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Article: Three-Bagger: TOS Troubles, Bad Belisle & Hello Hildy

matt belisle trevor hildenberger dillon gee
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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 27 June 2017 - 09:44 PM

The troubling trend of TOS surgery survivors, a veteran reliever headed toward an unceremonious exit, and a new side-arming righty bringing back memories good and bad.

We'll cover three trending storylines in the latest Three-Bagger below the fold.* Dillon Gee's time on Minnesota's 25-man roster was brief and uneventful – he didn't make it into a game between being called up on Friday and sent back to the minors on Monday. There is, however, little doubt that we'll be seeing him again soon enough.

The addition of Gee on a minor-league deal last week was interesting, and not because he is yet another marginal arm mixed in as the Twins desperately seek numbers for a thin staff.

More noteworthy, in my mind, is that the right-hander is another victim of the thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) epidemic, having undergone surgery for the ailment last October.

This condition, generally affecting blood circulation to the arm and sensation in the hand, and the rib removal procedure used to address it, have risen in prominence recently. Several high-profile pitchers are currently trying to work their way back, including Phil Hughes. The early returns have been roundly unencouraging.

Gee was released by the Rangers earlier this month after failing to impress. Hughes has struggled mightily while dealing with recurring symptoms, and will now try to return as a reliever. Matt Harvey, who underwent the surgery last summer around the same time as Hughes, is sidelined indefinitely with further shoulder issues after posting a 5.25 ERA in 13 starts for the Mets. Tyson Ross, eight months removed from his own TOS operation, had a 7.71 ERA in four rehab starts at Triple-A before being called up and now has a 6.13 ERA in three starts with Texas.

Not only have these TOS recoverers failed to show any kind of meaningful improvement in velocity or stuff; many are having trouble even staying on the mound. Not a great sign.

* The decision to send down Gee was puzzling and looked worse in hindsight when a rain delay on Tuesday night forced Hector Santiago out after two innings. It would've been a perfect opportunity for Gee to eat some innings but instead the Twins had to piece things together with an already beat-up bullpen.

All so the club can continue to roster Matt Belisle, despite his providing no reason to do so.

The 37-year-old made another lackluster appearance on Monday night, allowing an RBI single to Dustin Pedroia and then issuing an intentional walk before exiting. Evidently it was enough to keep him hanging around for whatever reason because Gee was deemed more expendable.

Showing little command of a consistently hittable repertoire, Belisle is bound be let loose soon enough. While he looked like a better signing than Tim Stauffer v. 2015 on the surface, the results have been depressingly similar.

Craig Breslow has been equally uninspiring, though he's been relegated to pitching almost exclusively in lopsided losses so it's less noticeable.

For better or worse, until the Twins decide to go out and get some help, I'm ready to mostly hand this thing over to the young guys. Like this one:

* Will Trevor Hildenberger, called up alongside Gee last Friday, be an impact upgrade for the bullpen? His transcendent brilliance while rising through the Twins system does pique the curiosity.

It comes down to which franchise precedent he comes closest to following.

With his quirky sidearm delivery and absurd numbers in the minors, Hildenberger calls to mind two former Twins relievers, representing very different career outcomes: Pat Neshek and Anthony Slama.

Both right-handers flat-out decimated minor-league hitters, but neither enjoyed a lofty prospect status reflective of those monster stats, due to fastballs that barely touched 90 and a perceived gimmicky approach.

Neshek, of course, had no problem translating his game to the majors. He was immediately dominant when called up to the Twins in 2006, embarking upon a tremendously successful career that continues today. (In fact, the now-36-year-old Phillies reliever figures to be a top Twins trade deadline target.)

Slama never got more than a brief cup of coffee in the big leagues and quietly fizzled out. He retired with a career 2.51 ERA and 12.0 K/9 rate in the minors, and seven total innings pitched in the majors.

The newcomer will surely fall somewhere in between; the question is which one he'll land closer to. Hildenberger's numbers in the minors overshadow both Neshek and Slama. In parts of four minor-league seasons, he has registered a 1.57 ERA and 200-to-26 (!) K/BB ratio over 172 innings. He has been Twins Daily's choice for Minor League Reliever of the Year in each of the past two seasons on the basis of those numbers. But as a former 22nd-round draft pick with plenty of skeptics, he'll need to prove himself and earn his way into high-leverage innings.

Here's hoping he can follow the path of Neshek and become a game-changer for a bullpen that will take any help it can get, no matter how "gimmicky."

