Jump to content

Providing independent coverage of the Minnesota Twins.
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

The Forums

Blake Snell a trade target or not

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 04:22 PM
I would personally be happy to offer up Kirilloff and a few other prospects for him!!! What do you guys think he would cost and would you...
Full topic ›

Is Cruz a MUST signing? And what if he doesn't fit?

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 04:18 PM
Let me state I love Cruz and want him back if possible. I not only believe he brings class, experience, knowledge and leadership to the t...
Full topic ›

2020 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook Available NOW!

Twins Minor League Talk Yesterday, 12:59 AM
The 2020 Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook will be now available.By clicking here, you can order the paperback version of the PDF/E-Book...
Full topic ›

Twins Minor League Signings

Twins Minor League Talk Yesterday, 12:59 AM
I thought I should set up a thread for minor league signings. Use this thread to post when the Twins sign a minor leaguer or when a forme...
Full topic ›

Free Agency / Re-Signings 2020-21 Offseason

Other Baseball Yesterday, 04:18 PM
Free agency is likely going to be a really slow burn this year, but I still think it's worth having a thread to discuss signings. ...
Full topic ›

Twins Blogosphere


Randy Dobnak Belongs in the Bullpen for the Postseason

The 2020 playoffs are now all about finding enough good innings, but Randy Dobnak’s highest utility to the Minnesota Twins will be as a reliever with a firmly defined role.
Image courtesy of David Berding-USA TODAY Sports
After several very strong starts to begin this strange season, Dobnak has hit a rough patch over his last two outings, and as a result, he was chewed up in the roster churn of the season’s final fortnight Wednesday. While he’s at the Alternate Site in St. Paul, the Twins should prepare Dobnak for a versatile and two-pronged but highly specialized place in the team’s relief corps for the postseason. Dobnak’s sinker is a major weapon, but it needs to be deployed strategically.

As he’s made mechanical and technical adjustments this season, Dobnak has turned a sinker that already had exceptional depth into the single heaviest pitch of its kind in the majors. With his low-three-quarter arm slot, Dobnak gets good sink, but he’s become more efficient this year, maintaining better posture and tilting his spine less as he drives through release. That’s pushed his release point down, and a minor change to his grip of the pitch has also helped increase the drop on the offering.

His 85 sinkers in September, prior to being optioned, averaged -1.72 inches of vertical movement. That number is meaningless without context, so here’s some context. Since 2015, here are the only pitchers to average more sink on their sinkers in any season than Dobnak has this month.

Attached Image: Heavy Sinkers.PNG

Note the right-hand column. The only other hurlers who get the same kind of dive on their sinkers that Dobnak achieves are sidearmers and submariners. Meanwhile, Dobnak pitches from a low but distinctly upright, non-sidearm slot. The kind of movement he generates with that pitch is so unusual as to be impossible to truly handle. That’s why Dobnak has a 62.5-percent groundball rate this season, and why his sinker has a career-best 75-percent ground ball rate this month.

Alas, that movement doesn’t translate into very many swings and misses. Batters make contact on 89 percent of their swings against the sinker. They whiff on 34 percent of their swings at his slider, but because the sinker is still his primary pitch, they rarely get as far as seeing that pitch in two-strike counts—and even when they do, they can often spoil it to extend the at-bat. Dobnak has been less pitch-efficient of late, as teams learn to handle him that way. Opposing batters are also chasing less when he tries to expand the zone—about 31 percent of the time, down from almost 39 percent in 2019. When they swing within the zone, they make contact 93.5 percent of the time. Since he mostly avoids the barrel of the bat, this isn’t a death knell, but it makes Dobnak very vulnerable as a starter.

That goes double as the lineup turns over, because Dobnak is essentially a two-pitch pitcher against right-handed batters. Most of them see his full repertoire in their first plate appearance. Lefties get roughly equal shares of changeups and sliders, to go with the sinker, but lefties aren’t fooled by Dobnak even the first time. This season, in 91 plate appearances, left-handed batters have four doubles, two home runs, seven walks, two times being hit by pitch, and just 10 strikeouts against Dobnak. He’s not strictly a matchup arm, but his numbers and skill set suggest he’ll continue to run a wide platoon split.

These are all reasons, though, why Dobnak could become a full-fledged secret weapon with a move to relief. If he could be deployed against a predominantly right-handed segment of an opposing batting order, he’d be in a position to succeed. If he were brought in with runners on base, he would be in prime position to get a ground ball and get the team out of the inning, with minimal risk that he would instead yield a game-breaking home run. He also has the durability of a fully stretched-out starter, and the tenacity that made Tyler Duffey such a good candidate for the transition from starting to relieving, temperamentally. He needn’t be in the playoff rotation to give the Twins a significant number of innings, and by shuttling him to the bullpen, the team could better take advantage of his greatest strengths while shielding themselves from his biggest vulnerabilities.

There’s one more thing that makes Dobnak an especially good fit for the Twins’ bullpen: He’s very different from most of the other pitchers on the staff, stylistically. A 2013 study centered on R.A. Dickey showed that both relievers entering the game after the notable knuckleballer and pitchers who started the next day benefited from simply following Dickey. Hitters couldn’t switch gears, mentally or physiologically, well enough to give their best at-bat against an orthodox, hard-throwing reliever after seeing Dickey for several innings. Since then, broader research has affirmed that the principle applies beyond purveyors of the butterfly ball. There’s a small but tangible benefit to giving a hitter a very different look than they’ve had in the game up to that point.

