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  1. Twins Bullpen Power Rankings

    October is going to look different this season with no off days in scheduled in each of the first three rounds. There is some time off between each round, but bullpens are going to be even more important in this tight schedule. These power rankings aren’t about who should be used in a specific spot because the manager can be creative in the playoffs. The rankings below are about who is pitching well and who has the best stuff to succeed in October.

    10. Sean Poppen (4.70 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, 10 K, 7 2/3 IP)
    Poppen has seen limited time for the Twins this year and it seems unlikely that he would be called on in October. His lone role might be to eat some innings if there was a blowout. He also hasn’t pitched in a game in nearly two weeks. Twins fans don’t want to see him on the mound in the playoffs, because that likely means something went wrong in the game.

    9. Caleb Thielbar (1.69 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 20 K, 16 IP)
    Thielbar has been a feel-good story for the Twins this season as his pitching performance certainly has matched a player that hasn’t pitching in the big leagues since 2015. If you take out his first appearance, he has a 0.66 ERA while holding batters to a .149/.259/.149 (.408) slash-line. Also, he has been asked to get more than three outs four of his fourteen games, which is likely something he wouldn’t be asked to do in the postseason. On other teams, he’d rank much higher.

    8. Cody Stashak (3.09 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 15 K, 11 2/3 IP)
    Stashak has been really good and him being this low shows the depth of the Twins bullpen. He’s only allowed runs in two of his nine appearances and he has multiple strikeouts in over half of his outings. His one bad appearance was an inning where he allowed three runs to Kansas City. Rocco Baldelli has shown faith in using him in the late innings of close games. With few off days in each series, Stashak might be needed for some big outs.

    7. Jorge Alcala (2.91 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 27 K, 21 2/3 IP)
    Alcala might have helped Twins fans to forget about Brusdar Graterol since he is basically filling the same role on the team. He’s also been better than Graterol this season. His fastball will certainly play in October and he’s used his slider nearly as often. His Baseball Savant page is also the thing of dreams as he ranks as ranks higher than the 80th percentile in all but one category. He could be the team’s closer of the future and October could be his month to shine on the big stage.

    6. Matt Wisler (1.11 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 34 K, 24 1/3 IP)
    Wilser has been the Twins diamond in the rough this year. Claimed off waivers, the Twins have helped him to morph into one of the American League’s best relief pitchers. According to Baseball Reference, he is tied with Jose Berrios for the fourth highest WAR on the team behind Byron Buxton, Kenta Maeda, and Nelson Cruz. He’s been used as an opener, earned a save, and has five holds to his name. His versatility could be useful with how effective he continues to be.

    5. Tyler Clippard (2.78 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 22 K, 22 2/3 IP)
    Minnesota saw plenty of Clippard last year in Cleveland and he’s been nearly as good so far this year. He could actually move down this list with some recent poor performances. In three of his last four appearances, runs have been scored against him, so his worst stretch of the season might be coming at the wrong time. Baldelli will likely continue to turn to him because he is a 14-year veteran with 14 playoff appearances during his career.

    4. Sergio Romo (2.89 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 22 K, 18 2/3 IP)
    Since the Twins acquired him last year, Romo has been getting plenty of late inning opportunities out of the Twins bullpen. Taylor Rogers has struggled at times this year and this has led the Twins to continue to use Romo in late inning situations. Fans saw this as recently as Sunday night in Chicago with Rogers getting the eighth and Romo getting the ninth. Things got a little shaky in that game, but he has a long playoff track record and he’s going to be trusted to get outs in the eighth and ninth inning.

    3. Taylor Rogers (4.58 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 22 K, 17 2/3 IP)
    Rogers and his struggles have been well documented throughout this season. In such a small sample size, luck might be accounting for some of his poor performance. His BABIP is one of the highest among all relief pitchers and his 4.58 ERA comes with a 2.84 FIP. Some of his issues this year might also be tied to the use of his breaking pitches. As Nick wrote about last week, his curve spin rate has flattened out and this could be one reason for more solid contact against him. Whether it’s luck or a poor breaking ball, the Twins need Rogers to be in peak form by the start of next week.

    2. Trevor May (4.35 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 34 K, 20 2/3 IP)
    Back on September 6, May blew up in a loss to Detroit as he allowed three runs on four hits and saw his ERA rise to 5.74. In his last five appearances, he has been nearly unhittable with opponents limited to two hits, both singles. He has struck out eight in five innings and nearly 60% of his WPA for the season has come during this recent stretch. Even though his season hasn’t been perfect, he’s been Minnesota’s hottest reliever to end the season.

    1. Tyler Duffey (1.69 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 28 K, 21 1/3 IP)
    Duffey is the Twins best relief pitcher and it might not be close. If an opponent’s heart of the line-up is coming up in a key spot, Duffey gets the call in the bullpen. These types of situations will only be more amplified in the upcoming postseason. So far this season, he has pitched in any inning from the fourth to the eighth, because Baldelli trusts him in any situation. He isn’t the Twins closer, because he is better than any of the closing options for the Twins.

    How would you rank the Twins bullpen? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Sep 21 2020 06:48 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  2. The Twins 2020 All-Stars Could Have Been

    Cases could me made for all five of the players below to be included on the 2020 AL All-Star squad. Here’s how I’d rank the Twins as far as their chances to make the team after the season’s mid-point.

    5. Miguel Sano, 1B
    It’s no secret that Sano struggled getting out of the gate this season. He spent a large chunk of the team’s Summer Camp quarantined in his basement after testing positive for the coronavirus. In the team’s first five games, he went 1-for-17 with eight strikeouts and no walks. Since that point, he has been one of baseball’s best sluggers by slashing .292/.407/.667 with 15 extra-base hits in 22 games. Chicago’s Jose Abreu would likely have gotten the starting spot, but Sano has the AL’s third highest WAR among first basemen. He also has a higher WAR than Abreu since last year’s All-Star Game.

    4. Tyler Duffey, RP
    When completing an All-Star roster, managers like to have flame throwing arms to come in for the late innings. Duffey has been outstanding since the middle of last season. In fact, FanGraphs has him trailing only Liam Hendrick and Nick Anderson in WAR since the middle of last year. This even puts him ahead of Twins closer Taylor Rogers. So far this season, Duffey has limited batters to one run on five hits in 11 innings. Over the last two seasons, he has a 96 to 14 strikeout to walk ratio in just under 70 innings. He’s one of baseball’s best relievers and he would have been highly considered for an All-Star spot.

    3. Randy Dobnak, SP
    Dobnak is near the top of the AL in wins and ERA, which is pretty good for a player that wasn’t even a lock to be in the rotation during spring training. Baseball Reference ranks him third on the team in WAR behind the two players ahead of him on this list. He has been terrific since his debut last season with tremendous career numbers like a 1.69 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and a 39 to 12 strikeout to walk ratio. He might not be the big names fans typically look for in the Mid-Summer Classic but both CBS and MLB.com mentioned him as a potential All-Star.

    2. Kenta Maeda, SP
    In some other seasons, Maeda might be in the conversation to start the All-Star Game with his first half performance. Unfortunately, he’s in the same league with starters like Shane Bieber, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke so it’s tough to beat out those names. He still would have likely been a lock to be included on the AL’s roster. He’s ranks fourth in the AL in ERA, first in WHIP, first in hits per nine, and fifth in win probability added. Maeda has been even better than advertised as he seems like the ace on one of baseball’s best teams.

    1. Nelson Cruz, DH
    Cruz would have been a slam dunk to be the AL’s starter at designated hitter. He seems to continue to get better with age as he ranks first in the AL in slugging, OPS and home runs. At different points this season, he carried the Twins offensive load especially with injuries to other key members of the Bomba Squad. His leadership on and off the field have altered Minnesota’s baseball culture and there can’t be enough superlatives thrown his way. Oh, by the way, he turned 40-years old at the beginning of July. Truly amazing.

    Who do you think would have made the All-Star team for the Twins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Aug 27 2020 07:14 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  3. It's Time for the Minnesota Twins to Move Down Taylor Rogers in the Bullpen Pecking Order

    From the start of the 2017 season to the end of the 2019 season, Taylor Rogers had been one of the best relief pitchers in baseball. Over that timespan, Rogers ranked 15th in baseball in ERA (2.75) and 15th in fWAR (4.3). In what had been rollercoaster season for the Twins’ various relief groups, Rogers had been the steady force who could be counted on in the highest of leverage situations.

    Down the stretch run of 2019 and into the 2020 season, though, there have been some chinks in the armor. After an outstanding first half of the 2019 season (1.82 ERA), Taylor Rogers stumbled a bit down the stretch, posting a second half ERA of 3.68. Rogers has continued that poor stretch into the 2020 season as he now owns a 4.82 ERA through the first third of the season, while batters own a batting average north of .300 against him.

    Thus far in the 2020 season, the biggest difference in Taylor Rogers struggles have been the ability for opposing batters to square up and make hard contact on his pitches. In 2018 and 2019, Rogers ranked in the top 25% of baseball in limiting hard contact for opposing batters. Thus far in 2020, though, Rogers ranks in the bottom third in baseball in limiting hard contact, allowing a hard hit percentage of 40.7. The hard hits have led to some tough outings for Rogers, who has allowed runs in three of his 10 outings, two of them resulting in multiple runs, and all three of them blowing a tie or a lead.

    In addition to the runs allowed, Rogers has seemingly had to work his way through every outing. In 2019, Taylor Rogers got through 42% of his appearances without allowing a hit, while in 2020 he has allowed a hit in seven of his 10 outings.

    While Taylor Rogers has taken a small step back from his "eliteness" over the past 13 months, there have been several other arms in the Minnesota Twins bullpen that have made the leap forward to being outstanding relief options.



    As you can see above, Taylor Rogers still has a very respectable 3.82 ERA since last July, but other arms have simply been better — namely, Trevor May and Tyler Duffey. Trevor May has the best pure “stuff” of anyone on the Minnesota Twins bullpen, utilizing a 98 MPH fastball and a slider that completely fools batters at the plate. Tyler Duffey, in the meantime, has developed into one of the best relief pitchers in all of baseball, becoming practically unhittable every time he takes the mound. May and Duffey both tout right handedness in an American League where the majority of the best hitters come from the right side of the plate.

    Taylor Rogers still has the command and the stuff to work his way back up the bullpen pecking order, but Trevor May and Tyler Duffey have done enough over what has worked out to be a half-season sample size to become the high leverage arms in this relief group. In a shortened season in which every game (theoretically) means 2.7 times more than it normally would, it’s time for the pecking order to be rearranged and for the Twins bullpen stars to get their time to shine.

    Do you think Taylor Rogers should be moved down the bullpen pecking order? Would you rather see Trevor May or Tyler Duffey as the “highest” leverage arm? Leave a comment below and start the conversation!

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    • Aug 21 2020 11:05 AM
    • by Matthew Taylor
  4. Tyler Duffey: The Bullpen Ace that Almost Got Away

    The flurry of moves Duffey endured over a three-day span last year must have had his head spinning. I don't recall the exact circumstances around his being recalled, optioned, and recalled again on consecutive days, and I don't recall if he actually traveled back and forth to Rochester. I hope not.

    [attachment=14608:duffeymoves.JPG]


    While this roster maneuvering may have been extreme, it was hardly unfamiliar ground for Duffey, who'd grown accustomed to shuttling back and forth between the majors and Triple-A. Following his 10th such turnaround, the 28-year-old seemed to be firmly placing himself in the "Quad-A player" category: Good enough to excel at the highest level of the minors, where he'd posted a 2.90 ERA in 2018 (59 IP), but not good enough for the bigs, where his ERA was 7.20 in 25 innings.

    I can think of two former Twins pitchers who were once deemed Quad-A players. And incidentally, they now surround Duffey on the list of top-performing MLB relief pitchers since the 2019 trade deadline, according fWAR:

    1. Liam Hendriks, OAK - 1.7

    2. Tyler Duffey, MIN - 1.5

    3. Nick Anderson, TB - 1.4


    Granted, it's a bit of a selective endpoint, and fWAR is hardly the be-all end-all measure of relief effectiveness, but I think it's fair to categorize these as the three top bullpen arms in the game based on recent results.

    Hendriks, of course, reached the majors for the Twins as a fringey starting pitching prospect in 2011. He made 30 appearances for the Twins (28 starts) over three seasons with a 6.06 ERA before moving on. It took another five years for him to emerge as an elite closer in Oakland, at in 2019, at age 30.

    Anderson followed a different path to stardom, and while he too was borne out of the Twins' organization, his sadly never even passed through Minnesota. (Not professionally, anyway.)

    The Brainerd, MN native was signed out of an independent league by the Twins in 2015. He performed extremely well in their system, with a 2.25 ERA and 11.4 K/9 rate over four seasons, but for whatever reason, never got a look in the majors – not even in the late stages of a lost 2018 that saw them cycling through various spare arms. (Anderson had put up an 88-to-19 K/BB ratio in 60 innings that year as Duffey's teammate at Rochester.)