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#2 Rosterman

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Posted 27 June 2017 - 10:33 PM

The Slama story is so interesting. He dominated in the minors, but I don't think he got the chance to fail AND THEN succeed with the Twins. Maybe there's something I don't know or see. And, yes, he eventually ended up in Dodger minors-land and then disappeared. 

 

Of course, after surgery, we saw the Twins basically give up (or try and sneak Neshek) off the 40-man, where he went into Oriole limbo for a season and then returned strongly, now with his 4th organization since and looking for another multi-year contract as he pushes towards 40.

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#3 Danchat

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Posted 27 June 2017 - 11:20 PM

All so the club can continue to roster Matt Belisle, despite his providing no reason to do so.

 

Amen!

 

 

Hildenberger's numbers in the minors overshadow both Neshek and Slama.

I was just looking up Hildy's minor league stats earlier today, and I was surprised by how good he's been! I think he can become a Neshek - or, at least he has the potential. I'm glad the Twins gave him a shot and I'd have to say he's definitely impressing me.

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#4 HitInAPinch

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 01:21 AM

I've watched some video on Hildenberger.  To me, he looks very hit-able.  His delivery looks very slow and not very deceptive, which makes it easier to pickup the ball. The cross-over step is helpful against righties, but just further exposes the ball to lefties. Watch Neshek's delivery. Quick and aggressive.  

 

I just don't believe Hildenberger will be around very long.

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#5 The Wise One

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 04:51 AM

As the roster currently stands Hildenberger and Busenitz need to prove they are major league pitchers before you can even think of releasing  Breslow. After that they would have to prove themselves reliable under pressure to have Belisle sent away. Bosher would likely go before Belisle. 


#6 spycake

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 06:20 AM

As the roster currently stands Hildenberger and Busenitz need to prove they are major league pitchers before you can even think of releasing Breslow. After that they would have to prove themselves reliable under pressure to have Belisle sent away. Bosher would likely go before Belisle.


I think Hildenberger and Busenitz have already met the Breslow standard -- any lingering doubt about them being unable to replicate Breslow's recent results is almost certainly outweighed by both of them being optionable. Boshers too. So they can be rotated for a fresh arm as needed. This is only going to get more important as Hughes returns and we try to roster Haley again, without any SP upgrades on the immediate horizon (and more doubleheaders).

And again I dispute your assertion that Belisle has the ability to pitch effectively in the highest leverage situations, but give up multiple runs on a regular basis otherwise. His outings may have followed this general pattern so far in 2017, but that does not prove this specious ability exists. Relying on it to continue is a bad bet.

If they want to keep Belisle in the Breslow mop-up role for a bit, that's fine, but again I'd be ready to drop him for a fresh optionable arm as needed. Maybe Reed or Curtiss or even Romero for a look before the trade deadline.
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#7 mikelink45

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 07:01 AM

Belisle is terrible and it is more than the eye test - 30.1 innings pitched - 33 hits and 17 walks giving up 26 runs (with relief pitchers I do not care if the runs are earned or unearned) and 18.8% of inherited base runners scored. And a 6.53 era. Move on.  

 

Our other slick veteran reliever - Breslow - only has a 5.28 era.  29 innings pitched with 34 hits and 10 walks!  

 

And these are the best of the numerous pitchers that the team has added this year.  Would we have been worse off if we had just rotated through minor leaguers?  We DFA Melatokis and keep these guys?  

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#8 Mike Sixel

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 07:55 AM

 

As the roster currently stands Hildenberger and Busenitz need to prove they are major league pitchers before you can even think of releasing  Breslow. After that they would have to prove themselves reliable under pressure to have Belisle sent away. Bosher would likely go before Belisle. 

 

couldn't disagree more. It's time to move to the youth in the bullpen, and let them ride this year out. There is no value in Belisle or Breslow.

 

People have now been typing for 2-3 months that Belisle/Breslow won't be long for the team if they don't perform..........maybe this FO just likes old players?

Edited by Mike Sixel, 28 June 2017 - 07:56 AM.

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It's been a fun year so far, GO Twins. 


#9 jorgenswest

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 08:36 AM

The front office was very clear in November and again in spring training that they thought the Twins had a void in veteran leadership. They sought veterans that they felt had brought those leadership skills that were missing. They landed on Belisle, Breslow and Gimenez. Being a veteran doesn't equate to being a leader. It is a talent.

Two quotes from Berardino's culture club article this spring
http://www.twincitie...-cost-veterans/

“You can have leadership in the front office, you can have leadership in the coaching staff, but if you don’t have leadership in the clubhouse I think it’s a real challenge to navigate 162 games, especially with the amount of youth we’ve had on this team.”

