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  • Twins Daily 2019 Award: Pitcher of the Year


    Seth Stohs

    For most of the past decade, the Minnesota Twins have had one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball. Pick a meaningful statistic for pitchers and you would find the Twins usually at or very near the bottom of the rankings. That changed in 2019 when the Twins had one of the top five or six pitching staffs in the American League.

     

    The Twins' 4.18 ERA ranked eighth in MLB and fifth in the American League. Their 1.30 WHIP ranked 12th in the big leagues and sixth in the AL. Their 9.0 K/9 ranked 12th in MLB and fifth in the AL, and they did so while walking just 2.8/9 innings, second best in baseball. Baseball Reference’s Wins Above for All Pitchers ranks the Twins sixth in MLB, fourth in the league.

     

    The Twins had two All-Star starting pitchers (Berrios and Odorizzi), and a third starter (Pineda) who was arguably their best starting pitcher option when he was suspended. The team’s bullpen came on strong over the season’s final two month.Frankly, it was nice to see this year’s Twins Daily Pitcher of the Year ballots listing several viable candidates. The vote was close, but the 2019 Twins Pitcher of the Year is closer Taylor Rogers.

    Image courtesy of David Berding and Eric Hartline, USA Today (graphics by Finn Pearson)

    Over the past couple of days, we have handed out the Twins Daily Awards for Twins Rookie of the Year (Luis Arraez) and Twins Most Improved Player (Mitch Garver). While there were solid candidate in each category, today’s Pitcher of the Year vote was much closer with votes cast for multiple pitchers.

     

    Taylor Rogers doesn’t have the typical background story for a Pitcher of the Year candidate. He was the Twins 11th-round draft pick back in 2012 out of Kentucky. The lanky lefty began his career as a starting pitcher and in 2013 was the Twins Daily Minor League Starting Pitcher of the Year. He moved up one level, as a starter, each season. In the first week of the 2016 season, Twins closer Glen Perkins got hurt. Taylor Rogers was recalled and worked out of the bullpen.

     

    Gradually he seemed to get more comfortable with the role, both on the mound and in his preparation for the job each day. He began getting more high-leverage opportunities in 2017. And frankly, over the last two seasons, he has been one of the top four left-handed relief pitchers in baseball. The names that you can put with or even ahead of Rogers might be Josh Hader, Aroldis Chapman and Felipe Vasquez. That’s it.

     

    Heading into the 2019 season, Rogers knew that he had a role as a late-inning reliever for the Twins. He had earned that. But early in the season, it was Blake Parker often getting save opportunities. Trevor May and Trevor Hildenberger also recorded a save or two in the season’s first month. Rogers was used anytime from the seventh inning on. Sometimes he would get a couple of outs, and sometimes he would work a couple of innings.

     

    Over the course of the summer, Rogers became the team’s most reliable reliever. At some points in the season, he was their only reliable reliever. He was often tasked with getting more than three outs to record saves, something we just haven’t seen much of in the last two decades of Twins baseball.

     

    Sure, he had a couple of hiccups throughout the long season, as all great relievers do. However, after the trade deadline, the rest of the bullpen really took off and allowed Rogers to get more regular rest.

     

    In the season’s final weekend, Rogers notched his milestone 30th save of the season.

     

    WHAT CHANGED?

     

    In researching Taylor Rogers’ 2019 stats and comparing them to his 2018 stats, one thing is clear… I think we may have overlooked just how good Taylor Rogers was in 2018, and 2017 too, for that matter. His ERA dropped from 2.63 to 2.61. His WAR increased from 1.9 to 2.1 over the past two seasons. However, fans who watched most Twins games noticed that he had become much more dominant, more aggressive (increased his first-pitch strikes percentage to 68%). He was able to get ahead and quickly dispatch of batters, either by strikeout or weak contact.There may be some numbers that illustrate that as well.

     

    First, Rogers increased his strikeout rate while reducing his walk. Both improvements were significant. His strikeout rate increased from 9.9 K/9 in 2018 to 11.7 K/9 in 2019. That speaks to his dominance, but to me, his ability to get those additional strikeouts while decreasing his walks from 2.1 BB/9 to just 1.4 BB/9 speaks to the sharpness of his stuff.

     

    Taylor Rogers really changed his approach on the mound in 2019.He threw a few fewer fastballs (53% to 50%), but his average fastball velocity jumped from 93.4 mph to 94.8 mph.

     

    In 2018, he threw 33.4% curveballs and just 12.4% sliders. In 2019, he went almost exclusively to the slider. He threw 45.5% sliders and just 4.1% curveballs. And that slider was a dominant pitch to both left-handers and right-handers. While his swinging strike rates stayed about the same, his Line Drive Percentage decreased which led to a big increase in Ground Ball Percentage.

