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  1. Twins 2021 Position Analysis: Relief Pitcher

    Projected Bullpen: Taylor Rogers, Alex Colomé, Tyler Duffey, Hansel Robles, Caleb Thielbar, Jorge Alcalá, Cody Stashak, Lewis Thorpe
    Depth: Shaun Anderson, Ian Hamilton, Brandon Waddell, Ian Gibaut
    Prospects: Jhoan Duran, Edwar Colina, Dakota Chalmers, Josh Winder


    The top of Minnesota's bullpen is well stocked with proven high-caliber arms. Taylor Rogers (3rd), Tyler Duffey (13th) and newcomer Hansel Robles (19th) all rank among the top 20 major-league relief pitchers in fWAR since 2019. Alex Colomé isn't rated quite as highly by that metric (42nd), but is a more conventionally appealing back-end arm: 15th in ERA, fourth in saves (with a 91% conversion rate), and seventh in Win Probability Added.

    The team's second tier of relievers also offers plenty of prowess. Jorge Alcalá posted a 2.63 ERA and 10.1 K/9 rate as a rookie in 2020, flashing the potential to join the tier above. Cody Stashak has a 3.15 ERA and 42-to-4 K/BB ratio in 40 major-league innings. Caleb Thielbar put up a 2.25 ERA and 9.9 K/9 rate last year in his triumphant resurgence at age 33.

    On the fringe of the reliever mix are a number of interesting waiver adds and fixer-upper projects. Names like Shaun Anderson, Brandon Waddell, Ian Gibaut, Derek Law, Luke Farrell, Juan Minaya and Ian Hamilton give Minnesota considerable depth – all pitchers with some big-league experience and intriguing traits pinpointed by the front office.

    Given the success we've seen the Twins have with guys like Matt Wisler and Ryne Harper, none of those names can be discounted as potential impact relievers in the coming year. And that's before you get to the prospect pipeline, which packs some serious punch.

    The Twins have a deep well of relief pitchers, rich with impressive track records, closing experience, and appealing strengths. They'll have a lot of options to get them through a long season, in which much will likely be asked of the bullpen.

    It's easy to have faith in the people running this ship to keep it sailing smoothly.


    By parting with Trevor May, Sergio Romo, Tyler Clippard, and Wisler during the offseason, the Twins lost 95 of their 231 bullpen innings from 2020. That's about 40% of the unit's total output, and a much higher share of the high-leverage work.

    With the help of those key contributors, Minnesota ranked fourth in the American League in bullpen ERA and second in fWAR. Now the relief corps will be looking to build upon that success through major turnover.

    It's hard to make a case on the surface that the Twins' incoming talent comes anywhere close to matching what exited; those four combined last year for a 2.85 ERA while averaging 11.6 K/9. May, in particular, was a flamethrowing strikeout machine whose dominant edge will be tough to replace.

    Backfilling May's overpowering presence, along with the functional reliability of Clippard and Wisler (who ranked first and second among MN relievers in innings pitched), will be a tall task. While the Twins have a large quantity of talented arms for the task, there are legit question marks surrounding most of them.

    Rogers is coming off a tough year, in which hitters seemingly caught on to his previously baffling repertoire. Robles is trying to rebound from an unmitigated disaster that got him non-tendered by the Angels. Colomé was ditched by the White Sox and generated little demand in free agency, despite the gaudy numbers.

    It's hard to look at any of these pitchers with the same confidence as Rogers, May and Romo a year ago.


    Great bullpens are requisite for transcendent teams, especially in the modern game. Year after year, when you look at MLB's leading teams in bullpen fWAR, you find clubs that made the playoffs and often made deep runs. (Last year, the Dodgers and Rays ranked first and second, respectively.)

    The Twins ranked third, for a second consecutive year, and they've achieved all this success by following their own model. They identify impact relievers (often below-the-radar types), develop customized plans, and execute. They've done it time and time again, and for that reason they've earned a good amount of faith.

    But leaps of faith are definitely required to see this bullpen maintaining the elite level of performance that's now become the norm. They lost a lot of quality during the offseason, and are gambling heavily on their secret sauce in this 2021 bullpen recipe.


    • Mar 23 2021 09:17 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  2. Who Will the Twins Closer Be?

    To be clear, the Twins and manager Rocco Baldelli aren’t going to name a closer. As baseball continues to rethink how bullpens can best be utilized, the Twins are going to look at matchups and put their players in the best opportunities to succeed. That being said, the four players below are the likely candidates to be considered the team’s closer.

    Taylor Rogers, LHP
    Career Saves: 41
    Rogers was one of the most dominant relievers during the 2018 and 2019 seasons as he took over Minnesota’s closer role. Even with struggles last season, his peripheral numbers point to some bad luck leading to his poor performance. His .400 BABIP was over 70 points higher than any other season. Also, his 10.8 SO/9 was his second highest rate of his career. One pitch to keep an eye on is his slider and the results have been good so far this spring. Twins fans can hope he is back to his old self and the rest of the players on this list are used as set-up men leading into Rogers.

    Alex Colome, RHP
    Career Saves: 138
    Chicago’s loss is Minnesota’s gain as Colome has been one of the best relievers in recent years. He has the most saves of any player on the Twins staff and he won’t shy away from a late-inning role. With uncertainly surrounding other players on this list, Colome seems like the natural choice to pick up most of the team’s save opportunities. However, relief pitchers can be fickle and maybe there is a bigger reason the White Sox let him go. His 6.4 SO/9 mark from last year was his lowest total since becoming a full-time reliever. If Wes Johnson can work his magic, Colome has a chance to be the team’s leader in saves.

    Tyler Duffey, RHP
    Career Saves: 1
    Duffey was the team’s best relief pitcher in 2020 and the second half of 2019, but he has been given limited save opportunities. One of the reasons he hasn’t gotten those chance is because he has been so successful being used in a fireman role. Because of the other names on this list, he will likely stay in that role. So far this spring, his velocity has been lower than the team might like, but there is still time to figure it out before the team heads north. If he can’t figure it out, the Twins will have to rely on other arms to take over his important innings.

    Hansel Robels, RHP
    Career Saves: 27
    Robels struggled in 2020 and that’s one of the reasons the Twins were able to sign him for a relatively cheap deal. Back in 2019, he compiled strong numbers as the Angels primary closer with a 2.48 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 9.3 SO/9. Last year, albeit in on 16.2 innings, he allowed 19 earned runs, but he posted a career high 10.8 SO/9. It seems more likely for the players listed above to get the majority of the save opportunities, but Robels has some experience, and the Twins can always turn to him if other relievers are struggling at some point during the season.

    Who do you think will be considered Minnesota’s primary closer in 2021? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Mar 14 2021 07:10 PM
    • by Cody Christie
    • Mar 14 2021 12:24 PM
    • by John Bonnes
  3. Getting Geeky Part 3: Sharing the LI Wealth

    Perhaps it was matchups. Perhaps it was the depth of the bullpen. Or perhaps it was just coincidence. But last year’s Twins’ bullpen spread around the pressure inherent to holding close leads like almost no other Major League team, steering away from the closer-dominated hierarchy we talked about in Part 1. And you can see it using the sabrmetric stat Leverage Index (LI) that we detailed in Part 2.

    Here are the Twins’ qualified relievers, the average Leverage Index they faced when entering a game, and where they ranked in LI in MLB overall.


    MLB Rank

    Taylor Rogers



    Sergio Romo



    Tyler Duffey



    Trevor May



    Tyler Clippard



    Caleb Thielbar



    Jorge Alcala



    What are you looking at? As we saw yesterday, any LI over one indicates a more-dangerous-than-average situation. Six of the Twins qualified relievers had an LI greater than one. No other team in MLB had that many. In fact, the Twins actually had eight relievers. Matt Wisler (1.11) and Cody Stashak (1.05) both also had LI over one, but just missed the “qualified” designation by a couple of innings.

    Baldelli shared his high leverage situations throughout the bullpen, not relying on a couple of guys to carry the load, like other teams. Alternately, you can see that the Twins look like they mostly protected rookie Jorge Alcala from those situations.
    Now look at how bunched together those top three relievers are, and how high up they rank compared to all MLB qualified relievers. There are 30 teams, but the Twins had three relievers in the top 25 in average LI? Yep. Toronto is the only other team that had three relievers in the top 35.

    Toronto is also the only other team that had four pitchers in the top 55, like the Twins did. They’re also the only team to have five pitchers in the top 75, like the Twins did. The bunching of the Twins becomes more obvious when you look at the average LI each of the Twins top relievers faced, compared to the average LI the same pitcher faced on other teams.


    Ave MLB gmLI

    Taylor Rogers



    Sergio Romo



    Tyler Duffey



    Trevor May



    Tyler Clippard



    Caleb Thielbar



    Jorge Alcala



    Rogers faced about average situations for the #1 ranked person in the bullpen compared to other teams. And Alcala faced about the same as the sixth ranked guy in the bullpen. But Romo, Duffey, May, Clippard and even Thielbar all were brought into games at significantly more crucial moments than their peers on other teams.

    In short, Baldelli spread the wealth among the relievers in his bullpen. He is finding spots to use even the fourth and fifth best relievers that impact a game, and likely help them grow, and you can see that using LI.

    You can also see that using LI if you take a look at individual pitchers’ game logs. So we’ll do that next.

    Next: Using LI to see how Baldelli is trusting individual pitchers.

    • Feb 27 2021 10:27 PM
    • by John Bonnes
  4. The Twins 3 Most Underrated Players

    Max Kepler, Right Field
    MLB Network Rank: NR
    Right field includes some of baseball’s most notable names like Mookie Betts, Aaron Judge, and Bryce Harper along with young studs like Juan Soto and Ronald Acuna Jr. Since the beginning of 2018, Kepler ranks as one of the best right fielders in all of baseball. According to FanGraphs, Kepler has the eighth highest WAR among right fielders over the last three seasons. This puts him ahead of players on MLB’s list including Mike Yastrzemski, Jorge Soler, Joey Gallo, and Charlie Blackmon.

    Kepler’s defense helps to separate him from the other players on this list. According to SABR’s SDI rankings, Kepler was the AL’s second-best defensive right fielder in 2019 and the only player ahead of him on the list, Mookie Betts, has since been traded to the NL. He probably doesn’t have a chance to rank in the top-5, but there’s a solid argument for him being baseball’s sixth best right fielder.

    Ryan Jeffers, Catcher
    MLB Network Rank: NR
    Minnesota has a catcher rank in MLB’s top-10, but Mitch Garver might not even be the team’s best catcher in 2021. Garver entered the 2020 season as MLB’s fourth best catcher as he trailed J.T. Realmuto, Yasmani Grandal, and Willson Contreras. Garver went from the AL’s Silver Slugger in 2019 to hitting .167/.247/.264 in 26 games last season. This allowed Jeffers his time to shine.

    Jeffers was seen as a bat first catcher coming out of college, but he has turned himself into a tremendous defensive asset. During his rookie season, he ranked seventh in baseball when it comes to strike rate which places him ahead of many names on MLB’s top-10 list. Offensively, he hit .273/.355/.436 with three home runs in 26 games. To top it off, Garver just turned 30 in January and Jeffers won’t turn 24 until June.

    Taylor Rogers, Relief Pitcher
    MLB Network Rank: NR
    Tyler Duffey represents Minnesota on MLB’s top-10 relief pitcher list and few question how valuable Duffey has been over the last two seasons. However, Rogers has a longer track record and there are some signs that point to his 2020 numbers being more of a fluke. His BABIP rose to a career high .400, but he was still striking out well over a batter per inning. With an even better defense behind him in 2021, there’s a clear opportunity for him to rebound.