“You may see a signing where you may scratch your head and say, ‘Why did these guys spend this kind of money on that player at this stage of his career?’ ” Levine told those Twins fans. “I assure you it’s probably because this guy, in our opinion, has a chance to be a leader in the clubhouse.”

Does the FO like old guys? Not particularly. They do value those that have the talent and skill of leadership. Perhaps that leadership helped the team navigate through a sweep by Cleveland and not carry that disappointment into the next series.
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#10 Tomj14

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 08:45 AM

I said a few weeks ago they should have thanked Belisle and left his arse in San Fran. I stand by that!

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#11 nicksaviking

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 08:46 AM

 

As the roster currently stands Hildenberger and Busenitz need to prove they are major league pitchers before you can even think of releasing  Breslow. After that they would have to prove themselves reliable under pressure to have Belisle sent away. Bosher would likely go before Belisle. 

 

Why do Hildenberger, Busentiz or any other pitcher have to prove reliable to before they release Breslow or Belisle? Both of them have proven to be unreliable. When your safety net is no better or even worse than what's on the weekly waiver wire, you don't really have much to lose.

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#12 Respy

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 08:54 AM

Good coverage.  I agree that Hildenberger has a low likelihood of being elite, but shows good signs of being successful.  A low-90's side-armer needs good control, which he has with only 26 walks in 171 2/3 MiLB innings.  He needs to keep the ball in the ballpark, which I hadn't realized previously how much of an extreme ground ball pitcher he is: 2.37 GO/AO, and only 4 homeruns allowed in 171 2/3 MiLB innings!  I think his floor is well above Slama.  Slama was not a groundball pitcher (1.07  GO/AO) and walked way too many batters (158 walks in 344 1/3 MiLB innings). I would bet that Hildenberger is most likely to be decent or good.  My expected stat comps are Jim Johnson or Matt Belisle (Colorado version).  Hildy's seemingly got better control than Neshek or Ziegler, but those two guys are closer to the 'elite' status due to higher strikeout numbers, lower BAA, lower ERA.

 

So my most unanswered question will be: Can Hildenberger punch out major league batters close to or better than 1/inning at the MLB level?  My gut says no, but he's got to keep his velocity up above 90mph and have good control of those off-speed pitches.  I predict he has a serviceable but not great career (2-6 years) in the MLB bullpen.

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#13 Jaykay

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 09:11 AM

 

Why do Hildenberger, Busentiz or any other pitcher have to prove reliable to before they release Breslow or Belisle? Both of them have proven to be unreliable. When your safety net is no better or even worse than what's on the weekly waiver wire, you don't really have much to lose.

 

This exactly, Belisle and Breslow have proven to be terrible and they are only going to get worse with age. Hildenberger and Busenitz don't need to prove much of anything to earn spots over those two bums. 

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#14 spycake

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 09:13 AM

 

Does the FO like old guys? Not particularly. They do value those that have the talent and skill of leadership. Perhaps that leadership helped the team navigate through a sweep by Cleveland and not carry that disappointment into the next series.

 

How much are they giving back through poor performance?  Belisle actually blew a lead in his only appearance in Cleveland this past weekend, and was bailed out by the offense, Rogers, and Kintzler. And how much are they complicating the roster?  Breslow was unavailable for the series opener in Cleveland after an inefficient attempt at mop-up relief on Thursday, which necessitated adding Gee apparently and playing with a very short / nonexistent bench.

 

And even if they had a positive effect, at what point can they remove one or both of these training wheels from the roster?

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#15 spycake

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 09:23 AM

 

* The decision to send down Gee was puzzling and looked worse in hindsight when a rain delay on Tuesday night forced Hector Santiago out after two innings. It would've been a perfect opportunity for Gee to eat some innings but instead the Twins had to piece things together with an already beat-up bullpen.

Not sure the bullpen was that beat up heading into Tuesday.  Thanks to Berrios, only Belisle (4 pitches), Boshers (4 pitches), and Busenitz (15) threw on Monday.  And thanks to Santana, only Boshers (18) and Kintzler (9) threw the day before that.

 

So for our Tuesday pen, we had 4 guys with at least 2 full days of rest, 1 more with 1 whole day, and 1-2 more coming off fairly minimal use the day before.

 

The problem is not that they were beat up, it was the composition.  A rested Breslow means nothing for contributing either innings or effectiveness.  We've got a few guys who are too good to use when we're trailing, and a bunch of guys who aren't trusted / able to get many outs regardless of game situation.


