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Is Danny Coulombe For Real?


Twins Daily Contributor

Like a well-used Nissan Altima, Danny Coulombe bafflingly has done his job almost every time Rocco Baldelli has handed him the ball. The 32-year-old lefty was an afterthought, an assumed sacrificial arm for the baseball gods when the Twins added him to the 40-man roster in 2020. What would you expect from a former nondescript reliever known for a handful of innings on some Athletics teams of varying greatness?

 

 

The first sign of evolution for a reliever is always velocity—is he throwing harder in a pitching landscape so focused on the radar gun? To end this streak of questions, no. His average fastball has reached a new high in 2022 (91.6 MPH), but the sample of 11 innings is negligible. Looking at 2021, the year featuring the bulk of his Twins innings, the fastball remained unchanged from his “heyday” with Oakland: 90.6 MPH sitting in a sea of relative sameness.

The secret sauce in Danny Coulombe’s recipe is his off-speed collection. Unique amongst most bullpen arms, he often spins both a curve and a slider (with a healthy seasoning of changeups in 2022), giving Coulombe plenty of options to net his outs. When talking to David Laurila, Coulombe mentioned that he developed the slider to throw off hitters able to key in on the “hump” noticeable in most curveballs. The new pitch was not specifically for aiding in platoon splits, but more valuable weapons are never bad for a pitcher.

Coulombe is the kind of arm who could use as many options as possible. The public movement data from Statcast paints a rather average portrait of a reliever. Despite having enough red in his percentile rankings to make Senator Joseph McCarthy irate, his curveball’s vertical movement is the only pitch with outstanding characteristics. In fact, most of his pitches are pretty poor by advanced movement measurements.

Let’s talk about the slider. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Twins have coaxed him into tossing it more often than before. In Minnesota, Coulombe has thrown 36.5% sliders against 31.7% with the Dodgers and Athletics before 2020. But, oddly, the slider is not that great of a pitch. It produced a .304 xwOBA in 2021, which is fine but nowhere near elite; his curveball was far better at a .169 xwOBA mark. What gives? 

Command might be the answer. Movement profiles and batted ball data are great, but the goal of all pitchers is still to throw the ball where they want. The first two heatmaps are for his slider and curveball locations respectively before joining the Twins, the next two afterward.

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325822087_CoulombeSLposttwins.png.c4bb98c2f4b525ab6cd8a977a3d0b6b6.png1748080510_CoulombeCUposttwins.png.d2d1ada73a43ffd16ca3c15ebb02c60e.png

Aha! That looks significant. The Twins have moved Coulombe towards throwing his breaking balls more off the plate rather than in the strike zone. The reason should be apparent; off-speed pitches thrown for strikes are dangerous when not adequately commanded, and hitters across the board perform worse against breaking balls outside of the zone.

So what do we make of this? To venture a guess, Coulombe will generally avoid loud contact thanks to his decision to now throw breakers out of the zone, but he may run an elevated walk rate because of it. The aforementioned plan is excellent when the pitcher is working ahead, but without an 0-1 or 1-2 count, Coulombe may struggle more than your average arm. At the moment, his first-pitch strike % sits a touch below the league average for relievers (58.1% vs. 60.2%).

Gripping stuff, yes. “A pitcher needs to get ahead to succeed” isn’t new knowledge by any stretch of the imagination, but this is more “Coulombe’s entire plan succeeds or fails depending on whether he can get ahead of the count.” So far this year, the philosophy has yielded iffy xFIP numbers, and his early-count strike rate may reveal a house of cards. As always, though, it is still May, and performances can vary in the coming months. We shall see how successful Coulombe is in the future with the Twins plan, but he is undeniably a different pitcher.

So what do you think? Can Danny Coulombe be a reliable arm out of the Twins bullpen all season, or maybe even longer? Leave your COMMENTS below. 

 

 


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Verified Member

Hat's off to this article and all the details. My short take: he's nowhere near this good, but we should all be happy he's contributing now. Thank you Danny.

The Twins bullpen has exceeded expectations by leaps and bounds so far, but I think they may have to add at least 2 arms at the deadline if they want to seriously contend.

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The Twins bullpen is full of a lot of guys who I don't really trust but who keep coming out every day and doing a great job.

In particular, I don't quite get how Coulombe, Duffey, and Stashak are doing it with seemingly below-average stuff, but they keep putting up zeroes. Thielbar also is looking good with his array of slow bendy stuff. Pagan is getting unbelievably lucky, but he can put his fastball by anyone if he can locate it.

Duran, Jax, and Smith are about the only guys I really trust. Maybe Moran too if he comes up and deals again.

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Good article.  I would say that I do not expect Coulombe to be a high leverage guy, but will be adequate to get some innings out of.  The more he gets used the more teams will start to adjust their scouting report, much as you have pointed out.  I am not going to expect Coulombe to be a lights out end of pen guy, but lets keep using him while he is doing well. 

