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Trevor Hildenberger’s Journey Back

Trevor Hildenberger season hasn’t gone according to plan as he was supposed to be an important part of Minnesota’s bullpen puzzle. However, he struggled through 19 games and was sent to the minor leagues to get healthy and to find himself again. “Hildy” wasn’t part of the first wave of September call-ups, but he rejoined the Twins following the end of Rochester’s season.

So, what version of Hildenberger will be putting on a Twins uniform? Can he help this team in September and beyond?
Image courtesy of © Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Reliability Machine
During parts of the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Hildenberger was one of Minnesota’s most reliable relievers. Paul Molitor relied on him heavily during the team’s run to the 2017 AL Wild Card Game. He didn’t debut until the end of June and he went on to post a 3.21 ERA with a 1.05 WHIP including eight games finished and a save. He seemed like he could be a vital part of a Twins team looking to rebound after multiple rough seasons in a row.

Hildenberger continued to be reliable to start the 2018 campaign as he compiled a 3.33 ERA with a 1.13 ERA in the first half. His month of May was terrific as he limited opponents to three earned runs in 14 innings (1.93 ERA) with 12 strikeouts and two walks. He was continuing to be used in late inning situations while racking up holds on a team trying to get back to the playoffs.

From there, something changed with Mr. Hildenberger.

Reliable No More
There were some bumps in the road during the second half including a four-game stretch during the beginning of August where he allowed nine earned runs. Overall in the second half, he allowed 27 earned runs across 27 innings with a 1.82 WHIP. There were blown leads and blown saves, but Molitor continued to use Hildenberger in late inning situations.

Even with the late-season struggles, Hildenberger was expected to be a bullpen option under new manager Rocco Baldelli. He struggled through the early months of the season as he posted an 8.36 ERA across 19 games (14 innings). Eventually, he ended up being demoted and then spent a couple months on the IL with a flexor mass strain. The injury might have been the result of working through some mechanical changes.

For a pitcher trying to get back to the big leagues, his injury might have been a blessing in disguise.

Journey Back
Hildenberger worked with Rochester’s pitching coach Mike McCarthy to tweak his delivery, because he was flying open too early and the results, as described above, were not great. With his unique side-armed delivery, Hildenberger provides two versions of himself, a very good pitcher with control and deception or a pitcher struggling with command and location.

To return to his role as a very good pitcher, his journey back started in the GCL with a couple appearances against lower level competition as he tried to get a feel back for his pitches. He pitched four innings over three games and allowed one earned run on four hits. From there, he headed back to Rochester where he started to look more like the player he was in 2017.

Since coming off the injured list on August 20, albeit in a small sample size, he didn’t allow any runs and he pitched more than one inning in five of six appearances. He added six strikeouts and issued only one walk. Hildenberger earned a save, a win, and pitched in the late innings of all, but one of his appearances.

Manager Rocco Baldelli told the Pioneer Press, Hildenberger has “been a good major league reliever in the past. It’s in there and we know it’s in there. We just have to find a way to bring it out.”

Minnesota might find a way to bring it out of Hildenberger in September and this could make him a potential wild card for Minnesota’s postseason bullpen.

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9 Comments

I'm sorry, but Hildenberger shouldn't even be in the consideration for a postseason bullpen spot. He looked awful before he was sent down to AAA and he looked awful in his 1 appearance since getting the September callup. Twins, please move on from him. 

    • Thrylos likes this
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yarnivek1972
Sep 10 2019 03:33 AM

I'm sorry, but Hildenberger shouldn't even be in the consideration for a postseason bullpen spot. He looked awful before he was sent down to AAA and he looked awful in his 1 appearance since getting the September callup. Twins, please move on from him.


Yet many were prepared to give a spot to Graterol before he threw his first MLB pitch.

Maybe see how it plays out before making snap decisions.
    • jorgenswest, DocBauer, theBOMisthebomb and 1 other like this
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MMMordabito
Sep 10 2019 07:39 AM

There aren't enough games - let alone likely situations - to decide if Hildenberger is going to be a good option in a playoff game.Rogers, Romo, Dyson, Duffey, May and Littell all have to be ahead of him.I'd also argue that Thorpe and Smeltzer's leftiness puts them well ahead of him as well.

 

I agree with both posters above.He shouldn't be in consideration for a 2019 postseason bullpen spot.We should let it play out .... in 2020.Hopefully, he has at least one option left.  

 

I hope he proves me wrong, but I'm betting against him until I lose a few times.

