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What Happens With Closing Time for the Twins


After the Minnesota Twins decided to trade their closer right before Opening Day last season, the bullpen was immediately thrown in flux. It remained to be seen who would take over and what the roles would look like. Thinking ahead to 2023, it’s worth wondering if there should be a more rigid plan.

 

Image courtesy of Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

In 2021 there was no question who was coming in to save games for the Minnesota Twins. Taylor Rogers had established himself as an All-Star level closer, and when there was a save opportunity in the 8th or 9th inning, he was going to get it. Last season that role started with Emilio Pagan, then transitioned somewhat to Jhoan Duran, then Jorge Lopez was expected to take over, and truthfully no one ever held the job.

Rocco Baldelli’s bullpen recorded 28 saves in 2022, but they were split between nine different arms. Pagan led the group with nine, while Duran had eight. Across baseball, 35 different pitchers recorded more than nine saves on their own. In fact, 18 different pitchers reached at least 20 saves. Meanwhile, Minnesota didn’t have a single-arm record half that many.

For years the save statistic has been debated regarding its usefulness. Unfortunately, there are plenty of times when the game is on the line, but it’s not yet the 9th inning. There are also all of the times when a save is recorded, but only three outs are needed and the leading team is ahead comfortably by three runs. Debating whether or not saves should matter is one thing, but giving a level of predictability to routine-oriented players may help.

Last season there was no denying that Jhoan Duran was the saving grace in relief for Minnesota. Had he not developed and emerged as an elite arm, an already questionable bullpen would’ve been in complete disarray. With very little else to count on for much of the year, Baldelli found himself needing to utilize Duran earlier in games. He was often brought in during the highest-leverage moments, then would hand the game over to whoever was left. As the bullpen eroded though, it became a waiting game to see if everyone else could get it to the rookie in the 9th inning.

Talking with more than a few players over the years, a fluid bullpen provides a difficult situation to prepare for. Rather than having a relative understanding of your role and order onto the field, it’s a guessing game on any given night. Trying to figure out what situation you may be called upon for, and then quickly preparing for that at the drop of a hat is not an easy task.

If Derek Falvey and Thad Levine can give Minnesota a bit more to work with in relief, it likely gets easier for the manager to have a higher sense of predictability. Assuming Jorge Lopez regains his form, putting him back in the closer role that earned him an All-Star selection with Baltimore makes sense. That would allow Duran to continue being Minnesota’s fireman, and he could take whatever leverage situation presents itself prior to the 9th inning.

There’s no denying the group needs both more length, someone to eat those middle innings, and another back-end arm or two. We saw Griffin Jax take steps forward, and he’s probably earned a late-inning role, but there has to be more. If the group can find more success early on in 2023, and be supplemented from outside of the current options, there’s a chance we may see the closer role return as we once knew it.

What do you think? Do you prefer Jhoan Duran to only pitch in the 9th inning? Does your closer need to be your best reliever?


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Honestly, it should be whomever is hot on the mound. If Lopez is hitting his spots and getting K's at a wicked pace, let him have it. If Duran is blowing it past everyone, let him have it. I understand that we as fans have been lucky enough to see Steady Eddie, Joe Nathan, Perkins, Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, and Eric Gagne all hold these spot for years, but that was a different era of baseball. 

Today's era is having multiple guys that can come in and shut the door. It's a gut feeling type of thing. You gotta trust the guy who's been heating up. Then ride them until they start showing kinks in their armor and then throw the next guy thats heating up. 

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First, I think it's unfair to say the pen arms don't know their role. They may not know what inning they're coming in during, but they know what segment of the order they're expected to face and they should be able to follow the game closely enough to know when it's about to be their turn. They're each given scouting reports on the handful of hitters they're expected to get out and should be more than prepared to get those guys out.

Second, I think the save is an entirely useless stat, but I do like having a set closer. Your team knowing "the guy" is coming in to shut the door is really helpful. The problem the Twins face is getting someone the team can have confidence in. And one who can throw back to back games without getting shelled the 2nd game (Rogers isn't a great closer cuz of that). Can Lopez be that guy? He was great in the first half and it certainly gives hope that he can be another failed starter turned lights out closer. I'd like to see a 2nd lights out arm to pair with him, though. As insurance and, best case scenario, an 8th-9th inning shutdown duo that turns playoff games into 7 innings games.

