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I used to think starting pitching was the single most important element in building a winning baseball team.

 

While that's still important, I have come to the opinion that a deep and powerful bullpen is much more likely to lead to winning.

For one thing, starters pitch fewer and fewer innings.

But even more importantly, consistently winning the last 4 innings results in more wins than winning the first 5.

I wonder what the Twins record would be if they had started the year with Cleveland's pen.

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This feels like the worst Twins bullpen in the 15+ years I've been watching. Maybe that's recency bias, but every time things get tight in the later innings I just know somebody is gonna blow it.

Watching Colome get lit up by the first batter he faced today was just hilarious to watch after seeming to have pulled himself together.

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https://theathletic.com/2600270/2021/05/20/the-cubs-deep-impressive-bullpen-is-a-positive-sign-for-an-organization-in-transition/

The above article illustrates one of the differences between the two organizations.  While we do have some exciting potential starters in the minors now, the real story currently is the abject failure of this FO to develop one decent reliever down on the farm.  Both the Sox and Cubs have been quite successful in bringing up recent draftees and turning them into useful bullpen pieces.  As Chief says this is as important as developing a strong rotation, even more so when you have a manager who babies his starters.

You can't keep rotating marginal FA relievers in one offseason after another and expect success at the major league level.  When you add into the equation that this organization has managed over the past 10+ years to develop only one above average(but by no means an ace) starter in Berrios, you get this woeful season on top of a 19 game playoff losing streak.  Pathetic!!  

Isn't it time to try something different?  At this point in a lost season, why not accelerate the farm systems top pitchers, e.g., Duran, Winder, Canterino, and hopefully, Balozovic, into the major league bullpen this summer and see what we've got?  It can't be any worse than last offseason's retreads.  Pushing prospects into the majors before they are completely ready has worked very well for The Tribe, Sox, and Cubs.  What do we have to lose?

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It feels like Falvine got too far ahead of their skiis on the player development side. After fixing Wisler and Thielbar last year they doubled down with the waiver wire projects. Not a single one has worked out.
 

Colomé hasn’t been a good replacement for May. Robles has been the only decent acquisition for the pen. 

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I agree on the importance of a good bullpen. As we have seen, a bad relief corps can unravel a season really quickly. 
 

In terms of building a pen, I don’t think it’s as simple as “sign the best free agents.” That probably doesn’t hurt, but it’s common enough for guys to come out of nowhere and pitch at an elite level for a year or two that 1) taking fliers might often be a better investment and 2) cheaper fliers can mitigate the possibility of expensive relievers falling off a cliff or otherwise under-performing their contracts. (I wonder if that applies to anyone on the Twins right now?) It seems to me that for as much as analytics are driving the game, building a bullpen still involves a little bit of art. 
 

On the whole, this year’s pen reminds me a lot of the one on the 2011 team. They’d just lost a number of guys to free agency and simply didn’t fill in the gaps. 

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I don't know that the Twins made any egregious blunders in assembling this year's pen. Colomè perhaps, but otherwise the 2021 issue seems to be coaching more than acquisition. Duffey, Stashak, and Alcala (and perhaps Thielbar) were all effective, high-K relievers in 2020, but have not performed up to expectations in 2021.

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The Twins did not prioritize the bullpen and are paying the price for their poor judgments. Tampa Bay just won their 11th straight game and acquired additional bullpen arms at the price of their starting shortstop in the middle of this streak. Yes, the Rays have a deep farm system and some good middle infielders but the actions of the two management systems are obviously different. The current game demands a strong bullpen and developing or trading for arms is essential to win.

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9 minutes ago, tony&rodney said:

The Twins did not prioritize the bullpen

How do you know the Twins didn't prioritize developing bullpen arms, and simply failed at the task in 2021? End result is still the same, but I'm not sure it was a matter of mistaken priorities.

It does seem like Tampa is more active in trades, so that's an avenue the Twins could explore more -- but then again, the Twins would still need to identify the correct guys to trade for, and develop them.

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In reply to spycake - I don't know.

