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Randy Dobnak and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Season


After signing an extension this winter, things couldn’t have gone much worse for Randy Dobnak. What can he prove in his remaining starts this season?
 

Randy Dobnak had to be feeling pretty good about himself entering spring training this year. The Twins had given him some financial certainty by signing him to a five-year extension worth a guaranteed $9.25 million and a chance to earn close to $30 million if the team picks up his three option years. His spring performance also stood out as he unveiled a new pitch.

Minnesota’s front office worked with Dobnak in the spring to adjust his slider. By moving his hand position, he can get more break on his pitch to allow it to dip out of the zone. The results were tremendous as he posted a 0.57 ERA and a 0.38 WHIP while striking out 19 batters in 15 2/3 innings. Dobnak seemed poised for a breakout season. 

The Twins had signed two veteran pitchers, JA Happ and Matt Shoemaker, to fill out the rotation, and this meant Dobnak moved to the bullpen for Opening Day. Unfortunately, this is where his trouble began. He made eight appearances as a reliever and posted a 10.47 ERA and 1.71 WHIP with 13 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings. It was pretty that Dobnak wasn’t a reliever, and by early May, he was headed to St. Paul to be stretched out as a starter.

Dobnak returned to the big leagues a couple of weeks later and had his most impressive start of the year. Over six shutout innings, he scattered three hits and struck out five Cleveland batters. In his next five appearances (23 1/3 innings), he allowed 25 earned runs, including seven home runs with a 9 to 7 strikeout to walk ratio. He pitched with a fake fingernail against the Yankees, and they tagged him for eight earned runs.

Dobnak tried to pitch through a finger injury by the middle of June, but he ended up on the IL. At the time, it was listed as a right middle finger strain. In early July, there were reports of a setback in his rehab as he felt discomfort while attempting to throw. He slowly ramped it back up and made a couple of rehab starts before returning to the Twins in September.

Remember that new and improved slider from spring training? Opponents have posted a .333 BA and a .815 SLG when facing that pitch. He has thrown the pitch over a third of the time, posting a healthy 37.3 Whiff%. However, he has given up 11 extra-base hits, including seven home runs in 54 at-bats using his slider. The magic he showed this spring just hasn’t materialized with the pitch. 

Dobnak has been a feel-good story over the last two years with the Twins. He took an unconventional route to the big leagues, and the Twins rewarded his performance with a long-term contract. Minnesota needs as much rotation help as possible for 2022, so the Twins can hope Dobnak helps the cause next season.

For now, Dobnak can hope his last few starts show a glimmer of hope. That way, he can end his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad season on a high note.

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His magic when he first came up was batter's hit most of his stuff on the ground and he didn't give up many HR's.  Seems like teams might have caught onto his stuff, he is too predictable or he isn't throwing the same way. Not sure which one it is but teams are having a little too much success against him this year. He has the rest of this year and this offseason to figure things out.  If he doesn't I think he gets passed by.  We will see what happens but I am still on the Dobnak bandwagon.  He kept the ball on the ground and in the park before I believe he can do it again once healthy.

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I really like his story, but stories are not enough in MLB.  I worry that tinkering with his pitches could have made things worse.  I wish Randy could find his magic again, but I also hope the next wave is so good that there is no room for him, but please no more bullpen.

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I continue to believe in the young man.  And perhaps the most encouraging stat is that after his rough couple innings in his first start back, he finished with 7 consecutive batters being out on ground balls.  That is who he is and the Twins should work off of that.  Keep him throwing as a ground ball machine.

Have thought since day one that his working out of the bullpen wasn't working and messed him up for the entire season.  Hopefully, next spring he will be a starter and begin the season in the starting rotation with either the Twins or Saints.  Long term, I see him as a reliable starter for the Twins, one who is very inexpensive.

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According to Cody's article the most the Twins would be on the hook for is 30 mill...IF they pick up his option years.  If they did that you would believe he would be pitching very well at the time.  Good value for that many years of good performance.  If not you cut the cord if things don't work out and you are out 9.25 in guaranteed $$$...they were probably hoping for him to be a 5th starter type.  If you get league average or so performance out of him in that role that is a bargain.  

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2 hours ago, mikelink45 said:

I really like his story, but stories are not enough in MLB.  I worry that tinkering with his pitches could have made things worse.  I wish Randy could find his magic again, but I also hope the next wave is so good that there is no room for him, but please no more bullpen.

I don't think they tinkered with his primary pitch at all, it was the addition of the slider they worked on.

And given his finger injuries, I'm not sure we should be surprised his sinker stopped working, as it's such a feel pitch.

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There's nothing wrong with Dobnak. It's the way they used him. They shouldn't have tried to transform him into a SO pitcher by forcing him to overload on sliders on the fly. He couldn't perfect the slider on the fly and hung too many and the hitters looked for them.

