers has the seventh-highest BABIP (.412) among MLB relief pitchers. His K/BB ratio was second-best in the game before he issued a pair of walks on Monday, and is still quite strong at 20-to-3. His 4.86 ERA is accompanied by a 2.90 FIP.

So what's contributing to this drop-off? Well, a look into the Statcast data reveals some noteworthy insights.

Here are his three-year trends across a variety of metrics:

Attached Image: rogersstatcast.png


What catches my eye is the progressive decline in whiff rate (64th percentile to 51st to 35th) and Barrel % (79th percentile to 37th to 15th), which seem to correlate with the perception that hitters have been increasingly keyed in on his pitches dating back to midway through last season.

And then there is his flattening curve spin, which has gravitated from top-shelf (89th percentile in 2018) to more ordinary (66th percentile in 2020). Here's a spot where the data matches the eye-test; Rogers has thrown a lot of breaking balls that hang in the zone and get crushed – his 0-2 pitch to Tim Anderson on Monday being a fine example. What's happened to Rogers' formerly phenomenal out pitch?

Here we come across another odd finding in the Statcast data: it says Rogers ditched his slider this year and is only throwing the curve as his breaking pitch. Last year, 35.4% of the lefty's pitches were classified as sliders, and 14.7% as curveballs. This year, they've both melded into a single pitch being thrown 45.3% of the time.

Attached Image: rogerspitchchart.png


Is this meaningful? I don't know. Statcast isn't perfect at assigning pitch types and Rogers has always thrown hybrid-type breaking balls that dance between designations. But the addition of a slider to his repertoire in 2018 was a big story. Matthew Trueblood wrote about it here earlier this year:


"By now, the story of Rogers’s transformation from fringy lefty specialist to formidable relief ace is familiar to nearly all Twins fans. During the first third of the 2018 season, Rogers tinkered with a new offering, a slider, which he then incorporated as an extra look for hitters hoping to lock in on his sinker and curveball. Since he became comfortable using that slider, he’s been one of the best relievers in baseball."


I can't claim to classify Rogers' pitches by eye any better than Statcast does, but what I've seen sure seems to jibe with the data: Hitters are once again locking in on his sinker and curveball. If he's still throwing two different versions of a breaking ball, it doesn't look that way to me, the computer, or – evidently – opposing hitters. Possibly it's a change in the pitch's shape, or maybe a matter of release point. Either way, it's ceased to be a particularly effective weapon: opponents are holding their own against the curve with a .310 wOBA, and teeing off on the sinker at .409.

Having said all this, it's worth circling back to that point made at the outset: Rogers is a stud relief pitcher. His poor results over less than a 17-inning sample do not outweigh a lengthy track record of excellence, especially when they bear so many signs of being flukey and unsustainable.

But right now, he simply isn't getting the job done. While it's valid to discuss where he should sit in the bullpen hierarchy (and I'm curious to hear thoughts in the comments), there's no question that the Twins will be relying to Rogers as a late-inning crux in the playoffs. Whatever issues are plaguing him, time is running out to get them solved.

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25 Comments

No.

 

The book's out on him. He's not just getting unlucky, he's getting beat around. Even when he does save games he's giving up runs.

 

He's looking more and more like a loogy in a league that's trying to push loogy's out of work.

 

Time to give Duffey or May a chance. Both Rogers and Romo are just throwing meatballs up there.

    • KFEY93 likes this
Photo
Nick Nelson
Sep 15 2020 08:11 AM

I'm perplexed by the notion that Romo has been bad. He has a 3.12 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and opponents are hitting .164/.235/.295 against him. IMO Romo is clearly the team's closer right now, and probably should be. 

    • glunn, jun, DocBauer and 4 others like this
I could copy and paste what I typed in the game recap, but I’m not. He’s been an interesting case. You spelled it out perfectly. All of the underlying stats scream bad luck. He has a track record of success, and with more time, I’m sure we would see positive regression towards his FIP and other underlying stats.

The next couple of weeks are going to be crucial to see if he can be the fireman this postseason.
    • DocBauer, Minny505, twinbythebay and 1 other like this

I figured something like this was coming. But thats how sportsfaning works. Something does seem to be up, but then again, he was on with tie game against the leagues best offense. 

All of the underlying stats scream bad luck.

Time to try someone whose is good.
 

    • USAFChief, glunn, Dantes929 and 5 others like this

I am no expert but just eyeballing from my lazy boy it looks like Rogers' pitches have flattened out and don't have the vertical movement they used to have.