    Since the start of 2018, Rogers ranks fourth among all relief pitchers in WAR including a tremendous 2019 campaign. In that season, he had the third highest win probability added among AL relievers. Many of the players on MLB’s list haven’t ranked in the top-10 before and. Also, their rankings seem to be relying a lot on numbers from last season when many relievers were limited in their number of appearances due to the shortened season.

    Who do you think are the Twins most underrated players? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Feb 15 2021 11:20 AM
    • by Cody Christie
  5. Top 20 Minnesota Twins Assets of 2021: Part 2 (11-15)

    First, you can get up to speed on the 'why and how' behind these rankings by reading Monday's introductory post. If you're already hip, proceed to find my choices (and reasoning) for the 11th-through-15th most valuable player assets currently under Minnesota's control as 2021 gets underway.

    15. Miguel Sanó, 1B
    2020 Ranking: 11

    This is the deepest placement yet in these rankings for Sanó, and with good reason. He moved from third base to first. He is coming off a disappointing year, marred by a ridiculous strikeout total. He is currently lined up as the team's second-highest paid player in 2021, with his $11 million commitment trailing only Donaldson's $21 million.

    With all this in mind, I think it's important to remember the qualities that have kept Sanó on this list year after year – all still on display in the abbreviated 2020 campaign. He is an incredibly gifted athlete who hits baseballs as hard as anyone in the world. He acclimated quickly to first base, with his natural skill and instincts shining through. He's only 27 years old, at the heart of his physical prime, and still quite athletic for his prodigious size. While he'll be somewhat highly paid in 2021, the Twins also control him in 2022 at $9.25 million, which will be an amazing bargain if he pulls it together. They also have a $14 million option for his age-30 season.

    Focus on Sanó's flaws all you want – it's valid. But don't lose sight of his strengths. They are in some ways unparalleled.

    14. Tyler Duffey, RHP
    2020 Ranking: 16

    If he hadn't claimed it already, Duffey firmly took hold of the team's "bullpen ace" title in 2020. He was among the league's most dominant relievers, allowing only 19 baserunners via hit or walk in 24 innings, nearly all high-leverage. And because of his sparse previous track record, Duffey remains quite inexpensive in his second turn at arbitration. He's set to earn $2.2 million in 2020.

    In some ways, he epitomizes the volatility and unpredictability of relief arms. Duffey was not present in these rankings two years ago, and in fact was probably on the verge of moving on from the organization at that point. He has since harnessed his full potential out of the bullpen to become an elite force in the late innings.

    How long will it last? That remains to be seen. But the Twins are more than happy to control him affordably for the next two seasons.

    13. Jordan Balazovic, RHP
    2020 Ranking: 8

    The lost minor-league season in 2020 was especially unfortunate for a guy like Balazovic. He entered the year as a fast-rising and highly promising young arm, ready to take on advanced levels for the first time and make a statement. But because he hadn't yet taken this step, and wasn't really within range of a call-up, he was left off the alternate site roster, leaving him to progress on his own, without the benefit of competition or direct coaching. (He did get added to the alternate group late in the season.)

    None of this means Balazovic's outlook has dropped off, especially in a relative context (all prospects just lost a year). But he was at such a pivotal crux in his development – 21 years old, three years removed from being drafted out of high school, set to reach Double-A for the first time – that the disruption weighs a bit harder in his case.

    With that said, he's clearly one of the organization's top pitching prospects – virtually deadlocked with the next guy, from my view – and that makes him one of Minnesota's most valuable assets. Huge year ahead for Balazovic.

    12. Jhoan Duran, RHP
    2020 Ranking: 13

    The Twins acquired the Dominican right-hander from Arizona as part of the Eduardo Escobar deal in July of 2018. At the time, Duran was a middling Single-A starter with big stuff and lackluster results. Upon coming switching organizations, he immediately turned a corner. Since the trade, Duran has posted a 3.38 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 10.7 K/9 rate in 151 innings. His whiff rates are among the best in the system. He's been dominating.

    He's also just about big-league ready. Duran reached Double-A in 2019 and spent 2020 at the alternate site in St. Paul, where he gained consideration for a call-up. His proximity to the majors and proven performance in the upper minors gives him a slight edge over Balazovic in these rankings but as I said, they're practically even in my eyes.

    11. Luis Arráez, 2B
    2020 Ranking: 10

    The strengths and positives that Arráez brings to the table are no secret. He's one of the game's best contact hitters and the definition of a spark plug, with a .331 average and .390 on-base percentage through nearly 500 major-league plate appearances. All this before turning 24.

    But Arráez also has his limitations. He's not a speedy runner, nor a strong defender, and it's dubious whether he'll ever develop enough power to become a well-rounded offensive threat. Overshadowing these shortcomings, all of which he's been able to rise above as a huge difference-maker in his first two seasons, is the one issue that has actually held him back: his health.

    The second baseman missed all of 2017 in the minors after tearing the ACL in one knee, and in 2020 he was bothered all year by tendinitis in the other. Arráez was clearly hobbled most of the time and spent much of September on the Injured List.

    No surgery was planned for this offseason, so he'll focus on strengthening his lower body and shaking off the creeping "injury-prone" rep that threatens to further tarnish his otherwise impeccable asset value as a cheap young core player with five remaining years of team control.


    20. Keoni Cavaco, SS

    19. Brent Rooker, OF/1B

    18. Josh Donaldson, 3B

    17. Taylor Rogers, LHP

    16. Jorge Alcala, RHP

    15. Miguel Sanó, 1B

    14. Tyler Duffey, RHP

    13. Jordan Balazovic, RHP

    12. Jhoan Duran, RHP

    11. Luis Arráez, 2B

    6-10: Coming tomorrow!

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    • Jan 05 2021 09:08 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  6. Twins Daily 2020 Awards: Best Pitcher

    Voting for pitcher of the year can be difficult. How do you compare a starting pitcher who may work 160-200 innings to a top relief pitcher who might throw 60 innings, but most of them are very high leverage?

    That distinction becomes even more difficult in 2020 when the top starting pitchers threw 63-67 innings and the top relievers threw just 20-25 innings due to the COVID-shortened, 60-game season.

    Yes, voting for Best Pitcher can be quite difficult, at times. This year, the choice was really quite easy as all 23 Twins Daily voters gave their first-place vote to Kenta Maeda. He was the easy choice for Twins Pitcher of the Year, and more important, everything the Twins needed.

    When Maeda came to the Twins before spring training from the Dodgers in exchange for Brusdar Graterol, it was met with mixed feelings. The Twins gave up a top pitching prospect, though one who most assumed would fit in a bullpen. In return, they received Maeda who had put up five quality seasons in Los Angeles. His numbers were fairly equitable to those Jose Berrios had put up in recent years.

    Maeda found himself in the bullpen late in his seasons with the Dodgers, and he remained in the bullpen in the playoffs. Was it for contractpurposes, or was it because he was best serving his team by pitching, very well, in the playoffs?

    Coming to the Twins, he was excited about his role with the Twins, and he pitched so well that there was never any consideration of moving him to the bullpen.

    Maeda led the Twins with 66 2/3 innings in 11 starts. His six wins tied Randy Dobnak for most on the team. His 2.70 ERA was two-thirds of a run better than his previous career-low and was 61% better than league average. His 0.75 WHIP was best on the team, 0.04 lower than Tyler Duffey in over 42 more innings. His previous career-low was 1.07. His 1.4 BB/9 tied Tyler Clippard for the best on the team. His 10.8 K/9 was best among Twins starters.

    He never worked less than five innings in any of his 11 starts. He never gave up more than three runs in an outing. On August 18th against the Brewers, he had a no-hitter into the ninth inning. At one point in that same game, he struck out an organization-high eight consecutive batters.

    His previous career high in fWAR was 2.9. He recorded 2.1 fWAR in 60 games in 2020 and was on pace for a 5.7 fWAR in a full season.

    By almost every pitching measure, Kenta Maeda put together the best season of his MLB career and easily the best season by a Twins pitcher.


    With the Twins, Maeda made some adjustments to his pitch mix. In 2019, he threw 37% fastballs. In 2020, he threw just 26% fastballs. He increased his slider percentage from 31% to 40% In addition, he increased his changeup usage from 24% to 29% He spoke about working with the Twins and knowing that his changeup was good enough to use versus left-handers as well as right-handers.

    By throwing more sliders against right-handed hitters, and more changeups versus left-handed hitters, he was able to get more swinging strikes inside and outside the strike zone. Along with that, batters had a career low exit velocity and Hard Hit % against him.

    The numbers speak for themselves. Maeda pitched better than anyone else in 2020. Just as important, Maeda provided the Twins with a top-of-the-rotation starter that they have not had in recent years. He provided the team with consistency and reliability that it needed.


    Tyler Duffey was the top bullpen arm for most of the season. He was used in the highest leverage situations and came through most times out.

    Matt Wisler, our choice for Most Improved Twins player in 2020, provided quality pitching regardless of what role he was used in this season. He was an Opener, a Closer and pretty much everything in between. Tyler Clippard doesn’t overpower anyone, but he had a fantastic season pitching in a variety of roles

    Randy Dobnak tied Maeda for the team lead in wins. He was a strong candidate for AL Rookie of the Year for the first month of the season before a late-season fade pushed him down to St. Paul. Jose Berrios struggled for the first month, but he finished really strong. Rich Hill quietly put together a strong September.

    Others who deservingly received votes: Michael Pineda, Jorge Alcala, Sergio Romo.

    Here’s a look at the ballots from our 23 voters.

    But first... how would your ballot look?

    Here are the results from the Twins Daily Twitter poll:

    Seth Stohs: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Matt Wisler
    Nick Nelson: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Rich Hill
    John Bonnes: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Sergio Romo
    Tom Froemming: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Tyler Duffey, 4) Matt Wisler
    Andrew Gebo: 1) Kenta Maeda, Matt Wisler, 3) Tyler Duffey, 4) Randy Dobnak
    AJ Condon: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Matt Wisler, 3) Tyler Clippard, 4) Tyler Duffey
    Cody Christie: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Matt Wisler
    Cody Pirkl: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Michael Pineda, 3) Tyler Duffey, 4) Randy Dobnak
    Cooper Carlson: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Matt Wisler
    Jeremy Nygaard: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Tyler Clippard
    Lucas Seehafer: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Matt Wisler, 4) Jose Berrios
    Matt Braun: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Tyler Clippard, 4) Tyler Duffey
    Matt Lenz: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Michael Pineda, 4) Tyler Clippard
    Matthew Taylor: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Matt Wisler, 4) Jose Berrios
    Matthew Trueblood:1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Matt Wisler, 4) Randy Dobnak
    Nash Walker: 1) Kenta Maeda, Tyler Duffey, 3) Randy Dobnak, 4) Matt Wisler
    Nate Palmer: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Clippard, 3) Tyler Duffey, 4) Michael Pineda
    Patrick Wozniak: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Jose Berrios, 3) Tyler Duffey, 4) Matt Wisler
    Derek Wetmore: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jose Berrios, 4) Tyler Clippard
    Steve Lein: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Tyler Clippard, 4) Randy Dobnak
    Renabanena: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Matt Wisler, 3) Randy Dobnak, 4) Tyler Duffey
    Ted Schwerzler: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Michael Pineda, 3) Randy Dobnak, 4) Matt Wisler
    Thiéres Rabelo: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Matt Wisler, 3) Tyler Duffey, 4) Jorge Alcala

    Kenta Maeda: 92
    Tyler Duffey: 56
    Matt Wisler: 25
    Jose Berrios: 25
    Tyler Clippard: 12
    Michael Pineda: 9
    Randy Dobnak: 8
    Rich Hill: 1
    Jorge Alcala: 1
    Sergio Romo: 1

    Leave a comment and make your case.


