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Tyler Jay and Baseball's Evolving Bullpen

Twins fans were recently hit with the news that former first round pick Tyler Jay will be moved to the bullpen. This is disappointing news for many as the team used a high draft pick on a player they hoped could be become a strong starting pitcher.

Even with Jay shifting away from starting pitching, there might be a small ray of light at the end of the tunnel. Baseball's use of relief pitchers has begun to shift in recent years. During last year's postseason fans saw the importance of dominant relief pitchers like Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman.
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily (Photo of Tyler Jay)
At the end of January, I wrote about the disappearance of the 200 inning starting pitcher. Managers have pulled starters earlier in games to use team's reliable bullpen arms. Batters are forced to adjust to a new pitcher with a different pitching repertoire. This can be one of the reasons for scoring decreasing across baseball.

Trevor May was a player I hoped could become the Twins version of Andrew Miller. May and Miller both began their careers as starters before being shifted to the bullpen. Unfortunately, May underwent Tommy John surgery last week and he will miss all of the 2017 campaign. This was devastating news for a young player still looking to establish himself.

With May out for the season, Jay has the potential to fill an even more important role in the organiztion. Miller and Jay have many things in common. Both pitchers attended college, throw left-handed, and were selected with the sixth pick in the draft. Miller, like Jay, is more comfortable in a relief pitcher role. The move also means Jay could make his way to Minnesota as soon as this summer.

Jay's "more comfortable in the pen, his stuff plays up and it could put him on the fast track," said Brice Zimmerman, the former radio voice of the Fort Myers Miracle.

Perhaps Minnesota's new baseball operations will utilize a more progressive approach to bullpen usage in the years to come. FanGraphs explains one part of the shift like this:

"During the course of a game, some situations are more tense and suspenseful than others. For instance, we know that a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning is more suspenseful than a one-run lead in the top of the third inning. Batting with two runners on and two outs in the eighth inning is filled with more pressure than batting in the same situation in the second inning. Leverage Index (LI) is merely an attempt to quantify this pressure so we can determine if a player has been used primarily in high-leverage or low-leverage situations."

A team's best pitcher is usually their closer but some teams and managers only use their closer in the ninth inning. What good does it do to leave your best relief arm in the bullpen? (Ask Orioles fans about Zach Britton use in last year's AL Wild Card game) If the opposition has the heart of their line-up coming up in the eighth inning of a one-run game, it makes sense to have your best pitching option on the mound to face their best hitters.

Tyler Jay has the ability and skills to be a high-leverage pitcher. Fans can expect to see his fastball move back up into the mid-90s and his slider could end up being a devastating pitch. He ceiling could be very similar to what fans saw with Glen Perkins during his All-Star seasons.

No one knows if he will be the next Andrew Miller but baseball is changing. Bullpens are evolving and Tyler Jay can still end up being one of the most important pieces of Minnesota's march back to respectability.

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58 Comments

Miller and Chapman are a couple of the most talented pitchers in the game. They are both physical specimens (Miller 6'7", Chapman 6'4", both 215-220). Both can hit triple digits (debatable on Miller, maybe absolutely topping out, but he can get high 90s).

Comparing a 6'1", 190 lb (soaking) guy who hopes to "play up" to the mid 90s in the pen, because he's a lefty drafted in the top 10, to arguably the two best fireballing relievers in the world right now, is a stretch at its absolute finest.
    • clutterheart, Riverbrian, Oxtung and 6 others like this

"During last year's postseason fans saw the importance of dominant relief pitchers like Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman."

 

This was on teams with actual starting pitching. The current Twins do not have anywhere near playoff starting pitching.

 

There is a reason that the Yankees traded the relief assets they did last year for young talent....they did not have the starting pitching to win that year, therefore making the elite relief superfluous(and they could just sign them back if they wanted :)

 

Again....Jay to the bullpen may indeed allow the twins to get the most out of him.

 

But the pick at #6 for a relief pitcher will remain a disappointment no matter how many times we spin in circles.

 

(And I dost think that we are getting a wee bit ahead of ourselves to think that transitioning Jay to the pen automatically equates to a top 5 MLB reliever.

    • Mike Sixel, Oxtung, mikelink45 and 3 others like this
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Old Twins Cap
Mar 27 2017 09:26 PM

 

 

But the pick at #6 for a relief pitcher will remain a disappointment no matter how many times we spin in circles.

 

So, who did the Twins pass on that was drafted later -- besides Benintendi -- who is that lock of an Ace starting pitcher?

