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Twins fire Dougie Baseball

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 07:15 AM
http://m.startribune...?section=sports   Bummer. He sounds pretty pissed about it. Best of luck to him in the future.
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I've started a baseball-centric podcast. It touches on twins topics often, but otherwise it is more about the sport and life of baseball....
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Duffey Presents Pleasant Dilemma For Twins

If someone who didn't watch Monday's game happened to glance at the box score, scanning only numbers without the corresponding names, he might have assumed this pitching line belonged to Cleveland's bullpen ace Andrew Miller: 2.2 scoreless innings of relief, one hit allowed, no walks, four strikeouts.

But no, that was Tyler Duffey. No one will confuse him with Miller anytime soon, but the right-hander is making his case as Minnesota's own bullpen ace.

Or is he making his case to reclaim a starting job?
Image courtesy of Rick Osentoski, USA Today
For some time, many fans have wondered just what Duffey might be capable of in the bullpen. I count myself among them. There were a number of factors suggesting he could be a strong fit in the late innings – namely his collegiate experience there and his two-pitch mix. The 26-year-old's struggles as a starter last year further supported the need for a switch.

Nevertheless, the Twins maintained an outward stance heading into spring that he'd be competing for a rotation spot. It appeared he was very much in that race up until the end of March, at which point the team announced Adalberto Mejia was going to be the fifth starter while Duffey would come north in a swingman-type capacity.

As it turns out, he's been the most reliable man in the bullpen through two-plus weeks. Duffey's stellar outing on Monday extended a season-opening scoreless streak to 8.2 innings, and during that span he's allowed only five hits (all singles) and one walk while striking out seven.

If this continues, the Twins will face a decision: consider giving him another shot at starting, or stick with what's working and allow Duffey to thrive in relief?

In a sense, it feels silly to even consider messing with the good thing he has going. Duffey's signature breaking ball has been straight-up nasty and has left batters shaking their heads. But of course, that's not really anything new.

The theoretical benefit behind using him in short relief stints was that it might play up his fastball, which was coming in like a beachball last summer and routinely got crushed. That might be occurring to some extent, but it's not like Duffey is suddenly whipping 96 MPH heaters in there. In fact, from early readings, his fastball is only up by about one MPH compared to his 2016 average. And it's not like he's consistently being leveraged in the kinds of quick-hit stints that would be conducive to max effort. He has thrown multiple innings in three of his four appearances, and racked up 32 pitches in his latest.

Maybe Duffey looks so good because he's more comfortable or adept in the bullpen. It could well be the case that his arsenal is gaining efficacy when he enters as a change-of-pace, replacing a starter or another reliever. Maybe that two-pitch combo simply works better when he's not trying to get through a lineup three times.

Or, there could be other elements at play. Maybe his decision to move to the other side of the rubber against righties is paying dividends. Maybe he has made other adjustments to improve his fastball command. Or maybe he's just plain healthier and feeling better.

If his success is being driven by things of that nature, then Duffey could certainly keep it going in the rotation. While his ugly 2016 is fresh in our minds, it bears remembering that he was excellent as a starter for the Twins in 2015 and throughout the minors.

As things stand, he is in limbo to a degree. He has pitched only three times in the past 13 days. Unless and until there is a definitive commitment to him as a top setup option, his usage as a reliever figures to remain sporadic.

The manager, for his part, doesn't seem inclined to make this switch permanent. "For now," Paul Molitor said Tuesday in reference to Duffey's present assignment in the bullpen.

Personally, I'm not sure moving him back to the rotation is the right choice, particularly since Minnesota has five healthy and functional starters for the time being, plus a guy in Jose Berrios at Triple-A who is proving his readiness to step in.

But one way or another the Twins should decide on a defined role and leave it be.

What would you like to see happen with Duffey?

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Keep him in the pen. Please keep him in the pen. He's good there. His track record as starter isn't that great. The Twins need good relievers.


I mean, they need good starters, too. But I'd rather give Berrios another shot.

