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Article: Is Taylor Rogers the AL’s Most Valuable Reliever?

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Report From The Fort: Looking For A Bounceback (Part 2)

FORT MYERS - Somehow a season that starts well and devolves is a more damning narrative than a season which never gets on track. If a player’s season just stinks from start to finish, the reaction is “how can he get back on track” or “he’s a good buy-low candidate, because that had to be an aberration.” But a season that goes downhill has less hope attached to it. We conclude he’s just not healthy, or the tank is empty, or he can’t make “the adjustment” or he just isn’t that good.
Image courtesy of © Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
 This is the second part of a three-part series of interviews with Twins bounceback candidates. Part 1.  Maybe that’s because we saw it happen, or maybe we already invested our emotions in the turnaround last year, so there’s nothing left. Whatever the reason, I don’t think it’s because the player is less likely to come back. Certainly, the two Twins players who fit that description seem hopeful, even anxious, for the season to begin. Their success could make a world of difference to the Twins bullpen.

Addison Reed

The plan for last year was for Addison Reed, who had been signed for a two-year, $17 million contract, to be the Twins bullpen’s cornerstone. He was early, posting a 2.83 ERA and 9.3 K/9 through the end of May. But his effectiveness and strikeout rate plummeted in June. Then in July he was on the disabled list for three weeks with an elbow inpingement.

He never really got back on track. The numbers tell the story. Reed threw 28.2 innings in the first two months of the season, striking out 29 batters. He threw almost the same number of innings in the last four months of the season - 27.1, and struck out just 15. All his pitching stats - ERA, WHIP, hits - fell apart over those last four months, as did the Twins reliance on him.

So what happened? “I ran into some arm troubles midseason. It’s one of those things that just caught up to me,” says Reed. He adds, “My workload in 2016 and 2017 was pretty heavy.”

Yes, yes it was. Reed pitched in 157 games over those two years, throwing 143.2 innings. But that’s not all. “This is the first offseason in four years where I didn’t have to play extra baseball in the playoffs,” adds Reed. The postseason adds four games and 3.1 innings to that total, along with a shorter offseason for recovery.

That kind of workload is one of the reasons the Twins signed Reed. So the injuries and ineffectiveness came as a surprise, especially after his strong start. “I felt fine, everything felt fine, but something can still pop up out of nowhere,” laments Reed. “I think that’s what happend. I felt fine. I didn’t change anything. I was doing everything the same.”

So the plan this year is rely on last year’s relatively easy workload to give his arm the rest he needed to recover. “With the limited workload last year, I think things are going to be good this year,” Reed says. With only 56 innings last year and no postseason, his arm certainly got some extra rest.

It’s also worth noting (although it was unsaid by Reed), that Reed was on pace for a career high mark in games and innings through April and May last year. That last week of May, he was used five times in seven days, including four days in a row. Changes to the coaching staff, along with a more measured approach might also help with a return to form.

Trevor Hildenberger

Despite being a rookie, Trevor Hildenberger was also supposed to be one of the pillars of the Twins 2018 bullpen. His impact late in the 2017 was as explosive as his side-arm delivery, racking up 44 strikeouts in 42 innings. The only concern was that he had faded in September; his ERA climbed from 2.29 to 3.21 over his last eight games.

His 2018 started out well enough. Even after a below average April, he rebounded to a 3.33 ERA and an even better 1.13 WHIP through the All-Star break. Opponents had just a .689 OPS against him. But the second half was a disaster. His ERA was 9.00 over that half with opponents knocking a .974 OPS against him. Was he, like Reed, battling injuries?

“I felt good. I felt healthy. My body felt fine. My arm felt fine,” says Hildenberger. Instead, he thinks the problem was with his command. “Inconsistencies led to that,” Hildenberger says. “My fastball command got away from me a little bit. So I worked on that this offseason, and in spring training I’m working on that, and hopefully get back to where I was at the end of 2017.”

What kind of training does one do to fix command? “It’s mechanics for me, so i worked on keeping my front shoulder closed before my foot landed, and separating my hips and my shoulders in my delivery,” reveals Hildenberger. “if they’re firing together that’s when the ball starts to spray a lot more.”