    • Steve Lein likes this
Tired of hearing about Benintendi. So tired. How many teams passed on him before Boston selected him? This the Trout arguement all over again. "If only we knew...", well...you didn't. The MLB draft draft is the biggest crap shoot in all of sports. The Twins needed pitching. They went and did something we have never seen them do in recent memory, and often complained about, they drafted a top arm with projectability. That guy was Jay. In a reportedly weak draft, they went after a big, projectable LH arm they thought they could work with and develop. At worst, they had a LH arm that projected to being great in the pen. You draft for both need and BPA don't you?

I'm relatively certain...please correct me if I'm wrong...that the Twins would have drafted a front line, ACE SP or future all star position player at this spot were it made known to them.

We can certainly disagree whether or not Jay should be removed, at this point, from developing his talents as a SP. And I believe there is an arguement to be made there. But I'm tired of hearing the wasted draft pick debate. Baseball HAS changed and evolved over the years, very slowly. WAY gone are 4 man pitching staffs and a collection of 200 IP rotations. And at the end of the day, the best chance you have to win is with quality SP. But in my 40+ years of following the Twins specifically and MLB in general, I've seen winning teams based on power, speed, defense, SP, RP and combinations of such.

The new regime has decided that Jay can have the biggest impact going forward being a top RP. Fine. Didn't the Twins in the past, and the Royals recently, reach the WS with a couple of top starters and deep bullpen? Just saying...a lot of ways to build a winning team.
    • Steve Lein, birdwatcher, Riverbrian and 5 others like this

This is exactly why I take issue with the Twins investing so many high draft picks in college relievers during the 2012 draft. It's not uncommon for failed starters to experience success in the bullpen with velo improvements etc.-- why do we need to draft guys whose ceiling is inherently limited? 

    • birdwatcher, Mike Sixel, markos and 2 others like this
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HitInAPinch
Mar 28 2017 01:57 AM

"The Fast Track" is the verbiage used by Twins management last week.And I agree.If this means Jay will be the 1st call in from the bullpen and can get 2-3 innings in, I like it.Some/many teams use that format to stretch out RP's and turn them into SP's.Sorry, Cardinals are the only team I can think of just now.I was actually hoping the Twins would have done the same thing with Berrios, but he chose the WBC over SP with the Twins.I'm not criticizing the choice.I just think it would have been better for his career to be in Spring Training. 

 

P.S.Jay still needs to get a reliable 3rd pitch....

Miller and Chapman are a couple of the most talented pitchers in the game. They are both physical specimens (Miller 6'7", Chapman 6'4", both 215-220). Both can hit triple digits (debatable on Miller, maybe absolutely topping out, but he can get high 90s).
Comparing a 6'1", 190 lb (soaking) guy who hopes to "play up" to the mid 90s in the pen, because he's a lefty drafted in the top 10, to arguably the two best fireballing relievers in the world right now, is a stretch at its absolute finest.

Andrew Miller also spells his name completely differently than Tyler Jay does. Clearly, the author deserves as much disrespect as you can throw at him.

I find it interesting that two separate people can read the same article and reach conclusions that are miles from each other.

I read that article and came away agreeing with him. The article to me was about increasing bullpen value and Andrew Miller is an example of why talented bullpen arms are going to increase in value. We have all been shown a new way to do it. The Royals have shown everyone that you can win with a bullpen. Francona has shown everyone that using Miller in the 5th inning or whenever a key moment arrives and for longer than one inning and done just might be a better use of a talented bullpen arm. I felt the author was hoping that Jay will be good enough to handle a role like that. He may not be as dominant as Miller but the value of such a guy is going to go up now that the Indians have created successful precidence.

I think the author was hoping that Jay may thrive in the bullpen like Miller did. Miller was terrible as a starter for 6 years before becoming the guy you described.

Miller was Terrible in Detroit... Terrible in Florida.... He ran plum out of options and the Marlins gave him away to the Red Sox. He was terrible as a starter for one more year in Boston before finding himself in the bullpen.

So there's another way that Jay and Miller are different. Jay never failed as a starter as bad or as long as Miller did.
    • Han Joelo, birdwatcher, Oldgoat_MN and 2 others like this

"During last year's postseason fans saw the importance of dominant relief pitchers like Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman."

This was on teams with actual starting pitching. The current Twins do not have anywhere near playoff starting pitching.

There is a reason that the Yankees traded the relief assets they did last year for young talent....they did not have the starting pitching to win that year, therefore making the elite relief superfluous (and they could just sign them back if they wanted :)

Again....Jay to the bullpen may indeed allow the twins to get the most out of him.

But the pick at #6 for a relief pitcher will remain a disappointment no matter how many times we spin in circles.