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The key to any pitcher is to throw off a batter's timing, throw off his vision plain, and to keep him guessing in general. Columbe does all of that by changing speeds and mixing pitches and locations. And I think he's actually pretty "real" considering how he's looked, and the solid job he did last year. But he is not high leverage. He's a middle guy to fill and IP or 2. Eventually, he'll probably get timed up/figured out and begin to lose effectiveness. 

I do think it's just a matter of time until Moran is up for good and replaces him. But then again, a 3rd LH in the pen isn't a bad thing either.

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Once upon a time in a land not so far away where civility, fairness and sportsmanship were still valued, I had the good fortune to coach a girls' high school basketball team. We had one of the best athletes I'd ever coached, boy or girl, in any sport, she of many conference and state awards to attest to her abilities, to lead the team. Unfortunately she came down with bronchitis just as the season started and she missed the first few weeks of the season. She eventually returned to play but with a noticeable decrease in stamina.

We had another girl, second-stringer, not as talented, couldn't dribble more than four feet without losing the ball, not as fast, not as physical, but a little taller and eminently coachable.

I informed this second girl that her role with the team would now be to spell our "stud". She'd play the last two minutes of the first half and the last two minutes of the 3rd quarter so our "stud" could catch her breath.  I told her I expected her to score two points, grab two rebounds and collect two hard fouls; not cheap shots, but play physical enough against the girl that had been guarding our "stud" that she might draw a contact foul.

So we drilled her on playing physical defense under the basket, worked her on positioning for rebounds and how to use the backboard for put-backs.

Fittingly enough, this "second"-stringer, played two minutes every half, grabbed her two rebounds, scored her two points and kept our "stud" fresh while tiring out our "stud's" opponent.

The team voted her MVP at the end of the season.

I'm not saying Coulombe will be the Twins MVP, but he appears to know his role, knows what he's capable of, sticks to his "two-minute" assignment and makes it possible for his teammates to do their stuff. Exactly what a reliever is supposed to do.

Teamwork; it makes up for a lot of short-comings.

Statistics only reveals them.

 

 

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I suspect that Columbe's success is an early season mirage. Hitters across the league have been having a crappy spring. That big hitch in his motion isn't going to help much after guys have seen it a couple times. Other than that, what's he got? A big, slow curve, a so-so slider, a change up, and an average fastball. That walking beam will get narrower each time he pitches.

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For me the key to a good bullpen is to have a variety of arms angles and pitches. It's not about having all power arms but having diversity. I wish him the best and I'm fine with him at this point until he falters and then we move on

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Coulombe seems to be getting the most out of his ability. I think command is the key component, given his limited arsenal. I would expect some regression to the mean, but if he continues to hit his spots and keeps being used in low to medium leverage situations, he probably has a job all year and is well worth the 700K he is being paid this year.

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13 hours ago, Dave The Dastardly said:

Once upon a time in a land not so far away where civility, fairness and sportsmanship were still valued, I had the good fortune to coach a girls' high school basketball team. We had one of the best athletes I'd ever coached, boy or girl, in any sport, she of many conference and state awards to attest to her abilities, to lead the team. Unfortunately she came down with bronchitis just as the season started and she missed the first few weeks of the season. She eventually returned to play but with a noticeable decrease in stamina.

We had another girl, second-stringer, not as talented, couldn't dribble more than four feet without losing the ball, not as fast, not as physical, but a little taller and eminently coachable.

I informed this second girl that her role with the team would now be to spell our "stud". She'd play the last two minutes of the first half and the last two minutes of the 3rd quarter so our "stud" could catch her breath.  I told her I expected her to score two points, grab two rebounds and collect two hard fouls; not cheap shots, but play physical enough against the girl that had been guarding our "stud" that she might draw a contact foul.

So we drilled her on playing physical defense under the basket, worked her on positioning for rebounds and how to use the backboard for put-backs.

Fittingly enough, this "second"-stringer, played two minutes every half, grabbed her two rebounds, scored her two points and kept our "stud" fresh while tiring out our "stud's" opponent.

The team voted her MVP at the end of the season.

I'm not saying Coulombe will be the Twins MVP, but he appears to know his role, knows what he's capable of, sticks to his "two-minute" assignment and makes it possible for his teammates to do their stuff. Exactly what a reliever is supposed to do.

Teamwork; it makes up for a lot of short-comings.

Statistics only reveals them.

 

 

Personally, I would suggest that Coulombe has earned more innings and also that the young lady in your story had earned more minutes. 

I gave you a well deserved "Like" because I love any post with an exemplum.  

 

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1 hour ago, Riverbrian said:

Personally, I would suggest that Coulombe has earned more innings and also that the young lady in your story had earned more minutes. 

I gave you a well deserved "Like" because I love any post with an exemplum.  

 

Exemplum. Had to look that up. I gave you a "like" for improving my vocabulary and giving me  a new word I can drop on my in-laws. Who says you can't learn anything new on TD?

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1 hour ago, Major League Ready said:

He has been more effective than I expected.  It seems to me he is one of those guys that is effective the first time though an order.  Maybe it's that funky delivery.  

I don't recall Coulombe's "shoulder shimmy" from previous seasons. It seems like a balk to me when runners are on base. 

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