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Terry Ryan: 2nd Offseason Priority Is The Bullpen

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#1 John Bonnes

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 01:14 PM

For those who have purchased the Offseason Handbook, I want to ask about the part of the Terry Ryan interview that shocked me the most: that the 2nd biggest priority is to improve the bullpen. When I asked why, the reply was that the team can never have enough arms, but also seemed to be that they still believe in Dozier and Florimon.

I gotta say, I was pretty surprised by this. That one thing I thought about later was that maybe he meant it in relation to picking up waiver claims and 6-year minor league free agents, more than shopping on the market for an established reliever.

Did that shock anyone else?

#2 Willihammer

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 01:27 PM

The idiom that "you can never have enough pitching" is getting tiresome. It signals a fundamental disconnect between the old school wisdom and the saber understanding which says that wins can come from anywhere.

Great interview btw

#3 Jim Crikket

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 01:35 PM

I found it interesting, but not shocking. I also can't say I really disagree with him totally. I'm not sure if the bullpen was all that strong or whether it just looked like it because we compared it to the rotation. Relief pitchers are notoriously inconsistent from one year to the next and when you consider the kind of patchwork bullpen the Twins cobbled together last season, I'm not at all confident that we should assume it would remain strong if left largely as-is. Are we REALLY comfortable with Anthony Swarzak, Tyler Robertson and Alex Burnett going in to 2013? Even the guys that performed better than expected (Casey Fien and Jared Burton) don't exactly have histories that shout "reliability." Heck, is it tough to imagine even Glen Perkins having a bit less success? Given that any rotation help they get is unlikely to include anyone who throws a lot of complete games, making the bullpen more reliable makes a lot of sense to me.

The sense I got from Ryan in your interview with regard to the middle infield is that he feels the Twins have internal options that are probably just about as good as what's available via free agency. In middle infielders, you can't have bad defenders who also can't hit and for much of the season the Twins were using guys like that. You can get by with light hitting MIs who make a lot of plays defensively if the rest of your lineup knows what to do with a baseball bat. He thinks the Twins have people who can play defense up the middle anyway. It doesn't mean you don't also look to upgrade, but I don't necessarily disagree that pitching, both in the rotation and bullpen, is more critical.
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#4 IdahoPilgrim

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 01:40 PM

I haven't looked at any numbers, but just from what I can remember about the season (and I'll admit I've already blocked-out large parts of it in my memory, in a gesture of self-health), the bullpen didn't look nearly as sharp in the second half of the season as it did in the first.

#5 ThePuck

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 01:40 PM

I found it interesting, but not shocking. I also can't say I really disagree with him totally. I'm not sure if the bullpen was all that strong or whether it just looked like it because we compared it to the rotation. Relief pitchers are notoriously inconsistent from one year to the next and when you consider the kind of patchwork bullpen the Twins cobbled together last season, I'm not at all confident that we should assume it would remain strong if left largely as-is. Are we REALLY comfortable with Anthony Swarzak, Tyler Robertson and Alex Burnett going in to 2013? Even the guys that performed better than expected (Casey Fien and Jared Burton) don't exactly have histories that shout "reliability." Heck, is it tough to imagine even Glen Perkins having a bit less success? Given that any rotation help they get is unlikely to include anyone who throws a lot of complete games, making the bullpen more reliable makes a lot of sense to me.

The sense I got from Ryan in your interview with regard to the middle infield is that he feels the Twins have internal options that are probably just about as good as what's available via free agency. In middle infielders, you can't have bad defenders who also can't hit and for much of the season the Twins were using guys like that. You can get by with light hitting MIs who make a lot of plays defensively if the rest of your lineup knows what to do with a baseball bat. He thinks the Twins have people who can play defense up the middle anyway. It doesn't mean you don't also look to upgrade, but I don't necessarily disagree that pitching, both in the rotation and bullpen, is more critical.



Lately, when have the Twins put any kind of emphasis on the infield? Smith made an effort in 2010, then in the offseason prior to 2011, didn't keep Hudson and let Gardy convince him to trade Hardy. That's it. Doesn't seem middle infield or 3B is a concern to them. No way they can look at the internal options and, based on performance at the major league level, be satisfied with where they stand.

