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Could the Twins Continue Without a Default Closer for 2023?


The Twins have not had a default closer in their bullpen since 2018 with the famous journey-man reliever Fernando Rodney. If the Twins continue without a default closer next year, which relievers would be best to go after?

Image courtesy of Eric Hartline, USA Today Sports

 

Since becoming manager of the Twins, Rocco Baldelli has avoided designating any of his relievers as the team’s go-to closer. While one reliever has recorded over 20 saves in the Baldelli era (Taylor Rogers with 30 in 2019), no player has come close to 20 since. 

This is a change from the previous front office regime of Terry Ryan and managers Ron Gardenhire and Paul Molitor’s days of operating a bullpen. From the time of Gardy’s first season to Molitor’s final, the Twins had a go-to closer for the majority of seasons developing all-star closers such as Eddie Guardado, Joe Nathan, and Glen Perkins leading this front. 

This method of bullpen management reached a new peak for the Twins' 2022 season as no reliever recorded more than nine saves, Emilio Pagan leading the team with nine. While 14 of the 23 relievers in the bullpen were brought in for save opportunities, almost double the number of relievers that came in for save opportunities in 2021 with eight. 

This season the Twins were also dead last in the American with total saves at 28 and tied for last in all of Major League Baseball alongside the Washington Nationals. 

As of now the guy currently in the Twins bullpen that looks to have a “primary closer” role for 2023 is Jhoan Duran. The top rookie of 2022 may eventually see more save opportunities as the season goes on, but it is uncertain if that role will be thrust upon him immediately come Opening Day. 

Jorge Lopez was brought in to be the Twins' closer at the trade deadline but struggled in his short time with the Twins as the season waned, making it less likely for Lopez to be used as a closer for the start of the 2023 season. 

The stat to quantify who may be best to trade off with Duran for save opportunities is the relievers version of a quality start: shutdowns. FanGraphs has quantified this stat for years and has offered a countermark to that stat with meltdowns. 

Duran was eighth in all of MLB with 34 shutdowns and had the fifth-lowest amount of meltdowns with four. 25 relievers reached the threshold of 30 or more shutdowns this season but only three of these relievers are free agents. All three of these relievers are players the Twins should consider for their bullpen. 

Rafael Montero 
Rafael Montero made himself one of baseball’s best-known relievers this postseason with the Houston Astros. Even before raising his value en route to his first World Series ring, Montero pitched his best season in the majors this regular season.

Montero recorded 37 shutdowns, tied for second in MLB with Toronto's Jordan Romero. He also had very few meltdowns with five, only one more than Duran. Montero had 14 saves on the season which helped to balance former Twin Ryan Pressly’s workload as a closer. 

If the Twins were to pursue Montero this offseason, he could be the biggest reliever acquired from free agency in the history of the Derek Falvey/Thad Levine era. Any contract that would be offered to Montero longer than a year also has a chance of eclipsing Addison Reed’s 2-year, $16.75 million deal from the 2017-18 offseason. 

Brad Boxberger
After a few rough seasons in Arizona and Kansas City, Brad Boxberger has revitalized himself as a high-leverage reliever with the Miami Marlins and Milwaukee Brewers. 

Boxberger is not the reliever he used to be nor is he seeing much of any save opportunities, appearing in only 13 over the last three seasons. Boxberger still has been used in many high-leverage opportunities this season, recording 35 shutdowns in 70 reliever appearances.

There is one downside to offering Boxberger a contract, he was tied alongside Griffin Jax, Jake Diekman, and Tanner Scott to lead MLB with 17 meltdowns out of the bullpen. This tallies to nearly a quarter of Boxberger’s relief appearances turning bad for him and the Brewers in 2022. 

Boxberger suits the Twins better on a one-year deal given his hit-or-miss success in high-leverage situations as well as turning 35 during the 2023 season.

Matt Moore
Once the highest-ranked prospect in all of baseball (MLB.com, 2012), Matt Moore revitalized his career this season in the Texas Rangers bullpen. Moore’s transition into a full-time reliever worked to his benefit as he posted a 1.95 ERA in 63 relief appearances with the Rangers this season.