For a team with post season ambition you don't do things on the fly. They did the same thing at CF. Putting inexperienced players there instead of initially going with our only MLB experienced true CF that was hot coming out of spring training.

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29 minutes ago, Doctor Gast said:

There's nothing wrong with Dobnak. It's the way they used him. They shouldn't have tried to transform him into a SO pitcher by forcing him to overload on sliders on the fly. He couldn't perfect the slider on the fly and hung too many and the hitters looked for them.

For a team with post season ambition you don't do things on the fly. They did the same thing at CF. Putting inexperienced players there instead of initially going with our only MLB experienced true CF that was hot coming out of spring training.

If the FO makes decisions based on hot spring training stats....that would be bad. 

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6 hours ago, mikelink45 said:

I wish Randy could find his magic again, but I also hope the next wave is so good that there is no room for him,

This is about where I am. Seems like a good guy, and wish him all the best. 

But also seems very much like the kind of starter a contender doesn't have on their roster. No, the contract won't kill the Twins financially, but it is looking like money that wasn't well spent.

That said, I'd much rather watch him get 20-30 starts next year to show what he can do than watch some $4M veteran Happ-hazardly signed for a meaningless year. 

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Dobnak's contract is an inexplicable move in a series of inexplicable moves (Simmons, Happ, Shoemaker, the discount bin bullpen) this year by the front office. Ascribing any value, either positively or negatively, to Spring Training stats is buying fool's gold. 

He is a nice story. He seems like a nice man. But like Astudillo, Cave and a couple of others, he has no place on a legitimate major league roster.  

The danger of the contract is that it places pressure, either explicitly or implicitly, on the manager to keep trotting him out there. Falvine apparently wanted to play the lotto with this signing. The team needs to chew innings this year? Fine. But that's all it should be be. Like almost all lottery tickets, this one has expired worthless.   

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2F44DA53-58A8-4C4C-9D2A-90EC7BCEF132.jpeg.70a0681838c8b78b5b14d427885950d3.jpegOne of my favorite kid books, and one that has a lesson to be learned for all of us.

the root cause of Alexander’s bad day was Alexander’s bad attitude. I don’t think that is quite applicable to Dobby at this moment.

Fortunately Dobnak’s contract is one that allows the Twins to find out what the root cause is, but not so substantial that they can’t cut bait if they can’t figure it out.

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4 hours ago, Doctor Gast said:

There's nothing wrong with Dobnak. It's the way they used him. They shouldn't have tried to transform him into a SO pitcher by forcing him to overload on sliders on the fly. He couldn't perfect the slider on the fly and hung too many and the hitters looked for them.

Except they didn't force him to overload on sliders, as he has thrown it slightly less this season than he did last season. He has actually returned to leaning more heavily on his sinker this season than he did last season, too.

I think we can chalk up most of Randy's issues to injury and not having a defined role. I suspect being thrown into the bullpen in a rush set him back and by the time he would have normally recovered, he was injured.

Season Team Level FB% SL% CT% CB% CH% SF% KN% XX%
2019 MIN MLB 59.3% (92.7) 27.9% (84.2)     12.9% (85.8)      
2020 MIN MLB 48.4% (91.6) 35.3% (83.5)     16.3% (85.7)      
2021 MIN MLB 59.5% (91.7) 33.2% (84.3)     7.3% (84.6)      
Total - - - MLB 55.2% (91.9) 32.8% (83.9)     12.0% (85.4)    
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15 minutes ago, Johnny Ringo said:

Dobnak's contract is an inexplicable move in a series of inexplicable moves (Simmons, Happ, Shoemaker, the discount bin bullpen) this year by the front office. Ascribing any value, either positively or negatively, to Spring Training stats is buying fool's gold. 

He is a nice story. He seems like a nice man. But like Astudillo, Cave and a couple of others, he has no place on a legitimate major league roster.  

The danger of the contract is that it places pressure, either explicitly or implicitly, on the manager to keep trotting him out there. Falvine apparently wanted to play the lotto with this signing. The team needs to chew innings this year? Fine. But that's all it should be be. Like almost all lottery tickets, this one has expired worthless.   

You think signing Simmons was inexplicable? 

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22 hours ago, spanman2 said:

According to Cody's article the most the Twins would be on the hook for is 30 mill...IF they pick up his option years.  If they did that you would believe he would be pitching very well at the time.  Good value for that many years of good performance.  If not you cut the cord if things don't work out and you are out 9.25 in guaranteed $$$...they were probably hoping for him to be a 5th starter type.  If you get league average or so performance out of him in that role that is a bargain.  

Twins have to take some gambles like this. Too early to tell if this one will work out, fingers crossed that it does.

