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Article: Can Addison Reed Become Minnesota's Bullpen Ace?

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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 21 January 2018 - 08:59 PM

It was a surprising move to the say the least. Despite already having signed two relievers to MLB deals, leading to a crowded bullpen picture, the Twins went out and signed one of the top relief arms on the market to a contract unprecedented in franchise history.

What was it about Addison Reed that prompted Minnesota to finally dive into the deep end of the free agency pool?Well, for one thing, Reed was undeniably an excellent value. Maybe it begins and ends with that. You see an opportunity like this, and you don't pass it up.

When it comes to strengths that teams seek out in a relief pitcher, Reed checks off pretty much every box. He's relatively young by free agent standards, having turned 29 less than a month ago. He has worked frequently in high leverage, and brings plenty of closing experience. He's been extremely durable; Reed leads baseball with 157 appearances since the start of 2016, and has made at least 55 every year since 2012.

And of course, there's the performance. Over the past two seasons, in addition to being baseball's most oft-used reliever, Reed has also been one of its best.

Paul Molitor hasn't gotten Yu Darvish (not yet, anyway), but Reed gives him perhaps the most valuable tactical weapon he's ever had on a staff.

ACE IN THE HOLE
Cleveland's Andrew Miller. New York's Dellin Betances. Houston's Chris Devenski. All around the American League we see the emergence of premier relievers serving in non-closer roles and delivering massive value. Being able to deploy a dominating arm against an opposing team's best hitters, situationally, is at least on the same level of importance as a reliable ninth-inning man. I'd argue more so.

The Twins are committed to Fernando Rodney at closer to start the season, and in many ways he is the perfect embodiment of the role's (relative) fungibility. Over the course of his lengthy career Rodney has been an unspectacular relief pitcher by any measure. Yet, he ranks third on the all-time active saves list, and has converted 82% of his career chances, including 88% the last two years.

Plugging in Rodney as an inexpensive, yet experienced, short-term closer while making a much larger investment in Reed as the all-purpose late-inning fireman is – in many ways – a decidedly new-age move.

GAME CHANGER
According to Win Probability Added, which "attempts to measure a player's contribution to a win by figuring the factor by which each specific play made by that player has altered the outcome of a game," Reed has been the fifth most impactful reliever in the majors over the past two seasons. And look at his company in the Top 10:

1. Andrew Miller, NYY/CLE: 8.81
2. Zach Britton, BAL: 8.03
3. Kenley Jansen, LAD: 7.69
4. Brad Hand, SD: 6.14
5. Addison Reed, NYM/BOS: 5.85
6. Craig Kimbrel, BOS: 5.49
7. Wade Davis, KC/CHC: 5.48
8. Raisel Iglesias, CIN: 5.05
9. Shane Greene, DET: 4.47
10. David Robertson, CWS/NYY: 4.36

Now, it should be noted that WPA isn't necessarily a predictive stat. It only tells a story of what's happened. But in this case, it paints a picture of Reed as a pitcher who has consistently delivered with games on the line, drastically altering his teams' fortunes for the better.

That's not a Darvish-caliber impact, but over the course of the season, its influence on the W/L ledger should not be downplayed.

Of course, Reed continuing to succeed in big spots is reliant on his performance sustaining as it has, and that's no given at the game's most notoriously volatile position. We're also talking about a guy who, prior to 2016, had a 4.01 ERA in 250 major-league innings.

But the righty's strengths seemingly make him a good bet to stay on track.

TAKING CONTROL
During our on-stage Q&A with him at the Winter Meltdown on Saturday, I asked the greatest relief pitcher in Twins history for his impressions of the biggest free agent relief signing in Twins history.

Joe Nathan, like many others, went straight to Reed's calling card: control.

"I love how aggressive he is in the zone. That's the biggest thing with the bullpen guys, if you're not throwing strikes you don't belong in the bullpen," opined Nathan, whose own success with the Twins was fueled in part by an excellent 7.3% BB rate.

Reed has walked only 104 (6.2%) of the 1,669 batters he has faced in his MLB career. Twenty of those were intentional. He has hit six batsmen, and uncorked only 13 total wild pitches. (Last year alone, Trevor Hildenberger drilled four hitters and Ryan Pressly was charged with five wild pitches.)