Hildenberger’s sidearm delivery means that when he misses his spot, the ball tends to miss side to side, rather than up and down. Since he’s throwing to the outside or inside edge of the strike zone, that presents a problem. “You’re missing either by a long ways, so it’s an easy take. Or you leave it over the middle,” Hildenberger explains.

Again it’s worth noting that Hildenberger was called into action 43 times before the All-Star break, due to being so effective. That’s again pretty heavy usage for a reliever. It’s conceivable that more conservative usage by a new coaching staff could pay off in more success over the course of a long season.

The Twins had two key components of their bullpen last year succeed early and fall apart midseason. The two showed different symptoms, and have addressed their struggles differently this offseason. But both also had extremely high usage for relievers early in the year. Perhaps the struggles we saw over the second half of the season can be remedied by individual offseason efforts, combined with a team approach to usage.

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29 Comments

Reed is a great example of why I have no problem with the Twins staying away from signing 30+ relievers. Reed had been healthy and really good for 7+ seasons, and he was only 29 and getting over-used over 2-3 years, he finally broke down. Kimbrel's a little older and has been used a lot as well (not even considering playoff innings/games). If healthy, however, Reed is really good, here's hoping he does return to form.

 

Hildenberger is going to be just fine as well. Again, when he went well, he got used all the time... when your arm gets tired, you lose mechanics, which is what Hildy is saying affected his command. 

    • brvama, mikelink45, Minny505 and 2 others like this
NOT a fan or apologist of Molitor as a manager. Simply stating that there were games when the Twins seemed to be obviously on the short end of things and he would put out his most trusted RP in hope of a surprising comeback instead of letting a game maybe go by.

To his defense, the pen may not have always been as deep as needed. But again, don't you just toss a "someone" out there at times and hope vs riding your best relievers in a possible no win situation?

I don't like Romero and Mejia in the pen. Mostly because I think both have real starter potential. But if the FO and Rocco see this as best arms on hand, and not limiting their potential to such, and being fluid in their usage and future roles, then I'm on board with starting 2019 in the pen.
    • Mike Sixel, diehardtwinsfan, brvama and 7 others like this

I understand Molitor was put in a tough situation and forced to use his favorites in the bullpen time after time, but the overuse of certain relievers was simply blatant. Add that to the times relievers went missing (Matt Magill was hidden better than Waldo at one point), and I hope that Rocco will be able to preserve the bullpen better. 

 

I am worried about the depth, both for high leverage and AAA depth. I don't think putting Parker and Hildenberger into high leverage situations is a good idea, and we don't have a ton of reinforcements at AAA that I see becoming viable relievers. There's only so much Rocco's going to be able to do with this weak bullpen.

    • diehardtwinsfan, LA VIkes Fan, mikelink45 and 2 others like this

Reed is a great example of why I have no problem with the Twins staying away from signing 30+ relievers. Reed had been healthy and really good for 7+ seasons, and he was only 29 and getting over-used over 2-3 years, he finally broke down. Kimbrel's a little older and has been used a lot as well (not even considering playoff innings/games). If healthy, however, Reed is really good, here's hoping he does return to form.
 
Hildenberger is going to be just fine as well. Again, when he went well, he got used all the time... when your arm gets tired, you lose mechanics, which is what Hildy is saying affected his command.


The alternative being to use the next guy in the minors? Who's probably going to provide negative value?

 

The alternative being to use the next guy in the minors? Who's probably going to provide negative value?

 

The alternatives being signing the 2nd-tier guys for reasonable money and less years and with about the same odds of staying healthy after 30.

 

Or,

 

Turning things over to a Fernando Romero.

 

I'm not saying any of those are sure things. None of them are.

    • birdwatcher, beckmt, Major League Ready and 5 others like this

 

The alternative being to use the next guy in the minors? Who's probably going to provide negative value?