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I still think Dobnak can contribute.  I think his success with the slider in spring made him use it more than he should.  He is a sinker ball pitcher and his success has been with getting soft contact on ground.  What had kept him from going too deep into starts was he did not have a clear out pitch.  The slider is meant to be that, but it appears he started using it earlier in at-bats.  

I hope rest of this year and going into next year he gets back to his basics with the sinker.  Then when at 2 strikes use the slider.  He should not be throwing the slider at 33% clip.  It should be a surprise pitch mainly as it will break different from the sinker.  Really good sinker guys can keep throwing the same pitch and the hitters know it is coming but it moves enough that they will not barrel it up.  With the slider, if he throws it for a strike it will get crushed.  He needs to always throw it to the edge or out of the zone to not get hit hard.  He was hanging the sliders or leaving them up, which books on sinker pitchers are if the pitch is up swing, so if the slider is up they will swing. 

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10 minutes ago, Dodecahedron said:

Dobnak seemed OK in previous years, so that would not have been the basis of the decision.

I was responding to a post that talked about not going with an OF who was hot in spring training. 

Separately,

I didn't get the Dobnak to the bullpen decision at all. Nor the shoemaker signing.

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Dobnak was one of the most dominant starters thru his first 16 starts that I have ever seen in a Twins uni (sans Liriano, Francisco). He is just 6 months older than Ober and was far more dominant thru his first 16 starts than Ober was, outpacing him by more than a 1.0 run in all past and predictive rate stats...and he was younger when he was doing it. At 24 years old Dobnak was dominating the best hitters in the world, while at the same age, Ober hadn't yet thrown a pitch above A+.

I say all this because if Dobnak had any sort of prospect pedigree and dominated the way he did thru his first 16 starts, then got yanked around by the FO and injured in year 3, we would just chalk it up to a lost season. But for some reason the story, the meteoric rise thru the minors, recency bias, and the fact that he looks 36 instead of 26, have soured far too many on Dobnak.

I don't think Dobbers will be amazing. I suspect his ceiling is a #3 in his best 150 inning seasons. That said, once a team has a solid #1 and #2, you need five Randy Dobnaks in your system to fill out your rotation.

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7 minutes ago, Minny505 said:

Dobnak was one of the most dominant starters thru his first 16 starts that I have ever seen in a Twins uni (sans Liriano, Francisco). He is just 6 months older than Ober and was far more dominant thru his first 16 starts than Ober was, outpacing him by more than a 1.0 run in all past and predictive rate stats...and he was younger when he was doing it. At 24 years old Dobnak was dominating the best hitters in the world, while at the same age, Ober hadn't yet thrown a pitch above A+.

I say all this because if Dobnak had any sort of prospect pedigree and dominated the way he did thru his first 16 starts, then got yanked around by the FO and injured in year 3, we would just chalk it up to a lost season. But for some reason the story, the meteoric rise thru the minors, recency bias, and the fact that he looks 36 instead of 26, have soured far too many on Dobnak.

I don't think Dobbers will be amazing. I suspect his ceiling is a #3 in his best 150 inning seasons. That said, once a team has a solid #1 and #2, you need five Randy Dobnaks in your system to fill out your rotation.

I think a lot of people are stuck on the fact that he has different "stuff" than most pitchers.  It would take multiple years of him being an ace pitcher for some people to appreciate the good things he brings to the table.  Since he's not likely to ever be an ace pitcher, we are doomed to repeating the same conversation every time he loses a game.  The only solace we have to counter the banal abstrusity of witnessing the same commentary repeatedly over the next few years is the fact that he is probably going to have a few more good games than bad ones -- just like any other decent major league pitcher.

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57 minutes ago, Dodecahedron said:

I think a lot of people are stuck on the fact that he has different "stuff" than most pitchers.  It would take multiple years of him being an ace pitcher for some people to appreciate the good things he brings to the table.  Since he's not likely to ever be an ace pitcher, we are doomed to repeating the same conversation every time he loses a game.  The only solace we have to counter the banal abstrusity of witnessing the same commentary repeatedly over the next few years is the fact that he is probably going to have a few more good games than bad ones -- just like any other decent major league pitcher.

Bonus points for using the word "abstrusity". Thank you for introducing that one to my lexicon.

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16 hours ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

I think we can chalk up most of Randy's issues to injury and not having a defined role. I suspect being thrown into the bullpen in a rush set him back and by the time he would have normally recovered, he was injured.

I really don't understand the usage argument. The guy did almost the exact same thing in '19, coming off an entire summer of starting. Suddenly a handful of starts in ST and subsequent move to the bullpen derails him? Eh....color me skeptical. 

As far as injury goes, if we want to erase the two games in TX, even the Yankees game (though I'd argue he was already getting bludgeoned prior to the nail tearing) we can, but the overall picture isn't any prettier. 

I think the issue with Dobnak has been......Dobnak. 

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