The Rangers also trotted Moore out for six save opportunities, five of which he converted. The major success of Moore’s numbers in the 2022 season makes him of the more sought-after high-leverage lefty relievers this offseason. 

This also shows with his shutdown-to-meltdown numbers as he recorded 31 shutdowns out of the bullpen while only having nine meltdowns. 

With Caleb Thielbar guaranteed a spot in the Twins' 2023 bullpen and Jovani Moran more than likely to join him, signing Moore as a third lefty for the Twins bullpen could crowd the space up. But he is a worthwhile option for the Twins to consider partnering with Duran to close out games. 

Any one of these three relievers would be a good fit for the Twins for the 2023 season. If a designated closer is still something Baldelli and the front office want to start the season without, either Montero, Boxberger, or Moore may suit a role to ensure the Twins are not just punting for bullpen help this offseason. 


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I am all for upgrading our BP, but there is realistically only one player on here that could have good success in our system. Rafael Montero. The other 2 would be flyers that could certainly implode or they are works in progress. The plus side to Moore, is that he could be used in spot start situations. But we also have more than enough starters looking for spots in our rotation/BP. 

So to put this bluntly, there is only ONE pitcher that we should go after. And that pitcher just won a WS ring. 

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Boxberger sounds like a low value add with a 25% meltdown rate. We can get that success rate with a rookie or some other $750,000 guy. Moore is old and, as mentioned, we probably don’t need another lefty at this point. Montero could be a nice experienced arm to set-up for Duran! $6 million/year for 2 years. Number of saves in 2022 along with other success has to be weighed with his attachment to 106 win team - gotta have opportunities to get these stats!!!

NEED a pitching coach with track record!!

Can somebody work with Trevor Megill to develop either a cutter or a change-up?? WAY too good of stuff for the results seen to date! Plus curveball & plus fastball with no other options and not enough fastball command. Needs to be coached up and he could be as effective as Duran!

We need to add a top end reliever…….Trevor May nor Taylor Roger’s fit that role.

 

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Since Rodney it to me has appeared that Baldeli will try to use the better reliever against the heart of the order rather than by the inning. There still has to be a closer mentality for the bottom of the order in the ninth but it is not necessary to have a closer if they score runs in the 8th with the top of the order

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Closer - The most overrated position in baseball

Save - The most overrated stat

Check out this article:
https://bleacherreport.com/articles/687462-mlb-closers-blowing-games-late-but-closer-role-and-save-stat-still-overrated

It is over 10 years old, but still holds true.  Good relievers are good relievers, bad relievers are bad relievers.

Would you rather have Duran come in during a tie game in the 7th with runners on base, or would you rather have him come in to start the 9th inning with nobody on base and a 3 run lead?  Managers have played into this because more saves means bigger contracts (stupid owners) for the players. Thanks Tony LaRussa!

I am happy to see that analytics is helping to change reliever usage, focusing on high leverage situations instead of a fairly useless stat.  The Save needs to join the Game Winning RBI.  Everything should be a Hold.

I think this explains my stance on the Twins Closer by committee discussion...

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30 minutes ago, Fire Dan Gladden said:

Closer - The most overrated position in baseball

Save - The most overrated stat

Check out this article:
https://bleacherreport.com/articles/687462-mlb-closers-blowing-games-late-but-closer-role-and-save-stat-still-overrated

It is over 10 years old, but still holds true.  Good relievers are good relievers, bad relievers are bad relievers.

Would you rather have Duran come in during a tie game in the 7th with runners on base, or would you rather have him come in to start the 9th inning with nobody on base and a 3 run lead?  Managers have played into this because more saves means bigger contracts (stupid owners) for the players. Thanks Tony LaRussa!

I am happy to see that analytics is helping to change reliever usage, focusing on high leverage situations instead of a fairly useless stat.  The Save needs to join the Game Winning RBI.  Everything should be a Hold.