Isn't that preferable to turning a pitcher with positive value into a pitcher with negative value through over use? Fans used to get on Gardy for playing Butera to give Mauer rest but through 2010 Mauer was strong in the final 6 weeks. On the other hand Morneau had an MVP season going but played all 163 games along with the all star game and home run derby and his poor showing in the final month was probably what kept us out of the playoffs.Guerrier used to get dead arm from over use.Not an exact science but 5 appearances in 7 games after heavy use in the rest of the first two months is probably too much.Molitor should have been reading Tom Froemming;'s game logs to analyze his bullpen usage.

    • birdwatcher, Kevin, brvama and 6 others like this

The alternatives being signing the 2nd-tier guys for reasonable money and less years and with about the same odds of staying healthy after 30.

Or,

Turning things over to a Fernando Romero.

I'm not saying any of those are sure things. None of them are.

Isnt Reed the poster child for not signing the second tier relievers? He was a 2 year deal for reasonable money. Like you said, nothing is certain, but if you fail to develop pitchers for a decade, you gotta do something, right?
    • Mike Sixel, DocBauer, Vanimal46 and 2 others like this

Thats one concern I have about the hiring of Rocco, he's another rookie manager that like Molitor, has never managed in the minors, never had to make the actual decisions on pitching changes, never had to make out a lineup. You can't tell me that managing 200-300 games at a lower level wouldn't give you a better handle on how to manage.  

    • Dave The Dastardly likes this

It wasn't just Reed or Hildenberger. Every year the relievers doing best got rode into the ground. That was part of Molitor's m.o. So hopefully Johnson and Baldelli will have a better game plan and these 2 will come back this year and be part of a better bullpen.

    • blindeke, DocBauer, Minny505 and 1 other like this

I agree with Seth - I always fear the high stat reliever in FA - relievers have an up and down history because over use is part of the system.I hear the Molitor whiners already, but the fact is, unless you are a Yankee you do not have a lot of viable relievers to turn to and when you lose a game by leaving your best reliever on the bench the whines get louder and reverse themselves. 

 

I am not anxious to see the current reliever trend continue.There are not enough relievers to fill the opener, closer, 7th,8th inning roles every day without over using them.The discussions that are opening up in mlb are interesting because of the three player minimum for pitchers - does that get rid of the Loogy or Roogy?The negotiations also are looking at a 26 man active roster and limiting the pitchers to 12!That means 7 relievers. so if you look at the four reliever per game model that means the pitchers will all be in half the games. 

Give me a good starter!Let them pitch 7 innings or better yet, give me back the complete game.

 

The only way to sustain the new model is to have an active AAA -MLB shuttle and if you do that you might as well have a 30 man roster and 15 pitchers or more. 

    • brvama, DocBauer, birddog and 1 other like this
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Parker Hageman
Feb 20 2019 08:24 AM

It would be interesting to find out if Hildenberger has done anything to combat the possible pitch tipping. 

 

http://twinsdaily.co...g-pitches-r7123

    • birdwatcher, nicksaviking, brvama and 1 other like this

 

Reed is a great example of why I have no problem with the Twins staying away from signing 30+ relievers. Reed had been healthy and really good for 7+ seasons, and he was only 29 and getting over-used over 2-3 years, he finally broke down. Kimbrel's a little older and has been used a lot as well (not even considering playoff innings/games). If healthy, however, Reed is really good, here's hoping he does return to form.

 

This is exactly why I have no problem with chasing 30+ relievers: they usually sign 1-3 year deals. If they bomb, it's a short commitment and you eat the money. Unless it's a "proven closer" it's under $10million/year. Given the volatile performance of all RP, you don't want a 5 year deal with a 27 year-old very often. 

    • birdwatcher likes this

I am not a believer in the 100-pitch limit except at the beginning of the season. So many times a Twins SP goes 5 innings with 90-100 pitches and is pulled. Starters have to start going at least 6 innings in low scoring games. If not, coaches have to get them to stop nibbling after getting ahead of the count. I detest getting ahead 0-2 only to end up with a walk because of nibbling. And too often the pitch after 0-2 is not even in the same zip code so it's just a wasted pitch. 

