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Turning Trevor May Into Andrew Miller

Bullpen usage is one of the most scrutinized parts of a managers job. This scrutiny is only heightened in the stress of the playoffs. With pitchers like Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, and Aroldis Chapman being used for multiple innings, a new era for bullpens has been thrust on the baseball world.
Image courtesy of Photo Credit: Patrick Gorski, USA Today Sports
One of the most important pieces to Cleveland's playoff run was relief pitcher Andrew Miller, the ALCS MVP. He was once a starting pitching prospect before finding his home as a bullpen arm. Now he might be one of the most valuable assets in baseball.

Miller was the sixth overall pick by the Detroit Tigers in 2006. He debuted with the club later that same season after making only three minor league appearances. His stay in Detroit was short as he was one of the key prospects sent to the Marlins for Miguel Cabrera. He bounced around to the Red Sox and Orioles organizations before finding himself in Yankee pinstripes.

After arriving in the Big Apple, he posted a 1.90 ERA with 100 strikeouts in 61.2 IP during the 2015 season,. Opponents hit .151/.237/.239 against him. It was hard to build off that season but the 2016 campaign was even better. He lowered his ERA to 1.45 and increased his SO/9 from 14.6 to 14.9.

As Miller was dominating the American League, Minnesota's bullpen compiled the league's worst ERA while providing a -2.66 win probability added. Ryan Pressly pitched the most relief innings while Brandon Kintzler had the most saves. Trevor May (12.66 K/9) and Michael Tonkin (10.05 K/9) both posted K/9 totals over 10.0. These small positive signs were overshadowed by a major injury to Glen Perkins and ineffective play from Kevin Jepsen.

May is an interesting figure in the Twins bullpen. Expectations were high for him heading into last year. He underwhelmed to the tune of a 5.27 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP. Under the previous front office, there was talk of turning May back into a starter but another year in the bullpen could give him the chance to adjust to being a full-time reliever.

Miller's first full season as a reliever came in 2012, his age-27 season. May turned 27 in September and is just coming off his first year without making a start. One of May's biggest issues has always been his command. He walked 17 batters in 42.2 innings pitched (3.6 BB/9). Miller walks almost no one as he issued nine walks in 32 more innings than May.

Besides the control issues, May would need to continue to miss bats. Miller strikes out batters at a higher rate than May and he makes it tough for batters to reach base. The Twins are clearly in rebuilding mode so May won't likely be recording any big outs in the playoffs anytime soon. This type of environment can allow bullpen arms to develop as they start to figure out their craft in an environment with less pressure.

Can May be the next Miller? It's a lofty goal and 2017 will be a critical for whatever future role May will fill. What kind of role do you think May should fill? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.


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37 Comments

I have a few issues.

Our rotation is terrible and that makes us a long ways from being one key reliever away.

The other is that he hasn't been very good out there and wasn't given a chance as a starter. Especially since his frame and four pitches typically bodes well as a starter.
    • Dantes929, 70charger, TheLeviathan and 1 other like this

Holy crap this is gonna be a real challenge for Trevor May. Trying to become a lefty now? Can this club ask for more out of him than that?>

    • Thrylos, nicksaviking, enge0280 and 4 others like this
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KirbyDome89
Nov 22 2016 12:20 AM

This ^^^^^

 

The comparison starts and ends at the fact they both became full time relievers at age 27. All May needs to do is start throwing left handed, develop the nastiest slider in the game, show elite control, and bump is K rate. Seems pretty unlikely....

 

Hopefully he gets an actual shot at the rotation this year.

    • hybridbear likes this
Today's article was about showing patience with young pitchers. If the team is serious, put him out there as a long reliever and see if he can work his way into a starter or set-up man. KirbyDome89 is right, May is a long way from being dominant.
He was dominant in 2015.

Leave him in the pen.

 

He was dominant in 2015.

Leave him in the pen.

If May was dominant in 2015...then Gibson was Cy Young level that same year.Not sure how all of the conversation regarding May is warranted.He has a better chance of being sent to AAA than turning into a "solid" #3 starter.I would love to have him turn into a solid #3 or #4....but the track record (so far) says probably not.

