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Article: What To Make of Addison Reed?

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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 25 November 2018 - 09:39 PM

The Twins head into this offseason with bullpen upgrades among their most glaring needs. This is largely because their boldest investment to address that unit a year ago has failed to pay dividends.

Not only was Addison Reed's first year with Minnesota a disappointment, but his uncertain status going forward creates planning headaches in 2019. The only thing guaranteed with Reed for next year is his hefty salary. Can the Twins find a way to derive value from it?Between 2016 and 2017, no major-league pitcher made more appearances than Reed, who piled up 157 appearances for the Mets and Red Sox. The Twins signed him to a two-year, $16.75 million contract with hopes he'd become a stalwart in their bullpen.

Paul Molitor tried to use him as such, deploying the right-hander 40 times through the team's first 84 games, but this time around Reed's arm wasn't up to the task. In his 41st outing, just ahead of the All-Star break, he coughed up three runs in the ninth inning of a loss to the Royals, adding to an extended run of poor performance, and was placed on the disabled list with right triceps tendinitis.

The time off didn't cure what ailed him. As you can see in the chart below (via Brooks Baseball), Reed's velocity was at dire levels in the final months of the 2018 season:

Download attachment: reed5yearvelo.png

His results matched: In 14 appearances after returning from the DL in late July, Reed allowed a .302/.318/.524 slash line, striking out only seven batters in 15 innings with a lowly 8% swinging strike rate. It's about what you'd expect to get from a random minor-league journeyman rounding out the pen, not from your prized offseason upgrade.

In 2019, Reed will be back, with his $8.5 million salary making him one of the team's highest-paid players. The hope, of course, is that he'll recapture his previous ability and fill the role originally envisioned for him. But can we realistically expect that?

Well, the bad news is that reduced velocity and hittable stuff appeared to be Reed's new realities by the end of his 2018 campaign. While he was healthy enough to pitch late in the season, Molitor used him rarely, and never in close games. Reed often failed to even touch 90 on the gun with his once-potent fastball. In his first 10 appearances off the DL, he induced one or zero swinging strikes in nine of them. Distressing signs from a guy who hasn't yet turned 30.

The Twins have to hope this was, more or less, a lengthy bout with dead arm. To my knowledge, Reed hasn't undergone any kind of corrective procedure, so he'll surely spend his offseason resting and strengthening. Sometimes, that does the trick. I can't think of any examples offhand but it does happen. (Maybe readers can think up some names out in the comments?)

This isn't the kind of front office that'll fail to turn over any stones in assessing a problem, especially one as impactful to their 2019 planning as Reed and his contract, so I'm not inclined to believe there's any major ligament issue being overlooked, though it does bear noting that tricep injuries are often precursors to Tommy John surgery.

The Twins revamped their medical staff last offseason and recently brought in a new strength and conditioning team, so we've gotta have confidence that they are making solid, well-informed decisions on this front. I would imagine that Reed has a very specific program in place for the coming winter.

It's also promising that he'll have two new important voices surrounding him. Pitching coach Wes Johnson has long been known as a "velocity guru," who emphasizes lower-body involvement and takes full advantage of available technology to help his pitchers improve. Sounds like exactly the kind of instructor Reed could use.

The Twins also have a fresh assistant pitching coach in Jeremy Hefner, who was already in the organization but will now be present in the bullpen to assist Reed more directly. Hefner is reputedly highly-regarded for his ability to break down video, and may form an empathetic connection with Reed, only three years his junior. Hefner is no stranger to elbow problems, having undergone two Tommy John surgeries before retiring a few years ago. I liken it to the dynamic between Rocco Baldelli and Byron Buxton; there's a unique perspective and resonance to be gained from having walked in a player's shoes in the not-too-distant past.

Even if the Twins aren't able to juice up Reed's throwing speed again, Hefner may help guide Reed toward effectiveness with a lesser arsenal. This excerpt from a Mike Berardino 2017 profile on Hefner feels relevant now:

The fact Hefner was able to hang around as long as he did with an 89-91 mph fastball seems to have smoothed the transition and helped a Twins staff that largely lacks swing-and-miss weapons.

“Location is always paramount,” Hefner says. “Ultimately, this thing is about execution. That’s why this stuff speaks to me so well because I had to execute to be successful. If I was still playing and I had this information, it would free me up to not try to be nasty and just go execute.”

The nice thing about Reed is that he has excellent control; his 5.1% BB rate since 2016 ranks eighth-best among MLB relievers. While his stuff played down in the second half of this season, he still stayed in the zone, walking only two of 62 batters faced in August and September. He seems like a viable candidate to succeed on execution over stuff.

Under ideal circumstances, Reed will show up to camp in the spring with a fastball showing renewed life. It's important to remember how valuable he can be at full strength and effectiveness. In 2016 he ranked sixth among MLB relievers in WAR. Add that guy to the mix with Trevor May, Taylor Rogers and a couple of other offseason additions, and you've got the makings of a bullpen that can square off with the game's best.