 

Our starters without the dominant stuff have high pitch counts because they can't trust their stuff without a perfect pitch. Hopefully our new staff will demand 6+ innings as we have lots of starters to choose from. One novel way to speed up the game--throw strikes. Hopefully our offense can score enough runs to give our pitchers the confidence to do just that.

    • brvama, mikelink45, DocBauer and 1 other like this
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MMMordabito
Feb 20 2019 10:56 AM

I know one way of helping Hildenberger bounce back. Don't have him pitch to Lindor!

    • h2oface likes this

 

 but if you fail to develop pitchers for a decade, you gotta do something, right?

Yup.Lose.

    • Sconnie likes this

Hard to say Hildy or others like him need to "bounce back" when he only pitched 42 major league innings prior to last season

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LA VIkes Fan
Feb 20 2019 04:29 PM

Rocco may find himself on the horns of the same dilemma Molitor had - not enough Starting pitching to go more than 5-6 innings a game and not enough Relief pitching to cover 3-4 innings game after game. Molitor handled it by overusing RPs.That didn't work because the overused guys got tired or hurt and the others didn't develop. To paraphrase Einstein- Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. Can't do it the Molitor way again.

 

So, we gotta try something different.It sure would've been nice to get some better RPs in or starters who can go longer, but we have what we have. So, I expect to see May, Rogers, Romero, Reed, Parker and Hildenberger to get a lot of high leverage innings. Also maybe Magill or Vasquez, Duffy (kill me) and even Mejia, Moya or Reed. The last few innings of a close Twins game are going to be entertaining for all of the wrong reasons. Let the roller coaster ride begin!

    • DocBauer likes this
Most pitchers in all of baseball don't go six innings in a start.... The average last year was 5.2..... It's on the manager and FO to adjust given that reality.
    • Sconnie likes this

Didn't help that the Twins were a man short in the bullpen in April and May when Addison Reed was overused. Tyler Kinley, and later Phil Hughes, were out there but hardly ever used.Certainly not in high leverage situations.

    • Mike Sixel and Danchat like this

Rocco may find himself on the horns of the same dilemma Molitor had - not enough Starting pitching to go more than 5-6 innings a game and not enough Relief pitching to cover 3-4 innings game after game. Molitor handled it by overusing RPs.That didn't work because the overused guys got tired or hurt and the others didn't develop. To paraphrase Einstein- Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results. Can't do it the Molitor way again.
 
So, we gotta try something different.It sure would've been nice to get some better RPs in or starters who can go longer, but we have what we have. So, I expect to see May, Rogers, Romero, Reed, Parker and Hildenberger to get a lot of high leverage innings. Also maybe Magill or Vasquez, Duffy (kill me) and even Mejia, Moya or Reed. The last few innings of a close Twins game are going to be entertaining for all of the wrong reasons. Let the roller coaster ride begin!


Liking this post or not...and I do/did...i have NEVER liked the "insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results" comment. That is NOT the definition of insanity, though poignant. Is that comment truly from Einstein? I consider myself to be a pretty smart and intelligent individual, but always wondered where that comment came from.

NOT absolving Molitor for limited arms on hand, nor blaming him or injuries, but there were times when you just had to let a game go, or toss someone to the mound and hope for the best, instead of abusing and over using the trusted arms you had.

I agree with the recent article by Tom, the bullpen has a low floor but a pretty high ceiling. I still would rather have Romero and Mejia starting, maybe even piggybacking one another, even alternating for the 5th rotation spot.

But what do I know? Maybe Romero is destined to be the next great Twins closer. Is that a bad thing?

I keep hearing Odorizzi had his worst year. But I also read he was among the top X SP in many categories. Pineda, healthy, could be very good. I hate that there are so many questions. But I'm also excited about so much potential.
    • brvama and Sconnie like this

 

Liking this post or not...and I do/did...i have NEVER liked the "insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results" comment. That is NOT the definition of insanity, though poignant. Is that comment truly from Einstein? I consider myself to be a pretty smart and intelligent individual, but always wondered where that comment came from.

NOT absolving Molitor for limited arms on hand, nor blaming him or injuries, but there were times when you just had to let a game go, or toss someone to the mound and hope for the best, instead of abusing and over using the trusted arms you had.