I'm sure people would like Duran as the closer, or 2nd shutdown arm that I was just talking about, but I like him in his fireman role. I think his ability to come in and clean up and inning or wipe out the top of their order in the highest leverage of situations is a huge weapon. I'd also like him to be used for multiple innings sometimes when one of the other 2 shutdown guys aren't available. I'd keep Duran as the fireman (or future starter) and find 2 shutdown guys to put at the end of the game.

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I agree with your statement Ted

"Talking with more than a few players over the years, a fluid bullpen provides a difficult situation to prepare for. Rather than having a relative understanding of your role and order onto the field, it’s a guessing game on any given night. Trying to figure out what situation you may be called upon for, and then quickly preparing for that at the drop of a hat is not an easy task."

I think the BP should be more regimented much like the rotation is. There's advantage of a RP knowing when & how he's being used so he can better prepare for the game. Beyond this we have a unicorn in Duran who sees a firery situation and IMO automatically wants to enter the game & put the fire out. Thus he's ready to come into the game at any time.

I also voice my hope that Lopez can come in be that lights out closer.

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1 hour ago, chpettit19 said:

And one who can throw back to back games without getting shelled the 2nd game (Rogers isn't a great closer cuz of that).

IMO Rogers is a great closer when used within his profile. He's not elite because he can't pitch back to back games, so you need a safety valve to go to in those situations. Elite closers aren't that easy to come by, that's whymany teams will seek after Rogers & he'll will sign a pretty good contract this off season.

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59 minutes ago, Doctor Gast said:

IMO Rogers is a great closer when used within his profile. He's not elite because he can't pitch back to back games, so you need a safety valve to go to in those situations. Elite closers aren't that easy to come by, that's whymany teams will seek after Rogers & he'll will sign a pretty good contract this off season.

I don't think he's going to get a huge deal. I think he's got a very real chance to get multiple years, but a closer you can't use on back to back days isn't a great closer to me. If I can't use you in games 1 and 2 of a playoff series you're not great. With multiple off days in 7 game series you have to be available for 6 games before I call you great.

This year the World Series had games Oct 28 and 29, Nov 1, 2, 3, 5 and game 7 was scheduled for the 6th. So games 1 and 2 were back to back. Day off. Games 3, 4, 5 back to back to back. Day off. Games 6 and 7 back to back. If Rogers can't be used in one of game 1 or 2, and then has to pitch games 3 and 5 or just game 4, and then is good for only 1 of games 6 or 7 why would I want him as my closer? At max he's good for 4 games in a 7 game series. No thanks on that closer.

I'd absolutely take him back on the Twins, but not as their closer. Middle relief for him with at least 2 other guys that I'd be relying on to be my shutdown guys in the playoffs because they could go 6 or 7 games in a 7 game series.

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40 minutes ago, chpettit19 said:

I don't think he's going to get a huge deal. I think he's got a very real chance to get multiple years, but a closer you can't use on back to back days isn't a great closer to me. If I can't use you in games 1 and 2 of a playoff series you're not great. With multiple off days in 7 game series you have to be available for 6 games before I call you great.

This year the World Series had games Oct 28 and 29, Nov 1, 2, 3, 5 and game 7 was scheduled for the 6th. So games 1 and 2 were back to back. Day off. Games 3, 4, 5 back to back to back. Day off. Games 6 and 7 back to back. If Rogers can't be used in one of game 1 or 2, and then has to pitch games 3 and 5 or just game 4, and then is good for only 1 of games 6 or 7 why would I want him as my closer? At max he's good for 4 games in a 7 game series. No thanks on that closer.

I'd absolutely take him back on the Twins, but not as their closer. Middle relief for him with at least 2 other guys that I'd be relying on to be my shutdown guys in the playoffs because they could go 6 or 7 games in a 7 game series.

Bleacher Report estimates Kently Jensen at 2yrs/ $30MM and Rogers 3yrs/ $45MM. Not bad.

 If you you consider closing 6-7 in the WS as great what would consider as elite?

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17 minutes ago, Doctor Gast said:

Bleacher Report estimates Kently Jensen at 2yrs/ $30MM and Rogers 3yrs/ $45MM. Not bad.

With breaks between city change he could be effective for 5 games of he World Series. If you you consider closing 6-7 in the WS as great what would consider as elite?

If someone wants to give Rogers 3/45 they can have him.

