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Effects of the shift

Other Baseball Today, 12:14 AM
This was a discussion about the effects of defensive shifts in baseball, split from today's game thread. Feel free to join in below!...
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GAME THREAD: Twins @ Angels, 4/16/21, 8:38 PM CDT

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 11:38 PM
It’s always thrilling when your team snatches victory from the jaws of victory, as the Twins did yesterday afternoon at Target Field agai...
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Ex Twins in 2021: Where Are They Now?

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 10:47 PM
One of my favorite annual threads on the site. Let’s stay updated on ex-Twins in the news... This is a start of a list, and feel free to...
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A rant

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 08:44 PM
I've been on about this for two years now, but Baldelli really needs to get over the idea that his best players need a game off every wee...
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Twins Minor League Report: Follow the Affiliates

Twins Minor League Talk Yesterday, 09:20 PM
There were a lot of changes to minor league baseball this offseason, and there were changes with all four Twins minor league affiliates....
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Twins Blogosphere


Twins Rotation Depth Could be Tested Early

J.A. Happ is thankfully OK after recovering from COVID-19. His delay to join Spring Training could cause the Twins to have to test their starting pitching depth early in 2021.
Image courtesy of © Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
J.A. Happ has finally made it to Spring Training with the Minnesota Twins. After being delayed by 2 weeks due to testing positive for COVID-19. With Happ now in camp, it appears the team is ready to take a cautious approach to be sure not to rush him into Opening Day. Such an approach will certainly begin to test the Twins depth of starting pitchers early.

Dan Hayes has written about pitching coach Wes Johnson's confidence in Happ’s ability to be ready for the start of the season because of his experience. There is no doubt that Happ knows how to prepare for a season and was able to work out on his own at home while he awaited the OK to step out of quarantine.

On the other hand, we know that workouts at home are nothing like workouts at the team facilities. Not to mention workouts in front of the eyes of your new pitching coach. While Happ’s experience is a positive, that experience comes with the need to ready a 38-year-old body for a full season of baseball. Any of us who have felt our bodies age know that sometimes our muscles and joints should do one thing, but all of sudden one day they do the unimaginable.

It seems the Twins leadership is already thinking through the reality that it may take Happ a bit longer than what remains of Spring Training to be at full strength for the 2021 regular season. To help Happ properly increase his workload into the regular season, some form of a 6-man rotation being used is at least on the table as an option.

With Randy Dobnak as the 6th starter it would be very possible to run a traditional 6-man rotation with 6-days and 6 different starters. That would help add more rest and space out innings for all the Twins starters in the initial return to a full season. A season that has many wondering how pitcher’s arms will respond after 2020’s 60-game season.

Piggybacking Dobnak with Happ may end up being a more effective option. It may ultimately give more rest to the bullpen as well. There is even an analytic advantage potentially to this set up as Happ is one of many pitchers who experiences a significant drop off in performance after his second time through the lineup. In 2019, Happ went from a OPS against of .781 the first two times through the order to .841 the third.

Now the team has not seemed willing to use the piggybacking approach normally with other pitchers that had some similar time through the order tendencies such as Jake Odorizzi and Rich Hill. The last time they did use this method was in a similar sort of “health” related situation when Michael Pineda was making his way back from injury in 2019 and was paired with Martin Perez.

Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe would both be able to handle a piggyback role. The only issue with the two of them is they are also left-handers. Usually in this approach you want to give a different look as the second pitcher enters the game making Dobnak much or likely, but it would seem foolish to fully overlook Smeltzer and Thorpe. Especially if Thorpe reaches any of the potential that we hope for.

While Dobnak from a starting experience and handedness perspective is the most obvious piggyback option, there is still some reason for concern for the right-hander. The last we saw of Dobnak wasn’t great and if he is going to run into trouble it is early in his starts. Over his career he carries a .716 OPS the first time through the order compared to .549 the second. There is of course a chance that knowing this is his role it will change his approach and outcome.

The positive is that (barring injury) a 6-man rotation will be a temporary reality. We will potentially get an answer to the question of whether or not the Twins did add enough (or the right) starting pitching depth this offseason.

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6 Comments

How about a five man rotation with an alternating Happ and Dobnak for the first two rounds.Then we can settle in to whatever the team decides.In fact if the articles in TD are accurate it might be Thorpe and Happ. 

    • DocBauer, rdehring and Aichiman like this
Heard about the opening schedule in April and glanced at it just now. It's very different than what we've seen before. The Twins play the Brewers on April first, have an off day, then play 6 straight games. After a 2nd consecutive Friday off, they then play 13 consecutive days. And there is where there could be an issue.

But with 3 1/2 weeks left in ST, the couple early days off to stagger the rotation slightly, I'd like to believe the rotation could function normally during that crazy 13 game stretch. In fact, were Happ to be the "5th" rotation option he could throw on the side and pitch with a full 5 days rest between his 1st 2 starts. So unless there is some injury or setback, I think the rotation could be managed those first few weeks without having to go to a 6 man rotation.

Things seem to normalize after that and I really dislike going with a 14 man staff and shorten the bench. (You might refer to my post about a larger roster post and comment if you haven't already). Considering how well the Twins adapted in 2020 with injuries I'd like to think they can stagger things well enough during the first 3 weeks with their chosen rotation and an 8 man pen that we would be OK.
    • glunn and rdehring like this
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Doctor Gast
Mar 09 2021 06:01 AM
I'm very pleased with the rotation. Dobnak, Thorpe and even Smeltzer, Baldelli was impressed with. So we can handle Happ's setback
    • glunn likes this
Maybe this is the break that Thorpe needed to make the rotation and show some consistency. When Happ comes back, slide Shoemaker into a long RP roll as he is best under 4 IPs
    • glunn likes this
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Doctor Gast
Mar 09 2021 10:03 AM
I think throughout the year our young pitchers will get in a lot of innings. Due to getting used to a longer season plus almost all our starters aren't work horses.
    • DocBauer likes this

How does having a 6 man rotation help Happ get ready?It makes little sense to me.So he pitches every 6th day, but that does not get him ready any faster.Not sure if they can have him start at alternate site getting pitches in to stretch out.If not, then stick with 5 man and be ready for a long pen game when he pitches first time or two.I mean if he can only throw 50 to 60 pitches his first time out, how does having a 6th starter help?  

    • mikelink45 likes this