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This Reliever Might Be the Key to Turning the Twins Bullpen Around

Plenty of things have gone wrong for the Twins so far including some important members of the bullpen struggling mightily out of the gate. While others will be relied on for late innings, one reliever might be the key to turning the bullpen around.Following a strong rookie campaign, Jorge Alcalá logically had higher expectations entering the 2021 campaign. Things haven’t gone perfectly to start the year, but with a couple of small changes, Alcalá might be the key to turning the Twins bullpen around.


Last season, Alcalá appeared in 16 games and posted a 2.63 ERA with a 1.21 WHIP. He struck out nearly 29% of the batters he faced and posted a 163 ERA+. He ranked in the 75th percentile or higher in average exit velocity, hard hit %, barrel %, and K %. Based on those numbers, it was easy to envision Alcalá taking on a high leverage role at some point during the 2021 season.


Alcalá has made seven appearances so far in 2021 and only two of those appearances have come in a Twins win. In fact, both of those wins were by six runs or more, so his role hasn’t been in the high leverage situations. On Sunday, Alcalá got five strikeouts in two innings including nine whiffs on 14 swings. This was a welcome sight after he entered play with a 20 K%, which was well below his career average.


MLB Statcast has him ranked in the 40th percentile or lower in max exit velocity, hard hit %, xERA, xWOBA, xSLG. The most disturbing stat might be the fact that his barrel % ranks in the bottom 4% of the league as batters are barreling up the ball against him 17.6% of the time. One of the biggest reasons for these poor numbers so far this year might be tied to his pitch usage.


During the 2020 season, Alcalá used his fastball and slider for nearly the same percentage of pitches. He used his four-seamer 46.4% of the time, while his slider was used 44.7% of the time. There has been a large increase in his fastball usage this year as he is up to 55%, which means his slider usage has dropped nearly seven points. It seems like increasing his slider usage would be a natural solution for avoiding more barrels.


There’s no reason to throw Alcalá directly into a late inning role, especially with some of the other names ahead of him in the bullpen pecking order. That being said, he has been used in mostly low leverage situations or when the team was up big early in the season. He’s less experienced than other bullpen options, but look for his role to increase as the season progresses.


Rocco Baldelli needs some arms he can rely on in the bullpen and Alcalá just might be the man to help turn the bullpen around in 2021.


What do you think Alcalá can provide to the Twins? What should his role be moving forward? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.



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He throws hard but location is just as important. He has no location and that’s the big problem. That’s the problem with the pen as a whole. It’s not a problem of the guys not throwing hard enough and their arms regressing. The only guy who’s actually noticeably lost velocity would be Duffey.


Command in a pitcher can be fixed, a drop in velocity can’t. Alcala has been so bad because he hasn’t been able to command his pitches. He’s given up many HRs, he hit Jordan Luplow today, etc. So, if Alcala is to fix the pen, then we need to see him command his pitches better than he has.

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Well, he couldn't be worse than Colome, but . . . what about his FEELINGS? I see from today's newspaper that Rocco is working on Colome's feelings too. I guess a lot of daubers are down in that bullpen. It might be time to turn to Astudillo and his 46 mph heater. 

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Lets see some new arms in BP, replace Stashek, Theilbar. Lets see what Anderson, Waddell, or Duran can do. Closer? Rogers and Duffy have struggled some this year also, but Colome just does not have it-would like to see Alcala in the mix with Rogers and Duffy maybe give Robles a shot also.

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The things with bullpen arms is that there, these days, are two kinds. You have guys who throw 95 and “slider specialists.” 

Are all “slider specialists” bad, well, no. But they’re called slider specialists because they rely on movement, they rely on confusing the hitters and getting swings and misses. Once that stops working, they fall apart. Guys like Cody Stashak and Caleb Thielbar are a prime example of this, batters have both of them figured out. The league is more statistics these days so batters have them figured out. That’s why it’s generally a better idea to build bullpens (and a pitching staff as a whole for that matter) around guys who throw 95, because they’re less prone to falling apart at the seams. 

But bad command will kill any pitcher. If a guy who throws hard (Rogers, Robles, Duffey, Alcala) loses his command he will fall apart. But the thing is “95” guys have two ways of falling apart: 1. Losing velo (which happens with age) and 2. Losing control. Slider specialists have three ways of falling apart: 1 and 2 are the same but a 3rd is them getting figured out.


More on Colome: His K% was down quite a bit last year, but he hasn’t lost velo. It’s not like he’s a “softball pitcher” either, because his fastball does average 94 (which is about 95). But he has no command. I don’t want to see him past the 6th in a close game until he fixes it, or until he’s DFA’d.

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He COULD easily be a major cog for years to come. He COULD be a major factor yet this season, probably in the second half, maybe late. But he has to keep using that nasty slider, as already pointed out, and he has to find better control/consistency.


He's young and relatively inexperienced. He's been handled with kid gloves to a degree thus far, and that's not a shot. It's what you do with a young pitcher to gain experience and confidence.


His future is bright. But he needs time. Now, nudging him in to higher leverage roles might not be a bad idea, especially considering the state of the pen at this point.

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