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Tyler Duffey's Dreadful Start Is Déjà Vu All Over Again


Tyler Duffey's season is off to an absolutely awful start. No matter how bad you think it is ... it's worse. 

After learning a stark lesson last year about how early high-leverage relief meltdowns can torpedo a season, how long will the Twins stick with their most tenured pitcher?

To suggest that Duffey is solely responsible for the two losses he's been tagged with is not quite fair. In both cases he was working with an extremely thin late-game lead thanks to an offense that just can't seem to get going.

Nevertheless, both on April 9th against Seattle and on Tuesday night against Kansas City, Duffey entered with a fresh inning and one-run lead. In both cases, those leads turned to deficits (and eventual losses) on his watch.

As a result, Duffey enters play on Wednesday with the worst Win Probability Added (-0.88) among all major-league players. If this feels familiar, there's a reason. In 2021, Alex Colomé had the worst WPA in the majors by a wide margin for the month of April. We saw the effect his implosion had on the course of the Twins season. It's difficult not to feel a sense of déjà vu.

Now, it also must be noted that we're dealing with incredible small sample sizes here. Duffey has made only three appearances this season. Making rash decisions on such a basis tends to be unwise. For example, Liam Hendriks also finds himself near the bottom of the WPA leaderboard – I doubt the White Sox are about to bump him into mop-up duty.

But there is really no optimism to be drawn from Duffey's performance. He looks TERRIBLE. It seemed clear that he was on the road to regression last year as his peripherals all slid downward, but it was hard to envision such an extraordinary manifestation of this regression so rapidly.

duffeystatcast2022.jpg

The main problem is that Duffey's fastball, which needs to be a reliable mainstay to set up his breaking ball, is an unusable pitch. He has thrown it 22 times so far and produced zero swings and misses. When putting the four-seamer in play, opponents are 4-for-6 with two doubles and a  home run. The average exit velocity on this contact is a whopping 103 MPH. Good grief.

Rocco Baldelli is short on alternatives at the back end of the bullpen presently, which casts a pall on the decision to trade Taylor Rogers on the eve of Opening Day. (Rogers, by the way, is 5-for-5 in save attempts with a 0.00 ERA for the Padres.) 

But using Duffey in big spots is simply not an option right now. He needs to be relegated to low leverage and unless things change quickly he's probably going to be on DFA watch. 

It's unfortunate to see from a well-liked player who's been with the organization for so long. But the Twins don't have the luxury of letting sentimentality affect their decision-making. Baldelli simply cannot stand idly by and let another season spin off the rails out of deference to a bad relief pitcher based on nothing more than stature and track record. He just can't.

 


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I’m 100% with you Nick. I don’t think you’ll find anyone who will disagree with you. I won’t go as far as saying DFA him, yet. But it’s clear for the immediate/short term he can’t be relied upon in high leverage appearances. If his FB has lost all effectiveness, his time will be limited in Minnesota and MLB. 

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"But the Twins don't have the luxury of letting sentimentality affect their decision-making. Baldelli simply cannot stand idly by and let another season spin off the rails out of deference to a bad relief pitcher based on nothing more than stature and track record. He just can't."

Does anyone really believe Rocco will make the right decision early? I don't. Duffey will ruin the season early just like Colome did. 

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I mean, this was the biggest concern going into the season. Who is going to pitch, and more focused, who is going to pitch high leverage relief innings? Duffey ain't the answer and I'm not sure where the help is going to come from. Expecting Wes Johnson to just work his magic isn't cutting it anymore. I hope they figure this out because the 2021 stink is still hanging in the air and things are NOT looking good.

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This is perhaps unfair, but IMO Duffey seems like the profile of someone who temporarily benefitted from the  use of grip enhancers, but no longer can.

Fastball velo and location suddenly jump, curveball bite suddenly jumps...and then last year it's all back to the Duffey we saw prior to 2019.