    2015: Kyle Gibson
    2016: Ervin Santana
    2017: Ervin Santana
    2018: Jose Berrios
    2019: Taylor Rogers


    Rookie of the Year: Ryan Jeffers
    Most Improved: Matt Wisler
    Pitcher of the Year: Kenta Maeda
    Most Valuable Player: Coming tomorrow

    • Oct 14 2020 08:44 PM
    • by Seth Stohs
  7. Twins Daily 2020 Awards: Most Improved Player

    Most Improved. It is a difficult award to vote on, and this year that was certainly the case. What does it mean? Well, it could be a guy that had a bad first half of the season and really turned it on and showed great improvement as the season went along. Often, it is a player coming off of a disappointing or injury-plagued season who takes a step forward with a strong season.

    Matt Wisler is not new to the big leagues. 2020 was his sixth season, and the Minnesota Twins are his fifth organization. He was originally drafted and signed by the Padres out of high school in 2011. He became a top prospect. He was a key piece in the trade that sent Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton, Jr. to San Diego from Atlanta. He was a Top 100 prospect before the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

    Wisler debuted with the Braves in 2015 and spent two seasons as a starter. He was moved to the bullpen in 2017 and traded to the Reds during the 2018 season. He split 2019 between the Padres and the Mariners. Combined, he was 3-4 with a 5.61 ERA in 51 1/3 over 44 games.

    At the end of the 2019 season, the Mariners placed him on waivers and the Twins claimed him. Wisler was arbitration-eligible, but he agreed to a guaranteed contract before numbers needed to be exchanged.


    Clearly the Twins front office, scouts, analytics group, and/or pitching coaches and coordinators saw something from Wisler. Most likely, they saw his spin rate and that he had started using his slider much more frequently.

    In 2018, Wisler threw 49.7% fastballs and 46.9% sliders.

    In 2019, Wisler threw 29.2% fastballs and 70.5% sliders.

    Turns out, that was just the start.

    In 2020, Wisler threw just 16.6% fastballs and 83.4% sliders.

    Here is a quick look at which MLB relievers threw the most sliders in 2020 (with the help of Statcast):

    Posted Image

    Wisler pointed out in September. “The one thing why I think my slider is so effective, talking to catchers, it doesn’t move the same. One pitch it will go straight down and the other one goes more side to side. I have a lot of different movements on my pitch. I don’t do anything different that I can feel.”


    Wisler began the season by pitching in low-leverage situations. With early success, he soon was working in closer games. In mid-August, he had a stretch of three straight games in which he was used as the Opener. His next appearance, he struck out two batters in a perfect ninth to close out a 3-2 win over the White Sox. The only other Save of his career came in 2015 when he was still a starter. His next appearance was back in the role of Opener.

    He was being used in higher-leverage situations. He was pitching much more frequently. In a game against the Cubs, he worked two scoreless innings and struck out six batters.

    Regardless the role he was utilized, Matt Wisler dropped sliders and got the job done!


    You can see who else received votes below, but there was no shortage of players who showed some improvement in 2020.

    The Twins had one of baseball’s best bullpens. No surprise. Beyond Wisler, several bullpen arms took a step forward. Tyler Duffey finished fourth on this list while Jorge Alcala, Trevor May and Cody Stashak also received votes.

    Like Wisler, Kenta Maeda came to the Twins from another organization and put up the best season, short as it was, of his career. He made some minor adjustments and went 6-1 with a 2.70 ERA.

    Arguably the Best Story of the 2020 Twins season could be the return of Caleb Thielbar. The lefty from Randolph returned to the organization after not pitching in the big leagues since 2015. In that time, he spent two more seasons with the St. Paul Saints. He was ready to be done and was hired as a pitching coach at Augustana. The Twins called and said they thought he was a big-league pitcher. He came to spring training and did well. He was invited to Summer Camp. He spent the first trip of the season on the Twins practice squad, and soon after he was promoted back to the big leagues. He responded very well, posting a 2.25 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 20 innings.

    Others who deservingly received votes: Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, Michael Pineda.

    How would your ballot look?

    Here are the results from the Twins Daily Twitter poll:

    Here’s a look at the ballots from our 23 voters.

    Seth Stohs: 1) Matt Wisler, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Caleb Thielbar
    Nick Nelson: 1) Matt Wisler, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Trevor May
    John Bonnes: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Jorge Alcala, 3) Matt Wisler
    Tom Froemming: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Matt Wisler, 3) Caleb Thielbar
    Andrew Gebo: 1) Matt Wisler, 2) Caleb Thielbar, 3) Kenta Maeda
    AJ Condon: 1) Kenta Maeda, Tyler Duffey, Byron Buxton
    Cody Christie: 1) Matt Wisler, 2.) Kenta Maeda, 3) Caleb Thielbar
    Cody Pirkl: 1) Caleb Thielbar, 2) Kenta Maeda, 3) Matt Wisler
    Cooper Carlson: 1) Matt Wisler, 2) Kenta Maeda, 3) Caleb Thielbar
    Jeremy Nygaard: 1) Matt Wisler, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Caleb Thielbar
    Lucas Seehafer: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Matt Wisler, 3) Byron Buxton
    Matt Braun: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Matt Wisler, 3) Caleb Thielbar
    Matt Lenz: 1) Byron Buxton, 2) Matt Wisler, 3) Caleb Thielbar
    Matthew Taylor: 1) Kenta Maeda, 2) Matt Wisler, 3) Tyler Duffey
    Matthew Trueblood: 1) Jorge Alcala, 2) Eddie Rosario
    Nash Walker: 1) Matt Wisler, 2) Kenta Maeda, 3) Caleb Thielbar
    Nate Palmer: 1) Matt Wisler, 2) Caleb Thielbar, 3) Cody Stashak
    Patrick Wozniak: 1) Matt Wisler, 2) Eddie Rosario, 3) Michael Pineda
    Derek Wetmore: 1) Byron Buxton
    Steve Lein: 1) Tyler Duffey, 2) Trevor May, 3) Jorge Alcala
    Renabanena: 1) Matt Wisler, 2) Byron Buxton, 3) Kenta Maeda
    Ted Schwerzler: 1) Matt Wisler, 2) Caleb Thielbar
    Thiéres Rabelo: 1) Eddie Rosario, 2) Matt Wisler, 3) Caleb Thielbar

    Matt Wisler: 47
    Kenta Maeda: 28
    Caleb Thielbar: 18
    Tyler Duffey: 12
    Byron Buxton: 10
    Eddie Rosario: 7
    Jorge Alcala: 6
    Trevor May: 3
    Cody Stashak: 1
    Michael Pineda: 1

    Previous Twins Most Improved Player Award Winners

    2015: Aaron Hicks
    2016: Brian Dozier
    2017: Byron Buxton
    2018: Kyle Gibson
    2019: Mitch Garver


    Rookie of the Year: Ryan Jeffers
    Most Improved: Matt Wisler
    Pitcher of the Year: Coming Tomorrow
    Most Valuable Player: Coming Soon!

    • Oct 13 2020 08:04 PM
    • by Seth Stohs
  8. 5 Overreactions to the Twins Game 1 Loss

    Overreaction 1: The Twins can’t score with runners in scoring position.
    The first inning was rough as the Twins loaded the bases with one out in the frame. Eddie Rosario hit a scalding line drive at over 100 mph that happened to find the glove of the first baseman. With two outs, Miguel Sano hit a slow roller and nearly beat it out for an infield hit. His sprint speed on the play was 28.9 ft/sec which is 1.5 ft/sec fast than his average this season. The Twins didn’t score, but the club made Greinke throw 30 pitches in the frame. Even though Minnesota didn’t capitalize, the Twins got Greinke out of the game early enough to give them time to strike against the bullpen.

    Overreaction 2: Kenta Maeda is the Twins best playoff pitcher since Jack Morris.
    Kenta Maeda wasn’t perfect on Tuesday with three walks and five strikeouts over five shutout innings. He got out of one bases loaded jam to keep a zero on the board, but many fans might have forgotten about how good a former pitcher was in October. Johan Santana was outstanding during the playoffs near the end of his Twins tenure. In his last three postseason starts, he allowed three earned runs over 20 innings with 20 strikeouts and five walks. The Twins only won one of those games and it was the team’s last postseason win.

    Overreaction 3: Rocco Baldelli overmanaged his catchers.
    Ryan Jeffers was the correct choice to start the game and he put together two solid at-bats that both resulted in line outs at over 100 mph. Overall, this sounds great, but Baldelli turned to Mitch Garver as a pinch hitter for Jeffers in the bottom of the 7th. Garver struggled mightily down the stretch after returning from injury. He promptly struck out on four pitches and then he was replaced behind the plate by Alex Avila. Last season, Garver had an offensive season for the ages when it came to catchers, but that isn’t the player he has been this year. Jeffers should have stayed in the game to get the at-bat and this might be the easiest decision to question.

    Overreaction 4: Minnesota’s bullpen is broken.
    Tyler Duffey has been outstanding for most of the last two seasons and he gave up the Twins first run of the game. Sergio Romo allowed back-to-back singles to start the top of the ninth inning. He saw the Twins middle infield botch the final out of the inning on an easy throw to second base. Romo ran the next count full before walking in the go-ahead run. Caleb Thielbar came into a no-win situation with the lead already gone and Houston’s best hitters coming up with the bases loaded. Minnesota used their best arms in the appropriate spots and it just didn’t work out.

    Overreaction 5: Jorge Polanco is a bad defensive shortstop.
    No one can argue that Polanco’s error wasn’t a turning point in the game. On a play that looked very routine, the Twins middle infield duo messed up the play. While fans are going to remember this play, Polanco was remarkably better on the defensive side of the ball. He committed only two errors the entire season and FanGraphs Defensive Runs Above Average had him ranked as the fourth best shortstop in the AL. Polanco is never going to win a Gold Glove at shortstop, but he made positive strides this season and it’s disappointing that one play could define his season.

    What are some of your reactions to the first game against the Astros? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Sep 29 2020 04:29 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  9. Twins Bullpen Power Rankings

    October is going to look different this season with no off days in scheduled in each of the first three rounds. There is some time off between each round, but bullpens are going to be even more important in this tight schedule. These power rankings aren’t about who should be used in a specific spot because the manager can be creative in the playoffs. The rankings below are about who is pitching well and who has the best stuff to succeed in October.

    10. Sean Poppen (4.70 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, 10 K, 7 2/3 IP)
    Poppen has seen limited time for the Twins this year and it seems unlikely that he would be called on in October. His lone role might be to eat some innings if there was a blowout. He also hasn’t pitched in a game in nearly two weeks. Twins fans don’t want to see him on the mound in the playoffs, because that likely means something went wrong in the game.

    9. Caleb Thielbar (1.69 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 20 K, 16 IP)
    Thielbar has been a feel-good story for the Twins this season as his pitching performance certainly has matched a player that hasn’t pitching in the big leagues since 2015. If you take out his first appearance, he has a 0.66 ERA while holding batters to a .149/.259/.149 (.408) slash-line. Also, he has been asked to get more than three outs four of his fourteen games, which is likely something he wouldn’t be asked to do in the postseason. On other teams, he’d rank much higher.

    8. Cody Stashak (3.09 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 15 K, 11 2/3 IP)
    Stashak has been really good and him being this low shows the depth of the Twins bullpen. He’s only allowed runs in two of his nine appearances and he has multiple strikeouts in over half of his outings. His one bad appearance was an inning where he allowed three runs to Kansas City. Rocco Baldelli has shown faith in using him in the late innings of close games. With few off days in each series, Stashak might be needed for some big outs.