I think this explains my stance on the Twins Closer by committee discussion...

Could not agree more. Having a designated closer frequently means the team's best (or one of their best) relievers doesn't pitch as often as they should or could in meaningful situations. The Twins haven't gotten their bullpen consistently right the last two seasons, but this is an area where they have been smarter.

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I guess I disagree with the premise of your article that "Rocco Baldelli has avoided designating any of his relievers as the team’s go-to closer."

In 2018 the closer was Rodney, as you mentioned.

In 2019 the closer was Rodgers with 30 saves, as you mentioned.

I believe that had Colome and Pagan were given every opportunity to be the closers and had it worked out like the FO had hoped then they would have been the closers for 2021 and 2022. The change in relief philosophy is just as likely due to their combined two years of failure and the need to go to other guys to cobble a win together.  Please don't give this FO and manager credit for seeing the light on how to use high leverage pitchers when it was forced upon them.

 

 

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The Twins "approach" to how to us a bullpen is dead on; no "closer only" mentality and having a fireman or fireman for high leverage situations.  It's been the results that have been the issue at times due to the talent on hand, or lack thereof. With everyone on board right now, they are very close to having the 8 plus deep they need to make it work the right way. Now, I want the best depth and best up front "answers" I can have vs hopes, so I think one more really good arm is needed. Two would be just awesome. But no more sitting back and just seeing what "value" falls in your lap at the end of the winter. That's fine for a guy or two here and there, but no way to build and maintain a quality pen.

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42 minutes ago, Verified Member said:

I guess I disagree with the premise of your article that "Rocco Baldelli has avoided designating any of his relievers as the team’s go-to closer."

In 2018 the closer was Rodney, as you mentioned.

In 2019 the closer was Rodgers with 30 saves, as you mentioned.

I believe that had Colome and Pagan were given every opportunity to be the closers and had it worked out like the FO had hoped then they would have been the closers for 2021 and 2022. The change in relief philosophy is just as likely due to their combined two years of failure and the need to go to other guys to cobble a win together.  Please don't give this FO and manager credit for seeing the light on how to use high leverage pitchers when it was forced upon them.

 

 

Molitor was still managing in 2018. Yes, Rogers had 30 saves in 2019 but he was never officially announced as a closer on the record, same with Colome. 

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Rocco needs to get his nose out of his sheet of paper and trust his instincts. A robot could do his job the way he approaches it. The paper tells you what to do and when to do it. Use that sheet of paper but also use your baseball instincts to make your decisions. Don't be afraid to take a player out of a certain role if he is not performing. Don't be afraid to lose your player's manager reputation. Baseball like life is fluid and ever changing. Our manager's approach should be the same.

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It is understandable why teams designated closers for so many years. The consistency of the same pitchers working the same innings helped pitchers prepare for individual games. But this approach didn't take into account the most important thing, something Tom Kelly is famous for saying: put players in situations where they are most likely to succeed. This means you set up your pitching so that you don't have your fourth-best reliever facing the opposition's best hitters, no matter what inning it is. Use your best reliever in the most important situations.

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Any reliever should be able to come into the ninth inning up by three runs and get out of there with a win more often than not.  The idea of a "closer" who you save for the ninth inning regardless of what is happening is kind of antiquated. 

Tie game, bases loaded, no one out in the seventh should be a situation for your best pitcher out of the bullpen.  If you best bullpen pitcher is your closer and you refuse to bring him out except for a save, you probably will not get to use him.

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The psychology of baseball is not measured on the stat sheet.  Closing is something that players have grown up hearing about and they know the value of that position.  I do not mind having a six out closer (I like it), but I mostly want someone I trust finishing the game and I suspect the starters like that too. 

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4 hours ago, Verified Member said:

I believe that had Colome and Pagan were given every opportunity to be the closers and had it worked out like the FO had hoped then they would have been the closers for 2021 and 2022. The change in relief philosophy is just as likely due to their combined two years of failure and the need to go to other guys to cobble a win together.  Please don't give this FO and manager credit for seeing the light on how to use high leverage pitchers when it was forced upon them.