 

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6 minutes ago, Vanimal46 said:

I’m 100% with you Nick. I don’t think you’ll find anyone who will disagree with you. I won’t go as far as saying DFA him, yet. But it’s clear for the immediate/short term he can’t be relied upon in high leverage appearances. If his FB has lost all effectiveness, his time will be limited in Minnesota and MLB. 

One would think so Vanimal46 but then again the FO and coach has demonstrated multiple times they can't let go.  Jury's out until we see some proof they have learned from past mistakes.

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"To suggest that Duffey is solely responsible for the two losses he's been tagged with is not quite fair. In both cases he was working with an extremely thin late-game lead thanks to an offense that just can't seem to get going."

What?  So we blame the weak offense for providing a lead (thin or not)?  It wasn't the defenses fault.  

It seems like it is pretty much entirely on Duffey's poor pitching.  I understand he's a nice guy, but we don't need to coddle him, he's an adult.  He's come out and stated he's pitched poorly.  The only thing I hope is Rocco see's what is going on and adjusts.  Don't stick with him just because he's a nice guy.  I think we saw how well that worked last year.

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He's not getting swings and misses on the fastball and he's struggling to locate the curveball. They're probably going to have to drop him out of the high leverage situations.

I will say, I think Alcala would have gotten the call last night in that spot if he had been healthy, and Duran if he hadn't pitched the day before. So the options for a righty in that spot were really: Duffey, Romero, Pagan, or Stashak. (maybe Winder?) I'm guessing they were looking at holding Pagan for later in the game? 

twins are in a bit of a bind with Duffey: there's some real numbers to be worried about when you really dig in on him...but it's also a super-small sample size. Going into last night's game, he had a blown save in 9th, got his 3 outs in the 7th in a nice 4-0 win, got 3 outs in the 7th and out of the inning clean when the team was only down 1 in what ended up as an 8-1 loss...so asking him to go for an inning against KC with a 1-run lead isn't crazy.

You can't throw a pitcher, even a reliever, on the scrap heap after 1 bad outing or you'll never have any relievers. Deciding how long to give them to work out of it is something I really don't know how to measure.

take Hansel Robles: wasn't particularly good for the twins last year, got traded to the Red Sox and was better. This season he's been excellent. Did anyone have that one locked down?

Which ex-twins reliever is going to finish the season with a better record than Duffey, Trevor May or Alexander Colome? neither is getting Ks so far, both are looking very hittable, both are experienced late-inning relievers and roughly the same age (Colome is 33, May is 32). The answer might be either, neither, or both.

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I felt it at the time and feel it even more strongly now: the Rogers/Paddack trade is going to be the defining blunder of this season. This team on paper had a small margin to sneak into a WC berth. That trade has made that margin even more narrow already.

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I am trying to avoid thinking another veteran reliever could sink this team early.  The numbers on Duffy look even worse than I initially thought.  Still he got better last year as the season wore on.  Certainly not a guy you want working high leverage situations unless things change for the better.  We are only ten games in though and it seems way too early to give up on him as well.  I hope he can figure things out but if he is this hittable he isn't just done with the Twins he is done completely.

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It isn't like Rogers would be coming in in the 7th.......so yesterday would be no different. I understood the Rogers trade, and the Twins already have lost starts to injury.....

I don't know what I'd do at this point. I would consider moving someone up from the minors, even converting one of their minor league potential starters to RP (no idea who, I'd have to give that more thought). Duffey looks lost right now, but it is tiny sample size.....but man, this does remind me of last year. Once they cut bait on their failed closer, their record was decent....

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I agree that Duffy needs to move to lower leverage spots, but i don't think its fair to say that the Rogers trade is the reason we are having bullpen issues. We got Pagan back as part of the Rogers trade and he has been good. We wouldn't have pitched Rogers in the 6th last night either.  