I do know that Manfredball calls for a team to load up on effective arms and velocity in the bullpen and that costs money. The Twins needed to allocate a minimum of $25 million or more to the pen. I wrote about this last winter. That, or gain access in some miraculous fashion to inexpensive flamethrowers. Falvine chose a different course. The bullpen was exposed from Day 1 and the example of Tampa Bay in trading their starting shortstop best illustrates the current importance of a deep pen.

However, I don't know what the plan was for Falvine. You are absolutely correct in the necessity of identifying talent.

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I think there’s a point in development where you stop developing the prospect as a starter and move him aggressively as a reliever. Seems like the current regime is a bit slow in pulling that trigger with their best arms? Or more unwilling than some organizations? 
 

They finally did it with Graterol, although the writing had been on the wall for a couple seasons. And Alcala. I don’t know...but it’s hard to rationalize the poor record of producing either.

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Since we coughed up a late lead again last night, and it was a guy who belonged in the high-lev spots, I’m starting to wonder if coaching is part of this bullpen’s problem. The regression we’ve seen from pretty much everyone other than Robles or Rogers is astounding. Actually, that can be said about every pitcher on our roster. 

Might we need a new pitching coach?

Or we’ve seen guys like Duffey and Maeda that look about as bad as they’ve ever been. They straight up look hurt. And this team seems to have more injuries than most NFL teams.

Starting to question the competence on the training staff.

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16 hours ago, jkcarew said:

I think there’s a point in development where you stop developing the prospect as a starter and move him aggressively as a reliever. Seems like the current regime is a bit slow in pulling that trigger with their best arms? Or more unwilling than some organizations? 
 

They finally did it with Graterol, although the writing had been on the wall for a couple seasons. And Alcala. I don’t know...but it’s hard to rationalize the poor record of producing either.

This is an organization that doesn't have a traditional closer or traditional set-up guy, an organization that flirted with using openers.  This is a team that this year moved a pitcher with a pure starting profile to the pen and started someone who had no business starting.  This is an organization who kept starting a 100MPH hurler in the minors instead of moving him to the pen.

This organization is building pitching staffs based on numbers in a spreadsheet with little consideration for where that pitcher will fit in the context of a game plan.  It's not just that things didn't work out, it's that none of us would have been making these same decisions.  This team has been building fantasy rosters, not baseball rosters.  Yes, they don't get it when it comes to pitching.

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16 hours ago, jkcarew said:

I think there’s a point in development where you stop developing the prospect as a starter and move him aggressively as a reliever. Seems like the current regime is a bit slow in pulling that trigger with their best arms? Or more unwilling than some organizations? 
 

They finally did it with Graterol, although the writing had been on the wall for a couple seasons. And Alcala. I don’t know...but it’s hard to rationalize the poor record of producing either.

Finally? They moved Graterol to the pen at age 20, after only 44 appearances in the minors. He debuted in the MLB pen just days after his 21st birthday.

Alcala was a late sign by Houston (age 19), didn't pitch in full-season ball until he was 21, was acquired by the Twins at age 23 and was moved to the pen after 25 appearances in the Twins organization, debuting in the MLB pen shortly after turning 24.

The only meaningfully faster path would be to put these guys in the pen immediately after signing. And to be fair, more and more successful relievers have that background -- the Rays current pen was pretty much entirely drafted/signed as relievers, for example. But they're not pushing everybody in that direction -- they rescued Glasnow from the Pirates bullpen, for example, and in terms of prospect ranking he might be a reasonable comp for Graterol, justifying the starting leash the Twins gave him. Through age 21, you probably could have made a case for Snell moving to relief too.

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Another note about the Rays current pen: only Castillo was originally signed by the Rays org, and only Collin McHugh was signed as a MLB free agent. Among the other 5, there are 4 trade acquisitions (and mostly unheralded ones), and one minor league Rule 5 pick. (The injured Nick Anderson would represent another trade acquisition, although a more "heralded" one after his initial MLB success with the Marlins.)

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16 hours ago, jkcarew said:

I think there’s a point in development where you stop developing the prospect as a starter and move him aggressively as a reliever. Seems like the current regime is a bit slow in pulling that trigger with their best arms? Or more unwilling than some organizations? 
 

