Today, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of the trends that we’ve seen in the Twins pitching staff through the season’s first ten games.The Starting Pitchers
We all got pretty excited about the Twins starting rotation after the season’s first series in Baltimore. Why? Well, the three Twins starters went a combined 21 innings without giving up a run. In fact, they gave up just four hits, walked eight and struck out 19 batters. Odorizzi threw six scoreless. Kyle Gibson threw six no-hit innings. Jose Berrios threw a complete game shutout on Easter.
However, since that series, it has been a challenge for the Twins starters. While I do think it is fair to ‘credit’ the cold weather conditions for some of the struggles of the pitching staff, including the starters, there could be more to it.
In the past seven games, Twins starters have given up 21 runs (1 unearned) in 32.2 innings. They’ve give up 36 hits, walked 23 and struck out 32.
- First 3 Games: 21.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 8 BB, 7 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.19 WHIP, 3.4 BB/9, 8.1 K/9
- Last 7 Games: 32.2 IP, 36 H, 20 ER, 23 BB, 32K, 5.51 ERA, 1.81 WHIP, 6.3 BB/9, 8.8 K/9
Twins starters averaged seven innings per start over the first three games. Since then, they have averaged just 4 ⅔ innings per game. That is significant because, simply, it means that the bullpen will be used more, will be taxed more.
It’s always interesting to start seeing the trends of pitcher usage by the manager and pitching coach. Five of the last seven starts have gone less than five innings. Who did Molitor go to first?
Molitor has had to go to a relief pitcher in the fifth inning in five of the last seven games. I think that the below chart is quite interesting and clearly illustrates a number of things, including the manager’s confidence.
Reliever Pitched In
5th inning: Taylor Rogers (3), Gabriel Moya (1), Trevor Hildenberger (1)
6th inning: Trevor Hildenberger (4), Taylor Rogers (2), Gabriel Moya (1)
7th inning: Zach Duke (4), Ryan Pressly (4), Addison Reed (2), Trevor Hildenberger (2)
8th inning: Addison Reed (6), Ryan Pressly (1), Trevor Hildenberger (1), Zach Duke (1)
9th inning: Fernando Rodney (4), Addison Reed (1), Ryan Pressly (1), Gabriel Moya (1), Tyler Kinley (1),
10th inning: Trevor Hildenberger (1), Fernando Rodney (1)
11th inning: Fernando Rodney (1)
While Taylor Rogers spent the first half of 2017 being one of the most reliable bullpen arms in the league versus lefties or righties, his second half struggles have pushed him back into early-inning relief duties to start the season. Gabriel Moya got a couple of those games as well, and now Trevor Hildenberger has found himself working in those earlier situations after struggling in more crucial moments.
It’s clear, when the Twins are close and late, Addison Reed is going to get the ball, unless he has strep throat, of course. He has been terrific so far. Paul Molitor has shown remarkable confidence in lefty Zach Duke early in the season as well. While his lefty-righty splits were not pronounced in 2017, Molitor has decided to use him often in situations where he will face multiple right-handers. Doesn’t seem like an ideal situation, but he has generally come through to this point. Ryan Pressly’s early success has kept him getting late-inning and close situations as well.
At this point, Gabriel Moya and Tyler Kinley are only used in games that are not close.
The Fernando Rodney Experience has been just that, an experience. While Joe Nathan did his lip quiver thing to relax, Fernando Rodney keeps fans and teammates on their toes. While he’s certainly got the fastball and the changeup to be effective, his control and command have not been great. He’s given up a couple of big hits. He’s in no danger of losing his job at this point, however, so just get yourself prepared for some late-inning intrigue when he comes into the games.
The pitcher of most concern through the small sample size of ten games to start the season remains Trevor Hildenberger. He was arguably the Twins most reliable bullpen arm in the second half last season, so much so that the manager used him very often. In reality, the manager is still using him often this season. He’s already thrown seven innings in six appearances. His ERA is just 3.86 and his WHIP is just 1.29. Neither number is good, but it certainly doesn’t tell the story of his struggles so far. The below listing will let you know what his problem has been.
Inherited Runners/Inherited Runners Scored
Addison Reed (5/0)
Fernando Rodney (3/0)
Taylor Rogers (2/0)
Zach Duke (2/0)
Gabriel Moya (1/0)
Trevor Hildenberger (6/6)
That’s right. There have been three games in which Hildenberger has come in mid-inning with runners on base. He’s come into a situation with one runner on base, and that guy scored. He’s come into a game with two runners on base, and both of them scored. And, he came into a bases loaded situation, and all three scored.
It’s not quite time to be concerned about Hildenberger, yet. Well, you can be concerned if you want, and it’s understandable. Spring training numbers don’t matter because they are often working on things. But the trends we saw in spring with Hildenberger, not throwing strikes and giving up home runs, have continued into the first ten days of the season. He’s fallen behind batters, and hitters have been ready when he does throw strikes. An adjustment will likely have to be made by Hildenberger (and his catchers).
The Rochester Red Wings have played just two games so far this season because of weather. Tyler Duffey’s first outing of the year was three hitless innings. The other relievers who might be considered for early-season call up, like John Curtiss, Jake Reed and Alan Busenitz, have all worked just once so far this season.
The Twins are going to score runs this year. Like last year, they will likely be a Top 4 team in the American League in runs scored. Through ten games, the Twins have averaged 4.7 points per game. Only twice have they scored fewer than four runs. They scored just two on Opening Day in Baltimore, and they were shut out on Monday night by Justin Verlander.
Joe Mauer is on fire to start the season. He’s hitting .387 and has been on base 52.5% of the time. His OPS is 1.041. Max Kepler’s OPS is next in line at 1.020. He’s hitting .280 and getting on base just under 40% of the time. He’s got three home runs after hitting two on Wednesday including a walk-off. As impressive as that has been so far, he has five walks to go with six strikeouts and appears to have a much better approach. Brian Dozier is the third player with an OPS over 1.000. He’s hitting .293 with a .396 OBP and four early-season home runs.
Despite a nearly 50% strikeout rate, Miguel Sano has a .925 OPS. Simply put, when Sano puts the ball in play, good things tend to happen.
On the other side of the situation, Byron Buxton is again off to a slow start. He’s hitting just .184/.205/.237 with two doubles and two stolen bases.
Logan Morrison really struggled early. However, in this Astros series, even on Monday night when he didn’t have a hit, he took very good at-bats against Verlander. Each plate appearance he saw several pitches and just missed several others, fouling them straight back. In his first two at-bats on Tuesday against lefty Dallas Keuchel, he hit the ball 110+ mph. He was finally squaring up the ball. He lined out in his first at bat on Wednesday too before adding a hit. So while he’s still hitting just .097 (3-31), it does appear that he’s turning a corner. Hopefully he will warm up soon, along with the temperatures of these Twins games.
With a 6-4 record, the Twins would get a W in their 1/16th season mark, their first game of what would be the NFL schedule. Hopefully they can continue to perform.
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