    After that season, the Twins traded Anderson to the Marlins for a bag of peanuts. In 2019, Miami gave the hard-throwing righty a shot and he was an immediate sensation, striking out 69 hitters over 43 2/3 innings with a 3.92 ERA before being deal to Tampa at the deadline. Since that point, as we referenced earlier, he's been the third-best (or so) relief pitcher in baseball.

    The point here is not to relitigate the past or blame the Twins for misjudging their own talent. There's no way they could've stuck with Hendriks through a half-decade of struggle and mediocrity. And while they certainly should've given Anderson a look in 2018, who's to say it would've made any difference? Even a strong performance in a smattering of appearances wasn't going to entrench him. Keep in mind that Oliver Drake posted a 2.21 ERA in 19 appearances for the Twins around that time, and was let go afterward. (Drake, as it happens, has also since caught on as a pretty good reliever for the Rays. Another "Quad-A" guy.)

    The bottom line is that evaluating bullpen arms is a fickle endeavor. And the Twins could have so easily gotten it wrong with Duffey. What if that 10th time being optioned to the minors was for good? What if they gave up on him and decided to move on?

    They didn't. Duffey was recalled the next day, and hasn't looked back. Since then, he has a 2.31 ERA and 82-to-12 K/BB with 41 hits allowed in 58 1/3 innings. And since the start of last August, he's been utterly ridiculous: 0.65 ERA, with 31 scoreless appearances out of 32. In 2020, he's been very nearly perfect.

    The Twins might've let a couple of MLB's relievers get away. But right now the one they kept looks like the very best, and he's surrounded by plenty of other high-end contributors in a bullpen that's been supercharged over the past 16 months.



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    • Aug 12 2020 08:43 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  5. Questioning the Twins Bullpen Usage

    So far in his two seasons as manager, Rocco Baldelli has shown a preference for giving players time off and allowing pitchers to throw in situations that best fit their role. He adjusted his bullpen usage last season because the team’s relief core was struggling through parts of the first half. In fact, that was one of the team’s biggest needs at the trade deadline last season (See the team’s trade for Sam Dyson and Sergio Romo).

    Luckily for the Twins players like Tyler Duffey and Trevor May have emerged and the team went out and signed a veteran arm like Tyler Clippard while resigning Romo. This leaves the Twins with one of the baseball’s best bullpens, but their second-year manager could approach the team’s bullpen usage in a different way than he has through the team’s first third of the season.

    There are two different ways to rank the bullpen when it comes to effectiveness and how the manager views the hierarchy. Taylor Rogers is clearly at the back end of any bullpen configuration for the Twins. From there, things get a little dicey. Baldelli is inclined to use Romo as the team’s alternate closer, but it can be argued that he is the team’s fifth best relief option.

    The players that should be ahead of Romo in the bullpen pecking order are Tyler Duffey, Trevor May and Tyler Clippard. Duffey has turned himself into one of the most dominant right-handed relief pitchers in the American League. He might be even better than Taylor Rogers, the team’s closer, and that’s quite the honor.

    May tends to allow some home runs and Clippard is on the backend of his career. So, how could the Twins do a better job of using these pitchers?

    Minnesota’s offense hasn’t been performing at the same level as the 2019 team and it would be hard to live up to the same level as the record-setting “Bomba Squad.” Still, the trend so far this season has been to turn to less established relief arms when the team is trailing in a game. The names mentioned above are saved for if/when the team takes the lead and other players like Cody Stashak, Matt Wisler and Caleb Theilbar are trusted to keep the team in the game.


    Twins manager Rocco Baldelli seems to be in the frame of mind that using his best pitchers in deficit games is will have negative results. This seems like a logical response for a manager if the season is 162-games. Unfortunately, the team isn’t in the midst of a season that long. Even the best teams this season will only win around 35 games.

    This is going to force managers with good bullpens, like Baldelli, to use his good relief arms when the team is trailing. Unless a starting pitcher is pulled after three innings, there is little chance to use Rogers, Duffey, May, Clippard and Romo all in the same game.

    If the Twins go on a winning streak, this type of bullpen usage could help the team. The team could have a better chance to win by spreading the team’s five best relief pitchers over the course of multiple games. There has also been a plethora of pitching injuries so far this year so allowing pitchers to rest could help the team to stay healthy down the stretch.

    Out of bullpen arms, Clippard and Wisler have the most innings and that includes Clippard making multiple starts as an opener. Romo, Duffey, Stashak and May have all pitched more than Rogers. In fact, Rogers has barely pitched more than rookie Jorge Alcala.

    In the grand scheme of a shortened schedule, bullpen usage might not matter until the games count in the playoffs. It is still perplexing to consider the way Baldelli has approached his relief options so far in 2020.

    Are you concerned with the team’s bullpen usage so far this season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Aug 12 2020 06:28 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  6. Twins Bullpen: Ready When Needed

    Going back a decade or more, the concept of Closer-by-Committee was met with disdain by many inside baseball circles. Meanwhile, the concept behind it was certainly sound. Use your best bullpen arms in the best positions for them to succeed. In other words, if your opponent has Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Justin Upton coming up to start the eighth inning, you might want to use your closer in that situation, especially if you’ve got a closer that dominates right-handed hitters. Get through that situation, and bring in the most logical next reliever for that ninth-inning save.

    It has also always been tradition that the better bullpens have a ninth inning guy, an eighth inning guy and maybe even a seventh inning guy. That is their role in a game that the team is winning. The role is based on the inning, not necessarily on the matchups coming during that inning.

    Through admittedly just eight games this season, it appears that Rocco Baldelli, Wes Johnson and the Twins have decided not to give pitcher roles by innings but instead by situation. Here is a quick breakdown of which innings the relievers have been used in so far.

    Taylor Rogers: 9th/Save (3)
    Sergio Romo: 7th (1), 8th (1), 9th/Save (1),
    Trevor May: 5th (1),7th (1), 8th (1),
    Tyler Duffey: 6th (1), 7th (2),
    Tyler Clippard: 6th (3), 8th (1),
    Cody Stashak: 8th and 9th (1), 7th (1), 8th (1)
    Zack Littell: 5th (1), 6th and 7th (1),
    Devin Smeltzer: 6th and 7th (1),
    Matt Wisler: 8th (1), 8th and 9th (1)
    Lewis Thorpe: 6th, 7th and 8th (1), 8th and 9th (1)

    Kenta Maeda became the first Twins starting pitcher to throw a pitch in the six innings. In games that the Twins have won, we have seen Clippard, Duffey, May, Romo, Stashak and Rogers.

    As interesting, pitchers have been used in a variety of roles. Trevor May has pitched in the fifth inning and in the eighth inning. On Sunday, Tyler Clippard will be used as an Opener after being used in either the sixth or eighth innings previously. Tyler Duffey has pitched in the sixth and seventh innings.

    Duffey said on Saturday afternoon that Baldelli has been up front with the relievers about their roles. “Rocco did a good job. Before we got started, he kind of made the rounds and talked to guys. He said, ‘Hey, situations are gonna call for guys to pitch. Just be ready.’”

    Earlier in the week, Sergio Romo hesitated when asked about reliever roles, but said, “We all have an ability to get hitters out in a unique way, in a different way from each other. The situations that Rocco’s been putting us in is a compliment to that, to each one of our strengths. Each one of us has been put in situations where I feel Rocco - maybe beyond 100% - knows we’re going to succeed. I think you’ll see more of that.”

    And succeed they have. Duffey (3 IP), Rogers (3 IP), Romo (3 IP), Stashak (4 IP), Thorpe (4 ⅔ IP) and Wisler (2 ⅓ IP) have combined to throw 20 innings with a combined 0.00 ERA. Clippard (4 IP) and May (3 IP) have each given up just one earned run. Zack Littell threw two scoreless innings in his most recent outing after giving up four runs in his first inning. Devin Smeltzer gave up five earned run in two innings in his lone outing. Combined, the bullpen has pitched 32 innings and has a 3.09 ERA. If you remove Littell’s and Smeltzer’s first outings, the bullpen has thrown 29 innings and has a 0.62 ERA. In short, outside of one game, this bullpen has been remarkable!

    We knew coming into the season that the bullpen was expected to be a strength of for the Twins. Many national sports media sites ranked the Twins bullpen among the Top 5 in MLB.

    There is talent. There are veterans like Romo and Clippard who have performed over their dozen-plus big league seasons. Taylor Rogers emerged the last two seasons as one of the best left-handed relievers in the game, if not one of the best relievers period. Trevor May and Tyler Duffey each have electric stuff and seemingly put it together in 2019s second half. Both are much more confident early this season. Zack Littell and Cody Stashak were rookies last year who were a big boost to the late-season improvements of the Twins bullpen. Stashak has been terrific early this year.

    Stashak said, “It (bullpen’s confidence) is pretty high. I’m sure the word’s gone around that we’ve got a solid ‘pen.”

    Littell struggled in his first outing, then threw two scoreless innings on Thursday night. He has now been put on the Injured List with a hamstring injury.

    Baldelli said of Littell, “Zack came out of his last outing with just a little bit of a hamstring tightness. You could call it an injury. You could call it just a minor incident. Really, what it comes down to, is you probably don't want to have to put a guy on the IL for something like this, but it probably would have been a couple of days before he would have seen game action again. So, does he need the full 10 days to feel better and be able to get out there on the mound? I don't know. Probably not. But to have a spot in the bullpen where you're not going to pitch a guy for a handful of days right now is also not a place where we really want to be. ”

    That gives Jorge Alcala, whose stuff the team has been raving about throughout summer camp, an opportunity.

    Before Saturday’s game, Baldelli noted, “We had some videos of him throwing at home, and he looked really, really impressive. The velocity was good and was up from what we saw in the big leagues last year. We know he has a big arm and some added depth to the breaking ball was apparent. More than anything, I think his confidence in what he's doing when he steps on the mound against hitters, against big league hitters, even against his own teammates in some of these outings and Summer Camp sessions.”

    So now maybe Alcala assumes the role and gets the situations that Littell had pitched.

    With the innings not being the determining factor for when a pitcher comes in, how does a pitcher know, or anticipate, when he might be called upon?

    In Saturday’s pre-game Zoom Meetings, I asked Duffey if he just needs to start getting ready earlier or if it causes him to pay attention to things like the opponent’s batting order and such.
    He said, “Obviously we’re not locked in for nine innings, but you kind of look at the lineup and say, ‘OK, there are some righties, or I’ve done well against that lefty in the past, or maybe we need to turn this switch-hitter around,’ something like that. Those are thoughts that go through your mind.”

    Duffey added, “You can’t really expect anything, and I think that’s good. It keeps everyone on their toes and mentally ready. I can’t say it enough, this is a really, really good group of guys. A lot of talent, a lot of different looks, especially out of our bullpen. I think that’s why we’re gonna have a lot of success.”

    Sergio Romo agrees, and is looking forward to seeing how it plays out. “It’s going to be fun to see the combinations that Rocco puts together with us. Again, it’s more of a compliment to us when he has so many different ways to use us and is so willing to do it confidently. It’s fun to be a part of again.”

    While the starters will, hopefully, continue to eat more innings as the season moves on, Baldelli and Johnson have to feel really good about their bullpen, knowing whoever they put into a game is fully capable of shutting the door. And having one of the top closers in the game certainly doesn’t hurt either.

    • Aug 01 2020 10:27 PM
    • by Seth Stohs
  7. Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Relief Pitcher

    Projected Bullpen: Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Tyler Clippard, Sergio Romo, Zach Littell, Matt Wisler, Cody Stashak

    Depth: Fernando Romero, Sean Poppen, Danny Coulombe, Ryan Garton, Blaine Hardy, Cory Gearrin, Caleb Thielbar
    Prospects: Edwar Colina, Dakota Chalmers, Jake Reed

    THE GOOD

    September 14th was perhaps the most memorable day of the 2019 season. On this date, the Twins swept a doubleheader in Cleveland, effectively putting the division on ice. While Miguel Sano's splashy grand slam dominated the highlight reels, there's no question who was the star of this show: Minnesota's blossoming bullpen.

    The games were "started" by Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe, and featured a total of nine different pitchers deployed by Rocco Baldelli. Smeltzer and Thorpe combined with Zack Littell, Tyler Duffey, Sergio Romo, Taylor Rogers, Cody Stashak, Brusdar Graterol and Trevor May to hold Cleveland to five runs on 13 hits in 18 innings. The seven pitchers who appeared as relievers totaled 14 strikeouts and zero walks.

    This immaculate collective performance epitomized the bullpen's brilliant second half. Even with top deadline addition Sam Dyson completely fizzling, the Twins relief corps ranked third among MLB teams in fWAR after July 31st, trailing only the Yankees and Rays. While the closer Rogers continued to excel, he was surrounded by strong performers, with May, Duffey, Romo, and Littell all contributing in major ways. Meanwhile, Stashak and Graterol joined the fray as impact rookies.

