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The Magic of the Twins Bullpen

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#1 DocBauer


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Posted 28 June 2014 - 08:42 PM

Did the headline get your attention? LOL

This post is actually a little early as it should probably be closer to the actual All Star break in order to speculate on where we are in 2014 and where we might be in 2015. But I read an interesting stat today on the Twins website that caught my attention, in conjunction with several articles recently posted and discussed here on TD. And thus, I am jumping the gun a couple weeks early.

The stat in question was this: going in to today's game, (Saturday), the Twins bullpen had an ERA of 2.04 the past 11 games. A small sample to be sure, but interesting. More so perhaps due to the recent road losing streak. I think all the more showing the frustration of the lineup to provide consistent run production.

The title of this thread is not a misnomer. Over the past 25+ years! dating back to TK and Such in charge, through the current coaching and management of Gardenhire and Anderson, the Twins have enjoyed and employed bullpens that were consistently amongst the best in the league and all of baseball at times. A couple of times they lead us to a World Series title, several times they've helped us to division titles and the playoffs. And a few times, they might have been the only thing that kept us from losing a 100 games.

We've enjoyed outstanding closers in that time running from Reardon to Aguillera, to Guardado, and Hawkins, a Trombley tossed in there, and Nathan, and now Perkins.

Some of those names were outstanding setup men first, along with names like Berenguer, Atherton, Willis, Reyes, Romero, Swindell, and many others, including Burton up until this year. We've also found LOOGY's, and long relievers, some of which came from our system, and some of which seemed to come from nowhere.

The way baseball has been played the last 25-30 years or so, a strong closer and bullpen has gained great significance for a team to win, make the playoffs, and reach the pinnacles of success.

Back to this season, while the Twins bullpen is sadly amongst the bottom in team bullpen SO's, they rank an impressive and expected 3rd in BB. 7 teams have a better BA against, putting our .241 just about smack dab in the middle. But with a WHIP of 1.24 we are tied with the Red Sox at 4 just behind Tampa at 1.23, Seattle at 1.19, and the A's at 1.11. Despite some complaints, that's not bad folks. Even impressive I'd say.

So with those numbers, and the impressive 11 game stretch, where are we really near the All Star break as we prepare for the second half of the season, and preparation for 2015, where in theory we're closer to contention?

Despite having a slightly down season thus far, Perkins has established himself as an elite closer in a long and distinguished line. Burton has given us 2 excellent seasons overall. But while he has pitched better as of late, I think we all agree it would take an outstanding second half for him to come back. Matt Guerrier was a great Twin, has gotten his shot this year, and has probably had a better and longer career than anyone expected. But while his numbers don't seem bad when first looked at, he seems to be pitching on little more than guile and luck, and also would seem to be short lived.

Fien has been a huge find, very reliable, and has almost gotten better and better. He might be better as a 7th inning guy, but he's also provided some very good setup work for us. I don't understand the hate for Duensing as he's largely been very dependable as a 7th and occasionally 8th inning LHer. Since his promotion last year, Thielbar has been anywhere from good to outstanding with a couple of "just can't get the third out/strike to finish things off" moments to gain full elite reliever status.

I think it's very safe to say the Twins will spend FA money this offseason on a late 20's-early 30's proven reliever to replace Burton. Think a Crain-Hawkins type. And if this logical transaction takes place, then we enter 2015 with 5 of 7 bullpen slots essentially spoken for and filled. And while I would LOVE for the 2015 rotation to be strong enough for a 6-man bullpen, we will assume a 7 man pen for now.

With 5 spots filled, theoretically, there are two spots available. Who fills them?

There is nothing that states these final two spots must be RH. In the past the Twins have carried 3 LH's on occasion. (Perk is a closer, not an extra LH'er) And Gardenhire has often stated he wants the best pitchers he can get, regardless of handed-ness.

From the starboard side the Twins would have Swarzak, almost a seeming lock based on past contributions, especially with a stronger second half this year, followed by a good ST next. But Tonkin and Achter are young relievers who can't be ignored. And Oliveras seems to have rebounded well from his surgery. He can't be ignored now that he's at AAA. Pressly has been very solid for Rochester this year, and actually has a year's worth of ML experience. And could Deduno or Pino prove capable of a bullpen spot? Possibly.

From the port side, Darnell, Johnson, Ibarra, and even Thompson have to be considered. Thompson might be a bit of a long shot. And Darnell might have a real shot at a rotation slot if his second half of 2014 can match his first. I'm thinking Johnson is a typical late blooming LH, but limited to a a mid-long-LOOGY role.

So with a single, quality FA signing, the Twins could enter 2015 with the bulk of their bullpen in place, with two strongly contested spots open.

What say you?

#2 diehardtwinsfan


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Posted 29 June 2014 - 12:01 PM

I do hope that with the Twins choosing to draft relievers like they did in 2012 and this season that they are trying to rebuild the pen concept from the beginning of their run. They had some pretty lights out guys in Balfour, Rincoln, Romero (briefly), and Hawkins setting up Nathan. Several of those guys had better seasons than their closer that year, and they had a ridiculous record when they made it to the 7th with a lead. I could see a pen of Perkins with Tonkin, Achter, Burdi, and potentially one or two others being absolutely lights out in relief.