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Down on Dobnak


This winter the Twins showed their faith in Randy Dobnak by giving him a 5 year $9.5m extension. It was an unexpected move but a welcome one after the sinkerballer had been so successful in his first two years. Things have not gone according to plan since then however.

No player in baseball is immune to the league adjusting and Dobnak has proven to be no different. After posting a 1.59 ERA through 28.1 innings in his debut season, Dobnak took a bit of a tumble in 2020. He started out just as hot but eventually was optioned and finished the season with a 4.05 ERA. The league really appeared to finally figure him out as he tallied a 6.41 mark in his last 6 appearances.

Since then the numbers speak for themselves. Through 36 innings this year Dobnak owns a 7.36 ERA and 7.95 FIP. He’s been worth -.4 fWAR, often allowing blowup performances that take the Twins out of the game before they even have a chance. So what happened to Randy Dobnak?

 

Walks Will Haunt

Dobnak by no means has what would be considered a walk problem by league standards. Unfortunately the bar is much higher for a pitcher with Dobnak’s skillset. In his rookie season he had a respectable 19.5% K rate and an incredible 4.2% walk rate. Unfortunately his K rate has dropped by over 6% over the last two seasons lowering his margin for error. It may not seem like much of a change, but his increase to a 6.5% walk rate since his rookie season means the tightrope Dobnak walks gets a little bit thinner.

We’ve seen the “bad luck” starts from Dobnak in the past where seemingly every batted ball finds a hole. With little strikeout ability to fall back on, Dobnak relies too much on batted ball luck to really issue any free passes at all. Asking for no walks at all is a tall order, which is why the more obvious solution would be to try to increase whiffs. 

 

The Slipping Slider

Dobnak and the Twins appear well aware of his dilemma which is why so much was made of his new slider grip this spring. Dobnak looked like a completely different pitcher in Spring Training by generating tons of swings and misses with the new pitch, but unfortunately those gains appear to have been short lived. 

 

Dobnak’s attempt to adjust to the league has simply turned out to be a disaster. To be fair the new slider has drawn a 4% increase in whiff rate thus far, but it’s hard to argue against the fact that the pitch is worse in pretty much every other measurable way. The path to consistent success was tough enough as a contact oriented control artist who leans heavily on two pitches. Without the slider it’s hard to see a light at the end of these struggles. So where can he go from here?

These issues Dobnak has had obviously run deeper than this shallow explanation but it’ll be interesting to see what he can do to adjust. Perhaps the first step is a return to the slider that worked so well for him in his first year and a half. It was a bit surprising that the initial adjustment Dobnak made wasn’t a new pitch to add to his repertoire such as a cutter, perhaps something like this could still be in the cards for the right handed sinkerballer.

One thing is for certain, Dobnak has a lot of work to do to restore faith in him as even a reliable back of the rotation starter for 2022. The Twins didn’t invest much into this extension but it certainly does run the risk of becoming a sunken cost if Dobnak can’t right the ship. Much like the Twins as a whole this year, Randy Dobnak is dealing with significant adversity. Can he overcome it?

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I think Randy needs a little grace to find his stride and some support from us, the fans. 

He’s a professional and wants nothing more than to be effective and help the team win. He deserves the benefit of the doubt that he’s giving his all and won’t stop trying to improve. 

The fact is that if he can’t get better, he will move down or out so what we say in the meantime doesn’t matter. Our constant doubt and criticism really doesn’t help him be his best or get better.

What would you say to him if you were his coach or his Dad?

Do you think shame and humiliation will push him to give his best? Is writing him off and starting over the best play? 

None of you would want that for someone you care about. 

Because of how he supports them, Rocco’s players believe what they are doing is worth their best effort (and happens to be each of their lifelong dreams). They each know their role and how it fits into the success of their mission to win and they believe their Manager authentically cares about their personal and professional development. Rocco has shown that consistently. Those are the building blocks of a great culture where the team comes first and everyone gives ALL of their discretionary effort. 

Don’t sell Rocco’s coaching style short because we grew up with the ruthless treatment that had us perform out of fear. Let it sort out and we will have the success we want and build a dynasty at the same time. 

Oh, and get behind Randy just like you would if you knew him personally. 

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I like the Dobnak story, I think I would really enjoy knowing Randy, but as a major league starter he is one of a long list of pitchers who rise like a helium balloon only to develop a puncture and crash to the ground.  We can all give him love as another post suggests, but the other teams love is for his pitches and we need to think about the next replacement.  When Maeda comes back who drops out of the rotation?  Berrios and Pineda are set.  Out of Dobnak, Happ, Ober who do you drop from the rotation?

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I’d love to know what the FO saw in the offseason/early ST that motivated them to lock in the rest of his controllable years. From my untrained eye nothing has changed since we first saw him in 2019. He’s a sinker ball guy without an out pitch. 
 

He could smoke and mirror his way to a good season or 2 like Carlos Silva did for us in the 2000s. And probably have a similar ending to him too with teams hitting his pitches like batting practice. 