I included the breaks for city changes. I gave the exact schedule of the 2022 WS. I didn't say just closing games 6-7 of the WS made you great, I said you need to be able to pitch in 6 games of a 7 game playoff series for me to think you're great. But even if you're counting just closing games 6 and 7 "great" or "elite" or whatever you want to call it Rogers doesn't fit because games 6 and 7 are played on back to back nights. Rogers could throw in 4 games of a playoff series if he can't be used in back to back games.

Games 1-2 are back to back. So he can only be used once.
Games 3-4-5 are back to back to back. So he could be used for max games 3 and 5.
Games 6-7 are back to back. So he can only be used once.
In the "perfect" Rogers situation he's used in either game 1 or 2. Then used in games 3 and 5. Then used in 6 or 7. That's 4 games. You're not great if I can't use you in back to back games. It's that simple to me.

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32 minutes ago, chpettit19 said:

If someone wants to give Rogers 3/45 they can have him.

I included the breaks for city changes. I gave the exact schedule of the 2022 WS. I didn't say just closing games 6-7 of the WS made you great, I said you need to be able to pitch in 6 games of a 7 game playoff series for me to think you're great. But even if you're counting just closing games 6 and 7 "great" or "elite" or whatever you want to call it Rogers doesn't fit because games 6 and 7 are played on back to back nights. Rogers could throw in 4 games of a playoff series if he can't be used in back to back games.

Games 1-2 are back to back. So he can only be used once.
Games 3-4-5 are back to back to back. So he could be used for max games 3 and 5.
Games 6-7 are back to back. So he can only be used once.
In the "perfect" Rogers situation he's used in either game 1 or 2. Then used in games 3 and 5. Then used in 6 or 7. That's 4 games. You're not great if I can't use you in back to back games. It's that simple to me.

I got your drift afterwards but not before you had already started to quote me. I don't know any team that has only one closer to close out all their games. They usually have 1 or more quality RPs to supplement their main closer. What's the difference of having Rogers as a closer & a quality RP to supplement Rogers? To me there is a difference between great & elite and to me your standard is too high. Great is the closer that pitches great when he does pitch inside his profile and elite is the closer you discribe.

And agree the Twins won't pay this for a closer, they have difficulty paying this for a starter.

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39 minutes ago, Doctor Gast said:

I got your drift afterwards but not before you had already started to quote me. I don't know any team that has only one closer to close out all their games. They usually have 1 or more quality RPs to supplement their main closer. What's the difference of having Rogers as a closer & a quality RP to supplement Rogers? To me there is a difference between great & elite and to me your standard is too high. Great is the closer that pitches great when he does pitch inside his profile and elite is the closer you discribe.

And agree the Twins won't pay this for a closer, they have difficulty paying this for a starter.

Teams don't have guys who close 100% of save opportunities, but they most definitely have guys who go back to back days and are used for virtually every 1 run save opportunity. If their closer threw 25 pitches to close a 1 run lead the night before and now they have a 3 run lead with the 6-7-8 hitters coming up in the 9th they use someone else. Teams that go "closer by committee" tend to not have great closers and are playing the matchup game. The Twins have tried to combine the matchup game and an everyday closer the last few years. Limiting your closer to no back to back games in that situation leads to a lot of problems with trying to determine bullpen usage during 162 games.

Rogers can be great in his profile, sure. But his profile isn't a closer's profile. That's my point. If I can't use you back to back games you're not a closer. If I'm in a September series against Cleveland and we're tied for the division lead and the first game we have a 1 run lead in the 9th I need to be able to use my closer. If game 2 we then have a 1 run lead in the 9th I need to be able to use my closer again. Rogers not being able to go in game 2 means I need a 2nd closer and at that point I'm simply in "closer by committee" and I don't have a closer, I just have a highly paid reliever.

Rogers' ERA spiked on June 2 last season, and basically never came back down before really spiking again in early July and he was basically done as a reliable closer after that. Before June 2 he was used on back to back days 5 times, including 1 three day stretch at the end of April where he was used in all 3 games. 5 times of being used back to back days in the team's first 50 games and that was too much? He was then used back to back days on June 4th and 5th, but wasn't used on back to back days again until June 20th and 21st. Then July 15th and 16th. By then his ERA was over 4 and never really got much below 4 the rest of the year while actually ballooning to over 5 at certain points. That's 8 times of being used back to back days in the teams first 93 games and that was too much for him? I don't think he was as overused in back to back days as you claim. He simply isn't a great closer. Definitely not worth 15 mil a year.