    Graterol won't return, but everyone else will, along with waiver gamble Matt Wisler and free agent acquisition Tyler Clippard, whose reverse splits make him the weapon Baldelli needs against southpaws.

    Minnesota is about seven-deep with quality big-league relievers, and that's before you account for long-relief options such as Thorpe and Smeltzer, or ready-to-go reinforcements such as Sean Poppen and Fernando Romero. Even with the inherent volatility of MLB bullpens, and the inevitability of at least a few injuries, this relief unit is poised to be one of the American League's finest.

    THE BAD

    Graterol is a big loss. While he was the least established among this entire crop, he undoubtedly offered the most upside, which was set to be unleashed after the team's acknowledgement he was slated for a relief role in 2020. The Twins bolstered their rotation by trading the young flamethrower for Kenta Maeda, but there's a clear trade-off in bullpen caliber.

    By no means were the Twins counting on Graterol to be an essential fixture in this year's bullpen, but that was the beauty of his presence: a total bonus and a wild-card, with serious "ace in the hole" potential in this season and many to come.

    It may not be felt as strongly since we were only beginning to acclimate ourselves to the idea of him as a long-term relief pitcher, but make no mistake: Graterol's absence creates a spacious void in the bullpen's outlook going forward. The Twins will have to hope a rebounding Romero or an emerging Jhoan Duran can fill it in some way.

    Ultimately, the most evident weakness in Minnesota's bullpen is a lack of established track records beyond Rogers. As good as May, Duffey, and Littell were last year, none had a substantive history of MLB relief success prior. Wisler is still searching for his first above-average season in the majors.

    Signing Clippard and Romo helps in this regard, of course, but they are middle relief types. The Twins are counting heavily on May and Duffey to repeat their dominant performances from 2019. There's no specific reason to think either one won't but... relievers are relievers.

    THE BOTTOM LINE

    Bullpen is undoubtedly a differentiating asset for the Twins heading into 2020, as they've retained all the top performers in a unit that progressively emerged last year as one of the league's best and deepest. Rogers ranks among the position's elite, and is surrounded by a couple setup men who could easily join the closer in this distinction.

    Reliable options abound for Baldelli, who shouldn't find himself running short on trusted relievers barring an abundance of injuries and setbacks.

    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Catcher
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: First Base
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Second Base
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Third Base
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Shortstop
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Left Field
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Center Field
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Right Field
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Designated Hitter
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Starting Pitcher

    MORE FROM TWINS DAILY
    — Latest Twins coverage from our writers
    — Recent Twins discussion in our forums
    — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email

    • Apr 09 2020 08:59 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  8. Top 20 Minnesota Twins Assets of 2020: Part 1 (16-20)

    First, here are the parameters and stipulations:

    • Things that are factored into these rankings: production, age, upside, pedigree, health, length of team control, favorability of contract, positional scarcity (within the system, and generally).
    • Players are people. Their value to the organization, and its fans, goes well beyond the strictly business-like scope we're using here. But for the purposes of this list, we're analyzing solely in terms of asset evaluation. Intangible qualities and popularity are not factors. (Sorry Willians.)
    • The idea is to assess their importance to the future of the Minnesota Twins. In this respect, it's not exactly a ranking in terms of trade value, because that's dependent on another team's situation and needs. (For instance, Jake Cave and LaMonte Wade, Jr. would be more valuable to many other teams than they are to the Twins, who are rich with short-term and long-term corner outfield depth.)
    • This is a snapshot in time. Rankings are heavily influenced by recent trends and where things stood as of the end of 2019.
    • Current major-leaguers and prospects are all eligible. The ultimate goal here to answer this question: Which current players in the organization are most indispensable to fulfilling the vision of building a champion?
    Any questions or quibbles, holler in the comments. Let's start the countdown.

    TOP 20 MINNESOTA TWINS ASSETS OF 2020 (16-20)

    20. Ryan Jeffers, C
    2019 Ranking: NR

    An early example of positional scarcity playing a role in these rankings. There are better Twins prospects than Jeffers who will not appear on this list, but his presence in the system is especially vital. The 2018 second-round draft pick is a 22-year-old catcher who has already reached Double-A, hitting at every level. Folks in the know rave about his defensive skills, and pitch-framing especially.

    Thus far Jeffers has done nothing but validate the team's belief in him. A catcher who shines both ways is among the game's most coveted assets. Luckily, the Twins already have one of those in place at the major-league level, which is one of the only reasons Jeffers is even this low. (Spoiler: Fellow high-grade catching prospect Ben Rortvedt didn't make the Top 20, but is a short step behind Jeffers and is definitely an honorable mention.)

    19. Eddie Rosario, OF
    2019 Ranking: 8

    I found Rosario's 2019 campaign a tad disappointing, despite the precedent-shattering HR and RBI totals, and I know I'm not alone. But we shouldn't be totally consumed by recency bias in evaluating him. The prior two years he was the team's second-most valuable player behind Brian Dozier (per fWAR) and I hope we can all agree his practical impact in 2019 was greater than OBP/defense-hampered metrics suggest. (To what extent is debatable.)

    The fact remains: Rosario has yet to put together a completely transcendent season, and he's now 28 with two years of team control remaining. His expected salary via arbitration in 2020 (~$7-9 million) is reasonable – hardly a bargain. Rosario absolutely a guy you like to have around, but with all the corner outfield depth, and crystallizing deficiencies to accompany his almost unparalleled "unstoppable when hot" dynamic, he slides down in this ranking.

    18. Michael Pineda, RHP
    2019 Ranking: NR

    Two years of team control at an extremely reasonable cost. When signed, I estimated that Pineda's newly minted contract will be looked back at as the best one executed by Minnesota's front office this offseason, and that's why he ranks here despite the evident drawbacks.

    Yes, he'll miss ~12% of those two years due to suspension. But this might actually be beneficial in terms of workload management, and Pineda's established high-end performance level in the rotation is critical for the Twins. His injury history can't be ignored, but the mix of ability, recent health record, and contract appeal make him an essential short-term fixture.

    17. Nelson Cruz, DH
    2019 Ranking: NR

    Cruz has some major things working against him on a list like this. He's 39. Offers zero defensive value. Nagging wrist problem lingers as a concern. Only under contract for one more year. As you zoom out to the big-picture view, the designated hitter's significance diminishes. But when it comes to 2020 – a critical year brimming with opportunity – few figures on the roster loom larger.

    Cruz was one of the best hitters in the American League this year. The two players ahead of him in wOBA were Mike Trout and Alex Bregman, who finished 1-2 in the AL MVP voting. Even with his circumstantial detriments, Cruz's elite hitting ability and elder statesmanship – in a clubhouse where he's older than the manager – are irreplaceable at this moment.

    16. Tyler Duffey, RHP
    2019 Ranking: NR

    There are a lot of players on this year's list who were not on last year's. (This speaks to both the volatility of pro baseball and my general ineptitude in such endeavors.) I don't think any newcomer would've ranked lower last year than Duffey, a 28-year-old failed starter who was failing to catch on as a reliever, and nearly out of options.

    In 2019, he completely flipped the narrative. Suddenly, the tantalizing upside that long intrigued onlookers surfaced. Armed with a 94 MPH fastball and a harder, sharper version of his ever-impressive breaking ball, Duffey became an overpowering force in the late innings. Over 57 2/3 innings with the Twins, he posted a 2.50 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 12.8 K/9 rate while holding opponents to a .201 average. His 5.86 K/BB ratio ranked 14th among MLB relievers.

    Duffey is entering his first turn at arbitration and has three years of team control remaining. This puts him solidly ahead of the similarly impactful Trevor May, who is one year from free agency and a narrow miss in the Top 20.

    Check back in tomorrow for Part 2 of these rankings.

    MORE FROM TWINS DAILY

    — Latest Twins coverage from our writers
    — Recent Twins discussion in our forums
    — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email

    • Jan 05 2020 07:02 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  9. Three Critical Developments in Tyler Duffey's Progression to Dominance

    Duffey put together a second half for the ages, giving up just a .208 wOBA, a .245 SLG and striking out 47 hitters in 29.1 second half innings. What led to Duffey’s surge to dominance? Here are three important steps he took in 2019.

    Changing pitch mix and increased velocity
    Duffey’s pitch mix has changed markedly from the beginning of 2018, as evidenced below (visual via Baseball Savant):

    [attachment=13274:DuffeyChart1.jpeg]

    At the beginning of 2019, Duffey all but did away with his ineffective sinker, beginning to rely more heavily on his slider. In addition to ditching a pitch altogether, Duffey’s location began to shift dramatically. In 2018, Duffey was working primarily middle and down in the strike zone. This did not work well. In 2018, Duffey’s fastball was annihilated to the tune of a 1.011 OPS and 180 wRC+ against, making it a truly dysfunctional pitch.

    [attachment=13280:Fastball 2018.png]

    In 2019, Duffey began to shift his fastball location up in the zone (visuals via Brooks Baseball).

    [attachment=13281:Fastball 2019.png]

    Duffey’s fastball velocity is another data point of note. His four-seamer maxed out at 97.4 mph in 2019, almost three mph more than in his big league debut in 2015. This combination of increased velocity, elevation, and solid fastball spin rate (63rd percentile in MLB) transformed Duffey’s fastball into a strength. In 2019, opposing hitters managed just a .599 OPS and 66 wRC+ against it. In short, it became a dominant pitch.

    The Development of a Super Slider
    Duffey’s slider is unusual in that it has more vertical drop on average than any other slider in MLB (about 33% more than typical). Duffey’s slider performs opposite to that of Sergio Romo (who achieves a large amount of horizontal movement resulting in consistent soft contact). Duffey’s simply bottoms out, resulting in a 16.2 SwStr% in 2019. Indeed, Duffey’s vertical movement on his slider increased significantly in 2019 (visual via Baseball Savant)

    [attachment=13276:Duffey3.jpeg]
    Duffey’s increase in slider velocity (+2 mph in 2019) and his ability to command it had devastating effects. He gave up just a .257 wOBA and 69 wRC+ on the pitch in 2019 and took 150 points of opposing OPS off the pitch. Duffey now has two plus pitches, all you need to be an outstanding major league reliever.

    Finally, Duffey showed outstanding command of his slider (image courtesy of FanGraphs). There is a tight clustering of the pitch down and away from right-handed hitters. Duffey rarely hung the pitch. When he missed with it, he tended to miss low and away. His ability to locate his slider down and away to right-handed hitters combined with it’s precipitous drop made it the second devastating pitch from a pitcher who began the season at Triple-A Rochester. After his impressive second half, Duffey finished in the 94th percentile in MLB in K%, and 85th percentile in xSLG.

    [attachment=13277:Duffey4.png]
    Looking Back, Looking Ahead
    The 28-year-old Duffey should remind Twins fans of a few truths heading into 2020. Player development is not linear. Much like Mitch Garver, Duffey’s rise to prominence should make fans throw out old nonsense notions about ‘age’, ‘development’ and ‘ceiling’. Secondly, he should reaffirm Twins fans faith in their front office, analytics and player development departments. Duffey has transformed into a modern reliever. A high velocity fastball with a solid spin located up in the zone and a wipe- out slider which he throws a ton. I’ll be interested to see if the Twins choose to add externally to their bullpen this offseason. I’ll be more interested to try and pick apart who the next internal guy for a makeover might be.

    • Oct 20 2019 05:56 AM
    • by Jamie Cameron
  10. Twins Daily 2019 Award: Pitcher of the Year

    Over the past couple of days, we have handed out the Twins Daily Awards for Twins Rookie of the Year (Luis Arraez) and Twins Most Improved Player (Mitch Garver). While there were solid candidate in each category, today’s Pitcher of the Year vote was much closer with votes cast for multiple pitchers.

    Taylor Rogers doesn’t have the typical background story for a Pitcher of the Year candidate. He was the Twins 11th-round draft pick back in 2012 out of Kentucky. The lanky lefty began his career as a starting pitcher and in 2013 was the Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year. He moved up one level, as a starter, each season. In the first week of the 2016 season, Twins closer Glen Perkins got hurt. Taylor Rogers was recalled and worked out of the bullpen.

    Gradually he seemed to get more comfortable with the role, both on the mound and in his preparation for the job each day. He began getting more high-leverage opportunities in 2017. And frankly, over the last two seasons, he has been one of the top four left-handed relief pitchers in baseball. The names that you can put with or even ahead of Rogers might be Josh Hader, Aroldis Chapman and Felipe Vasquez. That’s it.

    Heading into the 2019 season, Rogers knew that he had a role as a late-inning reliever for the Twins. He had earned that. But early in the season, it was Blake Parker often getting save opportunities. Trevor May and Trevor Hildenberger also recorded a save or two in the season’s first month. Rogers was used anytime from the seventh inning on. Sometimes he would get a couple of outs, and sometimes he would work a couple of innings.