    • MNT1996 likes this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Sep 10 2019 07:50 AM

Is he eligible for the 2019 postseason?

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yarnivek1972
Sep 10 2019 12:49 PM

There aren't enough games - let alone likely situations - to decide if Hildenberger is going to be a good option in a playoff game. Rogers, Romo, Dyson, Duffey, May and Littell all have to be ahead of him. I'd also argue that Thorpe and Smeltzer's leftiness puts them well ahead of him as well.

I agree with both posters above. He shouldn't be in consideration for a 2019 postseason bullpen spot. We should let it play out .... in 2020. Hopefully, he has at least one option left.

I hope he proves me wrong, but I'm betting against him until I lose a few times.

Until Dyson actually pitches again, I’d say Hildenberger is ahead of him. Neither Smeltzer or Thorpe are particularly effective vs LHB. Either at the MLB or milb levels. It should also be noted that it is entirely possible that one (or both) may be needed to START a playoff game. There is no timetable for Gibson and Berrios is a mess.

Also, without Pineda I think the Twins are going to have to carry 12 pitchers. They literally can count on more than 3 effective innings from Odorizzi against playoff caliber teams and that’s it right now.

 

Until Dyson actually pitches again, I’d say Hildenberger is ahead of him. Neither Smeltzer or Thorpe are particularly effective vs LHB. Either at the MLB or milb levels. It should also be noted that it is entirely possible that one (or both) may be needed to START a playoff game. There is no timetable for Gibson and Berrios is a mess.

Also, without Pineda I think the Twins are going to have to carry 12 pitchers. They literally can count on more than 3 effective innings from Odorizzi against playoff caliber teams and that’s it right now.

 

I'm surprised there are so many people that are pro-Hildenberger here. What exactly have you seen from him recently that is promising? Look at his 2019 pre-AAA numbers, his 2019 AAA numbers, and his 1 outing in September. None of that has shown promise. He may have done ok at the beginning of the season, but even his numbers last year were average/below average. Last year had a 1.38 WHIP and a 5.42 ERA. I don't see any value in this guy. 

 

I'm sure there's going to be an argument that he was effective for the first month, but also look who the Twins were playing when they used him. KC, Detroit, Toronto, Baltimore. Hardly formidable lineups. As soon as the Twins used him against Houston and NY he gave up 2 ER in each of those appearances. Then he even allowed multiple runs against Detroit and the Angels in the middle of May. 

    • Thrylos likes this
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MMMordabito
Sep 10 2019 01:19 PM

 

I'm surprised there are so many people that are pro-Hildenberger here. What exactly have you seen from him recently that is promising? Look at his 2019 pre-AAA numbers, his 2019 AAA numbers, and his 1 outing in September. None of that has shown promise. He may have done ok at the beginning of the season, but even his numbers last year were average/below average. Last year had a 1.38 WHIP and a 5.42 ERA. I don't see any value in this guy. 

 

It's all hope based on his contribution to the 2017 playoff team and early domination in 2018 when there wasn't much book out on him.I guess he could adjust and become a master locator, but with his stuff, the command has to be impeccable.  

 

Otherwise, maybe some of his supporters went out and bought his jersey in 2017 hoping he was the closer in waiting.Maybe they'd like to don that jersey sans mockery.

 

 

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yarnivek1972
Sep 10 2019 01:39 PM

I'm surprised there are so many people that are pro-Hildenberger here. What exactly have you seen from him recently that is promising? Look at his 2019 pre-AAA numbers, his 2019 AAA numbers, and his 1 outing in September. None of that has shown promise. He may have done ok at the beginning of the season, but even his numbers last year were average/below average. Last year had a 1.38 WHIP and a 5.42 ERA. I don't see any value in this guy.

I'm sure there's going to be an argument that he was effective for the first month, but also look who the Twins were playing when they used him. KC, Detroit, Toronto, Baltimore. Hardly formidable lineups. As soon as the Twins used him against Houston and NY he gave up 2 ER in each of those appearances. Then he even allowed multiple runs against Detroit and the Angels in the middle of May.


All I’m saying is that the decision doesn’t need to be made today and it is foolish to attempt to do so given all the unknowns of the pitching staff right now.

Is this a joke?

 

Hildenberger was the worst reliever in the majors last season as far as WPA goes, and has a career 5.01 ERA in 130 MLB games over 3 seasons.This is Jim Hoey (career 5.47 ERA with the Twins) and Lester Oliveros (career 5.06 ERA with the Twins) territory.

 

No milk to spill.


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