(And I dost think that we are getting a wee bit ahead of ourselves to think that transitioning Jay to the pen automatically equates to a top 5 MLB reliever.

Indians had Kluber and... a bunch of guys on the disabled list. The Indians had Trevor Mr. Drone Finger Bauer trying to not get blood on the baseball. The Indians had Josh Tomlin surpassing his normal heights and Andrew Miller who held it all together. If baseball wasn't watching the Royals win with a great pen and mediocre rotation... I hope it was watching the Indians do the same thing. Bullpen is the new currency.

The Yankees may not have needed Chapman and Miller but that lack of need got them a new shiny top ranked farm system. How happy would we be right now with Glaybar Torres if Terry Ryan had the guts to go get Chapman when he was available after the Dodgers walked away. The Yankees got him cheap with a questionable rotation and they already had Miller and Betences. It's all about value and the Yankees beat everyone. Gather ye assets where you may is what Shakespeare said.

Bullpen is the new currency. If I have a criticism of Falvey/Lavine thus far.... It would be the light attempt this off season at the building of our bullpen. FA starters sucked but FA relievers didn't. I would have liked to see them dive in. Gather ye assets where you may.

I know we are all disappointed that we lost a much needed starter and I'm not happy about it either but a talented Jay in the bullpen isn't a complete waste.
    • USAFChief, Han Joelo, birdwatcher and 1 other like this

Their weights and heights notwithstanding, Miller and Chapman are excellent comps.  Miller has been covered.  Chapman, though--maybe I misremember, but didn't the Reds kind of do the same things?  Half-heartedly try to make him a starter, and then fast track him in the pen?

 

I'll bet there are even articles out there that say the Red's wasted (did not maximize value) the big signing bonus they gave Chapman.

 

I'm a hundred percent behind the move, and about 75% behind the original pick.  Nailing that 'ace' pick is not easy.  Just ask those six teams that passed on Kershaw.

    • birdwatcher and Riverbrian like this

Indians had Kluber and... a bunch of guys on the disabled list. The Indians had Trevor Mr. Drone Finger Bauer trying to not get blood on the baseball. The Indians had Josh Tomlin surpassing his normal heights and Andrew Miller who held it all together. If baseball wasn't watching the Royals win with a great pen and mediocre rotation... I hope it was watching the Indians do the same thing. Bullpen is the new currency.

The Yankees may not have needed Chapman and Miller but that lack of need got them a new shiny top ranked farm system. How happy would we be right now with Glaybar Torres if Terry Ryan had the guts to go get Chapman when he was available after the Dodgers walked away. The Yankees got him cheap with a questionable rotation and they already had Miller and Betences. It's all about value and the Yankees beat everyone. Gather ye assets where you may is what Shakespeare said.

Bullpen is the new currency. If I have a criticism of Falvey/Lavine thus far.... It would be the light attempt this off season at the building of our bullpen. FA starters sucked but FA relievers didn't. I would have liked to see them dive in. Gather ye assets where you may.

I know we are all disappointed that we lost a much needed starter and I'm not happy about it either but a talented Jay in the bullpen isn't a complete waste.

the only thing I'd add to this excellent post is....I don't think valuing the bullpen is a "new" currency.

I think smart teams have always recognized the importance of dominating the last 3 innings, and it's been mainly saber types pooh poohing the importance of bullpen.
    • birdwatcher, Riverbrian and Oldgoat_MN like this

 

Miller and Chapman are a couple of the most talented pitchers in the game. They are both physical specimens (Miller 6'7", Chapman 6'4", both 215-220). Both can hit triple digits (debatable on Miller, maybe absolutely topping out, but he can get high 90s).

Comparing a 6'1", 190 lb (soaking) guy who hopes to "play up" to the mid 90s in the pen, because he's a lefty drafted in the top 10, to arguably the two best fireballing relievers in the world right now, is a stretch at its absolute finest.

 

And Billy Wagner was like 5-10. I'm not saying that Jay will become Miller or Chapman, in fact the odds are very much stacked against him. Those two are very rare. But Jay can be a very good reliever. If he becomes the next Glen Perkins, that would be huge and very valuable. And, mid-90s is very realistic for Jay. 

 

    • Riverbrian, ThejacKmp, Oldgoat_MN and 2 others like this

I guess I'd be curious to hear if people really think that bullpens are changing much in baseball. 

 

I mean, the idea of starters going more than 6 innings often was done several years ago. 

 

I would 100% agree that the role of bullpens have changed markedly in the playoffs, but obviously using the top guys as much as they did in the playoffs last year is not even close to feasible during the season. I will also be curious to see how Chapman and Miller perform in 2017 after their usage in the 2016 playoffs, especially Miller. 