#6 SpiritofVodkaDave

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 01:42 PM

The only three guys I trust in the pen heading into next year are Perkins, Burton and Duensing, so yes, I think the bullpen should be a priority.

We only need to really grab one MI on the FA market to upgrade. Caroll/Florimon/Dozier can hold down the other spot just fine.

#7 joeboo_22

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 01:45 PM

I agree that you can never have too much pitching, and agree that you can never predict a bullpen. But I also look at the Twins and I don't see a ton of holes in the bullpen. And I just wonder if the TR signing someone else's leftovers and taking up 40 man space and sitting in the bullpen until August when everyone gets upset with him after blowing leads and on here we have threads on the guy, and at the same time there is 1.2.3.4.5 guys at AAA who at least deserve the same shot.

So I guess it depends on what the Twins are doing, if they are minor league contracts/AAA contracts its one thing, but if they are major league contracts or 40 man space contracts I'll be upset.

#8 johnnydakota

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 01:53 PM

i stated several times this year the twins need 2 front of the rotation starters and at least a lefty righty relever combo to add to burton,perkins fien and dunny ....to many times we watched as gray or robertson or others let games slip farther away ,

what is shocking is that curly claims to be chasing starting pitching, i figure with there short armed, low pocket mentality that having the best bullpen is the most we can hope for

#9 nicksaviking

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 02:10 PM

I suppose the bullpen is a concern for a team that really enjoys carrying 13 pitchers. Finding 8 suitable arms for the pen is a lot harder than finding 6 or 7 like most clubs. If only there was a better way to go about this.....

#10 greengoblinrulz

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 02:18 PM

Ryan mentioned this in one of his radio shows.
I would love to look at some strikeout type pitchers like Jonathon Broxton and/or Jason Grilli
Look at MN's bullpen numbers from 2012 & they were very mediocre except for ranking last in strikeouts despite being in the top for innings pitched.

#11 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 02:27 PM

Jesus Christ, John. You can never have too much pitching. :D

#12 mike wants wins

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 02:34 PM

It would be nice to have one middle infielder to go with all those arms....

#13 Jim Crikket

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 03:06 PM

I would also point out that whatever the "second" focus is could change, depending on how Ryan addresses the rotation problem. For example, if he determines the way to bring on rotation help is to trade away Willingham, then I might argue that his next greatest need might be to find a RH hitter with power to replace Willingham in the heart of the order. When you fill one need, you need to be careful about worsening other situations.
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#14 Winston Smith

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 03:18 PM

Pitching, pitching, pitching I don't care what saber says.

What do the Giants and Tigers share very good pitching staffs!

What do the Twins, Astros, Cubs, Indians, Royals, Rockies all share really bad pitching.
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#15 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 07:24 PM

Pitching, pitching, pitching I don't care what saber says.

What do the Giants and Tigers share very good pitching staffs!

What do the Twins, Astros, Cubs, Indians, Royals, Rockies all share really bad pitching.


The Giants and Tigers have pretty decent hitters too.... and those other teams are largely lacking there as well. You might be on to something :)

Just giving you some crap... You are right though, the pitcher is the most valuable person on the diamond, and regardles of what saber says, the pitcher has more effect on a game than any of the guys 1-9... That said, this pen thing surprises me a bit. I tend to think the pen will improve if starting pitching can consistely go 6-7. That alone helps (though Gardy and his bring a guy in for four pitches routine kind of blows that up a bit)... I woudln't mind another power arm out of the pen, but I'd think the middle infield would be a bit higher on the list.

#16 ThePuck

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 07:40 PM

I woudln't mind another power arm out of the pen, but I'd think the middle infield would be a bit higher on the list.


One could argue that since we preach pitch to contact, solid defense up the middle is imperative and would help our pitching immensely

#17 twinsnorth49

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 07:52 PM

I woudln't mind another power arm out of the pen, but I'd think the middle infield would be a bit higher on the list.


One could argue that since we preach pitch to contact, solid defense up the middle is imperative and would help our pitching immensely


Ozzie Smith and Ryne Sandberg couldn't have saved that staff, save Diamond.