And, for the record, Milwaukee didn't even use him as their closer.

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33 minutes ago, chpettit19 said:

Teams don't have guys who close 100% of save opportunities, but they most definitely have guys who go back to back days and are used for virtually every 1 run save opportunity. If their closer threw 25 pitches to close a 1 run lead the night before and now they have a 3 run lead with the 6-7-8 hitters coming up in the 9th they use someone else. Teams that go "closer by committee" tend to not have great closers and are playing the matchup game. The Twins have tried to combine the matchup game and an everyday closer the last few years. Limiting your closer to no back to back games in that situation leads to a lot of problems with trying to determine bullpen usage during 162 games.

Rogers can be great in his profile, sure. But his profile isn't a closer's profile. That's my point. If I can't use you back to back games you're not a closer. If I'm in a September series against Cleveland and we're tied for the division lead and the first game we have a 1 run lead in the 9th I need to be able to use my closer. If game 2 we then have a 1 run lead in the 9th I need to be able to use my closer again. Rogers not being able to go in game 2 means I need a 2nd closer and at that point I'm simply in "closer by committee" and I don't have a closer, I just have a highly paid reliever.

Rogers' ERA spiked on June 2 last season, and basically never came back down before really spiking again in early July and he was basically done as a reliable closer after that. Before June 2 he was used on back to back days 5 times, including 1 three day stretch at the end of April where he was used in all 3 games. 5 times of being used back to back days in the team's first 50 games and that was too much? He was then used back to back days on June 4th and 5th, but wasn't used on back to back days again until June 20th and 21st. Then July 15th and 16th. By then his ERA was over 4 and never really got much below 4 the rest of the year while actually ballooning to over 5 at certain points. That's 8 times of being used back to back days in the teams first 93 games and that was too much for him? I don't think he was as overused in back to back days as you claim. He simply isn't a great closer. Definitely not worth 15 mil a year.

And, for the record, Milwaukee didn't even use him as their closer.

All this discussion and nobody even mentions Thielbar.  How many times did he come into tha t Fireman’s role and get the job done.  Heck, often better than anyone would have hoped.

I like Rogers, a lot, but not certain he is the guy they should try to sign.  I want them to get the best available, whomever that is.  And based on last year that ain’t Rogers.

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5 minutes ago, roger said:

All this discussion and nobody even mentions Thielbar.  How many times did he come into tha t Fireman’s role and get the job done.  Heck, often better than anyone would have hoped.

I like Rogers, a lot, but not certain he is the guy they should try to sign.  I want them to get the best available, whomever that is.  And based on last year that ain’t Rogers.

Thielbar and Rogers are on the same level for me for 2023. Thielbar is going to be 36 next year and I'm not betting my season on him being a late inning, shutdown guy. Same feelings I have on Rogers. Willing to go into the year with them as middle relievers, but I want better guys than either of them for the late inning/closer roles.

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1 minute ago, chpettit19 said:

Thielbar and Rogers are on the same level for me for 2023. Thielbar is going to be 36 next year and I'm not betting my season on him being a late inning, shutdown guy. Same feelings I have on Rogers. Willing to go into the year with them as middle relievers, but I want better guys than either of them for the late inning/closer roles.

Agreed.  Note, I didn’t suggest he be a late inning guy.  If memory serves, there were several outings were he came into nearly impossible situations and got the job done.  Don’t recall what inning those were, doubt they were late in the game.

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I like the idea of having a set closer. A shut down type like Duran. Then a couple RH setup guys with a LH setup guy, where 1 of the 3 is capable of closing in a pinch. Then add 2 long relievers, (in a perfect world 1 RH & 1 LH) that leave room for a couple of mid inning guys with at least 1 LH, preferably able to get more than 3 outs per appearance.

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We need a bullpen like the nasty boys of 1990 Cincinnati reds ,,,

Or the 2014-15  Kansas city royals world series Champs of 2015 ...

Those were some awesome relief specialists and they wouldn't have won a world series without them   ...

 I have been  trying to figure out why our front office  can't seem to see the light and assemble a bullpen close to those ...

It's my plan and I'm sticking to it  ... 

 

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