    • glunn, Dantes929, jun and 3 others like this

No. Period. Thats it, stop trotting him out there in high leverage situations. He has legit cost us at least 3 games this season, and in a shortened season thats A LOT. Especially last night. 

    • glunn, jun, mikelink45 and 3 others like this

 

I figured something like this was coming. But thats how sportsfaning works. Something does seem to be up, but then again, he was on with tie game against the leagues best offense. 

He let this same thing happen against the Pirates AND KC. Its a trend, regardless of who he is going against, stop giving him excuses. 

    • jun, mikelink45, bighat and 1 other like this

Maybe this is obvious but if he is still throwing 2 distinct off speed pitches, a slider and a curve, the key then would be to figure out why they now look the same. Personally I'd set up statcast cameras and start throwing until I could get it to see a distinction between the two. But then, I don't have a coaching staff to analyze my mechanics.

 

If he has ditched the slider, maybe the question needs to be ... why?

    • Nick Nelson, glunn, Dantes929 and 3 others like this

Closers are notoriously mercurial - great maybe for one or two seasons, thena steep decline. Rare is the closer who excels year after year like Mariano Rivera.Rogers falloff fits this pattern to a tee. He has been consistently horrible in clutch situations this tear.With a shortened season and the playoffs looming, he must be replaced.

 

I hyped Hader as the one trade the Twins should have made if they were going all in this year.Yes, this was a longshot, but an agressive FO would have pulled out all the stops, knowing how the absence of a dependable closer can doom WS aspirations.

 

Anyway, that ship has sailed and now Baldy and co. must make a big decision.They have less than two weeks to settle on a closer.Who should they pick?Nick thinks it should be Romo and perhaps that's the "safest" choice based on history.I'm not so sure he is the best choice right now, however.I would experiment with guys like Wisler and Alcala, for starters.Both have shown glimpses of excellence, albeit in SSS.It would be gutsy to throw them into the fire during a pennant race, but this would be the time to do it.The Twins are in great shape to be the #4 seed, good enough for first round home field advantage, so what do they have to lose(assuming their rotation and offense performs above average)?  

 

Something could be said for Duffy or May, but both have been quite inconsistent, Duffy lately and May consistently with the HR ball.Clippard would be a dark horse; just don't know about his ability to pitch in consecutive games.In any case, let's hope Twins get their jhead out of the sand before Rogers blows any more chances because putting him in any game situations is just adding fuel to the fire!

    • mikelink45 and heresthething like this

You always run into issues with a lefty closer. We see the Rogers can be lights out if he doesn't work consecutive days, has proper warmup and full use of his pitches. Although as fans it boggles our mind that a player isn't at their best each and every day at work, we only have to look in the mirror and know we all have off days.

 

Some guys dominate for a season or three. The rare ones make a career as a closer.

 

The Twins have a couple of prime candidates for future closer. Alcala seems lights out. Stashak is interesting.

 

I always felt May would be the guy, but at this point I probably wouldn't gamble on a hefty multi-year deal to keep him, thus he will probably walk.

 

The bullpen ahs been a strength, and if there had been a solid minor league year, the Twins would be looking at adding number of arms next season, beginning with Samuel Clay.

 

    • mikelink45, bighat, Melissa and 1 other like this
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twinbythebay
Sep 15 2020 09:19 AM

This is a completely different, much diminished bullpen without Rogers anchoring it. I know a lot of people have been convinced that he sucks now for some reason because of a 17 inning sample, but he's been way too dominant over the past two seasons for me to just write him off. I know that they can only keep going to him for so long while he's pitching like he is this season, but they need to keep putting him out there over the next couple of weeks to see if they can get him right before the playoffs. 

    • wavedog, DocBauer and dbminn like this
You can't watch the diminished command and sliders that roll up there like the one to Anderson, which have both been common place this year, and think it's just bad luck.

Something is wrong.

The Twins should have added to their pen at the deadline.
    • jud6312, heresthething and KFEY93 like this

I was watching the ChiSox broadcast last night (cuz they might be the best broadcast in MLB nowadays) and when the Twins went to Rogers last night they said the lefty matchup is where they win their games.

 

And that is exactly what happened.

 

With a wRC+ of 149 vs LHP on the season, that is a ridiculous spot to put Rogers in. I think more than the win, Rocco had "test" in mind for Rogers. Best to find out now, in September rather than October, how the lefty can perform against that lineup.

 

And he got his answer. 

 

It's unfortunate one of our best bullpen weapons is a liability against the Sox, but baseball is a bittersweet science and that science is bitter about that matchup for any LHP.