    • Steve Lein, Mike Sixel, chpettit19 and 2 others like this

 

"During last year's postseason fans saw the importance of dominant relief pitchers like Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman."

 

This was on teams with actual starting pitching. The current Twins do not have anywhere near playoff starting pitching.

 

I'm not sure that anyone could say the playoff version of the Cleveland franchise had starting pitching. They had one starting pitcher and a whole lot of drivel. I agree the Cubs are not an indication that dominant relievers can make up for subpar pitching but the postseason Cleveland run certainly is. They had no business being in the World Series, let alone Game 7, and their bullpen played a huge role in that.

 

You also could look at KC the past three-four years for another example of a bullpen carrying suspect starting pitching. I think it's very defensible to say that one path the Twins may be able to take to make up for their lack of starting pitching is to have a dominant bullpen - and I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility with the quality and depth of relief arms they have in the high minors.

    • birdwatcher, Riverbrian and Oldgoat_MN like this

 

And Billy Wagner was like 5-10. I'm not saying that Jay will become Miller or Chapman, in fact the odds are very much stacked against him. Those two are very rare. But Jay can be a very good reliever. If he becomes the next Glen Perkins, that would be huge and very valuable. And, mid-90s is very realistic for Jay. 

 

I concur. I've read nothing to say that height is a predictor of success in starting or relief pitching. For every Randy Johnson there's a Loek Van Mil whatever and also a Greg Maddux.

    • Riverbrian likes this

 

Tired of hearing about Benintendi. So tired. How many teams passed on him before Boston selected him? This the Trout arguement all over again. "If only we knew...", well...you didn't. The MLB draft draft is the biggest crap shoot in all of sports. The Twins needed pitching. They went and did something we have never seen them do in recent memory, and often complained about, they drafted a top arm with projectability. That guy was Jay. In a reportedly weak draft, they went after a big, projectable LH arm they thought they could work with and develop. At worst, they had a LH arm that projected to being great in the pen. You draft for both need and BPA don't you?

I'm relatively certain...please correct me if I'm wrong...that the Twins would have drafted a front line, ACE SP or future all star position player at this spot were it made known to them.

We can certainly disagree whether or not Jay should be removed, at this point, from developing his talents as a SP. And I believe there is an arguement to be made there. But I'm tired of hearing the wasted draft pick debate. Baseball HAS changed and evolved over the years, very slowly. WAY gone are 4 man pitching staffs and a collection of 200 IP rotations. And at the end of the day, the best chance you have to win is with quality SP. But in my 40+ years of following the Twins specifically and MLB in general, I've seen winning teams based on power, speed, defense, SP, RP and combinations of such.

The new regime has decided that Jay can have the biggest impact going forward being a top RP. Fine. Didn't the Twins in the past, and the Royals recently, reach the WS with a couple of top starters and deep bullpen? Just saying...a lot of ways to build a winning team.

 

You're going to hear about Benintendi forever because the Twins passed on him for a guy who is going to be a reliever. And you will continue to hear about Benintendi until Tyler Jay distinguishes himself in the Major Leagues. 

 

As for "how many other teams" passed on him -- yes, five other teams passed on him. But the top two draft picks that year were Dansby Swanson and Alex Bregman, both of whom are among the top prospects in the game at the moment. 

 

Of the others, only Dillon Tate has so far been a bust in the minors. Everybody else is at least considered at top 35 prospect at the moment.

 

In 2014, the Twins passed on Trea Turner for Nick Gordon, but nobody harps on that because Nick Gordon is still considered a solid prospect. If Tyler Jay was still considered among the better 50 or so prospects in baseball, you would hear a LOT less about it.

 

I know it was the previous regime. So at this point it is simply a reminder of what that regime did wrong.

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clutterheart
Mar 28 2017 07:44 AM

 

I guess I'd be curious to hear if people really think that bullpens are changing much in baseball. 

 

 

The biggest change is teams are starting to focus more on the mid inning guys than the closers.  Closers still get headlines but 7-8 inning guys are getting more dollars, more notice and more situational.   

 

But let me agree with sentiment that comparing Jay to Milelr is silly. Jay could be a decent reliever, but to expect him to be the best in the game?  Why?

 

 

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Willihammer
Mar 28 2017 07:47 AM

Question- can anyone name a dominant bullpen arm that did not advance to at least AAA as a starting pitcher?

 

I think smart teams have always recognized the importance of dominating the last 3 innings, and it's been mainly saber types pooh poohing the importance of bullpen.