    Over the course of the summer, Rogers became the team’s most reliable reliever. At some points in the season, he was their only reliable reliever. He was often tasked with getting more than three outs to record saves, something we just haven’t seen much of in the last two decades of Twins baseball.

    Sure, he had a couple of hiccups throughout the long season, as all great relievers do. However, after the trade deadline, the rest of the bullpen really took off and allowed Rogers to get more regular rest.

    In the season’s final weekend, Rogers notched his milestone 30th save of the season.

    WHAT CHANGED?

    In researching Taylor Rogers’ 2019 stats and comparing them to his 2018 stats, one thing is clear… I think we may have overlooked just how good Taylor Rogers was in 2018, and 2017 too, for that matter. His ERA dropped from 2.63 to 2.61. His WAR increased from 1.9 to 2.1 over the past two seasons. However, fans who watched most Twins games noticed that he had become much more dominant, more aggressive (increased his first-pitch strikes percentage to 68%). He was able to get ahead and quickly dispatch of batters, either by strikeout or weak contact.There may be some numbers that illustrate that as well.

    First, Rogers increased his strikeout rate while reducing his walk. Both improvements were significant. His strikeout rate increased from 9.9 K/9 in 2018 to 11.7 K/9 in 2019. That speaks to his dominance, but to me, his ability to get those additional strikeouts while decreasing his walks from 2.1 BB/9 to just 1.4 BB/9 speaks to the sharpness of his stuff.

    Taylor Rogers really changed his approach on the mound in 2019.He threw a few fewer fastballs (53% to 50%), but his average fastball velocity jumped from 93.4 mph to 94.8 mph.

    In 2018, he threw 33.4% curveballs and just 12.4% sliders. In 2019, he went almost exclusively to the slider. He threw 45.5% sliders and just 4.1% curveballs. And that slider was a dominant pitch to both left-handers and right-handers. While his swinging strike rates stayed about the same, his Line Drive Percentage decreased which led to a big increase in Ground Ball Percentage.

    Rogers didn’t just come in to start clean innings. He was often called in to tough situations where his stuff really played well. In 2019, his Left On Base Percentage was an incredible 86.2%, up from 74.8% in 2018.

    All told, Taylor Rogers’ 2019 season was about as dominant as anyone could have hoped.


    LOOKING FORWARD

    Rogers will turn 29-years-old in December. He earned $1.53 million in his Super-2 arbitration season. He will have three more seasons of arbitration. He should get quite a raise in 2020. I would think a four-year contract could be discussed during the offseason.


    OTHER CANDIDATES

    As noted above, Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi were both All-Stars in 2019. Odorizzi went 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA in 30 starts and 159 innings. Berrios was 14-8 with a 3.68 ERA in 32 starts and 200 1/3 innings. Michael Pineda went 11-8 with a 4.01 ERA in 26 starts in 146 innings. When he was suspended in early September, it could have been argued that he was the Twins top starting pitcher. Tyler Duffey began the 2019 season in Rochester. He worked 57 2/3 innings over 58 games and struck out 82 batters (12.8 K/9). He posted a 2.50 ERA with a 1.01 ERA and ended the season with 21 scoreless innings. Trevor May struck out 79 batters over 62 1/3 innings with a 2.94 ERA.


    THE BALLOTS

    Here’s a look at the ballots from our 18 voters.

    Seth Stohs: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Michael Pineda
    Nick Nelson: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Taylor Rogers, 4) Tyler Duffey
    John Bonnes: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Tyler Duffey
    Tom Froemming: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Michael Pineda, 4) Taylor Rogers
    Cody Christie: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Taylor Rogers, 4) Michael Pineda
    Ted Schwerzler: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Jose Berrios
    Steve Lein: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Taylor Rogers, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Michael Pineda
    S.D. Buhr: 1) Jake Odorizzi, 2) Taylor Rogers, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Tyler Duffey
    Matt Braun: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Taylor Rogers, 3) Michael Pineda, 4) Jake Odorizzi
    Cooper Carlson: 1) Taylor Rogers 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Jake Odorizzi
    Andrew Thares: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Tyler Duffey
    JD Cameron: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Taylor Rogers, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Tyler Duffey
    Matt Lenz: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Trevor May, 4) Michael Pineda
    Nash Walker: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Tyler Duffey
    Patrick Wozniak: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Taylor Rogers, 4) Michael Pineda
    Thieres Rabelo: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Tyler Duffey, 4) Jake Odorizzi
    Sabir Aden: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Tyler Duffey
    AJ Condon: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4.) Jake Odorizzi


    POINTS

    Taylor Rogers 59
    Jose Berrios 51
    Jake Odorizzi 38
    Tyler Duffey 21
    Michael Pineda 9
    Trevor May 2


    PREVIOUS PITCHER OF THE YEAR WINNERS

    2015: Kyle Gibson
    2016: Ervin Santana
    2017: Ervin Santana
    2018: Jose Berrios


    OTHER 2019 AWARD WINNERS

    Rookie of the Year: Luis Arraez
    Most Improved: Mitch Garver
    Pitcher of the Year: Taylor Rogers
    Most Valuable Player: Coming tomorrow

    • Oct 17 2019 08:14 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  11. Twins Daily 2019 Awards: Most Improved Player

    Yesterday, we handed out our award for the 2019 Twins Rookie of the Year to Luis Arraez. In 2018, that award was presented to catcher Mitch Garver. Garver is no stranger to Twins Daily awards. He was named our Minor League Hitter of the Year in 2014 and again in 2017.

    After posting an OPS over 1.000 as a junior at the University of New Mexico, Garver went undrafted. He returned to the Lobos and put up a second great season. The Twins used their ninth-round pick (260th overall) to select Garver, their third catcher selected in that 2014 draft.

    There were always concerns about his defensive abilities, but he worked hard and kept hitting. He earned his first big-league promotion in August of 2017. In 2018, he hit a solid .268/.335/.414 (.749) with 19 doubles, two triples and seven home runs in 335 plate appearances.

    It was a very solid season for a rookie who spent most of that season as the team’s backup catcher. Turns out, it was just a building block. Garver went to work.

    IMPROVEMENT AT THE PLATE

    In 2019, Mitch Garver went from a backup, part-time catcher role to being the must-play catcher late in the season and in the playoffs. Garver was given plenty of time off throughout the season. That is one potential reason for his improvement. Another reason might just be the confidence shown in him by new manager Rocco Baldelli. While Garver would typically hit near the bottom of the lineup in 2018, he was a middle-of-the-order bat much of 2019. In addition, Garver was usually in the leadoff spot against left-handed pitching.

    The results showed right away. He hit seven homers in 335 plate appearances in 2018. This year he hit his eighth home run on May 10th, within 75 plate appearances. I feel it important to point out that Garver had 359 plate appearances in 2019, just 24 more than he accumulated in 2018. He went from seven homers to 31 home runs. His batting average increased from .268 to .273, but his on-base percentage jumped from .335 to .365. His slugging percentage jumped from .414 to 630, and his OPS from .749 to .995. If you’re into wOBA, he went from .325 to .404. And, he did so while seeing his BABIP drop from .330 to .277 .In other words, it wasn’t based on luck at all.

    It was a concerted effort. In a post-game interview with Marney Gellner on FSN, Garver said, “It’s something that I wanted to do with this season. I want to be a force in the lineup.”



    He got more specific. He said he wanted to “focus on hitting it hard, pull side, in the air.”

    Well, he hit the ball hard. His Average Exit Velocity of 91.1 mph ranked behind only Miguel Sano (94.4 mph) and Nelson Cruz (93.7 mph) on the Twins roster. He was 13th in MLB in Barrels per Plate Appearance (4th on Twins). In 2018, he pulled the ball 38.8% of the time. In 2019, he pulled the ball 51.3% of the time. His Line Drive percentage dropped from 22.5% to 13.7% Meanwhile, he increased his Fly Ball percentage from 37.7% to 47.3% It’s fair to say that Garver gave his hitting philosophy a lot of thought, developed a plan and he not only stuck to it, but he succeeded with it. He succeeded with a season that should result in the American League Silver Slugger Award for catchers.


    IMPROVEMENT BEHIND THE PLATE

    It isn’t as easy to see, but as much as Garver improved at the plate, he took huge strides forward behind the plate as well.

    In 2018, according to FanGraphs, Garver’s DRS (Defensive Run Saves) was at -16.His FRM (Catcher Framing Runs Above Average) was at -9.2. Those are the kinds of numbers that create need for self-evaluation. Garver needed to improve, and he knew it.

    During spring training, Twins Daily talked to Garver, and he was very upfront about his need to improve on defense.

    “If I don’t fix things right now, I will not be in the game in two years, three years,” Garver says he told himself. “I won’t be a catcher anymore.”


    Garver went to work with the help of Twins Minor League Catching Coordinator Tanner Swanson in the offseason. So, what did those defensive metrics look like in 2019?

    DRS: 0
    FRM: 0.8

    From those numbers, it is fair to say that Garver has made himself into an average defensive catcher. And while ‘average’ may not be exciting, when you consider how far he came in just one season, it was a huge improvement. Coupled with his offense, average defense makes Garver extremely valuable.

    Also something to consider, the bar for “average” is a moving target. Organizations much better understand the value of catcher defense. It has become more and more of a focus every year. In short, the “average” catcher has become a better catcher. So not only did Garver go from posting poor defensive metrics to average defensive metrics, but he moved up to the higher ‘average” level.And he did so without it effecting his throwing or blocking.


    DESIRE TO IMPROVE

    Garver has played with a chip on his shoulder going back to college when he was a walk-off. He wasn’t drafted after his junior year and became a “senior sign.” He was never considered a top prospect. People questioned his defense. And through it all, Garver was humble and kept on working.

    Late in the season at Target Field, Twins Daily asked Twins manager Rocco Baldelli about the improvement he's seen from Garver, particularly behind the plate. Baldelli said, “I think he’s coming into his own in a lot of ways.”

    The Twins rookie manager continued, “Experience matters behind the plate. It’s difficult to develop into a major-league player of any kind. There are challenges, but to develop into a major-league catcher. There are just so many more responsibilities that you have, and they're not even just personal responsibilities. You’re responsible for other people and what they’re doing out on the field. That’s tough for a lot of guys, but I think Mitch is certainly making huge strides in those areas. What we ask those guys to do behind the plate compared to what we ask everybody else to do, it’s kind of wild. Mitch has taken to it and he’s shown a very open willingness and desire to improve, whether it’s come to his flexibility and his body, or his receiving, or his game-calling, he spends a lot of time. He’s very diligent. I’ve been very happy with the work he’s put in this year.


    LOOKING FORWARD

    And as his college coach at New Mexico, Ray Birmingham, told us recently, that there just might be another level of improvement to come. “He has worked his butt off to get there, and he’s making an impact, and you haven’t seen the best of him yet. He’s sure of himself now. He’s sure that he can do this now, and he will only continue to get better.”


    OTHER CANDIDATES

    While Garver was the runaway winner, as you can see from the results below that there were several strong candidates. After three seasons with very similar numbers, Max Kepler knocked 36 home runs, easily his best season. Jorge Polanco went from a solid start to his career to an All-Star Game starter. Miguel Sano showed great improvement midseason. He was struggling immensely while working on his swing. It took about a week, but after that, he took off. Tyler Duffey had been frequently up and down from the big leagues to Rochester over recent seasons and even began 2019 at AAA. He became one of the best, most dominant set-up men in the game in the season’s second half.


    THE BALLOTS
    Here’s a look at the ballots from our 17 voters.

    Seth Stohs: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Max Kepler
    Nick Nelson: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Tyler Duffey
    John Bonnes: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Miguel Sano, 3) Max Kepler
    Tom Froemming: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Jorge Polanco, 3) Miguel Sano
    Cody Christie: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Jorge Polanco
    Ted Schwerzler: 1) Miguel Sano, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Max Kepler
    Steve Lein: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Miguel Sano
    S.D. Buhr: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Jake Odorizzi
    Matt Braun: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Miguel Sano
    Cooper Carlson: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Max Kepler
    Andrew Thares: 1) Miguel Sano, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jake Odorizzi
    JD Cameron: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Jorge Polanco
    Matt Lenz: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Jorge Polanco, 3) Max Kepler
    Nash Walker: 1) Jorge Polanco, 2) Miguel Sano, 3) Byron Buxton
    Patrick Wozniak: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Tyler Duffey
    Thieres Rabelo: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Miguel Sano, 3) Jorge Polanco
    Sabir Aden: 1) Tyler Duffey, 2) Miguel Sano, 3) Mitch Garver
    AJ Condon: 1) Tyler Duffey, 2) Miguel Sano, 3) Max Kepler


    POINTS
    Mitch Garver: 38
    Tyler Duffey: 20
    Max Kepler: 19
    Miguel Sano: 19
    Jorge Polanco: 10
    Jake Odorizzi: 2
    Byron Buxton: 1

    Do you agree with our pick? Who would be your choice for Most Improved Twin and why? How would your ballot look? Leave a comment and make your case.