All the things listed above, from the movement on his sinker to his mechanical signature, make Dobnak just that kind of change for opposing batters. Among Twins starters, his pitch profile most resembles that of Michael Pineda, but Pineda releases the ball about a foot and a half higher than Dobnak and uses a four-seam fastball. Dobnak is a fair physical comp for José Berríos, but their pitch mixes and approaches are wildly different. Rich Hill is a southpaw famous for his verticality, with a riding fastball and whip of a curve. Kenta Maeda uses a very different arm slot than Dobnak, and attacks the zone very differently. Nor are relievers Trevor May, Taylor Rogers, or Duffey anything like Dobnak.

Even in this bizarre October, devoid of the usual days off and demanding a bit more careful management of the pitching staff than in years past, a pitcher who can so consistently induce ground balls; go multiple innings when needed; and force opposing hitters to adjust to a radical change in styles is hugely valuable. Dobnak doesn’t miss enough bats to keep starting, especially against good offenses, which is what the Twins will see. That doesn’t mean he can’t help them make a deep and successful playoff run.

MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
— Latest Twins coverage from our writers
— Recent Twins discussion in our forums
— Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email

  • mikelink45 likes this

  • Share:
  • submit to reddit
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

9 Comments

Starting pitchers seem to even go fewer innings in the playoffs.Multi inning relievers will be very valuable. I think Wisler and Stashak will be candidates also. Wisler did not throw well today but he has been good for the most part. 

Luv the idea of having Dobber in the pen. Heck, may turn out to be the best spot for him in the future.

 

Got a question, Matt. Is Wisler next year's bullpen version of Romo and they don't try to resign Romo?

 

 

Photo
FritzDahmus
Sep 18 2020 08:18 AM

This game is getting un-watchable! If the starter isn't in the middle of throwing a no-hitter....he is yanked at the first sign of trouble [or the 5th inning, whichever comes first].

 

Then the next 7 relievers that enter the game each throw no more than 15 pitches -- or they are pulled after their 3 guys get on base...or they close out an inning.

 

I still don't see the fascination with our bullpen and the way it is used. Basically, if you are perfect, you get to throw 15 pitches for one inning only. Repeat for at least 4 times [because the starter was pulled in the 5th].

 

The batters - strike me out....or I'll hit a homer off you. Good plan.

 

Buxton's game is a throwback...and fun to watch. But, why the hell did he try home with one out?? 1st and 3rd with one out....used to be good!!!

 

If Donaldson and Cruz think the umps in Chicago are against the Twins.....wait until they play the Yankees [bubble or not]. Calm down Twins and play with your heads on straight. Oh and Kepler.....learn out to throw.....and Rocko - get him out of the lead-off spot. He is still hurting...or something.

Photo
yeahyabetcha
Sep 18 2020 11:33 AM
If Dobnak makes the postseason roster, than who doesn’t?? Alcala? I would rather have Alcala.
    • dex8425 likes this

 

If Dobnak makes the postseason roster, than who doesn’t?? Alcala? I would rather have Alcala.

Postseason rosters this year are 28, just like now, so they have more spots to play with.

 

I don't think they will carry 3 catchers, so they could swap out Astudillo for someone else.

 

Wade probably won't make it either, so that's another flex spot.

 

If Arraez comes back and is healthy, they could swap him for Adrianza?

 

And obviously if Odorizzi or anyone else goes on the IL, that could open a spot too.

    • yeahyabetcha likes this

 

Postseason rosters this year are 28, just like now, so they have more spots to play with.

 

I don't think they will carry 3 catchers, so they could swap out Astudillo for someone else.

 

Wade probably won't make it either, so that's another flex spot.

 

If Arraez comes back and is healthy, they could swap him for Adrianza?

 

And obviously if Odorizzi or anyone else goes on the IL, that could open a spot too.

In normal years they'd drop 1-2 pitchers for pinch-hitters or defensive specialists.

 

But without off days, I'd guess they go with more arms.

 

Can they reset the roster each round of 2020 playoffs?

 

But without off days, I'd guess they go with more arms.

I agree. The proposed 13/14 pitcher roster limit was suspended for 2020 too, so teams could really go wild with pitchers on their 28 man postseason rosters!

 

Can they reset the roster each round of 2020 playoffs?

Yes, I assume that rule hasn't changed.

    • DocBauer and Shaitan like this
I absolutely think Dobnak could be a great fit for the pen as a middle/long man. And I don't know you would possibly exclude him. With 8 games to play and some question about Odorizzi, he could still be your 5th SP, were one needed. Biggest issue I see...beyond trusting Hill and Odorizzi being healthy...is the pen in general. If Spycake is correct and we could have 14 RP, I still count 15 candidates, even while leaving Littell and Poppen off. Unless someone gets hurt, someone worth keeping and deserving is going to be left off the roster.
Photo
Doctor Gast
Sep 19 2020 10:26 AM

IMO Dobnak deserves to be on the PS roster