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Fixing the Minnesota Twins’ Bullpen

Posted by GoGonzoJournal , 19 August 2015 · 2,788 views

bullpen rotation pat dean michael bowden jose berrios
Fixing the Minnesota Twins’ Bullpen After the bullpen blew two leads in New York in as many days on the way to being swept by the Yankees, the Minnesota Twins’ playoff chances have taken a massive hit. Now with closer Glen Perkins leaving the team to have an MRI on his neck, it looks as though Terry Ryan sitting on his hands at the MLB Trade Deadline and using kid gloves with Byron Buxton, who is raking in Rochester and was Pioneer League Player of the Week, will be the difference between the Twins playing in October and fishing instead.

This blog was originally published at GoGonzoJournal.com.

If Terry Ryan thought this team would be competitive down the stretch with the addition of Kevin “Call Me Maybe” Jepsen, he doesn't deserve his job. I know he expected this to be a rebuilding year and couldn't believe he'd be battling for a playoff spot, but when you're in a playoff race, you try to win the race. You don't just stand pat and hope for the best. He also has a manager in Paul Molitor who has no idea what he’s doing when his starter gets fatigued, evidenced by his decision to bring in JR Graham to pitch to A-Rod with the bases loaded and none out on Monday night.

Well, my F@*k Dick and Bert co-host has a solution for Paul Molitor and the Twins – a 10-man starting rotation.

Before you throw your arms up in disgust, let me explain. By 10-man rotation, I don't mean 10 starters. I mean 10 starters swapping starts every five days. With a 10-man rotation, the Twins could pair starters based on ability while providing valuable experience to youngsters.

Twins’ starters have been averaging just six innings pitched per start, and that number will fall as the season continues. The Twins also have a surplus of good starters in Rochester, and now with Perkins’ health in question, it would be best to have some arms in the bullpen that aren’t JR Graham, Brian Duensing, and Ryan O'Rourke. The 10-man rotation doesn’t require a closer, but Jepsen and Fien (and Perkins?) would be available in case of an emergency. This also makes Molitor’s job easier, as he can either call in the designated reliever paired with the starter, or call on Jepsen or Fien (or Perkins?) based on match-ups. It will also keep the relievers’ innings down.

Righty Trevor May has been the most effective starting pitcher for the Twins this year, with a FIP of 3.26, which just goes to show how clueless Paul Molitor has been in his rookie season as manager. Aaron Gleeman has been saying May didn’t deserve a demotion to the bullpen for quite some time on the Gleeman and the Geek podcast – probably since his implosion in Milwaukee I was unfortunate enough to witness. But a lot of May’s success is due to the fact he’s been moved to a relief role and has experienced an uptick in velocity. He’s the pitcher I'd pair with my most inconsistent starter, Ervin Santana. You could swap spot starts or keep May as strictly a reliever, but each will be stretched out to 70 pitches or so. This way May can step into the starting rotation if the Twins make the playoffs and Santana’s postseason suspension goes into effect.

Since Pelfrey (ERA+ of 113) and Milone (ERA+ of 112) have been the most consistent starters, they would be paired with a couple of deserving call-ups — the righty Pelfrey with lefty Pat Dean (nearly a 3:1 K/BB ratio, 1.18 WHIP, 2.92 ERA in 157 AAA IP) and the lefty Milone with righty Michael Bowden (nearly a 3:1 K/BB ratio, 1.13 WHIP, and 2.57 ERA in 98 AAA IP). Then, if you fall out of the race, or just want to take advantage of a team who struggles against lefties or righties, you work Bowden and Dean into the starting rotation that day, with Pelfrey and Milone available in relief. It also provides a structure for unique mentorship.

Gibson, who Molitor would call the most consistent starter, has actually been worse than his 3.99 ERA (FIP of 4.20). A good pairing for him would be Tyler Duffey (nearly a 4:1 K/BB ratio, 1.07 WHIP, and 2.53 ERA in 85.1 AAA IP), who’s seen a couple of Major League starts and can also be worked into the starting rotation.

Then there’s the injured Phil Hughes, who has discovered how to give up home runs again. Jose Berrios should be pitching in his spot, and when Hughes returns, the Twins can move him to a relief role on days Hughes pitches. You'd swap spot starts between the two in order to protect Hughes and give Berrios experience in both starting and relief roles. Berrios is the best pitcher in the Twins organization, period. He deserves to be called up and should have been weeks ago when Milone went on the disabled list.

So here’s your 10-man rotation and three-man bullpen:

1-2) Phil Hughes, Jose Berrios
3-4) Tommy Milone, Michael Bowden
5-6) Mike Pelfrey, Pat Dean
7-8) Kyle Gibson, Tyler Duffey
9-10) Ervin Santana, Trevor May
11) Kevin Jepsen
12) Casey Fien
13) Glen Perkins

The only problem with this is if you have a starting pitcher in a groove and you don't want to mess up a good thing. Granted, that doesn't happen too often for the Twins, but when it does, it leaves your other paired pitcher with 10 days between starts, which would require more bullpen sessions in lieu of actual time on the field. So let them throw in the bullpen starting in the fifth inning regardless of the score. Get them good and warm, and if they don’t get into the game, let them throw 70 pitches or so to get stretched out. Eddie Guardado should be able to handle that.

Aug 20 2015 01:40 PM

Is there a reason no one is commenting on this blog? Did I really hit it out of the park? Let's hear some feedback, Twins fans!

Aug 20 2015 01:47 PM
It sounds like a solution that a beer league softball team would put in place. But it might just work for our little scrappy Twins club. How ineffective would Perk be if his slot came up and he wasn't starting the 9th with a three run lead but starting the game?
Aug 20 2015 01:56 PM

Perkins doesn't have a slot. He would be used only in high-pressure situations (runners on none out, one out, etc.), although I don't know that he'll be that effective in those situations anymore. Neck issues are scary...

Aug 20 2015 01:58 PM

The bullpen arms are literally only there to get one or two outs in big situations, allowing Molitor to better take advantage of matchups. They would transition to the second starter if needed.

Aug 20 2015 02:10 PM
Who knows, things always change and you might be ahead of the curve on this one. I remember when it was standard for starters to throw complete games and closers to pitch 2-3 innings.