Taylor Rogers Shouldn’t Be THE Twins Closer
Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY SportsTyler Duffey had an unbelievable season in 2019 that often goes unnoticed outside of the Twins fandom because of his usage. That should change in the future. A 2.50 ERA was no accident with a 3.06 FIP and 2.94 xFIP. His K% nearly doubled to 34.4%. He took no prisoners, left-handed or right-handed, as he allowed a .588 and .601 OPS respectively. By all accounts, the numbers Duffey put up would be devastating in any role.
That being said, I think it’s fair to say that Taylor Rogers is still the best pitcher in this bullpen. One benefit of the analytics developing in baseball however is recognizing that the end of the game isn’t always the highest leverage role. In a close game, it may make more sense to use your best pitcher against the top of the lineup in the seventh or eighth. We saw that thought process early in 2019 with Blake Parker picking up saves until it was proven he couldn’t do it anymore. Rogers was the Josh Hader-esque fireman, and both he and the Twins thrived when another pitcher could be relied on to close out the game depending on how the game played out.
Taylor Rogers’ only struggles in 2019 appeared to surface when pitching in consecutive games, where he owned an ERA over 7. While we occasionally saw a save from another member of the bullpen, it was typically Rogers being relied upon in every save situation. Moving him into a more fluid role may allow him to avoid pitching in consecutive games as often, as he doesn’t have to be automatically given the ball in a 3-run game and risk suffering the consequences if he’s needed in a close game the following night.
Furthermore, Rogers being left-handed makes him somewhat non-traditional for being a closer. One of the main missing pieces on the roster headed into last winter was a left-handed reliever, as Rogers was expected to be saved for the end of the game. It’s a minor factor, but one that can be solved by not locking Rogers into the ninth inning. If Shohei Ohtani leads off the eighth inning of a 3-2 game, leave nothing to chance.
Is this a statement of Duffey passing Rogers on the bullpen totem pole? Should Rogers be “demoted”? In both cases, the answer is no. Many are still skeptical of Duffey’s 2019 despite his numbers looking legit. I think he made measurable changes by tweaking his fastball and throwing his curveball more and these changes should make him effective even if he regresses a bit. That being said, whether it’s the 7th-9th inning, who would you rather have on the mound against the best hitters in the opponent's lineup in a close game? If your answer is Rogers, you should be rooting for the Twins analytics team to look for a more fluid role for the Twins lefty.
Baseball analysis continues to advance and the traditional closer role may soon be left behind. Tyler Duffey and the rest of the bullpen give us an opportunity to fully buy in and create the matchups we want day in and day out. Taylor Rogers can still be a closer, he just shouldn’t be THE closer.
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