We need to cycle more guys through the bullpen and give the effective relievers the higher leverage innings. Right now, that means Pagan, Coulombe, Duran, and Smith in the higher leverage situations. That isn't enough. We're hamstrung carrying at least 4 relievers who aren't any help right now - Stashak, Thielbar. Jax and Duffy.  Time to make a change or two, get Smeltzer and maybe Cano up and try them. I would lose Jax and Stashak now and try those two, and also move Theilbar and Duffy to mop  up duty until they either "find themselves"  or go on May 1.   

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5 minutes ago, LA VIkes Fan said:

I agree that Duffy needs to move to lower leverage spots, but i don't think its fair to say that the Rogers trade is the reason we are having bullpen issues. We got Pagan back as part of the Rogers trade and he has been good. We wouldn't have pitched Rogers in the 6th last night either.  

We need to cycle more guys through the bullpen and give the effective relievers the higher leverage innings. Right now, that means Pagan, Coulombe, Duran, and Smith in the higher leverage situations. That isn't enough. We're hamstrung carrying at least 4 relievers who aren't any help right now - Stashak, Thielbar. Jax and Duffy.  Time to make a change or two, get Smeltzer and maybe Cano up and try them. I would lose Jax and Stashak now and try those two, and also move Theilbar and Duffy to mop  up duty until they either "find themselves"  or go on May 1.   

When the rosters go down in size, Jax and Stashak are going down for sure. I don't believe either is a MLB RP, so I'd be good trying someone else. 

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1 hour ago, LastOnePicked said:

I felt it at the time and feel it even more strongly now: the Rogers/Paddack trade is going to be the defining blunder of this season. This team on paper had a small margin to sneak into a WC berth. That trade has made that margin even more narrow already.

Yup. On current evidence, we traded one year of excellent relief for 3 years of lousy starts.

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I feel like I am piling on, but I believe Duffey has blown 10 of the 14 save opportunities he has had in his career.  With diminished stuff, I don't see how that record is going to get any better.  I would prefer Minaya over him, or maybe even give an opportunity to Cano or one of the younger arms at Wichita.  Once again, by acting like blue light K Mart shoppers in signing relievers, the FO is left trying to piece together a bullpen on the fly.

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16 minutes ago, PDX Twin said:

On current evidence, we traded one year of excellent relief for 3 years of lousy starts.

It is funny how the small things become the big things. Duffey's role in the pen is magnified because of the Rogers trade. The pen's role in the team's success is magnified because of last year's April-May debacle. Now, a team that should be at least 6-5 and feeling loose is playing with additional pressure under the shadows of 2021 at 4-7.

It's not that I thought Rogers was going to be team MVP, but I feared that a few out-of-the-gate bumps without him (coupled with Rogers very predictable lights-out success in SD) would cause an early momentum downslide that will be hard to overcome later on. And that's exactly what's happening. How could the FO not see this as a likely outcome?

At any rate, back to Nick's point. Yes. they better adjust their plans fast. Duffey shouldn't be doing anything for this team but mop-up work in blowouts at this point. You can't make the entire team suffer for one guy's inability to get it done. 

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50 minutes ago, Mike Sixel said:

When the rosters go down in size, Jax and Stashak are going down for sure. I don't believe either is a MLB RP, so I'd be good trying someone else. 

I agree. It would be great to try a couple of other relievers now while the rosters are still 28 players. I know that creates 40 man issues but I would be fine with another DFA of Garlick and possibly Stashak if necessary to create 40 man room. I would like to see them try Smeltzer, Minaya and/or Cano now while we can give them a roughly 2 week run and see if they can help us now. We can also send Winder down to AAA to start every 5th day to create roster room, although that doesn't solve any 40 man roster issues 

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1 hour ago, PDX Twin said:

Yup. On current evidence, we traded one year of excellent relief for 3 years of lousy starts.

Will agree with Mike, can't judge this trade until we learn who the PTBNL is.  Will look a lot better should it be that catcher rated among their top 15 prospects.  Well, that assumes he turns into a starter three years from now.

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17 minutes ago, roger said:

Will agree with Mike, can't judge this trade until we learn who the PTBNL is.