    Previous Twins Most Improved Player Award Winners

    2015: Aaron Hicks
    2016: Brian Dozier
    2017: Byron Buxton
    2018: Kyle Gibson

    • Oct 16 2019 09:23 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  12. Twins at Risk of Sinking to New Low with October Woes

    Losing against the Yankees in the playoffs is a painfully familiar experience for Twins fans, but this is as bad as we've seen it. While Minnesota entered this ALDS on a 13-game postseason losing streak, none of those losses were as lopsided or all-around uninspiring as the two duds we just witnessed in the Bronx.

    None of the Twins' 13 consecutive playoff losses dating back to 2004 were by a margin of more than five runs. Each of the first two drubbings in this ALDS have been by six. The Yankees have dismantled, outsmarted, and dominated at almost every turn. Few observers truly expected the Twins to win this series but for the club to be so woefully uncompetitive is beyond disheartening.

    It starts with the pitching staff, of course. In two games at Yankee Stadium, the Twins gave up 18 runs on 18 hits and 16 walks. Previously reliable arms imploded. No one had any answers for the patience and power of New York's lineup. Multiple defensive mistakes contributed to the meltdown.

    Bafflingly, the Twins allowed all of this damage without three of their best relievers even taking the mound. Trevor May and Sergio Romo didn't appear until Game 2 was already well out of hand. Taylor Rogers, Minnesota's most valuable reliever all year long, still hasn't pitched. Meanwhile, the Yankees have gone to their top guys in every important spot and it has paid off; their bullpen – which was arguably at a slight disadvantage on paper – has allowed only two runs on four hits over 8 1/3 innings.

    And while it's always easy to second-guess managerial bullpen moves in retrospect, that's the nature of a playoff series, and rookie skipper Rocco Baldelli has made some especially questionable calls that have gone about as poorly as possible. He pulled strings as if operating in regular-season mode, saving bullets for late-game opportunities that never materialized.

    Why was Zack Littell the first man out of the bullpen on Friday night, in the fifth inning of a 3-3 tie? As effective as Littell has been, he's a rookie who rarely threw in high-leverage spots all year. And on Saturday, why was Tyler Duffey called into an intensely stressful situation, one day after throwing 25 pitches in Game 1? Rogers, May and Romo were all completely fresh. Duffey had a 7.45 ERA and 1.56 WHIP when pitching on zero days rest this season, and he never once made such an appearance after throwing as many pitches as he did on Friday.

    Baldelli has had a commendable first year at the helm but his decision-making in this series – and particularly those choices, with their utterly disastrous results – will be rightfully scrutinized for some time.

    At the end of the day, though, the biggest letdown for the Twins in this heralded slugging showdown has been their largely absent offense. Six runs on 13 hits in 18 innings, against a vulnerable pitching staff in one of baseball's most hitter-friendly yards. Completely inadequate and underwhelming.

    Now, the Twins return home with their backs against the wall. Win or it's over. Given the total breakdowns we've seen in every phase thus far, there's not much cause for confidence, but Monday is a new day, in a new ballpark, in front of a packed home crowd.

    This team is almost out of chances to not just put an end to the longest stretch of postseason futility against a single opponent in MLB history, but to avoid imprinting 2019 as the new low point in this languishing legacy of losing when it matters most.

    Coming home, down 0-2, with elimination feeling almost like a forgone conclusion. We've been here before. Will this time be different?

    • Oct 06 2019 04:54 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  13. Twins ALDS Game 2 Recap: Nothing Works, Twins Lose 12th Straight To Yankees

    Box Score
    Dobnak: 2.0 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 53.4% strikes (23 of 43 pitches)
    Bullpen: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 6 BB, 6 K

    Home Runs: None
    Multi-Hit Games: Garver (2-for-4, RBI), Arráez (2-for-4, RBI)

    Bottom 3 WPA: Duffey -.165, Dobnak -.141, Rosario -.077

    [attachment=13246:WinChart1005.png]
    With yet another loss to the Yankees in the postseason, Minnesota has now been defeated in its last 15 postseason games. The last time the Twins won in the playoffs was exactly fifteen years ago, Game 1 of the 2004 ALDS against the Yankees. If they can’t win Game 3 at Target Field Monday, they will match the worst playoff win drought in professional sports, now held by the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks. Between 1975 and 1979, they lost sixteen consecutive playoff games.

    Dobnak done after two innings
    I can’t even begin to understand what was going through Dobnak’s mind when he took over the mound at Yankee Stadium this afternoon. I don’t think you can get a more nerve-wrecking situation than starting a postseason game less than a year after signing you first $2,000-dollar minor league contract.

    Judging by his first inning, you can tell how nervous he might have been. Yankees hitters cornered him early. DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge, the top two men in the Yankee lineup, both reached safely to begin the game. Edwin Encarnación would later hit a one-out RBI single to left. Immediately afterwards, Dobnak induced an inning-ending ground ball double play against Giancarlo Stanton, finishing a 22-pitch effort from him in the bottom of the first.

    Dobnak actually had a rather smooth second inning, which he concluded with only 12 pitches, nine being strikes. Then his command started to elude him during the third inning and he loaded the bases before recording an out. Rocco Baldelli decided to pull the plug on him after only nine pitches in the inning.

    Bullpen can’t put out the fire
    Tyler Duffey took over in relief and he couldn’t get the job done. Two runs scored right away on a sac-fly by Stanton, followed by an RBI-single by Gleyber Torres. Duffey then hit Gary Sánchez after getting ahead on the count, 0-2, reloading the bases. After getting ahead 0-2 against Didi Gregorius, he gave up a grand slam. It was Gregorius' third career grand slam against Minnesota.

    Duffey was lifted from the game after getting two outs and was replaced by Devin Smeltzer. The rookie was also ambushed, giving up a couple of hits while allowing his inherited runner to score. That made for a seven-run inning for New York.

    Bats get completely dominated
    After hitting three home runs on seven hits on Friday night, the Twins couldn’t find the power in Game 2. Yankee starter Masahiro Tanaka held the Minnesota lineup to one hit in the first four innings he pitched. It was only after staying out during the long bottom of the third that he started to give Twins batters a chance.

    After Jorge Polanco flied out to start the fourth inning, Nelson Cruz drew a walk and was later scored after back-to-back singles, coming off the bats of Eddie Rosario and Mitch Garver. Tanaka and the Yankee bullpen went on to retire sixteen of the seventeen batters that stepped up to the box after Garver’s RBI.

    They managed to manufacture another run late in the ninth, when the same Garver hit a two-out single and was scored by a Luís Arráez RBI double.

    Postgame With Baldelli



    Pitching Staff Spreadsheet
    Here's a look at the pitching staff usage:
    [attachment=13247:PitchingStaff1005.png]

    • Oct 05 2019 09:35 PM
    • by Thiéres Rabelo
  14. Damage Control: Pitching is Minnesota's Primary Advantage in ALDS

    STARTING PITCHING

    The Twins have question marks in the rotation, yes, but the Yankees even more so.

    Minnesota ranks 11th among MLB teams in starting pitching ERA, and seventh in WAR. New York ranks 11th and 17th, respectively.

    While the Twins may lack a prototypical ace, their top two starters have easily outperformed their Bronx counterparts:

    Jose Berrios: 200.1 IP, 3.68 ERA, 124 ERA+, 3.68 FIP, 1.22 WHIP
    Jake Odorizzi: 159 IP, 3.51 ERA, 131 ERA+, 3.35 FIP, 1.21 WHIP

    Here's take a look at New York's top two starters this year:

    James Paxton: 150.2 IP, 3.82 ERA, 116 ERA+, 3.86 FIP, 1.28 WHIP
    Masahiro Tanaka: 182 IP, 4.45 ERA, 100 ERA+, 4.27 FIP, 1.24 WHIP

    The caveat here is that New York also has Luis Severino, who's likely their best starter on talent alone. But Severino missed almost the entire season with a shoulder injury, coming back to make three appearances in September. He pitched well in those appearances (1.50 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 12 innings) but still... he's barely pitched. CC Sabathia is no more than a mediocre long reliever at this point, and J.A. Happ has had a crummy season though he did finish it strong.

    Interestingly, both rotations are without key third pieces due to self-created messes. The Twins are obviously missing Michael Pineda, who received a PED suspension in early September. Meanwhile, Yankees right-hander Domingo German was 18-4 with a 4.03 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 153-to-39 K/BB ratio before being placed on administrative leave in mid-September due to domestic violence allegations.

    Depending on your level of belief in Randy Dobnak, the Twins have either a slight or considerable advantage in starting pitching in the first round – a chasmic difference from a scenario where they would've drawn Houston.

    RELIEF PITCHING

    The Yankees spent big to build a power bullpen, and to an extent it has paid off. The $39 million trio of Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino has been phenomenal. New York has a couple of other rock-solid relief arms in Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle. But they're without an essential fixture in Dellin Betances, who suffered a partial Achilles tear and is done for the year.

    Minnesota's top three bullpen arms – Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey and Trevor May – are roughly equivalent to New York's prime trio, at about 10% of the cost. But the next wave of depth is where the Twins start to pull away: Zack Littell, Cody Stashak, Sergio Romo, and the electric wild-card that is Brusdar Graterol... these guys have the performance and stuff to inspire confidence. The absence of deadline dud Sam Dyson barely even seems to factor – certainly not the extent of Betances for New York.

    In terms of season numbers, these two clubs are very comparable. New York ranks second in bullpen WAR at 7.5, while Minnesota is third at 7.3. New York ranks ninth in bullpen ERA at 4.08, Minnesota ranks 10th at 4.17. Minnesota ranks first in bullpen FIP at 3.92, New York ranks ninth 4.15.

    You could argue that the Yankees are equal or even superior in this department on some of those counts, but in present terms, overall numbers overstate the impact of Betances for New York, and understate the impact of guys like Duffey and Stashak for Minnesota. Since the All-Star break, the Twins edge the Yankees in basically every measure. In fact, since the All-Star break, Minnesota's bullpen is conquering the world according to certain metrics. For example...

    Top Second-Half Bullpen WAR:

    1. MIN - 4.8
    2. TB - 3.7
    3. NYY - 3.7
    4. SD - 3.4
    5. BOS - 2.7

    That's some gap at the top. Rocco Baldelli told media on Tuesday, "Right now I think we have one of the best bullpens I've ever seen." And really, it's not a ridiculous statement. This unit is a strength unrivaled by any other team in this postseason mix. Given the immense relief struggles the Twins were facing around the deadline, and the total fizzling of their marquee addition at that time, this is a borderline miraculous development.

    It may be the story of the season in a year where the Twins sent two starters to the All-Star Game and set the MLB home run record. Amidst all the talk of these two powerful lineups clashing, not enough attention is being paid to Minnesota's elite, spectacular bullpen. That depth will come heavily into play as Baldelli attempts to navigate this series with a shorthanded rotation.

    In all likelihood, neither of these imposing lineups are getting silenced. In a series like this, it's about damage control. That happens to be Minnesota's primary advantage on paper.

    • Oct 02 2019 04:34 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  15. The Twins Playoff Hopes Rely On the Three T's

    In 2015, the Royals pioneered the strategy of five-and-dive starters, and allowed the pen to handle the rest. The merits of relievers now rests in the seventh through ninth innings, and given the Twins recent playoff demons that should bring nightmarish flashbacks.

    Bullpens are a focal point of postseason success. In the 2017 wildcard game, Ervin Santana was yanked three innings into his start. Luis Severino, the Yankees starter was also removed on a much shorter hook after just 1/3 of an inning with three runs already allowed. It's no safe assumption a starter will go five innings or 100 pitches.
    Shutdown starters and unhittable closers get all the glory, but the unsung heroes of the past season, such as Josh Hader, are much more valuable than they get credit for.

    Trevor May has received his fair share of criticism. Saturday night’s display of pure dominance predicated on fastball command would be a welcomed sight in the postseason. More breaking ball usage and less dependence on a flat changeup could perhaps be enough for May. A much smoother finish with his mechanics, and not leaving as many pitches in the whomping zone of hitters have been helpful for Trevor. Since his bad stretch of home runs he has lost all trust in his curve, which could fuel more good fortune.

    [attachment=13159:HardHitHeat.png]

    May has had the year of his life in 2019. He had a promising end to his 2018 campaign that saw him flash the truly elite stuff that he flashed as a middling fourth/fifth starter in the dawn of his career. He’s bumped his velocity up considerably, and lately has sliced his pitch assortment, providing a better directive to his mound mindset.

    Taylor Rogers might be the most underrated pitcher, perhaps even player, in baseball thanks to his above average fastball and frisbee slider. A bullpen absent the invincible Aroldis Chapman fireball, or the radioactive cutter of Kenley Jansen, or the capital C-declared closer, might be an assembly of relief pitchers as effective, or more so, than any other in baseball.