I agree with the recent article by Tom, the bullpen has a low floor but a pretty high ceiling. I still would rather have Romero and Mejia starting, maybe even piggybacking one another, even alternating for the 5th rotation spot.

But what do I know? Maybe Romero is destined to be the next great Twins closer. Is that a bad thing?

I keep hearing Odorizzi had his worst year. But I also read he was among the top X SP in many categories. Pineda, healthy, could be very good. I hate that there are so many questions. But I'm also excited about so much potential.

If the innings per start is down to 5.2 then relief innings per game is 3.1 - the roster size stays the same, so doesn't the average relief appearance need to increase?

 

If pace of play such a concern, shouldn't the roster shrink? that would force longer relief appearances. 

    • Mike Sixel likes this

I'm not very concerned about Baldelli managing the bullpen.The Rays excelled at getting the most out of inexperienced arms.He should have a much better grasp on when and where to use guys than Molitor's daily routine approach, 7th inning = player a, 8th inning =player b, etc.I would assume Baldelli's role in analytics for the Rays included who was best suited to face certain hitters.

    • Original Whizzinator likes this
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LA VIkes Fan
Feb 21 2019 10:04 AM

 

Liking this post or not...and I do/did...i have NEVER liked the "insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results" comment. That is NOT the definition of insanity, though poignant. Is that comment truly from Einstein? I consider myself to be a pretty smart and intelligent individual, but always wondered where that comment came from.

NOT absolving Molitor for limited arms on hand, nor blaming him or injuries, but there were times when you just had to let a game go, or toss someone to the mound and hope for the best, instead of abusing and over using the trusted arms you had.

I agree with the recent article by Tom, the bullpen has a low floor but a pretty high ceiling. I still would rather have Romero and Mejia starting, maybe even piggybacking one another, even alternating for the 5th rotation spot.

But what do I know? Maybe Romero is destined to be the next great Twins closer. Is that a bad thing?

I keep hearing Odorizzi had his worst year. But I also read he was among the top X SP in many categories. Pineda, healthy, could be very good. I hate that there are so many questions. But I'm also excited about so much potential.

Based on some admittedly limited research, it is unclear whether Einstein actually said "Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results” or something close to it. This quote is attributed to him by some, some claim he never said that or anything close to it , and some even say the attribution is an example of the so-called "Matthew effect" - where a saying or witticism comes from a group but is attributed only to its most famous member.I'm not sure if that's a reference to the Gospel of Matthew, but I think it is. 

 

Well. we are now waaaay above my intellectual pay grade. I'm with Tom and DocBauer. The present bullpen is the most variable element on this team - high ceiling, low floor, and not a lot of obvious help at AAA. What surprises me a little is that it doesn't look like the composition is going to change when NIck Vincent and Adam Warren are still available. Both in their early 30s with a decent track record, and both would seem to be a good way to strengthen the BP depth for middle inning and occasional late inning work without costing too much. Has anyone heard anything about what's happening with these guys or anyone else that could help our BP other than Kimbrel (too expensive, not coming to MN) or Madsen (too old, also not coming to MN)?

The Twins need to get bullpen serious.

It’s easier said than done but it has to happen.

7 or 8 guys in the pen... whatever it takes but the manager has to believe in all 7 or 8 guys. If the manager or front office doesn’t trust a guy to Hang zero... get him off the roster or on the DL so you can try someone else.

No one can afford to burn a roster spot and I will no longer tolerate a manager handing the ball to a guy who is failing just because it was determined previously that he was supposed to be better. That is simply putting your food in a broken microwave over and over again hoping it will cook the food this time.

There are moments in life when you have to build a fire to try something else or go hungry.

We went hungry because we kept thinking the microwave would start working again.
    • DocBauer likes this

At least we don't have a rule 5 guy they have no intention of using on the roster this year. I'll not lightly forget how badly teh roster was managed last year (especially since everyone knew Hughes was done.....two pitchers they'd never use on the roster).

    • jorgenswest and Original Whizzinator like this

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