    • Vanimal46 likes this
Brock Beauchamp
Apr 19 2017 08:44 AM

I'd keep him as a reliever and not think twice about it.


If the rest of the rotation implodes and there are no acceptable options anywhere in the org, reconsider.

    • Doomtints likes this
Nick Nelson
Apr 19 2017 08:44 AM


Dilemma? Not sure I see it:


Duffey sucked as a starter. Duffey has been good in the pen.

He has made four relief appearances. Four. 

In 22 starts at AAA he has a 2.80 ERA. In 10 starts with the Twins in 2015 he had a 3.10 ERA. Lots of good starters have had one bad year. 

I tend to agree with the conclusion that Duffey should stay in the bullpen (especially since I've long been pushing for it) but how about bringing more nuanced analysis than 'so-and-so sucks'?

    • Mike Sixel, gunnarthor, 70charger and 4 others like this
Parker Hageman
Apr 19 2017 08:45 AM

Not sure if it is related to the bullpen switch or not but Duffey's biggest improvement is being able to throw his fastball for a strike. He's thrown 72% of his fastballs in zone (compared to 51% last year).


He has also gotten strike one more frequently (68% vs 62% in 2016) which sets up other pieces of his arsenal nicely. 

    • 70charger, Willihammer, chpettit19 and 3 others like this

Perkins struggled as a starter & then became a dominant closer. Duffey struggled as a starter and now is pitching well so far out of the bullpen. I'd like to see him take over as closer for the Twins at some point this season. If he's the best pitcher in the Twins' bullpen, I think he might be, then he should be used in the highest leverage situations. He was a great closer in college so he should be used to the pressure situations from those days.

He has found success in the pen. Why mess with that? Leave him there. We need solid relievers. Our pen has been lousey in recent years.

    • bluechipper likes this

Ignoring the numbers, and just watching him pitch in different roles, it looks clear to me that he belongs in the bullpen.  Keep him there for now if he is finding success.  We have too many other good starting options coming up in AA and AAA.


Looks like I'm in the minority, but I'm of the mind that you keep a player in the spot where he could provide the most value until you're convinced he will be unusable in that role. Maybe Duffey as a starter was a lost cause, but if we're gonna give Kyle Gibson 101 starts, I would've been fine giving Duffey more than 36.


Yes, he was bad last year, but maybe with the new evaluation team and Castro/Gimenez able to help we would have seen something extra from Tyler. That's a great tidbit about his change in positioning on he rubber, you never know how little stuff like that can make big differences.


I would have put him in the No. 5 spot, but if it turns out he's a great reliever I'm not gonna get too worked up about it.


But, you're never going to convince me a pitcher can provide more value throwing 70 innings instead of 200. Yes, high-leverage innings are the most important, but if your starters get blown out it's pretty tough to get use out of a great pen.


The first inning is the highest-leverage inning of the entire game in my eyes.


Well, we know with certainty that last sentence isn't actually true.


Now, I agree, I would have sent him to AAA to be a starter. But, they didn't do that. IMO, jerking him around, back and forth, is a bad idea for him. Can they move him back to starter, if his change improves with time/work? Sure. But at some point, they need to make a decision.

Yeah, this does seem premature.  Through 4 games last year, Duffey was looking pretty good too -- 8.5 K/9, 1.5 BB/9, 0.7 HR/9, 1.85 ERA, 2.96 RA9.  And that was 4 starts, three times the innings he's logged so far this season, and they weren't all against slouch opponents either -- Cleveland, Detroit, and Washington (plus the White Sox, which might be a slouch opponent :) ).


I mean, I hope he can keep it up too, but I don't know how helpful it is to invoke Andrew Miller at this point.

    • markos, TheLeviathan, chpettit19 and 2 others like this
Apr 19 2017 08:58 AM

I think keeping him in the pen is the best option. sure, maybe they give him another go at being a starter...but I think this back and forth back and forth can wear on a guy. See May, Trevor for an example. Duffy was an outstanding college reliever and his 1-2 pitch combo is much more contusive to being a reliever. Twins seem to have found something that works, don't mess it up now!