Sadly, it's tough to count on that happening. So the question is: how can the Twins get the most out of whatever version of Reed they get in 2019? At the very least, I feel good about the people now in charge of answering it.

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#2 Danchat

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Posted 25 November 2018 - 10:59 PM

I think we'll know quickly into the 2019 season whether Reed is back to what he was. Those radar numbers will be important to monitor.

 

It's also really weird to see that Reed is the highest paid player on the team. I know he won't be for long, but his $8.5M salary is the highest on the team at the moment.

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#3 beckmt

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Posted 25 November 2018 - 11:36 PM

Easy problem to solve.If his velocity is back, he will be a valued member of the bullpen, if not he is an early season DFA candidate, if he is unable to work with lesser velocity.

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#4 Thrylos

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Posted 26 November 2018 - 01:07 AM

Couple of concerns about Reed:

 

1. His injury last season was puclicly described as 'triceps tightness'

2. His slider suffered more than his FB per pitch values

 

Sounds like an elbow situation from here...

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#5 Doctor Wu

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Posted 26 November 2018 - 05:51 AM

I think, more than any other position on a team, pitchers are the most prone to be unpredictable in regards to their performance. So many things can go amiss, so it's always a gamble. That's one reason I hate the idea of signing any pitcher, starter or reliever, to a lengthy contract. As far as Reed goes, I just shrug my shoulders and think of an appropriate song lyric to quote.

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#6 old nurse

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Posted 26 November 2018 - 06:00 AM

Reed has pitched a lot of games per year. Most pitchers break under that load.The hard part is knowing when.

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#7 bighat

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Posted 26 November 2018 - 07:52 AM

I remember how jazzed I was when I heard the Twins were signing Reed, Rodney, and Duke last winter. All of a sudden they had an All-Star bullpen.

 

Poof. Alas, Reed seemed like the most solid guy of the whole bunch and he turned in one of the worst seasons of the year....on a bad team. I hope it was just a fluke year.

 

Maybe he'll return to become an average arm, but I don't think he's ever going to be lights-out again. I don't think the Twins are counting on him being a shut-down reliever in 2019.


#8 highlander

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Posted 26 November 2018 - 08:35 AM

Did Molitor over use him early, especially with high usage the previous seasons? Will a more cautious approach enable him to regain productivity? The million $$$ questions.

#9 DocBauer

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Posted 26 November 2018 - 08:52 AM

I fear for the worst...elbow or just a dead arm....and hope for the best. Let's say I am in the "hopeful" camp that relative youth and a restful season, combined with new coaches maybe spotting something, along with his previous success, (even the first couple of months last year), will have him rebound.
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#10 RatherBeGolfing

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Posted 26 November 2018 - 09:44 AM

I have the bad feeling that Reed has elbow issues as well and probably has fired most of his "good bullets." We will know pretty quickly next year how his arm is holding up too. Management needs to be honest with themselves and know they can't bank on him being reliable for the 2019 season 

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#11 SomeGuy

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Posted 26 November 2018 - 10:06 AM

I am optimistic he regains that early season success that he had last year.They should proceed with caution and manage his workload better.We need a couple bullpen additions this offseason, hopefully Reed won't be critical to our success in case the injury is more serious than it was.

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#12 Vanimal46

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Posted 26 November 2018 - 10:12 AM

I echo others in being cautiously optimistic. Seems like the proper coaching staff is in place to help recoup the lost MPH on his fastball. If it's clear he doesn't have it they should be able to eat a portion of the money owed and move him to another rebuilding team.
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#13 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 26 November 2018 - 10:13 AM

 

Did Molitor over use him early, especially with high usage the previous seasons? Will a more cautious approach enable him to regain productivity? The million $$$ questions.

 

Molitor had a bad tendency to rely on one or two arms. Reed was one, and he was effective for a while. Once Hildy got hot, he was the guy... until he got cold. I think the Twins need to get an arm for the pen, but I'm really hoping Rocco is smart enough to make sure he's not overusing one or two guys. 

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#14 Tom Froemming

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Posted 26 November 2018 - 10:49 AM

Reed's first half usage

2018: 41 G, 41.0 IP, 667 pitches

2017: 41 G, 42.2 IP, 658 pitches

2016: 43 G, 41.2 IP, 657 pitches

 

That's a lot of work across the board, but it's not like Molitor abused him. It's possible enough was enough and his arm finally reached a breaking point, but I wouldn't pin that on Molly.

 

I don't envy Rocco, this appears to be a difficult first assignment in learning how to manage a bullpen. Hopefully the front office/ownership can provide him with enough arms so that Reed and Hildy don't need to be immediately forced back into high-leverage roles.

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#15 Parker Hageman

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Posted 26 November 2018 - 11:04 AM

I don't know what it's going to take for Addison Reed to turn things around in 2019. 