#18 clutterheart

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 07:54 PM

A good bullpen is the #1 cure to beat all of the SABR reasons why you should lose. (#2 is ground ball pitchers)

#19 Guest_USAFChief_*

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 08:46 PM

The Twins bullpen was a problem last season. Not THE problem, but a problem. Decent at the end, but exceptionally weak from about number 3 or 4 on down.

I've never agreed with the common myth that "bullpens are the easiest thing to build." Bad arms there cost you, just like bad arms in the rotation. And you can't really hide a shallow bullpen, either. Every pitcher in your 'pen is going to be forced into pitching high leverage innings during the course of a season. It's the nature of the beast. Most MLB games are close.

If they truly are trying to compete next year, upgrading the bullpen is probably necessary.

#20 Riverbrian

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 09:08 PM

I don't have a problem with bullpen being #2 on the list and I like the assumption that the 2013 starters(whoever they may be) are going to pitch well enough that an improved bullpen is important.

If #1 isn't addressed significantly #2 won't matter. I take this as a clue that TR is going to go for it in regards to #1.

if pitching is going to be weak... Another path would be to load up on offense to bash your way past it. He isn't taking that approach according to what John says.

Therefore... I think TR is making a move on pitching... Fasten your seat belts. This might be a fun off season.

Edited by Riverbrian, 24 October 2012 - 09:12 PM.


#21 Nick Nelson

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 09:40 PM

If they truly are trying to compete next year, upgrading the bullpen is probably necessary.

Eh, I don't see it as a big priority. Perkins and Burton are a very good back-end combo, Duensing is one of the better lefty specialists in the league, and Fien made a believer out of me this year (not that I necessarily believe he'll repeat his performance, but he's solid). Swarzak is a fine long man. That leaves you with one or two spots. Burnett will probably fill one and I'm not necessarily a fan but there are a handful of other intriguing guys within the org who could step in. I'll be following Michael Tonkin with great interest next year.

I can certainly see the wisdom in bringing in a few extra relievers to solidify depth for that unit, but to view it as the biggest problem spot after the rotation? Yeah, that's pretty surprising.

#22 Physics Guy

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 10:42 PM

I have to think those comments do not bode well for Slama. I just don't get it. Did Slama piss off Gardy at Spring Training? Why is he not in the mix. Let the poor guy go if you are not going to give him a chance.

#23 kab21

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 11:49 PM

While I'm not sure if I agree that the bullpen is the 2nd priority I agree that it could be awful next season. Just one injury and things could fall apart. However I'm not sure if FA is where you fix bullpens. Of course Ryan didn't say FA so that's good but bullpens seem to more often be fixed by castoffs acquired in little trades, small FA pickups or converted starters that sucked.

#24 Shane Wahl

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Posted 25 October 2012 - 12:28 AM

Other than MI, what other contenders are there for second priority? Swarzak is a joke, Fien is not a guaranteed repeat, Robertson has some questions, and Burnett is never going to be so lucky again. Sounds like there are legitimate question marks there.

#25 Brock Beauchamp

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Posted 25 October 2012 - 05:55 AM


If they truly are trying to compete next year, upgrading the bullpen is probably necessary.

Eh, I don't see it as a big priority. Perkins and Burton are a very good back-end combo, Duensing is one of the better lefty specialists in the league, and Fien made a believer out of me this year (not that I necessarily believe he'll repeat his performance, but he's solid). Swarzak is a fine long man. That leaves you with one or two spots. Burnett will probably fill one and I'm not necessarily a fan but there are a handful of other intriguing guys within the org who could step in. I'll be following Michael Tonkin with great interest next year.

I can certainly see the wisdom in bringing in a few extra relievers to solidify depth for that unit, but to view it as the biggest problem spot after the rotation? Yeah, that's pretty surprising.


Agreed. If you have even a mediocre rotation, the bullpen isn't nearly as exposed. Those guys you listed are quality guys at the back of the pen. If your rotation isn't awful, you don't have to worry so much about the "soft underbelly" of the pen.

I'm not against shoring up the bullpen but I am surprised that it's the #2 concern. I'd think the middle infield wins that title easily.