    7. Jorge Alcala (2.91 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 27 K, 21 2/3 IP)
    Alcala might have helped Twins fans to forget about Brusdar Graterol since he is basically filling the same role on the team. He’s also been better than Graterol this season. His fastball will certainly play in October and he’s used his slider nearly as often. His Baseball Savant page is also the thing of dreams as he ranks as ranks higher than the 80th percentile in all but one category. He could be the team’s closer of the future and October could be his month to shine on the big stage.

    6. Matt Wisler (1.11 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 34 K, 24 1/3 IP)
    Wilser has been the Twins diamond in the rough this year. Claimed off waivers, the Twins have helped him to morph into one of the American League’s best relief pitchers. According to Baseball Reference, he is tied with Jose Berrios for the fourth highest WAR on the team behind Byron Buxton, Kenta Maeda, and Nelson Cruz. He’s been used as an opener, earned a save, and has five holds to his name. His versatility could be useful with how effective he continues to be.

    5. Tyler Clippard (2.78 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 22 K, 22 2/3 IP)
    Minnesota saw plenty of Clippard last year in Cleveland and he’s been nearly as good so far this year. He could actually move down this list with some recent poor performances. In three of his last four appearances, runs have been scored against him, so his worst stretch of the season might be coming at the wrong time. Baldelli will likely continue to turn to him because he is a 14-year veteran with 14 playoff appearances during his career.

    4. Sergio Romo (2.89 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 22 K, 18 2/3 IP)
    Since the Twins acquired him last year, Romo has been getting plenty of late inning opportunities out of the Twins bullpen. Taylor Rogers has struggled at times this year and this has led the Twins to continue to use Romo in late inning situations. Fans saw this as recently as Sunday night in Chicago with Rogers getting the eighth and Romo getting the ninth. Things got a little shaky in that game, but he has a long playoff track record and he’s going to be trusted to get outs in the eighth and ninth inning.

    3. Taylor Rogers (4.58 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 22 K, 17 2/3 IP)
    Rogers and his struggles have been well documented throughout this season. In such a small sample size, luck might be accounting for some of his poor performance. His BABIP is one of the highest among all relief pitchers and his 4.58 ERA comes with a 2.84 FIP. Some of his issues this year might also be tied to the use of his breaking pitches. As Nick wrote about last week, his curve spin rate has flattened out and this could be one reason for more solid contact against him. Whether it’s luck or a poor breaking ball, the Twins need Rogers to be in peak form by the start of next week.

    2. Trevor May (4.35 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 34 K, 20 2/3 IP)
    Back on September 6, May blew up in a loss to Detroit as he allowed three runs on four hits and saw his ERA rise to 5.74. In his last five appearances, he has been nearly unhittable with opponents limited to two hits, both singles. He has struck out eight in five innings and nearly 60% of his WPA for the season has come during this recent stretch. Even though his season hasn’t been perfect, he’s been Minnesota’s hottest reliever to end the season.

    1. Tyler Duffey (1.69 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 28 K, 21 1/3 IP)
    Duffey is the Twins best relief pitcher and it might not be close. If an opponent’s heart of the line-up is coming up in a key spot, Duffey gets the call in the bullpen. These types of situations will only be more amplified in the upcoming postseason. So far this season, he has pitched in any inning from the fourth to the eighth, because Baldelli trusts him in any situation. He isn’t the Twins closer, because he is better than any of the closing options for the Twins.

    How would you rank the Twins bullpen? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Sep 21 2020 06:48 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  10. The Twins 2020 All-Stars Could Have Been

    Cases could me made for all five of the players below to be included on the 2020 AL All-Star squad. Here’s how I’d rank the Twins as far as their chances to make the team after the season’s mid-point.

    5. Miguel Sano, 1B
    It’s no secret that Sano struggled getting out of the gate this season. He spent a large chunk of the team’s Summer Camp quarantined in his basement after testing positive for the coronavirus. In the team’s first five games, he went 1-for-17 with eight strikeouts and no walks. Since that point, he has been one of baseball’s best sluggers by slashing .292/.407/.667 with 15 extra-base hits in 22 games. Chicago’s Jose Abreu would likely have gotten the starting spot, but Sano has the AL’s third highest WAR among first basemen. He also has a higher WAR than Abreu since last year’s All-Star Game.

    4. Tyler Duffey, RP
    When completing an All-Star roster, managers like to have flame throwing arms to come in for the late innings. Duffey has been outstanding since the middle of last season. In fact, FanGraphs has him trailing only Liam Hendrick and Nick Anderson in WAR since the middle of last year. This even puts him ahead of Twins closer Taylor Rogers. So far this season, Duffey has limited batters to one run on five hits in 11 innings. Over the last two seasons, he has a 96 to 14 strikeout to walk ratio in just under 70 innings. He’s one of baseball’s best relievers and he would have been highly considered for an All-Star spot.

    3. Randy Dobnak, SP
    Dobnak is near the top of the AL in wins and ERA, which is pretty good for a player that wasn’t even a lock to be in the rotation during spring training. Baseball Reference ranks him third on the team in WAR behind the two players ahead of him on this list. He has been terrific since his debut last season with tremendous career numbers like a 1.69 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and a 39 to 12 strikeout to walk ratio. He might not be the big names fans typically look for in the Mid-Summer Classic but both CBS and MLB.com mentioned him as a potential All-Star.

    2. Kenta Maeda, SP
    In some other seasons, Maeda might be in the conversation to start the All-Star Game with his first half performance. Unfortunately, he’s in the same league with starters like Shane Bieber, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke so it’s tough to beat out those names. He still would have likely been a lock to be included on the AL’s roster. He’s ranks fourth in the AL in ERA, first in WHIP, first in hits per nine, and fifth in win probability added. Maeda has been even better than advertised as he seems like the ace on one of baseball’s best teams.

    1. Nelson Cruz, DH
    Cruz would have been a slam dunk to be the AL’s starter at designated hitter. He seems to continue to get better with age as he ranks first in the AL in slugging, OPS and home runs. At different points this season, he carried the Twins offensive load especially with injuries to other key members of the Bomba Squad. His leadership on and off the field have altered Minnesota’s baseball culture and there can’t be enough superlatives thrown his way. Oh, by the way, he turned 40-years old at the beginning of July. Truly amazing.

    Who do you think would have made the All-Star team for the Twins? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Aug 27 2020 07:14 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  11. It's Time for the Minnesota Twins to Move Down Taylor Rogers in the Bullpen Pecking Order

    From the start of the 2017 season to the end of the 2019 season, Taylor Rogers had been one of the best relief pitchers in baseball. Over that timespan, Rogers ranked 15th in baseball in ERA (2.75) and 15th in fWAR (4.3). In what had been rollercoaster season for the Twins’ various relief groups, Rogers had been the steady force who could be counted on in the highest of leverage situations.

    Down the stretch run of 2019 and into the 2020 season, though, there have been some chinks in the armor. After an outstanding first half of the 2019 season (1.82 ERA), Taylor Rogers stumbled a bit down the stretch, posting a second half ERA of 3.68. Rogers has continued that poor stretch into the 2020 season as he now owns a 4.82 ERA through the first third of the season, while batters own a batting average north of .300 against him.

    Thus far in the 2020 season, the biggest difference in Taylor Rogers struggles have been the ability for opposing batters to square up and make hard contact on his pitches. In 2018 and 2019, Rogers ranked in the top 25% of baseball in limiting hard contact for opposing batters. Thus far in 2020, though, Rogers ranks in the bottom third in baseball in limiting hard contact, allowing a hard hit percentage of 40.7. The hard hits have led to some tough outings for Rogers, who has allowed runs in three of his 10 outings, two of them resulting in multiple runs, and all three of them blowing a tie or a lead.

    In addition to the runs allowed, Rogers has seemingly had to work his way through every outing. In 2019, Taylor Rogers got through 42% of his appearances without allowing a hit, while in 2020 he has allowed a hit in seven of his 10 outings.

    While Taylor Rogers has taken a small step back from his "eliteness" over the past 13 months, there have been several other arms in the Minnesota Twins bullpen that have made the leap forward to being outstanding relief options.

    As you can see above, Taylor Rogers still has a very respectable 3.82 ERA since last July, but other arms have simply been better — namely, Trevor May and Tyler Duffey. Trevor May has the best pure “stuff” of anyone on the Minnesota Twins bullpen, utilizing a 98 MPH fastball and a slider that completely fools batters at the plate. Tyler Duffey, in the meantime, has developed into one of the best relief pitchers in all of baseball, becoming practically unhittable every time he takes the mound. May and Duffey both tout right handedness in an American League where the majority of the best hitters come from the right side of the plate.

    Taylor Rogers still has the command and the stuff to work his way back up the bullpen pecking order, but Trevor May and Tyler Duffey have done enough over what has worked out to be a half-season sample size to become the high leverage arms in this relief group. In a shortened season in which every game (theoretically) means 2.7 times more than it normally would, it’s time for the pecking order to be rearranged and for the Twins bullpen stars to get their time to shine.

    Do you think Taylor Rogers should be moved down the bullpen pecking order? Would you rather see Trevor May or Tyler Duffey as the “highest” leverage arm? Leave a comment below and start the conversation!

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    • Aug 21 2020 11:05 AM
    • by Matthew Taylor
  12. Tyler Duffey: The Bullpen Ace that Almost Got Away

    The flurry of moves Duffey endured over a three-day span last year must have had his head spinning. I don't recall the exact circumstances around his being recalled, optioned, and recalled again on consecutive days, and I don't recall if he actually traveled back and forth to Rochester. I hope not.


    While this roster maneuvering may have been extreme, it was hardly unfamiliar ground for Duffey, who'd grown accustomed to shuttling back and forth between the majors and Triple-A. Following his 10th such turnaround, the 28-year-old seemed to be firmly placing himself in the "Quad-A player" category: Good enough to excel at the highest level of the minors, where he'd posted a 2.90 ERA in 2018 (59 IP), but not good enough for the bigs, where his ERA was 7.20 in 25 innings.

    I can think of two former Twins pitchers who were once deemed Quad-A players. And incidentally, they now surround Duffey on the list of top-performing MLB relief pitchers since the 2019 trade deadline, according fWAR:

    1. Liam Hendriks, OAK - 1.7

    2. Tyler Duffey, MIN - 1.5

    3. Nick Anderson, TB - 1.4

    Granted, it's a bit of a selective endpoint, and fWAR is hardly the be-all end-all measure of relief effectiveness, but I think it's fair to categorize these as the three top bullpen arms in the game based on recent results.

    Hendriks, of course, reached the majors for the Twins as a fringey starting pitching prospect in 2011. He made 30 appearances for the Twins (28 starts) over three seasons with a 6.06 ERA before moving on. It took another five years for him to emerge as an elite closer in Oakland, at in 2019, at age 30.

    Anderson followed a different path to stardom, and while he too was borne out of the Twins' organization, his sadly never even passed through Minnesota. (Not professionally, anyway.)

    The Brainerd, MN native was signed out of an independent league by the Twins in 2015. He performed extremely well in their system, with a 2.25 ERA and 11.4 K/9 rate over four seasons, but for whatever reason, never got a look in the majors – not even in the late stages of a lost 2018 that saw them cycling through various spare arms. (Anderson had put up an 88-to-19 K/BB ratio in 60 innings that year as Duffey's teammate at Rochester.)

    After that season, the Twins traded Anderson to the Marlins for a bag of peanuts. In 2019, Miami gave the hard-throwing righty a shot and he was an immediate sensation, striking out 69 hitters over 43 2/3 innings with a 3.92 ERA before being deal to Tampa at the deadline. Since that point, as we referenced earlier, he's been the third-best (or so) relief pitcher in baseball.