 

Before this year, he was one of the more healthy pitchers in the game. But he's always had funky mechanics and in stop after stop, there are stories of pitching coaches cleaning this up or that up. 

 

In Arizona, the pitching coach tandem of Mike Harkey and Mel Stottlemeyer had him make two mechanical adjustments. Then when he went to New York, he supposedly had worked with the Mets' pitching coach Dan Werthen, the slider guru, and straightened more things out. Heading into 2016, his arm slot changed and he began releasing the ball at a higher point. He had one of his best seasons in 2016 and followed up with a good 2017 campaign. 

 

In addition to his velocity, his arm slot dipped as well in 2018 with the Twins. This probably should have been a red flag to someone in the organization. 

 

Brooksbaseball-Chart.png

 

Take a look at Reed's mechanics from the home plate view:

 

 

In listening to a lot of Wes Johnson's pitching presentation from Pitch-A-Palooza and reading his interviews, the thing that seems consistent is that he is big on maintaining kinetic energy going down hill and toward the plate. Reed's wrapping likely hinders some of that which may play a role in his arm ailments and the decline in velocity. Johnson has also been emphatic that pitchers have different styles of maximizing their intent (he used Greg Maddux and Bob Gibson as examples) so it's difficult to say if he will do much with that portion of his delivery. 

 

To Nick's point, I could see Johnson and Jeremy Hefner getting in Reed's ear about refining some parts of his delivery and working on getting that arm slot back up (if it is not injury related). Then again, Reed has been influenced by different pitching coaches on an almost annual basis. I'm not certain new voices, no matter how good, will be a factor. Wes Johnson says he models himself after Houston's Brent Strom and Cincinnati's (formerly Milwaukee's) Derek Johnson who are both renown communicators of the analytic side of the game so it's entirely possible that the delivery of the message will be better coming from someone like Johnson versus Werthan or Harkey or Carl Willis in Boston or Don Cooper in Chicago.

 

What makes Johnson so much different as a pitching coach for the Twins is that he is staunch support of implementing more throwing into a pitcher's program including weighted balls and long toss. In 2017 I had a conversation with then pitching coach Neil Allen about Kyle Gibson's new weighted ball routine that he developed at the Florida Baseball Ranch. Allen was somewhat dismissive above the practice. In the recent past, there have been other coaches in the organization that discouraged weighted ball training and long toss. Johnson will be very much a voice to push the org in a different direction in regards to training. That will likely be beneficial to Reed and others.  

 

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#16 ashbury

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Posted 26 November 2018 - 11:20 AM

Take a look at Reed's mechanics from the home plate view:

My snap impression, which is usually wrong, is of a side-armer's motion except coming over the top (or at least three-quarters) for the actual delivery. A bit unusual.

So, in conclusion, what was your question again?


#17 Jim Hahn

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Posted 26 November 2018 - 11:37 AM

Reed's first half usage
2018: 41 G, 41.0 IP, 667 pitches
2017: 41 G, 42.2 IP, 658 pitches
2016: 43 G, 41.2 IP, 657 pitches
 
That's a lot of work across the board, but it's not like Molitor abused him. It's possible enough was enough and his arm finally reached a breaking point, but I wouldn't pin that on Molly.
 
I don't envy Rocco, this appears to be a difficult first assignment in learning how to manage a bullpen. Hopefully the front office/ownership can provide him with enough arms so that Reed and Hildy don't need to be immediately forced back into high-leverage roles.

Reed's first half usage
2018: 41 G, 41.0 IP, 667 pitches
2017: 41 G, 42.2 IP, 658 pitches
2016: 43 G, 41.2 IP, 657 pitches
 
That's a lot of work across the board, but it's not like Molitor abused him. It's possible enough was enough and his arm finally reached a breaking point, but I wouldn't pin that on Molly.
 
I don't envy Rocco, this appears to be a difficult first assignment in learning how to manage a bullpen. Hopefully the front office/ownership can provide him with enough arms so that Reed and Hildy don't need to be immediately forced back into high-leverage roles.

You may be right about Molitor not abusing him. I do think abuse can occur in more than one way. Pushing a pitcher past his normal pitch limit in an appearance is one way. Too much work over a season or seasons would be another. Another way is not getting enough rest between appearances, or even multiple warm ups over a short period of time could be another.

I don't know enough to say for sure that Molitor abused some of his relief pitchers, but it sure seemed that some of his relief pitchers had multiple appearances over a short period of time . This seemed to happen to the same pitchers a few times. Of course it is also true that Reed had pretty high over several seasons, as you said.

#18 Ben Noble

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Posted 26 November 2018 - 11:43 AM

It seems like they've hired the right staff to put Reed in a position to bounce back, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it'll happen. I'm good as long as he doesn't have major surgery a week before pitchers and catchers report.


#19 Mike Sixel

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Posted 26 November 2018 - 11:59 AM

I'd make him a RP :)

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#20 joefish

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Posted 26 November 2018 - 12:50 PM

Cut him. Pffft. I wont miss him.



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