Not to take this off track, but I think this is a mischaracterization.  I don't know of any "saber" argument that bullpens aren't important.  They may have argued that the save stat isn't particularly important, nor is limiting good relievers to 1 inning appearances, but I don't think there has ever been a general "saber" argument against the importance of bullpens in general.

    • Mike Sixel, Willihammer and chpettit19 like this

 

I guess I'd be curious to hear if people really think that bullpens are changing much in baseball. 

 

I mean, the idea of starters going more than 6 innings often was done several years ago. 

 

I would 100% agree that the role of bullpens have changed markedly in the playoffs, but obviously using the top guys as much as they did in the playoffs last year is not even close to feasible during the season. I will also be curious to see how Chapman and Miller perform in 2017 after their usage in the 2016 playoffs, especially Miller. 

I agree with you Seth, the changes in Bullpen use in the season have already happened with the KC demonstration that a set of relievers can save a team from a set of poor starters, but the use that Miller had in the Series is a playoff only situation.  He was quoted in Sports Illustrated that he won't be used during the season like he was in post season because any reliever would burn out like that.

 

What we need baseball to do is revise the SAVE RULE AGAIN because arbitration and salaries are based on that.  Instead we need to see the save as the reliever who comes in with bases loaded and no outs and stops the bleeding right there (extreme case) regardless of the inning.  

 

I am still sorry to see Jay in relief and I read into this that the Twins are still committed to the old guard filling the rotation so the bullpen is the only option.

 

I concur. I've read nothing to say that height is a predictor of success in starting or relief pitching. For every Randy Johnson there's a Loek Van Mil whatever and also a Greg Maddux.

Both PECOTA and KATOH have found that using height improves the accuracy of their projections.

 

Question- can anyone name a dominant bullpen arm that did not advance to at least AAA as a starting pitcher?

Just looking at the current closers in MLB:

 

Kimbrel, Holland, Robertson, Cody Allen, Kelvin Herrera, Jansen, Melancon, Edwin Diaz, Osuna, Seung Hwan Oh, AJ Ramos, Street, and K-Rod were never starters in AAA (and often never starters at all).

 

http://www.espn.com/...ser-depth-chart

    • birdwatcher, James, Riverbrian and 1 other like this
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Brock Beauchamp
Mar 28 2017 08:12 AM

 

Just looking at the current closers in MLB:

 

Kimbrel, Holland, Robertson, Cody Allen, Kelvin Herrera, Jansen, Melancon, Edwin Diaz, Osuna, Seung Hwan Oh, AJ Ramos, Street, and K-Rod were never starters in AAA (and often never starters at all).

 

http://www.espn.com/...ser-depth-chart

Yeah, baseball has shifted their approach to developing relievers over the years.

 

Your list doesn't include guys like Chapman, who were barely MiLB starters in the first place. Chapman entered MiLB in 2010 and made 13 starts. He never made a start for the Reds, nor did they make an honest attempt to convert him into a starter after that point. He was for all intents and purposes a full-time reliever just four months after playing his first MiLB game for the Reds.

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Willihammer
Mar 28 2017 08:16 AM

 

Just looking at the current closers in MLB:

 

Kimbrel, Holland, Robertson, Cody Allen, Kelvin Herrera, Jansen, Melancon, Edwin Diaz, Osuna, Seung Hwan Oh, AJ Ramos, Street, and K-Rod were never starters in AAA (and often never starters at all).

 

http://www.espn.com/...ser-depth-chart

Interesting. I would have guessed more followed the Joe Nathan / Glen Perkins path of failed starterdom. Maybe taking him out of the rotation now isn't cause for concern as far as Jay's prospects of being a good reliever go after all.

    • birdwatcher, Riverbrian and Oldgoat_MN like this

I agree with Seth, while there may be some small shifts in who is used in the 7th or 8th, I don't think anyone has really changed bullpen usage all that much in the regular season. 

    • Vanimal46 likes this

I guess I'd be curious to hear if people really think that bullpens are changing much in baseball.

I mean, the idea of starters going more than 6 innings often was done several years ago.

I would 100% agree that the role of bullpens have changed markedly in the playoffs, but obviously using the top guys as much as they did in the playoffs last year is not even close to feasible during the season. I will also be curious to see how Chapman and Miller perform in 2017 after their usage in the 2016 playoffs, especially Miller.


I don't think bullpens have changed yet because they the old wall just hasn't been knocked down yet. Like everything in life... change is slow from established ways. Those who are open to new ideas and have been paying attention will have a competitive advantage in my opinion until the rest catch up.
    • Broker likes this

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