Fair, but the point of the the Correa signing was kinda to win now, wasn't it? That trade is clearly hurting our ability to win now. Unless Pagan would have been fine in the Duffey spots - in which case, this mess is more about Baldelli's poor choices.

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Rocco simply is not an MLB caliber coach.  Just does not have the stuff.  His handling of the bullpen since the beginning of his tenure is inept at best and incarceration worthy at worst.  Not sure how he has survived this long beyond riding the positive effects of having Nelson Cruz in his lineup.

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56 minutes ago, LastOnePicked said:

Fair, but the point of the the Correa signing was kinda to win now, wasn't it?

Hmmm… kind of think that the point was to increase ticket sales short term, make it appear that the Twins would compete (as was said before the season began), give some time for either Lewis or Martin to prove themselves, and then trade off Correa when it became apparent the Twins wouldn't be in contention this year.  Correa, though, by not hitting is doing his best to make sure that the Twins have him for the full three year contract.

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30 minutes ago, Five minute major said:

Rocco simply is not an MLB caliber coach.  Just does not have the stuff.  His handling of the bullpen since the beginning of his tenure is inept at best and incarceration worthy at worst.  Not sure how he has survived this long beyond riding the positive effects of having Nelson Cruz in his lineup.

What would you have done differently last night?

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1 hour ago, LastOnePicked said:

Fair, but the point of the the Correa signing was kinda to win now, wasn't it? That trade is clearly hurting our ability to win now. Unless Pagan would have been fine in the Duffey spots - in which case, this mess is more about Baldelli's poor choices.

Then how is the trade hurting us to win now?

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1 hour ago, Mike Sixel said:

What would you have done differently last night?

This is a great question, and really the heart of the matter.  Given where the game was at, I would probably have used Winder for multiple innings and then looked to Pagan to close if Winder faded.  If we needed somebody behind Winder, I would have then considered Coulombe or, yes, Duffy.  I am not saying that is better, just an option.  WInder is a rookie, so the wheels might have fallen off his wagon as well.  If Duffey had been lights out, we wouldn't be discussing the topic at TD.  Overall, I don't think Rocco does a great job of managing the bullpen, or the game.  I would put him in the middle of the pack of all managers.  I think his strength is in his relationships with players, motivating players, and handling the media.  These days, those tasks are crucial IMHO.  And, I think he does that beautifully.  The real problem is what Rocco currently has to work with.  You can't play aces when your highest card is a 9.  He can only play the hand he is dealt.

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3 hours ago, LastOnePicked said:

It is funny how the small things become the big things. Duffey's role in the pen is magnified because of the Rogers trade. The pen's role in the team's success is magnified because of last year's April-May debacle. Now, a team that should be at least 6-5 and feeling loose is playing with additional pressure under the shadows of 2021 at 4-7.

Yes and yes and yes.

Protecting 1-run leads is their job. But the reality of current current bullpen construction across MLB is that each bullpen is only as good as its weakest link.

It is exactly the 1-run leads that are most at-risk when running a succession of low-leverage guys 6th-9th. Historical win rates for all home teams entering bottom of the 6th with a 1-run lead are 77.5%, 82% in the 7th, 89% in the 8th. (Stats found here: https://gregstoll.com/~gregstoll/baseball/stats.html#H.1.8.0.1.0.0,) So, if we are 80% confident the good guys will hold a 1 run lead in the home half of the 6th inning, we are in Lake Wobegone Land, just above average. Is anyone who follows the Twins 80% confident right now? 50/50 confident? (Not me- less than that in my opinion).

If Twins did achieve a 50% hold-rate, how would that translate into W-L? 2021 Twins records gives a clue.

It's not Duffy's fault-he is pitching at mop-up level right now, and that's where he should be until he gets straightened out. The quality is not presently there to create rotations capable of consistently holding thin leads. Seems to me that the BP rotations are now as important if not moreso than SP rotations, which means quality is needed at every link in that chain. 

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