    If there was one point of criticism for Rogers, I would point to the curveball and slider blending together. But that in no way detracts from the set of weapons that he has, and that the Twins have, that their playoff success could hinge on.

    Tyler Duffey might be the most remarkable story of the entire season for the Twins. He flamed-out as a starter in 2016 and followed with a pair of enigmatic seasons. At the tipping point of his career, he took on a complete overhaul, reinvention and refinement of his mechanics and approach under the tutelage of Wes Johnson.
    Duffey was taught sinkers inside and low, during the Rick Anderson, Neil Allen and Garvin Alston regimes.

    Jace Frederick of the Pioneer Press recently wrote an article that delved into Duffey's progress that included some illuminating quotes. Duffey spoke to how different Wes Johnson's mentality is.

    “Obviously I had the potential to be good, but it was seeing why I could be, understanding why I could be, and then doing it and repeating was the last piece of that. I think for me, personally, it’s just been trusting the whole plan that’s been set and going with it.
    “Pitching with conviction is the name of the game. Hitters can tell when you’re not convicted in what you’re doing. I think I’m trusting it, I feel good doing it and the results are speaking for themselves.”

    “He can be a strikeout guy, and he’s learned that,” Johnson said. “When we started back in spring training, our goal was to strike out more hitters than we ever have. We’re getting there, incrementally. And Tyler is someone you’re seeing make progress really fast.”

    The intuitive and tailored recipe for success spearheaded with the ongoing trend of elevating, decelerating and spiking. Fastballs up, sliders and curves down and away, and toggling with the velocity of those breakers has paved the way to a 2.35 ERA and a 1.0 WAR during this 2019 run to the postseason. A truly remarkable achievement for a pitcher once on the bubble.

    For the Twins to succeed in the postseason, a strong back-end of the bullpen must complement a competent starting staff. It could be a feasible plan, given that the trio of Trevor May, Tyler Duffey and Taylor Rogers has arrived and they are here to stay.

    • Sep 25 2019 02:50 PM
    • by Sabir Aden
  16. Mission Accomplished: An Elite Twins Bullpen

    For months there was a growing notion that the Twins would make a move. This club looked the part and jumped out to a big divisional lead. With a relief corps that could use some reinforcements, the front office would almost assuredly deal from depth to bolster the bullpen. Although it didn’t happen in as timely of a matter as some may have hoped, and there could have been some hiccups avoided mid-summer, moves came. Two veteran arms with high ceilings would be added to a back end that already had some promise.

    But then, two became one, and a handful emerged.

    Dyson was the best reliever dealt at the deadline. There were bigger names that weren’t moved, but it was he who had previous closing experience and top-notch stuff. He has since been shut down and it looks like his season may be over. Romo and his wipe-out slider are still getting the job done, and he’s stuck in high leverage as expected. One of the two moves worked, but it’s the ones set into motion many months before that are truly paying off.

    Back in February I suggested that the Twins would win 92 games en route to a Central division crown. Chief among the reasons was the revamped coaching staff and infrastructure within the organization. The current group is a collaborative power that is constantly changing on the fly and looking for an opportunity to exploit the next level out of each player. For some, it takes longer to unlock then others, but if there’s a way this contingent of coaches is going to find the right buttons. There’s no more apparent area currently reflective of that then the bullpen.

    Since the trade deadline the Twins have posted 2.9 fWAR (2nd in MLB). Their 2.06 BB/9 is the lowest in baseball as is the 3.58 FIP that suggests they’re even better than a fifth best 3.67 ERA. The 1.54 WPA is fifth in baseball and one of just 12 teams currently putting up positive numbers. No one has opponents chasing more than the Twins' 35.2% and the arms they’re doing it with are virtually all home grown.

    You already know Taylor Rogers is an absolute menace. He’s a lefty with high velocity stuff that doesn’t care what side of the plate you stand on. Tyler Duffey owns 0.8 fWAR since August 1st and hasn’t given up a run since July 23 (a streak of 18.2 IP). He has a ridiculous 30/5 K/BB in that time, and looks the part of the elite closer that Minnesota drafted out of Rice way back in 2012.

    Looking for his calling with the Twins, there’s no denying Trevor May appears to have found it. Despite an ugly breaking pitch against Cleveland, and one that Rafael Devers beat him on in Boston, his 20 innings since the deadline have been exceptional. May has generated 0.5 fWAR and has allowed just those two earned runs in 20.0 IP. He has a 25/4 K/BB and opposing batters have mustered a sad .325 OPS against him.

    Arguably the most impressive work comes from the guy that the least was expected of. Still just 23-years-old, Zack Littell was asked to take a game against the Rays on the chin in May. He went back to Triple-A and transitioned to relief. Ramping up the velocity in shorter stints, he showcased his stuff in brief call-ups throughout the year. Now adding the time up, he’s pitched 24.2 innings in relief since June. Littell has allowed just two runs, both in the same outing, and has 21 strikeouts to his credit. He’s still working through command issues at times, but the .209 batting average against is exceptional.

    With just two weeks left until postseason baseball, Minnesota’s earliest bugaboo has now become an area of strength. This isn’t a lineup that needs to pad a starter’s lead bridging a gap to Taylor Rogers. The Twins are something like six or seven deep in quality arms, and none of those guys could care less who is in the opposing batter's box. Opponents may not have heard of anyone aside from the elder statesmen Romo, but this is a group that will generate name recognition as they turn from the plate watching the ball go around the horn following any given at-bat.

    There’s no denying that Rocco Baldelli is going to need a healthy dose of mix and match in October. Only the Astros go deep enough to throw starting cares to the wind. Teams like Minnesota will need to get what they can from the first man on the bump and then turn it over to the reinforcements behind the wall. Fortunately for this group, everyone from Baldelli to Wes Johnson, Jeremy Hefner, and the entirety of the minor league pitching support staff deserves a significant pat on the back for the speed with which they turned a deficiency into an asset.

    • Sep 17 2019 06:16 PM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  17. Twins Game Recap (9/14): Bullpen, Polanco Move the Needle in Win

    Box Score
    Smeltzer: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 59% strikes (29 of 49 pitches)
    Bullpen: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K

    Home Runs: Polanco (22)
    Multi-Hit Games: Kepler (2-for-4), Arraez (2-for-4)

    Top 3 WPA: Rogers (.209), Smeltzer (.162), Littell (.135)

    Devin Smeltzer entered this start with 14 2/3 innings pitched against Cleveland. Smeltzer had allowed 17 hits, 13 runs and six homers, including three from Francisco Lindor. Smeltzer’s success against Lindor on Saturday was a reflection of his outing. He held the All-Star to two foul pop-outs and the Indians to just one hit and no runs in three innings.

    Mike Clevinger started with his 11-2 record and 2.49 FIP. Luckily for the Twins, Jorge Polanco was not fazed. His two-run shot and dazzling diving stop in the third were decisive. Hitting home runs is vital in beating dominant pitchers, and Minnesota proved that on Saturday. Clevinger struck out 10 in eight strong innings.

    The Twins were planning on one bullpen game Saturday, but not two. After Jake Odorizzi’s start was washed away, Minnesota knew they would need 18 innings from the second-best bullpen in the American League since Aug. 1. They did not disappoint in game one. Zack Littell made his case to be a primary set-up man down the stretch with two scoreless innings. Littell could fill in for Sam Dyson after the former Giant was shut down and will undergo evaluation on his right arm.

    Taylor Rogers is seemingly unavailable for tonight's game after completing the five-out save. Rogers was huge once again, and is further submitting himself as one of the best relievers in baseball.

    This win means Minnesota will lead the AL Central by at least 2.5 games heading into the final 13-game stretch with the White Sox, Royals, and Tigers. The Twins can smell the ALDS. The magic number is 11.

    Postgame With Baldelli



    Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
    Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.

    • Sep 14 2019 08:34 PM
    • by Nash Walker
  18. Is It Time for a New Bullpen Paradigm?

    With the emergence of quality relief arms like Tyler Duffey and Trevor May, who are capable of pitching late in the game, and the addition of late-inning arms in Sergio Romo and Sam Dyson (if he’s ever healthy), the Twins haven’t felt as much need to pitch Rogers multiple days in a row. Add in Zack Littell, who has also been really solid down the stretch, and the Minnesota bullpen appears to be in good shape, especially relative to starting pitching and the dearth of healthy position players.

    With a bullpen that is overflowing with arms due to September call-ups, I was curious to see how the aforementioned relievers have performed while pitching on back-to-back days. With so many quality relief options and the September additions, it seems less necessary than ever to pitch anyone without a day of rest between outings. Of course, rosters will contract prior to the postseason, but with so many good relievers right now (and problems in the rotation), the Twins would do well to consider the best usage of the bullpen. Let’s take a look at how the top six relievers have performed both on zero-days rest (in the left-side of the box) compared to their overall numbers on the season (on the right-side).

    [attachment=13084:BullpenSheet.png]
    Yikes! Those numbers on zero days of rest are pretty atrocious across the board. The one glaring exception is Trevor May, who contrary to the trend, actually has pitched much better without a day off between appearances. Of course, we’re talking about a very small sample size of just 9 2/3 innings, but compared to his peers it seems that May is the man to go to if you need someone to pitch two days in a row. However, in the course of a full season the Twins would have to be careful not to overuse May if he was to be relied on to go back-to-back days more often than the others.

    As far as the others go, the numbers while pitching with no rest really stand out compared to their overall numbers, especially considering that the no-rest performances are also included in the overall numbers, causing them to be a bit bloated. Looking at the differences in OPS allowed shows that the pitchers are making hitters look below replacement level overall, while Rogers, Duffey, and Littell are allowing batters to look like MVP-caliber hitters when pitching on back-to-back days. The diminished strikeout-to-walk ratios of Rogers and Duffey point to a lack of control potentially due to the extra fatigue of pitching without a day of rest.

    Before the trade deadline, Minnesota rode Rogers hard out of necessity, but it is really no longer advisable to do so. With five to six high quality relief arms (depending on Dyson’s health) the Twins don’t really need to use any reliever on back to back days. Rocco Baldelli deserves credit for the overall fluidity of the bullpen roles, but the Twins can afford to be even less strict with the positioning of their best arms. Although Rogers is the preferred reliever to bring in to close out the game, Romo has done so on occasion since joining the team, and both Duffey, and to a lesser extent May, can be trusted in the highest-leverage situations. And if the Twins aren’t married to Rogers in save situations, he can be brought in to late-inning situations with more lefties due up or when facing the heart of an opposition’s order prior to the ninth. While the Twins might not want to bring Littell in to end the game, he has pitched really well and seems to be at the point where he can be trusted in the late innings of a close game. Dyson is a bit of a wildcard as he hasn’t pitched in a while due to injury, but if he comes back strong he also has closer experience and is capable of being a late-inning weapon.

    Minnesota currently has a plethora of lesser relief options that should be considered before pitching anyone other than May on zero rest days. Relievers like Cody Sashak, Ryne Harper, or possibly even Brusdar Graterol could be preferable to the non-rested options. Depending on how the opener role is used going forward, Randy Dobnak, Lewis Thorpe, and Devin Smeltzer would also be viable options out of the pen. The Twins would then be able to use three of their superior options for the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings, saving the other two or three for the next game whenever possible. They could also let one of the top relievers go more than one inning on occasion, especially if they are not asked to pitch in the next game. And while the “lesser options” may not be as attractive as the top five or six, when compared with the numbers of the “superior” pitchers with no rest, they don’t look so bad, and their effectiveness could be further enhanced by being utilized against the bottom of opposing team’s lineups.

    The Twins have yet to clinch the division, but they are well on their way to doing so and with the number of relievers that they have available there is really no reason to run out any relievers on back-to-back days. The postseason is a completely different animal, and with the current lack of starting pitching the bullpen will be paramount if the Twins hope to advance. The good news is that there are plenty of days off between games in the postseason, which should prevent the top bullpen options from too much overuse. Obviously, Minnesota wants its best pitchers throwing in the postseason, but they only seem to be at their best when they are properly rested. It will certainly help to have such a high number of quality late-inning arms, and hopefully an extra lefty or two.

    Beyond this season, Minnesota may be able to take advantage of limiting the use of relievers on back-to-back days next season as well. Sergio Romo is the only impending free agent of the top six arms, so the Twins should have plenty of good options for high-leverage situations. They also have plenty of young arms with options left, so they will be likely to keep the Rochester-Minneapolis shuttle going strong, making it easier to have fresh arms available. Beyond that, the new rules for 2020 could also lead to less reliever overuse. With pitchers having to face a minimum of three batters (unless the inning ends first) there should be fewer situational pitcher changes, although the Twins don’t do a whole lot of that due to the lack of LOOGYs in their pen. Rosters will also expand to 26 players which will make it all the easier to carry an extra arm.