As Parker Hageman noted around the time of the signing, Reed has been in the strike zone more over the last two seasons than any pitcher other than Jansen, who has a strong case for being the best reliever in baseball right now.

Reed doesn't have Kenley-type stuff, but it's good enough that he still managed a 2017 swinging strike rate of 13.7%, which would've led all Twins relievers. The ability to make people miss at that frequency, without needing them to chase, is one that inspires a lot of confidence.

Conventional thinking says Reed is now next in line for closer duties, should Rodney falter. After all, his pay is commensurate with the role, and he has racked up 125 saves in the majors.

But I wonder if the right mindset is to peg Hildenberger as Rodney's fallback in the ninth, and keep Reed as your flexible, strategic bullpen ace for as long as you can.

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#2 Thrylos

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Posted 21 January 2018 - 09:25 PM

This is good stuff, other than the last sentence :)

 

Got to scrutinize Hildenberger's performance, just a tad more, esp. against AL Central opponents before naming him a set up guy...

 

Reed can be the Twins MIller for sure, and let Rodney close this season.And that's that.

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#3 Seth Stohs

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Posted 21 January 2018 - 10:04 PM

I mean, I think it's pretty clear that Reed is the top reliever in the Twins bullpen, but I'm just fine with him in a more flexible role. If Rodney can just be the 9th inning guy who comes in to start the inning with a 1-3 run lead, that's fine. 

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#4 Dantes929

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Posted 22 January 2018 - 12:16 AM

Can Reed be the bullpen ace? Well, I certainly don't think Rodney will be. Burdi might have gotten there in a while.Reed was a great pickup. I think we will miss Kintzler a bit.

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#5 highlander

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Posted 22 January 2018 - 04:38 AM

You can never have too many arms.

#6 ashburyjohn

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Posted 22 January 2018 - 06:48 AM

I think we will miss Kintzler a bit.

Kintzler is an asset, but he's an awkward combination of a closer mentality without closer stuff. My take is that he gets you through the regular season, but is just another guy when the post-season comes, confirmed this past October when he gave up runs in two of the three games he appeared in. Of course, the Twins are not yet in a position to take the regular season for granted.

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#7 Riverbrian

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Posted 22 January 2018 - 07:04 AM

IMO... Any team that isn't signing, trading for... or creating their own version of Andrew Miller is making a mistake. 

 

If this is the plan for Addison Reed... I'm excited about it. 

 

 

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#8 Riverbrian

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Posted 22 January 2018 - 07:11 AM

I'm not advocating a weak 9th inning closer. I'm greedy... I want a bullpen full of guys who get people out with authority. 

 

However... while we are just entering the age of bullpen enlightenment. The 9th inning will devalue down the road. 

 

Bullpens have to be looked at differently. 

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#9 Dantes929

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Posted 22 January 2018 - 09:11 AM

 

Kintzler is an asset, but he's an awkward combination of a closer mentality without closer stuff. My take is that he gets you through the regular season, but is just another guy when the post-season comes, confirmed this past October when he gave up runs in two of the three games he appeared in. Of course, the Twins are not yet in a position to take the regular season for granted.

Runs in in two of three games is hardly confirmation. He was a huge reason we got to the playoffs though I certainly am not saying he is perfect.If you are taking larger, albeit still small sample sizes, Rodney has a 4.97 playoff ERA which does not include giving up 2 runs in 3 innings in game 163.Mostly, I am just saying I am not a huge fan of Rodney though of course, I hope I am wrong and that he does great for us.

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#10 ashburyjohn

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Posted 22 January 2018 - 09:13 AM

Runs in in two of three games is hardly confirmation. He was a huge reason we got to the playoffs though I certainly am not saying he is perfect.If you are taking larger, albeit still small sample sizes, Rodney has a 4.97 playoff ERA which does not include giving up 2 runs in 3 innings in game 163.Mostly, I am just saying I am not a huge fan of Rodney though of course, I hope I am wrong and that he does great for us.

Rodney's no great shakes, on that we can easily agree.

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#11 Doomtints

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Posted 22 January 2018 - 09:20 AM

Rodney was promised the closer's job and it's his job to lose. If he is lights out, great. If not, the Twins have Reed. 

 

Twins fans are strangely underrating closers even after seeing Joe Nathan's magic (or maybe some of you are too young to really understand what he was bringing to the table...) In any case, I think there is a lot to like about what the Twins did here.