I like the idea.  We fantasize over May as a starter, but in fact his record there is not sterling.  We love  him as a reliever, but he has a sequence of blow ups that make us shake our heads.  I think the team needs to take some of the blame.  Tell him what he is going to be and stick with it.  If it is the new two inning reliever then stick with that plan.   

    • brvama, Kwak and KGB like this
I read that Ryan Pressly's slider has a spin rate that is the 2nd best spin rate of any slider in baseball, to Andrew Miller. He certainly didn't throw it as often as Miller did. If he throws his slider more, he should be more difficult to hit. And hopefully May is given every chance to turn into a #3 starter.

The Twins are going to try and use him as a starter in 2017.  What more needs to be said?  He is not the next Andrew Miller.

    • enge0280 likes this
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diehardtwinsfan
Nov 22 2016 07:11 AM

The real question is whether some team decides to ditch starters altogether and go with a 12 man pen, with each reliever expecting to pick up a couple innings a pop.If the roster sizes increase, I wouldn't be shocked if someone tried that at some point...

 

 

Now that said, May is a starter. That's where he belongs. He shouldn't have been demoted.

    • Mike Sixel, nicksaviking, rghrbek and 1 other like this
Pitching out of the pen also seemed to be the cause of his increased injury rate. The Twins need starters badly; try him there first.
    • Dantes929, enge0280, HitInAPinch and 1 other like this
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Rhubarb_Runner
Nov 22 2016 07:26 AM

With pitchers like Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, and Aroldis Chapman being used for multiple innings, a new era for bullpens has been thrust on the baseball world.

 

Don't you mean an old era is being rediscovered by the baseball world?

    • mickeymental, PDX Twin, IndyTwinsFan and 1 other like this

 

 

The Super Reliever has now been created. Smart Managers and General Managers had to take note. 

 

I'm glad Falvey was a part of it. Makes me think that the Twins could modernize a bit. 

 

Is May that guy?

 

Could Be... but he has to pitch much much better first. 

I think the concept is great. Surprised it took so long.
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TheLeviathan
Nov 22 2016 07:58 AM

May has consistently said he struggles with the prep of being a reliever and has experienced multiple injuries since the move.

 

For the love of god let the kid try and be a starter.  I can't believe we're sitting here debating this when the only reason he got moved out of the rotation was the team deferring to Mike freaking Pelfrey.

 

Using him out of the bullpen has led to injuries, ineffectiveness, and stripped us of a desperately needed, competent starter.  We already fixed the Plouffe mistake a year late, let's fix the May one too.

    • Kevin, nicksaviking, h2oface and 3 others like this

I also am concerned with the back issues May has.For that reason, I believe he has to be a starter and only if that fails should he be moved back to the pen.

    • Loosey and HitInAPinch like this
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Homer Hanky
Nov 22 2016 08:09 AM

Love for him to be the Closer and have Perkins be the Lefty specialist.... 

 

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Willihammer
Nov 22 2016 08:12 AM

There are good points on both sides IMO. There are also good counters to each. How's this for a hot take: trade Trevor May. If he is questionable as a starter (and I think he is) and can't stay healthy in the pen, then how much good is that guy really?

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diehardtwinsfan
Nov 22 2016 08:20 AM

At his demotion, he led the starters in WAR... and that was after starting poorly said season. He can certainly profile to be something more than a back end starter.Whether he makes it there, who knows, but you have to give him time to prove he can.

    • nicksaviking, brvama, Dantes929 and 3 others like this
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HitInAPinch
Nov 22 2016 08:23 AM

 

Pitching out of the pen also seemed to be the cause of his increased injury rate. The Twins need starters badly; try him there first.

 

 

May has consistently said he struggles with the prep of being a reliever and has experienced multiple injuries since the move.

 

For the love of god let the kid try and be a starter.  I can't believe we're sitting here debating this when the only reason he got moved out of the rotation was the team deferring to Mike freaking Pelfrey.

 

Using him out of the bullpen has led to injuries, ineffectiveness, and stripped us of a desperately needed, competent starter.  We already fixed the Plouffe mistake a year late, let's fix the May one too.