Ervin Santana had a terrible year as a starter early in his career too -- 5.74 ERA / 5.13 FIP in 2007.  The Angels were wise to let him continue starting.  Even roughly league average run prevention as a full-time starter can be pretty valuable.


(For that matter, Ervin had two later poor years too.)

    • d-mac and Tom Froemming like this


Not sure if it is related to the bullpen switch or not but Duffey's biggest improvement is being able to throw his fastball for a strike. He's thrown 72% of his fastballs in zone (compared to 51% last year).


He has also gotten strike one more frequently (68% vs 62% in 2016) which sets up other pieces of his arsenal nicely. 


This is the thing. He has two pitches and one of them is significantly better than the other. His issue, is the better pitch is NOT his fastball. It didn't take long for professional hitters to figure out that you can simply not swing at his curveball and sit fastball.


This is exactly why his FB zone % was so off last year compared to the year before. They weren't swinging at his curveball, and crushing his fastballs in the zone. Thus he had to try and nibble with it. It had the expected adverse effect.

    • USAFChief, bluechipper and chpettit19 like this
Apr 19 2017 09:11 AM

I don't understand the desire to write him off as a starter this fast.He was a good starter in 2015.Very good.For a team that needs upside guys there, you don't write off a young option just because he has been good in the pen. 

    • howieramone2, d-mac and Tom Froemming like this

I think Duffey can be a #3 starter, which is more valuable than pitching out of the bullpen in any role. For his career as a MLB starter he's put up a xFIP of 3.82 and a SIERA of 3.98. The only reason he struggled last year was his redonkulous HR/FB% of 19.5%. For even the most homer prone starter that is unsustainably high.


Comparing his (very SSS) underlying peripheral stats as a reliever to his starting career there is no difference in K%, a slight decrease in his already solid BB%, but career high hard hit% and career low soft hit%. Literally, the only reason he looks so much better in the bullpen than in the rotation is going from a 19.5% HR/FB last year to 0% this year. 

    • Tom Froemming likes this
Apr 19 2017 10:32 AM

Its a tough call. The Twins could desperately use another effective starter and if Duffey has the potential to fill that role then you want to make sure he is given every opportunity to prove he can't. If I'm choosing between Berrios and Duffey to replace Gibson I'm going with Berrios though.


I agree with the Trevor May comparisons. I doubt the Twins would force Duffey to continue starting in the same way they've kept May relegated to the bullpen but if he does have a good thing going I'm ok with him staying in the pen when there are better options to fill the vacant starter role.  


I think the real dilemma is if/when Hughes gets bumped. At that point it should be Duffey stepping into the rotation. 

Leave him in pen and start working him into a more prominent role in later innings

    • Doomtints and Dr. Evil like this
LA VIkes Fan
Apr 19 2017 11:54 AM

I agree with Froemming. Let's also not forget that it looks like we will need 2 starters this year given that Hughes and Gibson both look bad, and that's assuming Mejia works out. The AAA team has 1 starter ready to move up (Berrios) but it's hard to see a second one in there right now. Hurlbut maybe?  Slegers? Gonsalves is hurt and still at AA.  I  think the Dodgers have the right philosophy on starting pitching. Quit looking for 5 guys to go 200 innings each and look for 8-9 guys who can start, hope for one or 2 of them to give you 200 innings and hope the rest can give you 10-15 decent quality starts. 


I think that means guys like Duffy (and maybe Haley or even Tepesch) need to be swingmen giving the team quality bullpen innings and starting part of the year. It's not an easy job but it's an important one. Duffy will be back in the rotation at some point. Frankly, I think now would be a good time so we can send Gibson down to AAA to find himself (if there's anything more to find) and Hughes can go to the BP or DL.  

    • Sconnie and Tom Froemming like this

It's a waste to use Duffey in the role of mop up man. 


That's what Haley, Tonkin, Breslow should be doing, maybe even Hughes.