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#12 Dantes929

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Posted 22 January 2018 - 10:30 AM

 

Rodney was promised the closer's job and it's his job to lose. If he is lights out, great. If not, the Twins have Reed. 

 

Twins fans are strangely underrating closers even after seeing Joe Nathan's magic (or maybe some of you are too young to really understand what he was bringing to the table...) In any case, I think there is a lot to like about what the Twins did here.

Nathan was fantastic against 28 other teams not named the Yankees. I might undervalue closers a little bit but recognize the great job Kintzler did for us for two years. In 2016 Perkins and Jepsen combined to blow a lot of saves earlyin the season which I thought was particularly demoralizing for a young team. Kintzler did a great job to start 2017 and would have been top 3 in my book for first half MVP. When we faced Rodney I always felt pretty good about our chances and am not thrilled with him being handed the closer job.  

I do like what the Twins did by signing Reed and maybe if we had signed him earlier we would have passed on Rodney. I haven't seen anyone complain about signing Reed.In fact, if all they did was sign Reed, keep Burdi, and sign either Darvish or Cobb I would have given them an A report card.

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#13 Nick Nelson

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Posted 22 January 2018 - 12:22 PM

 

Twins fans are strangely underrating closers even after seeing Joe Nathan's magic (or maybe some of you are too young to really understand what he was bringing to the table...) In any case, I think there is a lot to like about what the Twins did here.

Nathan makes me appreciate the value of great relievers. I'm not sure his "magic" really makes a strong case for the value of the closer role. 

 

Joe Nathan -- the most elite of elite bullpen weapons -- converted saves at an 89% clip, which is BTW the best save conversion rate in MLB history. Rodney, despite the giant gulf in talent and ability, has an 82% career rate. So that equates to about one time in 20 opportunities that Rodney will blow a save, in comparison with literally the most effective closer ever. And again, Fernando is at 88% the last two seasons, which is actually a higher conversion rate than Kintzler had with the Twins during that span.

 

And of course, when the playoffs came around, having one of the best closers in the game repeatedly failed to make the difference for MN. Would any of those games have gone differently if Gardy was willing to go to Nathan earlier instead of holding out for the save opportunity? Who knows.

 

 

Got to scrutinize Hildenberger's performance, just a tad more, esp. against AL Central opponents before naming him a set up guy...

Well, he already is a setup guy, and was quite effective in that capacity. Based on his stuff, poise, minor-league track record, and what we've seen thus far in the majors, I have full confidence in him for the eighth or ninth.

 

I'm not sure why it's necessary to "scrutinize" a sample of less than 20 innings, but against the AL Central Hildenberger had a 3.20 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 21/2 K/BB ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

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#14 DocBauer

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Posted 22 January 2018 - 01:20 PM

I am not saying I'm a big Rodney fan, but you would think he was some guy off the street when you read a few comments. Yes, there are bouts of wildness that stink. But he brings velocity, high SO numbers and huge production in his career, overall.

I like Duke quite a bit and think he will resemble his previous self in 2018.

Bullpen construction and usage has changed. I still believe in a quality closer to ice and shorten the game. But Reed has the potential to be that high leverage guy and I like that.
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#15 Blackjack

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Posted 22 January 2018 - 02:07 PM

 

. I still believe in a quality closer to ice and shorten the game. But Reed has the potential to be that high leverage guy and I like that.

I think the value of a good closer is also to not lose games and demoralize the team - does anybody remember Ron Davis??


#16 bluechipper

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Posted 23 January 2018 - 01:40 PM

I think us Twins fans may devalue the closer role because every pitcher the Twins have thrown into that role have done very well. Perkins, Jepsen for that year, Kintzler, and Belisle. Just throw someone in the 9th and they'll put up a solid line.

#17 jimbo92107

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Posted 26 January 2018 - 04:47 PM

 

Kintzler is an asset, but he's an awkward combination of a closer mentality without closer stuff. My take is that he gets you through the regular season, but is just another guy when the post-season comes, confirmed this past October when he gave up runs in two of the three games he appeared in. Of course, the Twins are not yet in a position to take the regular season for granted.

What made Kintzler so good was his late breaking fastball, a pitch he says he learned from Greg Maddux. Even without big mph, that pitch was deadly.

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