They finally did it with Graterol, although the writing had been on the wall for a couple seasons. And Alcala. I don’t know...but it’s hard to rationalize the poor record of producing either.

The thing is that I can't really get a read on how this front office evaluates anything, but especially pitching, after what happened in 2020. Last season should have been an important season where we saw their draftees/acquisitions either move up in the system, stall out, or flop. Instead, no one played and many gathered rust on their arms.

Your evaluations of Alcala and Graterol aren't really fair. Graterol debuted as a 20 year old in 2019. He never started a game for the Twins and was traded the following offseason.

Alcala was traded to the Twins in July of 2018. He made a handful of starts in 2018, the Twins gave him one more shot as a starter in 2019 and pretty quickly shifted him to the pen. He made his debut later in 2019 as a 23 year old and has never started a game for the Twins.

All in all, those are pretty quick pivots on two flamethrowing arms. In Graterol's case, he made his last professional start as a 20 year old. In Alcala's case, he made his last professional start roughly 12 months after being acquired by the Twins.

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On 5/22/2021 at 7:05 PM, USAFChief said:

I used to think starting pitching was the single most important element in building a winning baseball team.

 

While that's still important, I have come to the opinion that a deep and powerful bullpen is much more likely to lead to winning.

The Royals going to back-to-back World Series in 2014 and 2015 on the ability to shorten a game to 6 innings was certainly a sign of the times changing in how pitching staffs are created.

It seems to me that the best pitching staffs are created one of two ways at this point: many elite arms in the pen throwing an inning or two at a time (Tampa Bay Rays model) or starting pitchers able to work deep into games consistently to reduce the need for bullpen arms (Indians and Dodgers have done this well in my opinion). The Twins this season are neither.

This last point is going to go a bit off-topic. In the off-season, I was hoping for a Trevor Bauer signing due to his ability to work deep into games. The Twins were looking to replace Odorizzi & May (among others) and Bauer could have essentially eaten up both guys' innings. In a new age of "moneyball" it does feel like starting pitching that can be counted on to get 21 outs regularly is a market inefficiency.

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23 hours ago, spycake said:

I don't know that the Twins made any egregious blunders in assembling this year's pen. Colomè perhaps, but otherwise the 2021 issue seems to be coaching more than acquisition. Duffey, Stashak, and Alcala (and perhaps Thielbar) were all effective, high-K relievers in 2020, but have not performed up to expectations in 2021.

OK, but aren't these guys veterans?  They're not wind-up robots that the are under the supreme control of the pitching coach.  The players know what to do, know how to do it, and know that they can say "no" if someone is feeding them garbage.

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1 minute ago, Dodecahedron said:

OK, but aren't these guys veterans?  They're not wind-up robots that the are under the supreme control of the pitching coach.  The players know what to do, know how to do it, and know that they can say "no" if someone is feeding them garbage.

Stashak and Alcala aren't quite veterans like the others, but yeah, I wasn't trying to excuse the players. Just saying the pen failures this year aren't necessarily due to any glaring errors in the front office's plan, as some have alleged here. Coming into the year, I think we projected to have a decent number of effective, high-K relievers. Just a failure to execute in 2021 -- by the players, coaches, and even the front office plays a role in that too.

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On 5/22/2021 at 7:05 PM, USAFChief said:

I wonder what the Twins record would be if they had started the year with Cleveland's pen.

It would probably be 4 or 5 wins better, IMO. And that’s quite a bit, given the Sample Size (~50 games). The lost games we would’ve won had we had Cleveland’s pen:

- 4/1 vs MIL

- 4/11 vs SEA

- 4/21 vs OAK

- 5/4 vs TEX

- 5/22 vs CLE

Of course those aren’t all of the games that the BULLPEN was associated with, but the others, I figured the Twins wouldn’t have won anyway due to their offensive ineptitude, or the infield defense was particularly abysmal.

As I illustrated in my thread, I believe the inability to score runs late in games and inept fielding is hurting this team more than the incompetence of the pen, but it’s pretty close.

Neither of those problems deserves significantly more emphasis than the other, and neither are acceptable.

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