    Utilizing the bullpen is essential not only for the remainder of the regular season, but for the postseason if the Twins are to go anywhere at all. After much fan dissatisfaction with the bullpen in the first half of the year, the Twins now have one of the best pens in all of baseball and are poised to be strong in 2020 as well. It’s always nice to have your best pitcher in the game, especially when the game is on the line, but it appears that the best are only the best when they have proper rest (all you coaches out there feel free to use that handy rhyme with the youngsters). It’s already a huge advantage to have such a large quantity of quality arms, and if the Twins are able to fully utilize their relievers with rest between outings, the bullpen will that much more of a weapon going forward.

    • Sep 14 2019 10:06 AM
    • by Patrick Wozniak
  19. Constructing a Way-Too-Early Twins Playoff Bullpen

    On the morning of Sept. 3, 2019 the Minnesota Twins have a 99.7% chance to make the playoffs and 94.5% chance of winning the division. Of course the division race is not mathematically over, but with just under a month to go and a 6.5 game lead, you have to feel good about where the Twins are. Just look at this fun graph from Fangraphs. The Twins have not been under 50% since May 7 and even when Cleveland took the lead the Twins still had a better chance.

    [attachment=13044:division odds.png]

    With the Twins all but guaranteed to go to the playoffs, a lot of talk about the potential playoff roster has been heating up. With a current 36-man roster including fifteen pitchers after September call-ups, the Twins will have a few tough decisions. Who will be in a playoff rotation? Will Kyle Gibson make the roster? How many bullpen pitchers will the Twins carry? I think the Twins will go with a three-man rotation, Kyle Gibson will still be recovering, and the Twins will have nine in the bullpen.

    Who will make the Twins playoff bullpen?

    After months of questioning if the Twins would even have enough pitchers to make up a competent playoff bullpen, the script has been completely flipped. The Twins now have about ten to twelve guys with a real shot to make an impact in the playoffs, but it will likely come down to about eight or nine. With five guys being locked in, who else has a shot? This list will assume Berrios, Pineda, and Odorizzi make the roster.

    Locks:
    1. Taylor Rogers
    2. Tyler Duffey
    3. Sergio Romo
    4. Sam Dyson
    5. Trevor May

    Most likely:
    6. Zack Littell
    7. Brusdar Graterol
    8. Martin Perez
    9. Ryne Harper
    10. Lewis Thorpe

    Unlikely:
    11. Devin Smeltzer
    12. Cody Stashak
    13. Trevor Hildenberger
    14. Jorge Alcala
    15. Fernando Romero
    16. Randy Dobnak
    17. Kohl Stewart

    Going off of these rankings, creating a playoff bullpen will be tough and that is a good problem to have. With a three-man rotation, the Twins can likely afford to have nine men in the playoff bullpen, but who will they be?

    Zack Littell is probably the easiest answer at this point. Since being transferred to the bullpen full time, he has pitched 19 2/3 innings and given up just two runs on two solo home runs. That is good for a 0.92 ERA to go with a 1.12 WHIP, 22.4 K%, and .675 OPS. The Twins have used him in a set-up role lately, showing him that they trust him. He gets the sixth spot in my way too early playoff bullpen.

    Next up, the Twins will probably want at least one more left-hander to be used as a lefty specialist to go get an out against Didi Gregorius even though it seems impossible. The three competitors will be Perez, Smeltzer, and Thorpe. The best OPS against left handed hitters this season from that group belongs to Perez at just .583 (Thorpe at .929 and Smeltzer at .816) so I expect him to be an effective bullpen arm. He gets bullpen spot number seven. That leaves two more.

    The eighth guy in my bullpen is someone who the Twins and everyone around them have been talking about for months, and that is the flame-throwing right-hander Brusdar Graterol. Honestly I don’t think I would be able to forgive myself if I didn’t put him here. The upside for Graterol has already been expressed by everyone around Twins Territory but even Thad Levine was saying this is definitely a special pitcher. He made these comments about him to the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

    “In my entire career, I’ve never seen a pitcher other than [Yankees All-Star closer] Aroldis Chapman sit above 100 MPH for an entire inning,” Levine said. “I think he threw one fastball that was timed at 99, and it was almost disappointing.”

    The final spot in my early bullpen is completely up for grabs from anyone remaining. The player who outperforms the rest this month will get a playoff job so you may want to keep your eyes out for the hot hand. It could really be any of these players, but my best guess would have to be Lewis Thorpe. His 2.76 FIP and 9.2 K/9 are extremely impressive, and his best games have been against the Yankees and Red Sox. Sign me up for some more Thorpedo.

    Final bullpen:
    1 Taylor Rogers
    2 Tyler Duffey
    3 Sergio Romo
    4 Sam Dyson
    5 Trevor May
    6 Zack Littell
    7 Martin Perez
    8 Brusdar Graterol
    9 Lewis Thorpe

    What would you change about the bullpen? Let me know in the comments below.

    • Sep 04 2019 04:04 PM
    • by Cooper Carlson
  20. Surging Twins Bullpen Boasts Enviable Depth, Additional Reinforcements on the Way

    Since the All-Star break, the Twins have baseball’s best SIERRA (a better or more comprehensive branch of FIP), and K-BB% a very good indicator of sustainably- sterling pitching, even while posting baseball’s highest zone per pitch%.

    We expected Wes Johnson to initiate some velocity increases, but he’s also helped a few relievers unleash some more bite on their breaking pitches.

    [attachment=13030:RogersDuffeyMay.png]

    Velocity has risen, the sharpness of break along with the tunneling of those pitches in relation to fastball location has improved, and in turn that’s led to more strikeouts and weaker contact.

    Tyler Duffey is an interesting experiment, and they’ve built a rapport with using the fastball as a catalyst to set up the wipeout slider, a new pitch he believes is just a harder thrown version of his former knucklecurve. With improved control, Trevor May has been an appealing seventh-inning guy to watch. Taylor Rogers, once was a generic LOOGY, is now perhaps the most impactful left-handed reliever in baseball excluding Felipe Vazquez. A 1.9 WAR is absolutely insane!

    Do you remember the old Rogers, Duffey, and May? They all relied on softer secondary stuff to get away with the weaker fastballs they had previously. Now armed and loaded with fastball velocity, they still haven’t ventured too far (apart from May) from their old plan of attack.

    What’s important to note is the current assembly of Twins pitchers is perfectly able at proving capable in the postseason.

    In Extra Innings, a book by Baseball Prospectus, Ben Lindbergh advocated for relievers to be picked at the margins or be groomed through the system once failing as starting pitchers.

    It’s an interesting proposal. Don’t ever buy a reliever because he'll often turn out to be a poor investment. Instead, build your bullpen with roster casualties and scuffling relievers that good teams feel they can’t wait to get better.

    [attachment=13031:FA contract WAR.png]

    The Twins haven’t been the most hardcore adherents to this system of thinking. They jettisoned Nick Anderson, Nick Burdi, JT Chargois and others for guys that may or may not have been past their primes on the free-agent market. That Addison Reed, Matt Belisle, Dillon Gee and Craig Breslow were all acquired under the Falvine regime, might be the result of fan pressure than actual thorough analysis on the makings of on-the-margin acquisitions.

    Guys like Tanner Rainey, Nick Anderson, Brendan Brennan, Austin Adams and Ty Buttrey were all traded in low-profile deals and turned out to be dynamic relievers.

    The Twins found innovative ways to hire intuitive and introspective thinkers to take on these projects in Duffey, May, Rogers and others.

    This bullpen is stacked with assorted gadgets and analytical fireman. So here’s my postseason bullpen predictions….

    Multi Inning Firemen; Brusdar Graterol (RHP) / Taylor Rogers (LHP)
    Set Up; Sam Dyson (RHP) / Trevor May (RHP)

    Situational; Tyler Duffey (RHP) / Trevor Hildenberger (RHP) / Sergio Romo (RHP)

    Swiss Army Knife; 1 OF EITHER Martin Perez (LHP) / Zack Littell (RHP)

    Not included on the postseason roster: Randy Dobnak (RHP), Sean Poppen (RHP), Cody Stashak (RHP), Lewis Thorpe (LHP), Ryan Harper (RHP), Devin Smetlzer (LHP).

    • Sep 01 2019 04:20 PM
    • by Sabir Aden
  21. Twins Game Recap (8/30): Bats Back Up Gibson, Twins Win 6th Straight

    Box Score
    Gibson: 5.0 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 69.1% strikes (74 of 107 pitches)
    Bullpen: 4.0 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K

    Home Runs: Cron (23)
    Multi-Hit Games: Kepler (2-for-5, RBI), Polanco (3-for-4), Cruz (3-for-4, 2 RBI), Rosario (2-for-5, 3 RBI), Cron (2-for-5, HR, 3 RBI)

    Top 3 WPA: Polanco .125, Kepler .113, Cron .104

    The Tigers put up a fight early, as Gibson got off to a slow start, but the Twins scored in four of the first five innings. Despite not being as sharp as he’s been during the first half of the season, Gibby was the winning pitcher for the second consecutive start, which happened for only the second time since June 1. August was the month he posted his worst ERA of the season, 6.11. He finished his outing on a positive note, however, retiring 11 of the last 13 men he faced.

    This was the eighth consecutive win for the Twins on the road, matching a club record set in 2006. At 83-51, the Twins are 32 games above .500 for the first time since September 22, 2010. That’s also the third time in the past nine years that Minnesota reached that many wins in a season. The club is now on pace to win 100 games, something that happened only one other time in Minnesota Twins history (1965, 102 wins). With the Cleveland loss in Tampa, the Twins now have a four-and-a-half game lead over the Indians, their largest since July 16.

    Offense bails Gibson slippery beginning
    Gibson was given a 4-0 lead before he took the mound. The Twins started out aggressively and hitting three straight singles after getting a leadoff walk. They had a three-run lead before the Tigers recorded an out. Nelson Cruz, Eddie Rosario and Luis Arráez each batted in a run, while Miguel Sanó reached on a fielder’s choice.

    Gibby allowed two runs on five hits in a 35-pitch first inning. Three of the seven batters he faced produced at-bats of at least six pitches.

    Fortunately, small ball kept working for the Twins, as Max Kepler doubled to bring home another leadoff walk in Jason Castro and he later scored on a Cruz sacrifice fly. Minnesota regained a four-run lead, winning 6-2 after two.

    But again, the Tigers gained some ground in the third. Gibson allowed three straight hits to start the inning, two of those being doubles, and Detroit scored another run. With runners on the corners, he managed to catch a break, inducing an inning-ending ground ball double play.

    Twins take advantage of sloppy Tiger defense
    Minnesota scored two more runs in the third, with a little help from the Detroit defense. The Twins loaded the bases with one out after outfielders Victor Reyes and Harold Castro got under a C.J. Cron pop up but couldn’t make the catch. That was when Ron Gardenhire pulled the plug on starter Edwin Jackson. Reliever Matt Hall couldn’t take care of the inherited runners. Jake Cave grounded out to score Arráez and Castro scored on a passed ball to make it 8-3.

    Meanwhile, Gibson picked up the pace a little bit and pitched his first 1-2-3 inning. To make things easier, he got more run support, as the offense slugged its way to a four-run fourth highlighted by a three-run homer from Cron to make it 12-3 Minnesota.



    Bullpen cools things down
    The Tigers responded in the bottom of the fourth inning with a solo home run from John Hicks. Gibby handed over the game to the bullpen in the sixth inning and it couldn’t have been in better hands. Coming into this game with the most fWAR in baseball in the previous seven days (0.8), the Twins relievers took care of business. Tyler Duffey and Trevor May were simply lights-out, with Duffey coming up just short of an immaculate inning (nine strikes on ten pitches).

    Sam Dyson allowed a solo homer to Ronny Rodriguez in the eighth inning before Sergio Romo closed the books in the ninth. Twins relievers combined for eight strikeouts, one more than the entire Tigers team. Eddie Rosario helped the cause with an RBI single in the eighth.

    Postgame With Baldelli


    Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
    Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.

    • Aug 31 2019 05:10 AM
    • by Thiéres Rabelo
  22. Maybe the Twins Bullpen is Actually Good?

    Not As Bad As They Seem
    Around the trade deadline, Minnesota knew it would need a bullpen upgrade to have any semblance of a chance in October. Adding Sam Dyson and Sergio Romo has certainly calmed some of the storm, but things haven’t exactly been perfect for the new dynamic duo. Dyson spent time on the injured list and Romo has seen some rough appearances. They might not be perfect, but they are better than some of the team’s other options.

    Even with the flaws of these two players, the Twins bullpen has been one of the best in baseball this year. Minnesota’s relief corps ranks as the fourth best in baseball according to FIP. The only AL team ahead of them on the list is Cleveland, the team they are fighting with for the AL Central. FIP stands for fielding independent pitching and it converts a pitcher’s outcomes that don’t involve defense (strikeouts, walks, HBP, and home runs) and turns it into an ERA like number.