    The point here is not to relitigate the past or blame the Twins for misjudging their own talent. There's no way they could've stuck with Hendriks through a half-decade of struggle and mediocrity. And while they certainly should've given Anderson a look in 2018, who's to say it would've made any difference? Even a strong performance in a smattering of appearances wasn't going to entrench him. Keep in mind that Oliver Drake posted a 2.21 ERA in 19 appearances for the Twins around that time, and was let go afterward. (Drake, as it happens, has also since caught on as a pretty good reliever for the Rays. Another "Quad-A" guy.)

    The bottom line is that evaluating bullpen arms is a fickle endeavor. And the Twins could have so easily gotten it wrong with Duffey. What if that 10th time being optioned to the minors was for good? What if they gave up on him and decided to move on?

    They didn't. Duffey was recalled the next day, and hasn't looked back. Since then, he has a 2.31 ERA and 82-to-12 K/BB with 41 hits allowed in 58 1/3 innings. And since the start of last August, he's been utterly ridiculous: 0.65 ERA, with 31 scoreless appearances out of 32. In 2020, he's been very nearly perfect.

    The Twins might've let a couple of MLB's relievers get away. But right now the one they kept looks like the very best, and he's surrounded by plenty of other high-end contributors in a bullpen that's been supercharged over the past 16 months.

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    • Aug 12 2020 08:43 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  13. Questioning the Twins Bullpen Usage

    So far in his two seasons as manager, Rocco Baldelli has shown a preference for giving players time off and allowing pitchers to throw in situations that best fit their role. He adjusted his bullpen usage last season because the team’s relief core was struggling through parts of the first half. In fact, that was one of the team’s biggest needs at the trade deadline last season (See the team’s trade for Sam Dyson and Sergio Romo).

    Luckily for the Twins players like Tyler Duffey and Trevor May have emerged and the team went out and signed a veteran arm like Tyler Clippard while resigning Romo. This leaves the Twins with one of the baseball’s best bullpens, but their second-year manager could approach the team’s bullpen usage in a different way than he has through the team’s first third of the season.

    There are two different ways to rank the bullpen when it comes to effectiveness and how the manager views the hierarchy. Taylor Rogers is clearly at the back end of any bullpen configuration for the Twins. From there, things get a little dicey. Baldelli is inclined to use Romo as the team’s alternate closer, but it can be argued that he is the team’s fifth best relief option.

    The players that should be ahead of Romo in the bullpen pecking order are Tyler Duffey, Trevor May and Tyler Clippard. Duffey has turned himself into one of the most dominant right-handed relief pitchers in the American League. He might be even better than Taylor Rogers, the team’s closer, and that’s quite the honor.

    May tends to allow some home runs and Clippard is on the backend of his career. So, how could the Twins do a better job of using these pitchers?

    Minnesota’s offense hasn’t been performing at the same level as the 2019 team and it would be hard to live up to the same level as the record-setting “Bomba Squad.” Still, the trend so far this season has been to turn to less established relief arms when the team is trailing in a game. The names mentioned above are saved for if/when the team takes the lead and other players like Cody Stashak, Matt Wisler and Caleb Theilbar are trusted to keep the team in the game.

    Twins manager Rocco Baldelli seems to be in the frame of mind that using his best pitchers in deficit games is will have negative results. This seems like a logical response for a manager if the season is 162-games. Unfortunately, the team isn’t in the midst of a season that long. Even the best teams this season will only win around 35 games.

    This is going to force managers with good bullpens, like Baldelli, to use his good relief arms when the team is trailing. Unless a starting pitcher is pulled after three innings, there is little chance to use Rogers, Duffey, May, Clippard and Romo all in the same game.

    If the Twins go on a winning streak, this type of bullpen usage could help the team. The team could have a better chance to win by spreading the team’s five best relief pitchers over the course of multiple games. There has also been a plethora of pitching injuries so far this year so allowing pitchers to rest could help the team to stay healthy down the stretch.

    Out of bullpen arms, Clippard and Wisler have the most innings and that includes Clippard making multiple starts as an opener. Romo, Duffey, Stashak and May have all pitched more than Rogers. In fact, Rogers has barely pitched more than rookie Jorge Alcala.

    In the grand scheme of a shortened schedule, bullpen usage might not matter until the games count in the playoffs. It is still perplexing to consider the way Baldelli has approached his relief options so far in 2020.

    Are you concerned with the team’s bullpen usage so far this season? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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    • Aug 12 2020 06:28 PM
    • by Cody Christie
  14. Twins Bullpen: Ready When Needed

    Going back a decade or more, the concept of Closer-by-Committee was met with disdain by many inside baseball circles. Meanwhile, the concept behind it was certainly sound. Use your best bullpen arms in the best positions for them to succeed. In other words, if your opponent has Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Justin Upton coming up to start the eighth inning, you might want to use your closer in that situation, especially if you’ve got a closer that dominates right-handed hitters. Get through that situation, and bring in the most logical next reliever for that ninth-inning save.

    It has also always been tradition that the better bullpens have a ninth inning guy, an eighth inning guy and maybe even a seventh inning guy. That is their role in a game that the team is winning. The role is based on the inning, not necessarily on the matchups coming during that inning.

    Through admittedly just eight games this season, it appears that Rocco Baldelli, Wes Johnson and the Twins have decided not to give pitcher roles by innings but instead by situation. Here is a quick breakdown of which innings the relievers have been used in so far.

    Taylor Rogers: 9th/Save (3)
    Sergio Romo: 7th (1), 8th (1), 9th/Save (1),
    Trevor May: 5th (1),7th (1), 8th (1),
    Tyler Duffey: 6th (1), 7th (2),
    Tyler Clippard: 6th (3), 8th (1),
    Cody Stashak: 8th and 9th (1), 7th (1), 8th (1)
    Zack Littell: 5th (1), 6th and 7th (1),
    Devin Smeltzer: 6th and 7th (1),
    Matt Wisler: 8th (1), 8th and 9th (1)
    Lewis Thorpe: 6th, 7th and 8th (1), 8th and 9th (1)

    Kenta Maeda became the first Twins starting pitcher to throw a pitch in the six innings. In games that the Twins have won, we have seen Clippard, Duffey, May, Romo, Stashak and Rogers.

    As interesting, pitchers have been used in a variety of roles. Trevor May has pitched in the fifth inning and in the eighth inning. On Sunday, Tyler Clippard will be used as an Opener after being used in either the sixth or eighth innings previously. Tyler Duffey has pitched in the sixth and seventh innings.

    Duffey said on Saturday afternoon that Baldelli has been up front with the relievers about their roles. “Rocco did a good job. Before we got started, he kind of made the rounds and talked to guys. He said, ‘Hey, situations are gonna call for guys to pitch. Just be ready.’”

    Earlier in the week, Sergio Romo hesitated when asked about reliever roles, but said, “We all have an ability to get hitters out in a unique way, in a different way from each other. The situations that Rocco’s been putting us in is a compliment to that, to each one of our strengths. Each one of us has been put in situations where I feel Rocco - maybe beyond 100% - knows we’re going to succeed. I think you’ll see more of that.”

    And succeed they have. Duffey (3 IP), Rogers (3 IP), Romo (3 IP), Stashak (4 IP), Thorpe (4 ⅔ IP) and Wisler (2 ⅓ IP) have combined to throw 20 innings with a combined 0.00 ERA. Clippard (4 IP) and May (3 IP) have each given up just one earned run. Zack Littell threw two scoreless innings in his most recent outing after giving up four runs in his first inning. Devin Smeltzer gave up five earned run in two innings in his lone outing. Combined, the bullpen has pitched 32 innings and has a 3.09 ERA. If you remove Littell’s and Smeltzer’s first outings, the bullpen has thrown 29 innings and has a 0.62 ERA. In short, outside of one game, this bullpen has been remarkable!

    We knew coming into the season that the bullpen was expected to be a strength of for the Twins. Many national sports media sites ranked the Twins bullpen among the Top 5 in MLB.

    There is talent. There are veterans like Romo and Clippard who have performed over their dozen-plus big league seasons. Taylor Rogers emerged the last two seasons as one of the best left-handed relievers in the game, if not one of the best relievers period. Trevor May and Tyler Duffey each have electric stuff and seemingly put it together in 2019s second half. Both are much more confident early this season. Zack Littell and Cody Stashak were rookies last year who were a big boost to the late-season improvements of the Twins bullpen. Stashak has been terrific early this year.

    Stashak said, “It (bullpen’s confidence) is pretty high. I’m sure the word’s gone around that we’ve got a solid ‘pen.”

    Littell struggled in his first outing, then threw two scoreless innings on Thursday night. He has now been put on the Injured List with a hamstring injury.

    Baldelli said of Littell, “Zack came out of his last outing with just a little bit of a hamstring tightness. You could call it an injury. You could call it just a minor incident. Really, what it comes down to, is you probably don't want to have to put a guy on the IL for something like this, but it probably would have been a couple of days before he would have seen game action again. So, does he need the full 10 days to feel better and be able to get out there on the mound? I don't know. Probably not. But to have a spot in the bullpen where you're not going to pitch a guy for a handful of days right now is also not a place where we really want to be. ”

    That gives Jorge Alcala, whose stuff the team has been raving about throughout summer camp, an opportunity.

    Before Saturday’s game, Baldelli noted, “We had some videos of him throwing at home, and he looked really, really impressive. The velocity was good and was up from what we saw in the big leagues last year. We know he has a big arm and some added depth to the breaking ball was apparent. More than anything, I think his confidence in what he's doing when he steps on the mound against hitters, against big league hitters, even against his own teammates in some of these outings and Summer Camp sessions.”

    So now maybe Alcala assumes the role and gets the situations that Littell had pitched.

    With the innings not being the determining factor for when a pitcher comes in, how does a pitcher know, or anticipate, when he might be called upon?

    In Saturday’s pre-game Zoom Meetings, I asked Duffey if he just needs to start getting ready earlier or if it causes him to pay attention to things like the opponent’s batting order and such.
    He said, “Obviously we’re not locked in for nine innings, but you kind of look at the lineup and say, ‘OK, there are some righties, or I’ve done well against that lefty in the past, or maybe we need to turn this switch-hitter around,’ something like that. Those are thoughts that go through your mind.”

    Duffey added, “You can’t really expect anything, and I think that’s good. It keeps everyone on their toes and mentally ready. I can’t say it enough, this is a really, really good group of guys. A lot of talent, a lot of different looks, especially out of our bullpen. I think that’s why we’re gonna have a lot of success.”

    Sergio Romo agrees, and is looking forward to seeing how it plays out. “It’s going to be fun to see the combinations that Rocco puts together with us. Again, it’s more of a compliment to us when he has so many different ways to use us and is so willing to do it confidently. It’s fun to be a part of again.”

    While the starters will, hopefully, continue to eat more innings as the season moves on, Baldelli and Johnson have to feel really good about their bullpen, knowing whoever they put into a game is fully capable of shutting the door. And having one of the top closers in the game certainly doesn’t hurt either.

    • Aug 01 2020 10:27 PM
    • by Seth Stohs
  15. Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Relief Pitcher

    Projected Bullpen: Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, Tyler Clippard, Sergio Romo, Zach Littell, Matt Wisler, Cody Stashak

    Depth: Fernando Romero, Sean Poppen, Danny Coulombe, Ryan Garton, Blaine Hardy, Cory Gearrin, Caleb Thielbar
    Prospects: Edwar Colina, Dakota Chalmers, Jake Reed


    September 14th was perhaps the most memorable day of the 2019 season. On this date, the Twins swept a doubleheader in Cleveland, effectively putting the division on ice. While Miguel Sano's splashy grand slam dominated the highlight reels, there's no question who was the star of this show: Minnesota's blossoming bullpen.