Even if Colome and Pagan had been effective and stayed in the Closer With A Captiol C role in 2022 it was the smart play because Duran was the better pitcher and was moved around to the hot spots rather than relegated to the ninth. 

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2 hours ago, minman1982 said:

If you best bullpen pitcher is your closer and you refuse to bring him out except for a save, you probably will not get to use him

Yep. Maybe time to re-define "save". The guy who pitches out of the 7th inning jam preserving a lead that ultimately holds up....maybe that guy gets the "save" designation. Or the save is just discarded entirely. There are plenty of other ways/stats to identify who performs well in high leverage, and who wets the bed. Sequence BP rotation accordingly......

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9 hours ago, Game7-91 said:

Yep. Maybe time to re-define "save". The guy who pitches out of the 7th inning jam preserving a lead that ultimately holds up....maybe that guy gets the "save" designation. Or the save is just discarded entirely. There are plenty of other ways/stats to identify who performs well in high leverage, and who wets the bed. Sequence BP rotation accordingly......

It's why people are looking at WPA as a way to evaluate relievers over something simplistic like a "save".

The thing that always drives me crazy with the designated closer role for your best reliever is they just won't pitch enough. Duran threw 67 innings; if he'd been in the closer role, he probably would have landed south of 60, and would have thrown way fewer high-leverage innings. Even with injuries, an 8-man bullpen will have a guy or two that pitches once a week right now (holding out the long man for a disaster start, not using a 1 inning guy in the late innings because he's only trusted to throw a low-leverage 5th or 6th inning, etc). The less you define roles by which inning a reliever throws, the more likely you are to get the most use out of your best pitchers and get real value out of every pitcher on your staff. No scholarships for the bullpen: if a guy can't be trusted outside of an extremely limited role...move on and get someone who can.

And I think everyone agrees: no Pagan in 2023, closer or not.

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10 hours ago, Game7-91 said:

Yep. Maybe time to re-define "save". Or the save is just discarded entirely.

The save as a statistic didn't become official until 1969, following the start of the trend of using a designated closer in the 1960's. I think the trend of moving away from that strategy is going to continue and for that reason the save statistic is going to become less and less useful in telling us which relief pitching performances are the most important.

Remember when GWRBI was an official stat in the 1980's? It was based on the same criterion that determined the winning pitcher: it was the RBI that gave the team a lead for the remainder of the game. Turns out it wasn't a very useful stat so its official status was discontinued. I can easily foresee the save going the same way. What would be more revealing is to use a formula of some kind to weigh the game situation into a reliever's performance to produce something akin to WAR or WPA. It could even take into account factors like whether your opponent is a division rival close to your team in the standings or whether it's a game in early April as opposed to an elimination game in the last week of the season

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11 hours ago, jmlease1 said:

It's why people are looking at WPA as a way to evaluate relievers over something simplistic like a "save".

The thing that always drives me crazy with the designated closer role for your best reliever is they just won't pitch enough. Duran threw 67 innings; if he'd been in the closer role, he probably would have landed south of 60, and would have thrown way fewer high-leverage innings. Even with injuries, an 8-man bullpen will have a guy or two that pitches once a week right now (holding out the long man for a disaster start, not using a 1 inning guy in the late innings because he's only trusted to throw a low-leverage 5th or 6th inning, etc). The less you define roles by which inning a reliever throws, the more likely you are to get the most use out of your best pitchers and get real value out of every pitcher on your staff. No scholarships for the bullpen: if a guy can't be trusted outside of an extremely limited role...move on and get someone who can.

And I think everyone agrees: no Pagan in 2023, closer or not.

I agree 1000 Percent

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On 11/10/2022 at 10:43 AM, Fire Dan Gladden said:

Closer - The most overrated position in baseball

Save - The most overrated stat

Check out this article:
https://bleacherreport.com/articles/687462-mlb-closers-blowing-games-late-but-closer-role-and-save-stat-still-overrated

It is over 10 years old, but still holds true.  Good relievers are good relievers, bad relievers are bad relievers.