     

    Rogers didn’t just come in to start clean innings. He was often called in to tough situations where his stuff really played well. In 2019, his Left On Base Percentage was an incredible 86.2%, up from 74.8% in 2018.

     

    All told, Taylor Rogers’ 2019 season was about as dominant as anyone could have hoped.

     

     

    LOOKING FORWARD

     

    Rogers will turn 29-years-old in December. He earned $1.53 million in his Super-2 arbitration season. He will have three more seasons of arbitration. He should get quite a raise in 2020. I would think a four-year contract could be discussed during the offseason.

     

     

    OTHER CANDIDATES

     

    As noted above, Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi were both All-Stars in 2019. Odorizzi went 15-7 with a 3.51 ERA in 30 starts and 159 innings. Berrios was 14-8 with a 3.68 ERA in 32 starts and 200 1/3 innings. Michael Pineda went 11-8 with a 4.01 ERA in 26 starts in 146 innings. When he was suspended in early September, it could have been argued that he was the Twins top starting pitcher. Tyler Duffey began the 2019 season in Rochester. He worked 57 2/3 innings over 58 games and struck out 82 batters (12.8 K/9). He posted a 2.50 ERA with a 1.01 ERA and ended the season with 21 scoreless innings. Trevor May struck out 79 batters over 62 1/3 innings with a 2.94 ERA.

     

     

    THE BALLOTS

     

    Here’s a look at the ballots from our 18 voters.

     

    Seth Stohs: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Michael Pineda

    Nick Nelson: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Taylor Rogers, 4) Tyler Duffey

    John Bonnes: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Tyler Duffey

    Tom Froemming: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Michael Pineda, 4) Taylor Rogers

    Cody Christie: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Taylor Rogers, 4) Michael Pineda

    Ted Schwerzler: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Jose Berrios

    Steve Lein: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Taylor Rogers, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Michael Pineda

    S.D. Buhr: 1) Jake Odorizzi, 2) Taylor Rogers, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Tyler Duffey

    Matt Braun: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Taylor Rogers, 3) Michael Pineda, 4) Jake Odorizzi

    Cooper Carlson: 1) Taylor Rogers 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Jake Odorizzi

    Andrew Thares: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Tyler Duffey

    JD Cameron: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Taylor Rogers, 3) Jake Odorizzi, 4) Tyler Duffey

    Matt Lenz: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Trevor May, 4) Michael Pineda

    Nash Walker: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Tyler Duffey

    Patrick Wozniak: 1) Jose Berrios, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Taylor Rogers, 4) Michael Pineda

    Thieres Rabelo: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Tyler Duffey, 4) Jake Odorizzi

    Sabir Aden: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Jake Odorizzi, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Tyler Duffey

    AJ Condon: 1) Taylor Rogers, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4.) Jake Odorizzi

     

     

    POINTS

     

    Taylor Rogers 59

    Jose Berrios 51

    Jake Odorizzi 38

    Tyler Duffey 21

    Michael Pineda 9

    Trevor May 2

     

     

    PREVIOUS PITCHER OF THE YEAR WINNERS

     

    2015: Kyle Gibson

    2016: Ervin Santana

    2017: Ervin Santana

    2018: Jose Berrios

     

     

    OTHER 2019 AWARD WINNERS

     

    Rookie of the Year: Luis Arraez

    Most Improved: Mitch Garver

    Pitcher of the Year: Taylor Rogers

    Most Valuable Player: Coming tomorrow


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    Was Berrios 'bad' enough, and was Rogers good enough....that Rogers 69 innings were more valuable, or 'better,' than Berrios's 200+ innings? I'm with those that say no. Maybe some recency bias in light of how Berrios finished the year?

     

    While I feel the 2019 version of Berrios is not (ideally) what the Twins need as a number 1...he was still, by far, the most valuable starter, and probably the 'pitcher of the year'...primarily because he was the only guy that could consistently get into the 7th, and frequently the 8th, inning. The bullpen, including Rogers, probably would've been less effective if Berrios had averaged the 5.1 innings per start that was the norm for literally every other starter the Twins rolled out there this year.

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    Was Berrios 'bad' enough, and was Rogers good enough....that Rogers 69 innings were more valuable, or 'better,' than Berrios's 200+ innings? I'm with those that say no. Maybe some recency bias in light of how Berrios finished the year?

     

    While I feel the 2019 version of Berrios is not (ideally) what the Twins need as a number 1...he was still, by far, the most valuable starter, and probably the 'pitcher of the year'...primarily because he was the only guy that could consistently get into the 7th, and frequently the 8th, inning. The bullpen, including Rogers, probably would've been less effective if Berrios had averaged the 5.1 innings per start that was the norm for literally every other starter the Twins rolled out there this year.

     

    That was definitely something I considered. But I chose to "judge" each player by the role in which he pitched. So basically it was (for me) was Berrios a better starter, or was Rogers a better late-inning reliever, and because of that, I went with Rogers. 

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