    • Vanimal46 likes this

You cant only build your pen out of failed starters and retreads. You have to throw some assets directly at the pen from your system and actively try to build it up just as you do your starting rotation.  


As for his pitch mix, to me it profiles more as a reliever. Mariano Rivera became a legend basically using slight variations of 1 pitch. Duffey's hook is nasty when served in small quantities.


Keep him in the pen.

    • Doomtints likes this
John Bonnes
Apr 19 2017 12:38 PM

I'd lean toward putting him back into a starting role as soon as possible. It's far too early to be giving up on him as a starter. His performance last year was ... odd. A 1000+ OPS against right-handed hitters? 


If, by next year, it looks like starting pitching isn't working out, then bullpen. This year, he still has options, so the Twins can let him get back up to speed in AAA. You move a guy to the bullpen when you must, either for his sake or for the organization's, and not before. 

    • diehardtwinsfan, Dr. Evil and Tom Froemming like this
Apr 19 2017 12:57 PM

As a general rule, I think you should exhaust your options to leave a guy in the rotation before you move him to the pen.  I'm not sure we've exhausted our options yet with Duffey.  

    • diehardtwinsfan, Dr. Evil and Tom Froemming like this
I understand and respect your opinions. I would personally handle it differently.
    • Mike Sixel likes this

To me Duffey just doesn't have the stuff to go through a lineup multiple times. I know he was good his rookie year, but that's his first time through the league with nobody knowing anything about him. I think people got the scouting report on him last year, and as someone said earlier, they knew to sit on fastballs in the zone and let it fly.


You don't need big velocity to be succesful, but if you don't have it you better have big time command. Duffey just doesn't seem to have that type of command on his fastball. He can get away with low velocity and not great command once through the order and maybe even twice. But the longer you leave him out there in an outing the higher the chance that he leaves 89 down the middle and it goes 450. Someone mentioned his HR/FB% numbers and that it was unsustainably high last year. It may be unsustainable to stay at 19.5%, but I'd expect to see him at the top of the league in that percentage every year as a starter. When big league hitters can eliminate all but one of your pitches they get really, really good. And when that 1 pitch is an 88-92 straight fastball that you don't command very well they get even better. I know Mariano only had 1 pitch, but he had pin point command with it on both sides of the plate and up and down. And it was a filthy pitch.


All that being said I just think his repetoire lends itself to having more success in the pen than in the rotation. I'm of the belief that if you can get 3 outs you should be able to go through the lineup once and get 7 or 8 outs. I'd like to see Duffey (and almost every reliever) used in that way. Not just in games the starter didn't get through 7 in, but whenever he's needed. Go out there and go through the lineup once and hit the showers. Andrew Miller in the playoffs style. I think you could have 2 or 3 guys that do that for a full season and throw 100-110 innings and really make up some ground for a less than stellar rotation.

    • USAFChief, Mike Sixel, drjim and 1 other like this


As a general rule, I think you should exhaust your options to leave a guy in the rotation before you move him to the pen.  I'm not sure we've exhausted our options yet with Duffey.  

I would normally agree but I believe the many people that his pitches don't project well as a starter. If this is true (certainly debatable) then just leave him in the bullpen. I do like the idea of having higher leverage multiple inning pitchers available though instead of this one (inning) and done concept. No reason that Duffey couldn't be a 7th/8th (and even 9th) inning guy but it would challenge bullpen usage as we know it.

    • Mike Sixel, TheLeviathan and chpettit19 like this
Apr 19 2017 09:48 PM


I would normally agree but I believe the many people that his pitches don't project well as a starter. If this is true (certainly debatable) then just leave him in the bullpen. I do like the idea of having higher leverage multiple inning pitchers available though instead of this one (inning) and done concept. No reason that Duffey couldn't be a 7th/8th (and even 9th) inning guy but it would challenge bullpen usage as we know it.


That's a fair point, I guess it comes down to how effective that changeup can be.  

    • kab21 likes this

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