Hildenberger Preparing for Another Heavy Workload
Image courtesy of © Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY SportsHildenberger pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 19.4 K-BB% in the first 81 1/3 innings of his big league career. He gave up multiple runs in just five of his 73 appearances over that stretch.
Unfortunately, the memory of Hildy that lingers on through this offseason is his final 33 2/3 innings of last year. Trevor had a 9.36 ERA, 1.93 WHIP and 11.6 K-BB% and gave up multiple runs in 10 of his 37 games of that stretch. It was an unbelievable downswing.
On the surface, it may not seem like Hildenberger’s workload went up all that much from 2017 to ‘18. He pitched nearly the same number of innings, but went from appearing in 58 games between the majors and minors two seasons ago to 73 in 2018. That may not seem like a big difference when stretched across a full season, but fewer off days means less rest, which means less recovery. That applies to both the physical and mental side of the game.
There were only 10 pitchers who appeared in more games than Hildenberger in 2018. You have to go back to 2010 to find the last Twins pitcher who appeared in more than 73 games (Matt Guerrier, 74). Joe Nathan only appeared in 73 games once as a Twin, his first season with the club. Glen Perkins never reached that mark, topping out at 70. Even “Everyday” Eddie Guardado only topped 73 outings twice in his 17-year career.
Hildenberger joined Kris Atteberry on this week’s edition of the Twins Hot Stove show, which you can find on the podcast page at the team’s official site. One of the topics they discussed was that heavier workload.
“I think I can take a lot away from 2018,” Hildenberger said. “There were some ups and there were some downs, I think I was a little less consistent in the second half. You know, 73 appearances was a lot. I took a couple weeks off and then I got right back after it in October and I’ve been training to get my body ready for another long season and another heavy workload.”
In addition to getting prepared for the long slog of the regular season, Hildy is also tinkering with the idea of giving hitters even more different looks.
“In terms of specifics, I think fastball command is really big for me, I think everything starts off that,” Hildenberger said. “If I can locate my sinker down in the zone to both sides of the plate, working it in and out, and then maybe finding another offspeed pitch to throw from over the top so they don’t just sit dead red when I come over the top with a fastball.”
Hildenberger threw from that over the top arm slot 6.1 percent of the time in 2018, a grand total of 71 pitches. Among those, 66 were four-seam fastballs and five were changeups, per the data available on Baseball Savant.
On Jeremy Hefner’s Role
The other guest on this week’s Twins Hot Stove Show was Jeremy Hefner, who is transitioning from advance scout to taking over for Eddie Guardado as the bullpen coach. Well, sort of.
The Twins are updating things, and Hefner’s official title is actually assistant pitching coach.
“The game is changing ... you don’t have one guy in charge of the bullpen and one guy in charge of the starters,” Hefner said. “Me and Wes (Johnson) are going to tag team. These are our guys and our group and we’re going to work together to get the most out of them.”
Hefner had high praise for his new coaching collaborator.
“Wes is great. His knowledge base on bio-mechanics, on pitch usage, on TrackMan stuff, on relations with a pitcher — he’s had a long track record of being able to execute on all of those things," Hefner said.
“I’ve learned a ton from him. He’s going to be great for the Twins.”
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