    FIP isn’t the only area where Twins relievers shine. According to FanGraphs’ version of WAR, Minnesota’s relievers have accumulated 5.4 WAR, which is tied with Tampa Bay for the second most in baseball. The Yankees have accumulated the most WAR (6.8), but both the Rays and the Yankees have over 530 relief innings. Meanwhile, the Twins had yet to crack the 450 mark, which is the eighth fewest in baseball.

    Minnesota’s Fearsome Foursome
    Before acquiring Dyson and Romo, the Twins used a heavy dose of Taylor Rogers. He seemed untouchable in the first half and an argument could be made for him being the American League’s most valuable reliever. Tyler Duffey has also become a much more important part of the bullpen since the All-Star break. In 20 second-half appearances (16.2 IP), he has compiled a 1.62 ERA and a 22 to 8 strikeout to walk ratio.

    As the Baseball Savant graphics show below, all four of these relievers have posted better than average numbers in exit velocity and hard-hit rate. Rogers and Romo both rank as “great” in hard-hit rate with Romo also ranking there in exit velocity.
    [attachment=13014:Twins Core Four.jpg]
    In Monday’s victory over the White Sox, the Twins might have laid out the blueprint for how this team could be successful in October. Michael Pineda started and was asked to make it through five frames. He did so by limiting a sub-par White Sox line-up to one run on four hits. From there the Fearsome Foursome came in and shut down the Chicago offense. Duffey was the only reliever to allow a baserunner while Romo struck out the side in the eighth inning.

    Chicago isn’t exactly a playoff caliber team, but the Twins relief corp seems much more prepared for potential playoff matchups with the likes of New York and Houston. Playoff baseball is an entirely different animal than the regular season and each relief outing is magnified because of the importance of each game.

    That being said, Minnesota fans have to feel more confident in the top four arms coming out of the bullpen. Every team’s bullpen is bad, but Minnesota’s might be just good enough to make some noise in October.

    What are your thoughts on the Twins bullpen? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

    Around Twins Daily
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    4 Questions the Twins Need to Address Concerning Their Potential Playoff Roster

    • Aug 29 2019 05:05 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  23. Tyler Duffey Is the Best Reliever No One Talks About

    Tyler Duffey will be finishing off his fifth season since making his major league debut in 2015. It has definitely been a bumpy ride after a successful taste of the majors in 2015. He came back as a starter in 2016, did poorly, and was eventually moved to the bullpen for 2017 and 2018 before something finally clicked this season.

    This front office clearly saw something in Duffey to hold onto him during the times he was struggling. The Twins brass will not hesitate to let a young pitcher go if they do not see a future with them, and Duffey has proven them right in a huge way this season.

    There was definitely something off or something to be changed with what Duffey was doing before this season, and the first place to look is his pitch usage. Things were simplified to throwing his curveball 52% and his fastball 46% of the time. This FanGraphs pitch types graph shows the change well.

    [attachment=13013:duffey pitch type.png]

    Both pitches have been outstanding, and the fastball has been key to unlocking the breaking ball even more. Duffey has touched 97 MPH this season while averaging out at 94 on the fastball, a new career high. (Thanks Wes Johnson). He is allowing just a .202 AVG and .639 OPS on the season which is equivalent to what Joey Rickard is hitting for the Orioles.

    The curveball is the pitch he has always been known for, and he has shown it off this season for sure. Throwing it over half the time, he has allowed a .208 AVG and .608 OPS against it while generating a 14.2 swinging strike% on the pitch. A comparison for that stat line would be what Jace Peterson has done for the Orioles this season. The Orioles are awful.

    Now let’s talk some more about the results. He currently holds a career best 2.86 ERA that ranks 26th among AL relievers. He is also striking out more players than ever before at a 30% rate and that ranks 18th in the AL. He has turned himself into a top thirty relief pitcher in the American League and most fans have no idea.

    He has been excellent all season, and he may actually be at his best right now. Through twelve games in August, Duffey has not allowed a run while boasting a K/9 of 12.0 and allowing an OPS of just .494 so he is stepping up even more as the division race heats up.

    To my surprise, Duffey has quietly been better than both of the relief pitchers the Twins acquired at the deadline. He leads Sergio Romo in H/9, K/9, swinging strike%, ERA, AVG against, and OPS against. Romo and Dyson are both very good relief pitchers, but Duffey may be the best of that bunch. However, Duffey has not been used in spots with as much leverage as Dyson and Romo, which seems strange especially considering those two weren’t on the Twins all season. The Twins were giving high leverage spots to Ryne Harper or Blake Parker instead.

    Duffey is overdue for some positive appreciation because he has been excellent this season despite constant hate against the bullpen. He is the poster boy for how teams may start building their bullpen: start with two or three solid guys you can trust and then throughout the season plug in a lot of different young guys and see what works. It’s looking like the Twins may have found a bullpen weapon for the next few seasons.

    • Aug 29 2019 07:34 AM
    • by Cooper Carlson
  24. Twins Game Recap (8/21): Giolito Throws Complete Game as Sox Take Series

    Box Score
    Odorizzi: 5 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 62.5% strikes (65 of 104 pitches)
    Bullpen: 4 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
    Home Runs: None
    Multi-Hit Games: None

    Bottom 3 WPA: Rosario, Arraez and Castro -.055, Sano -.056, Odorizzi -.163

    Giolito Sails to Complete Game

    Giolito absolutely cruised through the Twins offense today after getting some early runs from his offense. He used those first-inning runs and first-pitch strikes to really settle down and go deep into today’s game. Giolito struck out 12 batters, his third straight game with 10+, and got first-pitch strikes on 22 of the 30 batters he faced.

    The first time through the Twins’ order, Giolito gave up just one hit, which was to Polanco in the first on a bunt, and struck out five batters. The Twins picked up their second hit in the fourth on a rocket by Nelson Cruz that had an exit velocity of 117 MPH, but Giolito got two outs on the next two batters.

    He worked through the fifth and sixth innings very rapidly, using only eight and nine pitches, respectively, to get two more 1-2-3 innings. In the seventh inning, it took him 12 pitches to get the 1-2-3 mostly because Cruz worked a full count then drilled a ball straight to Engel in center field.

    He had two very impressive streaks of consecutive batters sent down. After the Polanco bunt single, he set down the next nine batters before Cruz picked up his single. Rosario reached on a fielder's choice the next at-bat and then Giolito sent down the next 11 batters including three straight 1-2-3 innings.

    It wasn’t until Schoop hit a double with one out in the eighth that the Twins’ had their first runner in scoring position. They failed to do anything with it as Giolito picked up two more strikeouts to end the inning. Giolito completed this game while facing the Twins’ top three hitters picking up two more strikeouts on Kepler and Cruz.

    Odorizzi’s Bad Luck

    If you just looked at the box score, you’d get a different view of how today’s game went for Odorizzi. Odorizzi struggled to retire the first batter of innings which helped lead to a short start and the White Sox hitters also seemed to be finding the perfect spots for their hits. But, Odorizzi also was throwing some good pitches that hitters were putting in play for hits.

    In the first inning, Polanco missed touching second base on a double-play attempt which was originally called a FC, but changed to an error on Polanco, his 17th this season. Jose Abreu reached on 2-2 cutter, poking the ball into left field for the White Sox to score their first run. After a wild pitch, Skole also found himself in a 2-2 count, and a hit a blooper over second with an exit velocity of 67.7 for the Sox's second run of the inning.

    In the third, Odorizzi again gave up a leadoff single, and two singles later, which included Abreu’s second RBI of the game on a ball that landed perfectly in right field between Cave and Schoop with an expected batting average of .050. After three innings, the White Sox had seven hits, all singles, with only two of them being hard-hit, and three runs.

    In the fifth inning, Odorizzi gave up another leadoff hit, but this time for a double. After getting a strikeout and a groundout, Odorizzi looked as if he would be able to pitch around this. He threw another wild pitch and Abreu was able to come around to score. Odorizzi was able to strike out Goins to end the inning, but this is definitely a start Odorizzi is going to want to forget.

    Bullpen Solid Again

    A night after the bullpen had a perfect two innings to help secure the win, the bullpen again was shut-down today, though Giolito’s very solid outing kept the offense at bay.

    Ryne Harper was the first one out of the pen and ran into some trouble after a leadoff double, wild pitch and walk, putting himself in a jam. He was able to pick up a huge fly out and strikeout, then Polanco made an amazing snag to end the threat and inning.



    Then it turned to Sam Dyson and Tyler Duffey who each had quick and easy 1-2-3 innings. Dyson looked really solid, and since coming back from injury, has given up just one run in five innings. Duffey came in for the eighth and struck out two hitters and hasn’t given up a run in his past 11 outings.

    Trevor May got the ninth inning and struck out the first batter he faced, then gave up a single, but got an infield fly out and a fly ball to Arraez to end the inning. May has now only given up one earned run in his last 11 innings.

    Postgame With Baldelli


    Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet
    Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.

    • Aug 21 2019 08:12 PM
    • by AJ Condon
  25. 3 Unexpected Players the Twins Have Been Able to Rely Upon

    Tyler Duffey: 3.07 ERA, 29.6 K%, 1.15 WHIP, .211 AVG

    As you all probably know, the Twins bullpen has been the main area of concern all season with guys like Blake Parker, Ryne Harper, Fernando Romero, Adalberto Mejia (I could do this all day), and many more competing for high leverage spots behind Taylor Rogers. Only one guy has been able to firmly hold his spot and that has been Tyler Duffey.

    Duffey entered his third season in a relief role in 2019 and something finally clicked for him. The last two seasons were about as bad as could be for him, as he could never take that final step. His career as a reliever had a rough start with him having a 4.94 ERA in 2017 and a 7.43 ERA in 2018. There definitely were some changes made this season, but the most notable has been the large increase in his fastball usage from 36% to 51% in just one season. He also dropped the changeup and sinker and throws the curveball as his only secondary pitch.

    His value to the team is a bit under-appreciated because of all the hate the bullpen has received, but Tyler Duffey had quietly helped stabilize it until the trade deadline reinforcements showed up. Among all AL relievers he ranks 19th in K%, 25th in ERA, and 23rd in opponent AVG. He is currently the Twins fourth reliever on the depth chart, so that shows just how deep this bullpen has become.

    Mitch Garver: .263/.343/.597 (.940), 139 wRC+, 23 HR

    The third surprising performance comes from catcher Mitch Garver, and his breakout has been equally impressive, if not more so, than the other two on this list. After ending last season with a lot of criticism about his defense not being good enough to be a major league starting catcher, Mitch set out with a mission and came back improved in the defensive aspect of the game by notably dropping his catching ERA from 4.60 to 3.82, along with putting up some elite offensive numbers to go with it.

    The season began with Castro as the number one catcher and Garver as the backup, but Garver has blown away every single projection or expectation by becoming one of the premiere hitting catchers in baseball. Among MLB catchers, he ranks second in home runs (23), first in OPS (.937), and first in wRC+ (138). With Castro mashing against right-handed pitchers, the Twins have the best catching platoon in all of baseball.

    Mitch Garver is looking like the catcher of the future for the Twins, and there were some arguments made that he should have been in the All-Star Game this season. If he continues to hit like he currently is, there will be a lot more opportunities for him to lead AL catchers in the All-Star Game.

    Luis Arraez: .348/.416/.456 (.872), 133 wRC+, 1.50 BB/K

    I’m sure you’re all well aware of rookie sensation Luis Arraez by now. He could even be in the running for the Rookie of the Year Award. Since being called up in the middle of role May, he has done nothing but get hits in whatever situation he is put in. He is well known around baseball for his outstanding walk against Edwin Diaz after coming into the game down two strikes in the count. He has one of the most professional approaches you will see at the plate.


    Luis Arraez’s impact came at the perfect time for the Twins, as Opening Day second baseman Jonathan Schoop has fallen into a huge slump since June. Arraez has performed better than anyone could have expected and to see him filling the everyday second base in August is still surprising. To put his impact into one number, his Win Probability Added (WPA) is already third among Twins hitters at 1.61 despite him missing a couple of months.

    So can he win the Rookie of the Year Award? Among all AL rookies, Arraez is first in AVG, first in OBP, fifth in SLG and second in OPS. The Twins pulled a hidden gem out of the minor leagues this season and he was ranked down at 22 in the Twins Daily top 30 prospects to open the season. For a 22-year-old in the middle of a pennant race, his performance has been nearly perfect so far and his approach at the plate looks like he has been here for ten years already.

    The way he walks up to the box, scans the field, and then pokes a single wherever the defenders aren’t standing is a rare skill that people who say “I’m tired of all these home runs! Where did the sacrifice bunt and hit-and-run play go?” really like to watch.

    Overall, there have been many players to step up this season like Ehire Adrianza, Devin Smeltzer, Michael Pineda and more but I tried picking the three that had the largest impact while having low expectations coming into the season. Every playoff team has to rely on some unexpected key players in order to win and this year’s Minnesota Twins team has plenty.

    • Aug 21 2019 08:05 PM
    • by Cooper Carlson