#16 jorgenswest

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 09:25 AM

How much are they giving back through poor performance? Belisle actually blew a lead in his only appearance in Cleveland this past weekend, and was bailed out by the offense, Rogers, and Kintzler. And how much are they complicating the roster? Breslow was unavailable for the series opener in Cleveland after an inefficient attempt at mop-up relief on Thursday, which necessitated adding Gee apparently and playing with a very short / nonexistent bench.

And even if they had a positive effect, at what point can they remove one or both of these training wheels from the roster?

If we are judging by Belisle's data, there isn't enough sample to suggest he is a less skilled pitcher from his previous few seasons. His velocity hasn't dropped and strike out rates are not significantly different. The sample is too small to look at other batted ball results or innings based results to suggest he has changed his skill level. He could just as likely perform similar to last year's numbers the rest of the way as repeat this year's numbers. We really rely on the eyes of the staff that sees him every day as well as trust in those who have pitch level data beyond our access to make the best decision about Belisle. Breslow hasn't been effective in a while and is used almost exclusively in low leverage situations. I can't measure the value of his leadership in the clubhouse to know if it is worth the low leverage level load he has been given. It is hard to imagine the value he brings, but I am not in the clubhouse or bullpen. Without that experience, I realize I am pretty limited in my ability to support his removal.

Edited by jorgenswest, 28 June 2017 - 09:26 AM.

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#17 Mike Sixel

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 09:38 AM

 

The front office was very clear in November and again in spring training that they thought the Twins had a void in veteran leadership. They sought veterans that they felt had brought those leadership skills that were missing. They landed on Belisle, Breslow and Gimenez. Being a veteran doesn't equate to being a leader. It is a talent.

Two quotes from Berardino's culture club article this spring
http://www.twincitie...-cost-veterans/

“You can have leadership in the front office, you can have leadership in the coaching staff, but if you don’t have leadership in the clubhouse I think it’s a real challenge to navigate 162 games, especially with the amount of youth we’ve had on this team.”

“You may see a signing where you may scratch your head and say, ‘Why did these guys spend this kind of money on that player at this stage of his career?’ ” Levine told those Twins fans. “I assure you it’s probably because this guy, in our opinion, has a chance to be a leader in the clubhouse.”

Does the FO like old guys? Not particularly. They do value those that have the talent and skill of leadership. Perhaps that leadership helped the team navigate through a sweep by Cleveland and not carry that disappointment into the next series.

 

which young guys are the RP leading, since there aren't any young guys in the bullpen? What is the ratio of leaders in the bullpen to young guys?

 

How bad would a player have to be for his leadership not to be worth it?

Edited by Mike Sixel, 28 June 2017 - 09:43 AM.

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It's been a fun year so far, GO Twins. 


#18 Jerr

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 09:38 AM

Boy, it is sure a downer reading any threads about the Twins pitching.... :cry:

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#19 spycake

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 09:48 AM

 

If we are judging by Belisle's data, there isn't enough sample to suggest he is a less skilled pitcher from his previous few seasons. His velocity hasn't dropped and strike out rates are not significantly different. The sample is too small to look at other batted ball results or innings based results to suggest he has changed his skill level. He could just as likely perform similar to last year's numbers the rest of the way as repeat this year's numbers. We really rely on the eyes of the staff that sees him every day as well as trust in those who have pitch level data beyond our access to make the best decision about Belisle. Breslow hasn't been effective in a while and is used almost exclusively in low leverage situations. I can't measure the value of his leadership in the clubhouse to know if it is worth the low leverage level load he has been given. It is hard to imagine the value he brings, but I am not in the clubhouse or bullpen. Without that experience, I realize I am pretty limited in my ability to support his removal.

This is basically an appeal to authority argument, which isn't necessarily bad in truly nuanced cases, but I don't think we're at a truly nuanced case here.

 

Belisle has been consistently allowing runs in close games for 3 months now.  Whatever his issue is, it's not a blip in the radar.  He's 37 years old with a modest recent track record, and no recent history of high leverage usage.  That's enough evidence to draw some conclusions.

 

In order to credit Breslow with enough leadership, leading to tangible results in others, to offset his own performance and roster concerns, we'd probably be justified offering him a multiyear contact as pitching coach at ~$4 mil annual salary.

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#20 spycake

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 09:51 AM

 

which young guys are the RP leading, since there aren't any young guys in the bullpen? What is the ratio of leaders in the bullpen to young guys?

Rogers and Duffey are young, in terms of experience.  You'd pretty much have to credit Breslow and Belisle with most of their 2017 improvement, though, to justify their continued presence on the roster (and like I said in my previous post, that would also justify an extravagant coaching deal).

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