    The games were "started" by Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe, and featured a total of nine different pitchers deployed by Rocco Baldelli. Smeltzer and Thorpe combined with Zack Littell, Tyler Duffey, Sergio Romo, Taylor Rogers, Cody Stashak, Brusdar Graterol and Trevor May to hold Cleveland to five runs on 13 hits in 18 innings. The seven pitchers who appeared as relievers totaled 14 strikeouts and zero walks.

    This immaculate collective performance epitomized the bullpen's brilliant second half. Even with top deadline addition Sam Dyson completely fizzling, the Twins relief corps ranked third among MLB teams in fWAR after July 31st, trailing only the Yankees and Rays. While the closer Rogers continued to excel, he was surrounded by strong performers, with May, Duffey, Romo, and Littell all contributing in major ways. Meanwhile, Stashak and Graterol joined the fray as impact rookies.

    Graterol won't return, but everyone else will, along with waiver gamble Matt Wisler and free agent acquisition Tyler Clippard, whose reverse splits make him the weapon Baldelli needs against southpaws.

    Minnesota is about seven-deep with quality big-league relievers, and that's before you account for long-relief options such as Thorpe and Smeltzer, or ready-to-go reinforcements such as Sean Poppen and Fernando Romero. Even with the inherent volatility of MLB bullpens, and the inevitability of at least a few injuries, this relief unit is poised to be one of the American League's finest.


    Graterol is a big loss. While he was the least established among this entire crop, he undoubtedly offered the most upside, which was set to be unleashed after the team's acknowledgement he was slated for a relief role in 2020. The Twins bolstered their rotation by trading the young flamethrower for Kenta Maeda, but there's a clear trade-off in bullpen caliber.

    By no means were the Twins counting on Graterol to be an essential fixture in this year's bullpen, but that was the beauty of his presence: a total bonus and a wild-card, with serious "ace in the hole" potential in this season and many to come.

    It may not be felt as strongly since we were only beginning to acclimate ourselves to the idea of him as a long-term relief pitcher, but make no mistake: Graterol's absence creates a spacious void in the bullpen's outlook going forward. The Twins will have to hope a rebounding Romero or an emerging Jhoan Duran can fill it in some way.

    Ultimately, the most evident weakness in Minnesota's bullpen is a lack of established track records beyond Rogers. As good as May, Duffey, and Littell were last year, none had a substantive history of MLB relief success prior. Wisler is still searching for his first above-average season in the majors.

    Signing Clippard and Romo helps in this regard, of course, but they are middle relief types. The Twins are counting heavily on May and Duffey to repeat their dominant performances from 2019. There's no specific reason to think either one won't but... relievers are relievers.


    Bullpen is undoubtedly a differentiating asset for the Twins heading into 2020, as they've retained all the top performers in a unit that progressively emerged last year as one of the league's best and deepest. Rogers ranks among the position's elite, and is surrounded by a couple setup men who could easily join the closer in this distinction.

    Reliable options abound for Baldelli, who shouldn't find himself running short on trusted relievers barring an abundance of injuries and setbacks.

    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Catcher
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: First Base
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Second Base
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Third Base
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Shortstop
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Left Field
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Center Field
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Right Field
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Designated Hitter
    Twins 2020 Position Analysis: Starting Pitcher

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    • Apr 09 2020 08:59 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  16. Top 20 Minnesota Twins Assets of 2020: Part 1 (16-20)

    First, here are the parameters and stipulations:

    • Things that are factored into these rankings: production, age, upside, pedigree, health, length of team control, favorability of contract, positional scarcity (within the system, and generally).
    • Players are people. Their value to the organization, and its fans, goes well beyond the strictly business-like scope we're using here. But for the purposes of this list, we're analyzing solely in terms of asset evaluation. Intangible qualities and popularity are not factors. (Sorry Willians.)
    • The idea is to assess their importance to the future of the Minnesota Twins. In this respect, it's not exactly a ranking in terms of trade value, because that's dependent on another team's situation and needs. (For instance, Jake Cave and LaMonte Wade, Jr. would be more valuable to many other teams than they are to the Twins, who are rich with short-term and long-term corner outfield depth.)
    • This is a snapshot in time. Rankings are heavily influenced by recent trends and where things stood as of the end of 2019.
    • Current major-leaguers and prospects are all eligible. The ultimate goal here to answer this question: Which current players in the organization are most indispensable to fulfilling the vision of building a champion?
    Any questions or quibbles, holler in the comments. Let's start the countdown.


    20. Ryan Jeffers, C
    2019 Ranking: NR

    An early example of positional scarcity playing a role in these rankings. There are better Twins prospects than Jeffers who will not appear on this list, but his presence in the system is especially vital. The 2018 second-round draft pick is a 22-year-old catcher who has already reached Double-A, hitting at every level. Folks in the know rave about his defensive skills, and pitch-framing especially.

    Thus far Jeffers has done nothing but validate the team's belief in him. A catcher who shines both ways is among the game's most coveted assets. Luckily, the Twins already have one of those in place at the major-league level, which is one of the only reasons Jeffers is even this low. (Spoiler: Fellow high-grade catching prospect Ben Rortvedt didn't make the Top 20, but is a short step behind Jeffers and is definitely an honorable mention.)

    19. Eddie Rosario, OF
    2019 Ranking: 8

    I found Rosario's 2019 campaign a tad disappointing, despite the precedent-shattering HR and RBI totals, and I know I'm not alone. But we shouldn't be totally consumed by recency bias in evaluating him. The prior two years he was the team's second-most valuable player behind Brian Dozier (per fWAR) and I hope we can all agree his practical impact in 2019 was greater than OBP/defense-hampered metrics suggest. (To what extent is debatable.)

    The fact remains: Rosario has yet to put together a completely transcendent season, and he's now 28 with two years of team control remaining. His expected salary via arbitration in 2020 (~$7-9 million) is reasonable – hardly a bargain. Rosario absolutely a guy you like to have around, but with all the corner outfield depth, and crystallizing deficiencies to accompany his almost unparalleled "unstoppable when hot" dynamic, he slides down in this ranking.

    18. Michael Pineda, RHP
    2019 Ranking: NR

    Two years of team control at an extremely reasonable cost. When signed, I estimated that Pineda's newly minted contract will be looked back at as the best one executed by Minnesota's front office this offseason, and that's why he ranks here despite the evident drawbacks.

    Yes, he'll miss ~12% of those two years due to suspension. But this might actually be beneficial in terms of workload management, and Pineda's established high-end performance level in the rotation is critical for the Twins. His injury history can't be ignored, but the mix of ability, recent health record, and contract appeal make him an essential short-term fixture.

    17. Nelson Cruz, DH
    2019 Ranking: NR

    Cruz has some major things working against him on a list like this. He's 39. Offers zero defensive value. Nagging wrist problem lingers as a concern. Only under contract for one more year. As you zoom out to the big-picture view, the designated hitter's significance diminishes. But when it comes to 2020 – a critical year brimming with opportunity – few figures on the roster loom larger.

    Cruz was one of the best hitters in the American League this year. The two players ahead of him in wOBA were Mike Trout and Alex Bregman, who finished 1-2 in the AL MVP voting. Even with his circumstantial detriments, Cruz's elite hitting ability and elder statesmanship – in a clubhouse where he's older than the manager – are irreplaceable at this moment.

    16. Tyler Duffey, RHP
    2019 Ranking: NR

    There are a lot of players on this year's list who were not on last year's. (This speaks to both the volatility of pro baseball and my general ineptitude in such endeavors.) I don't think any newcomer would've ranked lower last year than Duffey, a 28-year-old failed starter who was failing to catch on as a reliever, and nearly out of options.

    In 2019, he completely flipped the narrative. Suddenly, the tantalizing upside that long intrigued onlookers surfaced. Armed with a 94 MPH fastball and a harder, sharper version of his ever-impressive breaking ball, Duffey became an overpowering force in the late innings. Over 57 2/3 innings with the Twins, he posted a 2.50 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 12.8 K/9 rate while holding opponents to a .201 average. His 5.86 K/BB ratio ranked 14th among MLB relievers.

    Duffey is entering his first turn at arbitration and has three years of team control remaining. This puts him solidly ahead of the similarly impactful Trevor May, who is one year from free agency and a narrow miss in the Top 20.

    Check back in tomorrow for Part 2 of these rankings.


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    • Jan 05 2020 07:02 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  17. Three Critical Developments in Tyler Duffey's Progression to Dominance

    Duffey put together a second half for the ages, giving up just a .208 wOBA, a .245 SLG and striking out 47 hitters in 29.1 second half innings. What led to Duffey’s surge to dominance? Here are three important steps he took in 2019.

    Changing pitch mix and increased velocity
    Duffey’s pitch mix has changed markedly from the beginning of 2018, as evidenced below (visual via Baseball Savant):


    At the beginning of 2019, Duffey all but did away with his ineffective sinker, beginning to rely more heavily on his slider. In addition to ditching a pitch altogether, Duffey’s location began to shift dramatically. In 2018, Duffey was working primarily middle and down in the strike zone. This did not work well. In 2018, Duffey’s fastball was annihilated to the tune of a 1.011 OPS and 180 wRC+ against, making it a truly dysfunctional pitch.

    [attachment=13280:Fastball 2018.png]

    In 2019, Duffey began to shift his fastball location up in the zone (visuals via Brooks Baseball).

    [attachment=13281:Fastball 2019.png]

    Duffey’s fastball velocity is another data point of note. His four-seamer maxed out at 97.4 mph in 2019, almost three mph more than in his big league debut in 2015. This combination of increased velocity, elevation, and solid fastball spin rate (63rd percentile in MLB) transformed Duffey’s fastball into a strength. In 2019, opposing hitters managed just a .599 OPS and 66 wRC+ against it. In short, it became a dominant pitch.

    The Development of a Super Slider
    Duffey’s slider is unusual in that it has more vertical drop on average than any other slider in MLB (about 33% more than typical). Duffey’s slider performs opposite to that of Sergio Romo (who achieves a large amount of horizontal movement resulting in consistent soft contact). Duffey’s simply bottoms out, resulting in a 16.2 SwStr% in 2019. Indeed, Duffey’s vertical movement on his slider increased significantly in 2019 (visual via Baseball Savant)

    Duffey’s increase in slider velocity (+2 mph in 2019) and his ability to command it had devastating effects. He gave up just a .257 wOBA and 69 wRC+ on the pitch in 2019 and took 150 points of opposing OPS off the pitch. Duffey now has two plus pitches, all you need to be an outstanding major league reliever.

    Finally, Duffey showed outstanding command of his slider (image courtesy of FanGraphs). There is a tight clustering of the pitch down and away from right-handed hitters. Duffey rarely hung the pitch. When he missed with it, he tended to miss low and away. His ability to locate his slider down and away to right-handed hitters combined with it’s precipitous drop made it the second devastating pitch from a pitcher who began the season at Triple-A Rochester. After his impressive second half, Duffey finished in the 94th percentile in MLB in K%, and 85th percentile in xSLG.

    Looking Back, Looking Ahead
    The 28-year-old Duffey should remind Twins fans of a few truths heading into 2020. Player development is not linear. Much like Mitch Garver, Duffey’s rise to prominence should make fans throw out old nonsense notions about ‘age’, ‘development’ and ‘ceiling’. Secondly, he should reaffirm Twins fans faith in their front office, analytics and player development departments. Duffey has transformed into a modern reliever. A high velocity fastball with a solid spin located up in the zone and a wipe- out slider which he throws a ton. I’ll be interested to see if the Twins choose to add externally to their bullpen this offseason. I’ll be more interested to try and pick apart who the next internal guy for a makeover might be.