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Great spring training, then they bring him north and put him in the bullpen.  Gets sent back to St. Paul where he starts a few games and begins settling in and doing better.  Bring him back and after pitching with a torn fingernail, now looks to be back in the bullpen.  I said it earlier, put the kid in a starting rotation and leave him there.  The end result will be good.

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I'm not sure why they changed his slider grip this Spring. Also, which batters were swinging at it? Major leaguers or minor leaguers. Dobnack's story to the bigs is a nice one but maybe it is not a long lasting one. I have hopes that he can recover a decent ability to pitch here (but not against the Yankees). We have him cheap for 4 more years if he lasts that long. If not, we haven't lost too much. Certainly the rest of this year and next year will tell the tale.

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12 hours ago, roger said:

Great spring training, then they bring him north and put him in the bullpen.  Gets sent back to St. Paul where he starts a few games and begins settling in and doing better.  Bring him back and after pitching with a torn fingernail, now looks to be back in the bullpen.  I said it earlier, put the kid in a starting rotation and leave him there.  The end result will be good.

The end result will be good for the other team.

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On 6/12/2021 at 8:18 PM, FanOtwins said:

I think Randy needs a little grace to find his stride and some support from us, the fans. 

He’s a professional and wants nothing more than to be effective and help the team win. He deserves the benefit of the doubt that he’s giving his all and won’t stop trying to improve. 

The fact is that if he can’t get better, he will move down or out so what we say in the meantime doesn’t matter. Our constant doubt and criticism really doesn’t help him be his best or get better.

What would you say to him if you were his coach or his Dad?

Do you think shame and humiliation will push him to give his best? Is writing him off and starting over the best play? 

None of you would want that for someone you care about. 

Because of how he supports them, Rocco’s players believe what they are doing is worth their best effort (and happens to be each of their lifelong dreams). They each know their role and how it fits into the success of their mission to win and they believe their Manager authentically cares about their personal and professional development. Rocco has shown that consistently. Those are the building blocks of a great culture where the team comes first and everyone gives ALL of their discretionary effort. 

Don’t sell Rocco’s coaching style short because we grew up with the ruthless treatment that had us perform out of fear. Let it sort out and we will have the success we want and build a dynasty at the same time. 

Oh, and get behind Randy just like you would if you knew him personally. 

"What would you say to him if you were his coach or his Dad?" ....I'd tell him to stay away from the game threads on Twins Daily!!!!! :)

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Is it time to get down on our pitching coach? Is it time to get down on our FO? If it's not broke don't fix it sound familiar? Considering all the many whiffs on off season signings, on rule 5 losses, on DFA's ending up on other rosters and being effective - I'll place the Dobnak blame on someone besides Randy. Hindsight is easy, but Dobs should have started the year in the rotation. My untrained eye says he is much better as a starter, than coming out of the pen. He was our best in ST.
As explained above, the slider change is killing him, that probably wasn't his idea - and the contract - why the contract? FO smart guys getting over their ski's trying to "lock him up on the cheap" before he ever proved sustainability. I'm guessing the contract was a gamechanger in mental and emotional ways we could not understand. He wasn't ready for the massive contract says the results. (I say massive because $9M is massive to all of us regular folk, and Randy is regular folk). I hope they don't wreck him. Put him in the St Paul rotation, and by years end he will be their #1, and he will be back, and will be solid for us for years. Hang in there Dobs!

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7 hours ago, In My La Z boy said:

Is it time to get down on our pitching coach? Is it time to get down on our FO? If it's not broke don't fix it sound familiar? Considering all the many whiffs on off season signings, on rule 5 losses, on DFA's ending up on other rosters and being effective - I'll place the Dobnak blame on someone besides Randy. Hindsight is easy, but Dobs should have started the year in the rotation. My untrained eye says he is much better as a starter, than coming out of the pen. He was our best in ST.
As explained above, the slider change is killing him, that probably wasn't his idea - and the contract - why the contract? FO smart guys getting over their ski's trying to "lock him up on the cheap" before he ever proved sustainability. I'm guessing the contract was a gamechanger in mental and emotional ways we could not understand. He wasn't ready for the massive contract says the results. (I say massive because $9M is massive to all of us regular folk, and Randy is regular folk). I hope they don't wreck him. Put him in the St Paul rotation, and by years end he will be their #1, and he will be back, and will be solid for us for years. Hang in there Dobs!

If the front office didn't feel the need to sign Shoemaker, he probably would have been in the rotation at the start of the season.

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Dobnak's troubles are, at the moment, still a small sample size.  He earned the right to play and I'm sure he is trying to fix whatever issue is going on.

The Twins giving him a long contract is a head-scratcher.  I like Dobnak, but I would not have done that.  At the same time, I would not have bounced him between the bullpen, minors, and back to starting.  Whatever goodwill the Twins built up by giving him a contract was erased by the insanity of how they used him this year.

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