    • mikelink45 likes this

I am kind of sick of the Rodgers getting unlucky argument.This has been going on all season, when is bad luck just going to be he is getting beat.Last night, he walked lead off guy, was that bad luck?Even when you have terrible ump behind the plate you knew what he was doing back there, pitch to the ump you have not the one you want.Then he walked second guy, okay the box said ball 4 should have been a strike, but it was right on edge, again pitch to take that call away from ump.  

 

Then you have the "bad luck" weak contact, or was it just really good hitting by Engle who saw Polonco vacate the middle of the field meaning anything hit hard enough to reach outfield was going to be hit.Okay, then you have the lazy fly, sweet he got an out.Then the rocket hit by Anderson for a double.I honestly turned it off because in a 1-1 game in normal time it should not have been that late.So I cannot comment on what happened after that, but overall Rodgers has not looked like he has in the past.

 

I will agree 17 inning is not a huge sample size and I am not going to say he is cooked, but I am also not going to say he should get the last 3 outs every game or more like he did a few times last year.He is not lights out right now, so go with hot hand or who you think will get job done.I cringe when he goes out there right now.Can he have a 17 inning stretch of no runs, yes, but until he looks lights out I will still cringe.Either way, enough with the just bad luck stuff, it is not just bad luck every time.

    • jun likes this

Unless we win the next three games, we are gonna finish the season in 2nd place with most likely the #4 seed. That ain't all that bad. So I expect Rocco to keep running him out there for a bit. But should last night's performance continue, something is gonna have to change for the playoffs.

 

As for 2021, my vote (which is meaningless) goes to Alcala.

    • mikelink45 likes this

Insightful analysis by Nick.Rogers has been hittably human since the latter half of 2019.The 17-inning sample size for 2020 should be expanded but with innings in lower-leverage situations.

Anderson is hitting around .500 against lefties so he should maybe be pitched around.

 

Last night would not be an ideal guide on Rogers' status.

 

No.

 

The book's out on him. He's not just getting unlucky, he's getting beat around. Even when he does save games he's giving up runs.

 

He's looking more and more like a loogy in a league that's trying to push loogy's out of work.

 

Time to give Duffey or May a chance. Both Rogers and Romo are just throwing meatballs up there.

Duffey, Wisler, Romo, Clippard, Thielbar, Stashak and even Alcala are better options than Rogers and May.

    • mikelink45 likes this
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SoDakTwinsFan4
Sep 15 2020 02:46 PM
I've never been comfortable with him as our closer. Too many right handed batters across the league can have even a slight advantage late in a game.

I like Alcala and May

 

I was watching the ChiSox broadcast last night (cuz they might be the best broadcast in MLB nowadays) and when the Twins went to Rogers last night they said the lefty matchup is where they win their games.

 

And that is exactly what happened.

 

With a wRC+ of 149 vs LHP on the season, that is a ridiculous spot to put Rogers in. I think more than the win, Rocco had "test" in mind for Rogers. Best to find out now, in September rather than October, how the lefty can perform against that lineup.

 

And he got his answer. 

 

It's unfortunate one of our best bullpen weapons is a liability against the Sox, but baseball is a bittersweet science and that science is bitter about that matchup for any LHP.

He's a liability against everyone as far as I can tell this season. 

I could copy and paste what I typed in the game recap, but I’m not. He’s been an interesting case. You spelled it out perfectly. All of the underlying stats scream bad luck. He has a track record of success, and with more time, I’m sure we would see positive regression towards his FIP and other underlying stats.
The next couple of weeks are going to be crucial to see if he can be the fireman this postseason.


I guess this is where I stand. You just can't have so many positive underlying numbers and a high BABIP and say the guy is cooked. But at the same time, there simply has to be something mechanical taking place he needs to figure out because even with only 17IP bad luck for his BABIP can only go so far. And then it means despite his other good numbers he's grooving a few pitches he hasn't the past 2 seasons.

They have 2 weeks to get him right. And they need him right, whether he remains the closer or not.

May is in the same situation despite not being the focus here. His velocity, SO numbers and most all peripherals seem to be career bests and yet he seems to be allowing HR at an alarming pace. Then he finishes things off by SO the side.

Both this guys are talented and important with some big stuff. And both need to figure it out over the next 2 weeks. Need Johnson and company to work some magic and get them on a roll.

    • Melissa likes this

no - RP are very volatile - look at Kimbrel with the Cubs.17 innings might be a SSS for some but not a reliever.That is potentially 17 games.He might come back next year, but stop putting him out where he can cost a game this year.And start looking for the closer for the playoffs. 

    • jun likes this

NO!

No.


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