#26 Ultima Ratio

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Posted 25 October 2012 - 09:41 PM

Must have an offseason trade in the works involving the departures of Perkins and Burton in order to get a solid starting pitcher. This trade would boost the bullpen to a #2 concern. Am I reading between the lines correctly, or reading the invisible-ink-annotated margins?
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#27 greengoblinrulz

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Posted 25 October 2012 - 09:51 PM

I can definately see the pen implode next year outside of Perkins.
Burton had his first solid year & history shows how up & down setup guys can be.
Fien came out of nowhere to have a solid half-season. Neither to me is a sure thing.
The sure thing to me is Duensing....only if he's used correctly & by knowing Gardy/Andy, that wont happen.
Gardy/Andy praise Burnett for his ERA while every other stat shows how mediocre he is & has been the 2 yrs previous.
Robertson's numbers weren't good but he did dominate lefties & there can be a place for someone like that.
Swarzak is a dime a dozen & will battle Deduno for the spot.
I cant say it enough, MN needs to find some strikeout pitchers for the pen...preferebly righties. I would love to check out JBroxton, JGrilli and ODotel (who will prob go to a contender). MN wil have to pay for these guys tho.

#28 Guest_USAFChief_*

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Posted 25 October 2012 - 10:28 PM

Agreed. If you have even a mediocre rotation, the bullpen isn't nearly as exposed. Those guys you listed are quality guys at the back of the pen. If your rotation isn't awful, you don't have to worry so much about the "soft underbelly" of the pen.

I'm not against shoring up the bullpen but I am surprised that it's the #2 concern. I'd think the middle infield wins that title easily.


How so? Wouldn't the better your rotation is, mean the more important the bullpen is? What's more important...holding onto a lead or tie, or coming into a game the starter has already lost? Nobody really cares all that much when Jeff Gray comes into a game the starter has already lost. If the Twins don't improve their starting pitching, then the bullpen isn't going to matter much. It'll lose games, but you can't finish lower than last.

In any case, no matter if your team is good or bad, or your starters are good or bad, your bullpen is going to be the deciding factor in a lot of games. Most major league baseball games end up close, it's the nature of the beast. Continually getting outpitched in the last 3 innings of a game matters too, just as does getting outpitched in the first 6.

You might argue that better starting pitching will throw more innings, and that's true, but the difference isn't as much as you'd think. Twins starters averaged 5.4 IP in 2012, worst in the AL. But the best only averaged 6.2, and half the teams were somewhere in the 5's, so most nights the Twins were asking their bullpen to get 1 or 2 more outs than their opponants. A good starting staff might eliminate those 1 or 2 outs, but every team in the league is asking their bullpen to pitch mulitiple innings almost evey night. You can't do that effectively with a 2 or 3 man bullpen.

I do agree that I don't know if the infield or the bullpen is a higher priority, but I'd argue both need to be addressed, although neither will likely matter much if they don't get better starting pitching.

#29 one_eyed_jack

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Posted 25 October 2012 - 10:36 PM

A bit surprising, but not totally shocking given the history. When the Twins were winning division titles in Ryan's first term, their bullpen was a huge strength. And in the era of pulling starters based on pitch counts, many games are won and lost on middle relief.

While I'd like to see the middle infield upgraded, the free agent market is pretty darn thin at those positions while there are some decent relievers available. So it would be easier to improve the bullpen without giving up anything of value.

Maybe Flormion and Dozier are the answer, I don't know. I hope so. It sure would be nice to see some continuity there. The Yankees have been able to start Jeter/Cano there in most games going back to the '05 season. How many combos have the Twins cycled through in that time?

#30 PseudoSABR

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Posted 25 October 2012 - 11:09 PM

Pitchers. Duh.

Chief is right, that the relievers in the past year (two years) haven't been battled tested. Throwing relievers out there in low pressure situations doesn't tell us much about their value as a reliever.

That said, we should be looking for Fiens and Burtons not Capps. There's nothing keeping the Twins from bringing in lots of minor league FA guys. Terry Ryan might be talking less in terms of dollars committed to the bullpen, so much as the time the Twins spend scouting/scouring the wire and free agency for arms. Each minor league signing is more than a whim, there's investment on the scouting/front office side. And frankly the gains made from mining the lower rungs FA are more likely to show up in the bullpen than anywhere else.

Put another way, the FO doesn't need to invest scouts/personnel into investigating whether Grieke or Marcum or Sanchez are good; those scouting/personnel assets are better used towards investigating players the team might have both questions and beliefs about/in.