Would you rather have Duran come in during a tie game in the 7th with runners on base, or would you rather have him come in to start the 9th inning with nobody on base and a 3 run lead?  Managers have played into this because more saves means bigger contracts (stupid owners) for the players. Thanks Tony LaRussa!

I am happy to see that analytics is helping to change reliever usage, focusing on high leverage situations instead of a fairly useless stat.  The Save needs to join the Game Winning RBI.  Everything should be a Hold.

I think this explains my stance on the Twins Closer by committee discussion...

Odd logic.  The manager puts their best RPs in the 9th.  Yet, the owners are stupid?  Were the owners making that decision or was the manager?  Of course, more recently the FO and analytics department are influencing the decision.  You are describing different ways to use the same guy and somehow the owners are stupid for paying that guy.   

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9 hours ago, Major League Ready said:

Odd logic.  The manager puts their best RPs in the 9th.  Yet, the owners are stupid?  Were the owners making that decision or was the manager?  Of course, more recently the FO and analytics department are influencing the decision.  You are describing different ways to use the same guy and somehow the owners are stupid for paying that guy.   

So the owners throwing $20m per year for 60 innings of relief work is sane?  Look at every article about the Edwin Diaz signing and the first thing they quote is his Save total.

Owners drive all.  They historically have paid for Saves, not Holds.  Managers will hold off bringing in closers in non-save situations.  How many times have we seen the closer warming up in the bottom of the 8th with a 1 run lead, see his team hit a 3 run HR, then get sat down because it is no longer a save situation?  One of the reasons to do that is to make sure his closer doesn't "waste" an appearance in a non-save situation.  Saves=dollars.  So yeah, the owners do hold some accountability here.  

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I'm going with no on a designated closer. Fireman. Yeah, but we need 1 more and Lopez to return to pre trade form. So far, the high end closer/firemen pitcher are getting PAID..Twins have yet to do that.. so, another reason to say no on anyone on the team having that title... Teams are spending on that type of pitcher so far...

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One thing TK had going for him was he always had clearly defined "roles" for his BP guys.  Rocco frustrates me because I can't figure out what his roles are for his BP.  I'm not sure Rocco knows.  I think Lopez will be just fine and he and Duran will be the closers.  

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1 hour ago, TopGunn#22 said:

One thing TK had going for him was he always had clearly defined "roles" for his BP guys.  Rocco frustrates me because I can't figure out what his roles are for his BP.  I'm not sure Rocco knows.  I think Lopez will be just fine and he and Duran will be the closers.  

This is the one solid argument I agree with on Rocco's BP usage.  Knowing you are coming in when (insert SP here) gets to their pitch limit, or Duran knowing he will be coming in at high stress times.
That being said, I think the sheer number of pitchers they had to use this year made that extremely difficult.

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6 hours ago, Fire Dan Gladden said:

So the owners throwing $20m per year for 60 innings of relief work is sane?  Look at every article about the Edwin Diaz signing and the first thing they quote is his Save total.

Owners drive all.  They historically have paid for Saves, not Holds.  Managers will hold off bringing in closers in non-save situations.  How many times have we seen the closer warming up in the bottom of the 8th with a 1 run lead, see his team hit a 3 run HR, then get sat down because it is no longer a save situation?  One of the reasons to do that is to make sure his closer doesn't "waste" an appearance in a non-save situation.  Saves=dollars.  So yeah, the owners do hold some accountability here.  

Do you really think the manager is concerned about a RPs save total?  It has nothing to do with being or not being a save situation.  They want to retain availability.

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15 hours ago, Major League Ready said:

Do you really think the manager is concerned about a RPs save total?  It has nothing to do with being or not being a save situation.  They want to retain availability.

Every manager does.  They are very aware of statistics, it keeps the players happy.  Players have been managing around the save for decades.

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