I'll add to this small chorus:

 

http://www.twincitie...ing-whats-next/

 

"Among the things they discussed was how May has been able to keep his back in line with extra recovery time between outings. This spring, for instance, May’s back was no issue as he built up his pitch count in an abortive attempt at winning the final spot in the starting rotation. "

 

IMHO:May's back issues have been around for a while.Starting Rotation is the only roll he can play on a consistent basis.And even then, he may have to skip a start. 

What I think we just don't know for sure is whether the back issues were directly caused by his being in the pen. He was effective there in 2015. But he was also showing signs of turning in to a solid SP that year before the bullpen move.

For a team so much in need for starters, and so many interesting bullpen arms close to contributing, how can you not let May do what he has always done before and start?

He was a quality SP in the minors, which us why he was acquired in the first place. His BB went down in '15 and a partial season in the rotation isn't enough to make any final judgments.
    • brvama, Dantes929, rghrbek and 1 other like this

 

At his demotion, he led the starters in WAR... and that was after starting poorly said season. He can certainly profile to be something more than a back end starter.Whether he makes it there, who knows, but you have to give him time to prove he can.

This. He had an excellent minor league season in 2014 as a starter and conquered his control issues that he had in the past.  You can write off his major league debut to nerves.  As noted above he got off to a slow start in 2015 but then had 6 quality starts in his last 9 before being moved to the pen. He was arguably the best Twins starter at the time.  His command, his variety of stuff and his health all scream rotation.  I know it is cherry picking but his stats as a starter are skewed by his bad showing in 2014 and a slow start in 2015. He went from a 5.4 ERA in May to a 4.3 ERA at the end of June. IMO, he had settled in nicely and while I understood why they did it at the time I didn't like it. Still don't. We have other arms coming up that profile for the pen better anyway.

    • DocBauer likes this

 

I'll add to this small chorus:

 

http://www.twincitie...ing-whats-next/

 

"Among the things they discussed was how May has been able to keep his back in line with extra recovery time between outings. This spring, for instance, May’s back was no issue as he built up his pitch count in an abortive attempt at winning the final spot in the starting rotation. "

 

IMHO:May's back issues have been around for a while.Starting Rotation is the only roll he can play on a consistent basis.And even then, he may have to skip a start. 

Except they've hopefully given a correct diagnosis this time after essentially not treating his injury until August or September last year. In other words, it might not have been BP duty, it may have just been that he was never healed in the first place.

I'll believe the multiple innings theory when I see it in practice. I think it's more of a postseason strategy and playoff run than something teams will do April-July.

    • USAFChief, nicksaviking, brvama and 2 others like this

 

This. He had an excellent minor league season in 2014 as a starter and conquered his control issues that he had in the past.  You can write off his major league debut to nerves.  As noted above he got off to a slow start in 2015 but then had 6 quality starts in his last 9 before being moved to the pen. He was arguably the best Twins starter at the time.  His command, his variety of stuff and his health all scream rotation.  I know it is cherry picking but his stats as a starter are skewed by his bad showing in 2014 and a slow start in 2015. He went from a 5.4 ERA in May to a 4.3 ERA at the end of June. IMO, he had settled in nicely and while I understood why they did it at the time I didn't like it. Still don't. We have other arms coming up that profile for the pen better anyway.

 

Exactly.  Couldn't agree more.  This is why swapping Duffey and May makes sense.  For all intensive purposes Tyler is a two pitch pitcher (fastball and curve).  Once he goes through the order initially he really struggles getting guys out.  Pitch tracker illustrates it quite well.  He has two VERY distinct Zones in which he he throws.  Its basically the curve or the fastball zones.  Easy to predict for a hitter with a decent eye. 

 

While 2015 was a good debut for him, opposing teams & hitters caught on to his repertoire fairly quickly and realized that the down and away curve is his out pitch and the middle to inside 4 seam and 2 seam fastballs are very hittable.  

 

He does occasionally throw a change up but only like 2% of his totals.  Until he develops the changeup and throws it without tipping off hitters he's a reliever in my opinion.  

 

Now that stubborn Terry is gone, why not swap May and Tyler to start 2017.  If May can't handle it after an extended shot at the rotation (say mid season) then you can always go back to Tyler or Mejia.  Hopefully Gonsalves will be available later in the season as well.  This all assuming that Derek Falvey and Thad Levine makes no acquisitions.  

    • DocBauer and rghrbek like this

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