    • Oct 20 2019 05:56 AM
    • by Jamie Cameron
  18. Twins Daily 2019 Award: Pitcher of the Year

    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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


    Taylor Rogers 59
    Jose Berrios 51
    Jake Odorizzi 38
    Tyler Duffey 21
    Michael Pineda 9
    Trevor May 2


    2015: Kyle Gibson
    2016: Ervin Santana
    2017: Ervin Santana
    2018: Jose Berrios


    Rookie of the Year: Luis Arraez
    Most Improved: Mitch Garver
    Pitcher of the Year: Taylor Rogers
    Most Valuable Player: Coming tomorrow

    • Oct 17 2019 08:14 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  19. Twins Daily 2019 Awards: Most Improved Player

    Yesterday, we handed out our award for the 2019 Twins Rookie of the Year to Luis Arraez. In 2018, that award was presented to catcher Mitch Garver. Garver is no stranger to Twins Daily awards. He was named our Minor League Hitter of the Year in 2014 and again in 2017.

    After posting an OPS over 1.000 as a junior at the University of New Mexico, Garver went undrafted. He returned to the Lobos and put up a second great season. The Twins used their ninth-round pick (260th overall) to select Garver, their third catcher selected in that 2014 draft.

    There were always concerns about his defensive abilities, but he worked hard and kept hitting. He earned his first big-league promotion in August of 2017. In 2018, he hit a solid .268/.335/.414 (.749) with 19 doubles, two triples and seven home runs in 335 plate appearances.

    It was a very solid season for a rookie who spent most of that season as the team’s backup catcher. Turns out, it was just a building block. Garver went to work.


    In 2019, Mitch Garver went from a backup, part-time catcher role to being the must-play catcher late in the season and in the playoffs. Garver was given plenty of time off throughout the season. That is one potential reason for his improvement. Another reason might just be the confidence shown in him by new manager Rocco Baldelli. While Garver would typically hit near the bottom of the lineup in 2018, he was a middle-of-the-order bat much of 2019. In addition, Garver was usually in the leadoff spot against left-handed pitching.

    The results showed right away. He hit seven homers in 335 plate appearances in 2018. This year he hit his eighth home run on May 10th, within 75 plate appearances. I feel it important to point out that Garver had 359 plate appearances in 2019, just 24 more than he accumulated in 2018. He went from seven homers to 31 home runs. His batting average increased from .268 to .273, but his on-base percentage jumped from .335 to .365. His slugging percentage jumped from .414 to 630, and his OPS from .749 to .995. If you’re into wOBA, he went from .325 to .404. And, he did so while seeing his BABIP drop from .330 to .277 .In other words, it wasn’t based on luck at all.

    It was a concerted effort. In a post-game interview with Marney Gellner on FSN, Garver said, “It’s something that I wanted to do with this season. I want to be a force in the lineup.”

    He got more specific. He said he wanted to “focus on hitting it hard, pull side, in the air.”

    Well, he hit the ball hard. His Average Exit Velocity of 91.1 mph ranked behind only Miguel Sano (94.4 mph) and Nelson Cruz (93.7 mph) on the Twins roster. He was 13th in MLB in Barrels per Plate Appearance (4th on Twins). In 2018, he pulled the ball 38.8% of the time. In 2019, he pulled the ball 51.3% of the time. His Line Drive percentage dropped from 22.5% to 13.7% Meanwhile, he increased his Fly Ball percentage from 37.7% to 47.3% It’s fair to say that Garver gave his hitting philosophy a lot of thought, developed a plan and he not only stuck to it, but he succeeded with it. He succeeded with a season that should result in the American League Silver Slugger Award for catchers.


    It isn’t as easy to see, but as much as Garver improved at the plate, he took huge strides forward behind the plate as well.

    In 2018, according to FanGraphs, Garver’s DRS (Defensive Run Saves) was at -16.His FRM (Catcher Framing Runs Above Average) was at -9.2. Those are the kinds of numbers that create need for self-evaluation. Garver needed to improve, and he knew it.

    During spring training, Twins Daily talked to Garver, and he was very upfront about his need to improve on defense.

    “If I don’t fix things right now, I will not be in the game in two years, three years,” Garver says he told himself. “I won’t be a catcher anymore.”

    Garver went to work with the help of Twins Minor League Catching Coordinator Tanner Swanson in the offseason. So, what did those defensive metrics look like in 2019?

    DRS: 0
    FRM: 0.8

    From those numbers, it is fair to say that Garver has made himself into an average defensive catcher. And while ‘average’ may not be exciting, when you consider how far he came in just one season, it was a huge improvement. Coupled with his offense, average defense makes Garver extremely valuable.

    Also something to consider, the bar for “average” is a moving target. Organizations much better understand the value of catcher defense. It has become more and more of a focus every year. In short, the “average” catcher has become a better catcher. So not only did Garver go from posting poor defensive metrics to average defensive metrics, but he moved up to the higher ‘average” level.And he did so without it effecting his throwing or blocking.


    Garver has played with a chip on his shoulder going back to college when he was a walk-off. He wasn’t drafted after his junior year and became a “senior sign.” He was never considered a top prospect. People questioned his defense. And through it all, Garver was humble and kept on working.

    Late in the season at Target Field, Twins Daily asked Twins manager Rocco Baldelli about the improvement he's seen from Garver, particularly behind the plate. Baldelli said, “I think he’s coming into his own in a lot of ways.”

    The Twins rookie manager continued, “Experience matters behind the plate. It’s difficult to develop into a major-league player of any kind. There are challenges, but to develop into a major-league catcher. There are just so many more responsibilities that you have, and they're not even just personal responsibilities. You’re responsible for other people and what they’re doing out on the field. That’s tough for a lot of guys, but I think Mitch is certainly making huge strides in those areas. What we ask those guys to do behind the plate compared to what we ask everybody else to do, it’s kind of wild. Mitch has taken to it and he’s shown a very open willingness and desire to improve, whether it’s come to his flexibility and his body, or his receiving, or his game-calling, he spends a lot of time. He’s very diligent. I’ve been very happy with the work he’s put in this year.


    And as his college coach at New Mexico, Ray Birmingham, told us recently, that there just might be another level of improvement to come. “He has worked his butt off to get there, and he’s making an impact, and you haven’t seen the best of him yet. He’s sure of himself now. He’s sure that he can do this now, and he will only continue to get better.”


    While Garver was the runaway winner, as you can see from the results below that there were several strong candidates. After three seasons with very similar numbers, Max Kepler knocked 36 home runs, easily his best season. Jorge Polanco went from a solid start to his career to an All-Star Game starter. Miguel Sano showed great improvement midseason. He was struggling immensely while working on his swing. It took about a week, but after that, he took off. Tyler Duffey had been frequently up and down from the big leagues to Rochester over recent seasons and even began 2019 at AAA. He became one of the best, most dominant set-up men in the game in the season’s second half.

    Here’s a look at the ballots from our 17 voters.

    Seth Stohs: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Max Kepler
    Nick Nelson: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Tyler Duffey
    John Bonnes: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Miguel Sano, 3) Max Kepler
    Tom Froemming: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Jorge Polanco, 3) Miguel Sano
    Cody Christie: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Jorge Polanco
    Ted Schwerzler: 1) Miguel Sano, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Max Kepler
    Steve Lein: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Miguel Sano
    S.D. Buhr: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Jake Odorizzi
    Matt Braun: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Miguel Sano
    Cooper Carlson: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Max Kepler
    Andrew Thares: 1) Miguel Sano, 2) Tyler Duffey, 3) Jake Odorizzi
    JD Cameron: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Jorge Polanco
    Matt Lenz: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Jorge Polanco, 3) Max Kepler
    Nash Walker: 1) Jorge Polanco, 2) Miguel Sano, 3) Byron Buxton
    Patrick Wozniak: 1) Mitch Garver, 2) Max Kepler, 3) Tyler Duffey
    Thieres Rabelo: 1) Max Kepler, 2) Miguel Sano, 3) Jorge Polanco
    Sabir Aden: 1) Tyler Duffey, 2) Miguel Sano, 3) Mitch Garver
    AJ Condon: 1) Tyler Duffey, 2) Miguel Sano, 3) Max Kepler

    Mitch Garver: 38
    Tyler Duffey: 20
    Max Kepler: 19
    Miguel Sano: 19
    Jorge Polanco: 10
    Jake Odorizzi: 2
    Byron Buxton: 1

    Do you agree with our pick? Who would be your choice for Most Improved Twin and why? How would your ballot look? Leave a comment and make your case.

    Previous Twins Most Improved Player Award Winners

    2015: Aaron Hicks
    2016: Brian Dozier
    2017: Byron Buxton
    2018: Kyle Gibson

    • Oct 16 2019 09:23 AM
    • by Seth Stohs
  20. Twins at Risk of Sinking to New Low with October Woes

    Losing against the Yankees in the playoffs is a painfully familiar experience for Twins fans, but this is as bad as we've seen it. While Minnesota entered this ALDS on a 13-game postseason losing streak, none of those losses were as lopsided or all-around uninspiring as the two duds we just witnessed in the Bronx.

    None of the Twins' 13 consecutive playoff losses dating back to 2004 were by a margin of more than five runs. Each of the first two drubbings in this ALDS have been by six. The Yankees have dismantled, outsmarted, and dominated at almost every turn. Few observers truly expected the Twins to win this series but for the club to be so woefully uncompetitive is beyond disheartening.

    It starts with the pitching staff, of course. In two games at Yankee Stadium, the Twins gave up 18 runs on 18 hits and 16 walks. Previously reliable arms imploded. No one had any answers for the patience and power of New York's lineup. Multiple defensive mistakes contributed to the meltdown.

    Bafflingly, the Twins allowed all of this damage without three of their best relievers even taking the mound. Trevor May and Sergio Romo didn't appear until Game 2 was already well out of hand. Taylor Rogers, Minnesota's most valuable reliever all year long, still hasn't pitched. Meanwhile, the Yankees have gone to their top guys in every important spot and it has paid off; their bullpen – which was arguably at a slight disadvantage on paper – has allowed only two runs on four hits over 8 1/3 innings.

    And while it's always easy to second-guess managerial bullpen moves in retrospect, that's the nature of a playoff series, and rookie skipper Rocco Baldelli has made some especially questionable calls that have gone about as poorly as possible. He pulled strings as if operating in regular-season mode, saving bullets for late-game opportunities that never materialized.

    Why was Zack Littell the first man out of the bullpen on Friday night, in the fifth inning of a 3-3 tie? As effective as Littell has been, he's a rookie who rarely threw in high-leverage spots all year. And on Saturday, why was Tyler Duffey called into an intensely stressful situation, one day after throwing 25 pitches in Game 1? Rogers, May and Romo were all completely fresh. Duffey had a 7.45 ERA and 1.56 WHIP when pitching on zero days rest this season, and he never once made such an appearance after throwing as many pitches as he did on Friday.

    Baldelli has had a commendable first year at the helm but his decision-making in this series – and particularly those choices, with their utterly disastrous results – will be rightfully scrutinized for some time.

    At the end of the day, though, the biggest letdown for the Twins in this heralded slugging showdown has been their largely absent offense. Six runs on 13 hits in 18 innings, against a vulnerable pitching staff in one of baseball's most hitter-friendly yards. Completely inadequate and underwhelming.

    Now, the Twins return home with their backs against the wall. Win or it's over. Given the total breakdowns we've seen in every phase thus far, there's not much cause for confidence, but Monday is a new day, in a new ballpark, in front of a packed home crowd.

    This team is almost out of chances to not just put an end to the longest stretch of postseason futility against a single opponent in MLB history, but to avoid imprinting 2019 as the new low point in this languishing legacy of losing when it matters most.

    Coming home, down 0-2, with elimination feeling almost like a forgone conclusion. We've been here before. Will this time be different?

    • Oct 06 2019 04:54 PM
    • by Nick Nelson
  21. Twins ALDS Game 2 Recap: Nothing Works, Twins Lose 12th Straight To Yankees

    Box Score
    Dobnak: 2.0 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 53.4% strikes (23 of 43 pitches)
    Bullpen: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 6 BB, 6 K

    Home Runs: None
    Multi-Hit Games: Garver (2-for-4, RBI), Arráez (2-for-4, RBI)

    Bottom 3 WPA: Duffey -.165, Dobnak -.141, Rosario -.077

    With yet another loss to the Yankees in the postseason, Minnesota has now been defeated in its last 15 postseason games. The last time the Twins won in the playoffs was exactly fifteen years ago, Game 1 of the 2004 ALDS against the Yankees. If they can’t win Game 3 at Target Field Monday, they will match the worst playoff win drought in professional sports, now held by the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks. Between 1975 and 1979, they lost sixteen consecutive playoff games.

    Dobnak done after two innings
    I can’t even begin to understand what was going through Dobnak’s mind when he took over the mound at Yankee Stadium this afternoon. I don’t think you can get a more nerve-wrecking situation than starting a postseason game less than a year after signing you first $2,000-dollar minor league contract.

    Judging by his first inning, you can tell how nervous he might have been. Yankees hitters cornered him early. DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge, the top two men in the Yankee lineup, both reached safely to begin the game. Edwin Encarnación would later hit a one-out RBI single to left. Immediately afterwards, Dobnak induced an inning-ending ground ball double play against Giancarlo Stanton, finishing a 22-pitch effort from him in the bottom of the first.

    Dobnak actually had a rather smooth second inning, which he concluded with only 12 pitches, nine being strikes. Then his command started to elude him during the third inning and he loaded the bases before recording an out. Rocco Baldelli decided to pull the plug on him after only nine pitches in the inning.

    Bullpen can’t put out the fire
    Tyler Duffey took over in relief and he couldn’t get the job done. Two runs scored right away on a sac-fly by Stanton, followed by an RBI-single by Gleyber Torres. Duffey then hit Gary Sánchez after getting ahead on the count, 0-2, reloading the bases. After getting ahead 0-2 against Didi Gregorius, he gave up a grand slam. It was Gregorius' third career grand slam against Minnesota.

    Duffey was lifted from the game after getting two outs and was replaced by Devin Smeltzer. The rookie was also ambushed, giving up a couple of hits while allowing his inherited runner to score. That made for a seven-run inning for New York.

    Bats get completely dominated
    After hitting three home runs on seven hits on Friday night, the Twins couldn’t find the power in Game 2. Yankee starter Masahiro Tanaka held the Minnesota lineup to one hit in the first four innings he pitched. It was only after staying out during the long bottom of the third that he started to give Twins batters a chance.

    After Jorge Polanco flied out to start the fourth inning, Nelson Cruz drew a walk and was later scored after back-to-back singles, coming off the bats of Eddie Rosario and Mitch Garver. Tanaka and the Yankee bullpen went on to retire sixteen of the seventeen batters that stepped up to the box after Garver’s RBI.

    They managed to manufacture another run late in the ninth, when the same Garver hit a two-out single and was scored by a Luís Arráez RBI double.

    Postgame With Baldelli

    Pitching Staff Spreadsheet
    Here's a look at the pitching staff usage:

    • Oct 05 2019 09:35 PM
    • by Thiéres Rabelo
  22. Damage Control: Pitching is Minnesota's Primary Advantage in ALDS


    The Twins have question marks in the rotation, yes, but the Yankees even more so.

    Minnesota ranks 11th among MLB teams in starting pitching ERA, and seventh in WAR. New York ranks 11th and 17th, respectively.

    While the Twins may lack a prototypical ace, their top two starters have easily outperformed their Bronx counterparts:

    Jose Berrios: 200.1 IP, 3.68 ERA, 124 ERA+, 3.68 FIP, 1.22 WHIP
    Jake Odorizzi: 159 IP, 3.51 ERA, 131 ERA+, 3.35 FIP, 1.21 WHIP

    Here's take a look at New York's top two starters this year:

    James Paxton: 150.2 IP, 3.82 ERA, 116 ERA+, 3.86 FIP, 1.28 WHIP
    Masahiro Tanaka: 182 IP, 4.45 ERA, 100 ERA+, 4.27 FIP, 1.24 WHIP

    The caveat here is that New York also has Luis Severino, who's likely their best starter on talent alone. But Severino missed almost the entire season with a shoulder injury, coming back to make three appearances in September. He pitched well in those appearances (1.50 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 12 innings) but still... he's barely pitched. CC Sabathia is no more than a mediocre long reliever at this point, and J.A. Happ has had a crummy season though he did finish it strong.

    Interestingly, both rotations are without key third pieces due to self-created messes. The Twins are obviously missing Michael Pineda, who received a PED suspension in early September. Meanwhile, Yankees right-hander Domingo German was 18-4 with a 4.03 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 153-to-39 K/BB ratio before being placed on administrative leave in mid-September due to domestic violence allegations.

    Depending on your level of belief in Randy Dobnak, the Twins have either a slight or considerable advantage in starting pitching in the first round – a chasmic difference from a scenario where they would've drawn Houston.


    The Yankees spent big to build a power bullpen, and to an extent it has paid off. The $39 million trio of Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino has been phenomenal. New York has a couple of other rock-solid relief arms in Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle. But they're without an essential fixture in Dellin Betances, who suffered a partial Achilles tear and is done for the year.

    Minnesota's top three bullpen arms – Taylor Rogers, Tyler Duffey and Trevor May – are roughly equivalent to New York's prime trio, at about 10% of the cost. But the next wave of depth is where the Twins start to pull away: Zack Littell, Cody Stashak, Sergio Romo, and the electric wild-card that is Brusdar Graterol... these guys have the performance and stuff to inspire confidence. The absence of deadline dud Sam Dyson barely even seems to factor – certainly not the extent of Betances for New York.

    In terms of season numbers, these two clubs are very comparable. New York ranks second in bullpen WAR at 7.5, while Minnesota is third at 7.3. New York ranks ninth in bullpen ERA at 4.08, Minnesota ranks 10th at 4.17. Minnesota ranks first in bullpen FIP at 3.92, New York ranks ninth 4.15.

    You could argue that the Yankees are equal or even superior in this department on some of those counts, but in present terms, overall numbers overstate the impact of Betances for New York, and understate the impact of guys like Duffey and Stashak for Minnesota. Since the All-Star break, the Twins edge the Yankees in basically every measure. In fact, since the All-Star break, Minnesota's bullpen is conquering the world according to certain metrics. For example...

    Top Second-Half Bullpen WAR:

    1. MIN - 4.8
    2. TB - 3.7
    3. NYY - 3.7
    4. SD - 3.4
    5. BOS - 2.7

    That's some gap at the top. Rocco Baldelli told media on Tuesday, "Right now I think we have one of the best bullpens I've ever seen." And really, it's not a ridiculous statement. This unit is a strength unrivaled by any other team in this postseason mix. Given the immense relief struggles the Twins were facing around the deadline, and the total fizzling of their marquee addition at that time, this is a borderline miraculous development.

    It may be the story of the season in a year where the Twins sent two starters to the All-Star Game and set the MLB home run record. Amidst all the talk of these two powerful lineups clashing, not enough attention is being paid to Minnesota's elite, spectacular bullpen. That depth will come heavily into play as Baldelli attempts to navigate this series with a shorthanded rotation.

    In all likelihood, neither of these imposing lineups are getting silenced. In a series like this, it's about damage control. That happens to be Minnesota's primary advantage on paper.

    • Oct 02 2019 04:34 AM
    • by Nick Nelson
  23. The Twins Playoff Hopes Rely On the Three T's

    In 2015, the Royals pioneered the strategy of five-and-dive starters, and allowed the pen to handle the rest. The merits of relievers now rests in the seventh through ninth innings, and given the Twins recent playoff demons that should bring nightmarish flashbacks.

    Bullpens are a focal point of postseason success. In the 2017 wildcard game, Ervin Santana was yanked three innings into his start. Luis Severino, the Yankees starter was also removed on a much shorter hook after just 1/3 of an inning with three runs already allowed. It's no safe assumption a starter will go five innings or 100 pitches.
    Shutdown starters and unhittable closers get all the glory, but the unsung heroes of the past season, such as Josh Hader, are much more valuable than they get credit for.

    Trevor May has received his fair share of criticism. Saturday night’s display of pure dominance predicated on fastball command would be a welcomed sight in the postseason. More breaking ball usage and less dependence on a flat changeup could perhaps be enough for May. A much smoother finish with his mechanics, and not leaving as many pitches in the whomping zone of hitters have been helpful for Trevor. Since his bad stretch of home runs he has lost all trust in his curve, which could fuel more good fortune.


    May has had the year of his life in 2019. He had a promising end to his 2018 campaign that saw him flash the truly elite stuff that he flashed as a middling fourth/fifth starter in the dawn of his career. He’s bumped his velocity up considerably, and lately has sliced his pitch assortment, providing a better directive to his mound mindset.

    Taylor Rogers might be the most underrated pitcher, perhaps even player, in baseball thanks to his above average fastball and frisbee slider. A bullpen absent the invincible Aroldis Chapman fireball, or the radioactive cutter of Kenley Jansen, or the capital C-declared closer, might be an assembly of relief pitchers as effective, or more so, than any other in baseball.

    If there was one point of criticism for Rogers, I would point to the curveball and slider blending together. But that in no way detracts from the set of weapons that he has, and that the Twins have, that their playoff success could hinge on.

    Tyler Duffey might be the most remarkable story of the entire season for the Twins. He flamed-out as a starter in 2016 and followed with a pair of enigmatic seasons. At the tipping point of his career, he took on a complete overhaul, reinvention and refinement of his mechanics and approach under the tutelage of Wes Johnson.
    Duffey was taught sinkers inside and low, during the Rick Anderson, Neil Allen and Garvin Alston regimes.

    Jace Frederick of the Pioneer Press recently wrote an article that delved into Duffey's progress that included some illuminating quotes. Duffey spoke to how different Wes Johnson's mentality is.

    “Obviously I had the potential to be good, but it was seeing why I could be, understanding why I could be, and then doing it and repeating was the last piece of that. I think for me, personally, it’s just been trusting the whole plan that’s been set and going with it.
    “Pitching with conviction is the name of the game. Hitters can tell when you’re not convicted in what you’re doing. I think I’m trusting it, I feel good doing it and the results are speaking for themselves.”

    “He can be a strikeout guy, and he’s learned that,” Johnson said. “When we started back in spring training, our goal was to strike out more hitters than we ever have. We’re getting there, incrementally. And Tyler is someone you’re seeing make progress really fast.”

    The intuitive and tailored recipe for success spearheaded with the ongoing trend of elevating, decelerating and spiking. Fastballs up, sliders and curves down and away, and toggling with the velocity of those breakers has paved the way to a 2.35 ERA and a 1.0 WAR during this 2019 run to the postseason. A truly remarkable achievement for a pitcher once on the bubble.

    For the Twins to succeed in the postseason, a strong back-end of the bullpen must complement a competent starting staff. It could be a feasible plan, given that the trio of Trevor May, Tyler Duffey and Taylor Rogers has arrived and they are here to stay.

    • Sep 25 2019 02:50 PM
    • by Sabir Aden