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  • Once a Glaring Weakness, Twins' Bullpen Is Now a Clear Strength


    Nash Walker

    The Twins’ bullpen has leaked runs and caused headaches all year long, motivating the front office to improve it at the deadline. They filled the holes with a bang, and now the arm barn looks like a real strength. 

    Image courtesy of Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

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    Despite all the issues and the 19 crippling blown saves, the Twins had one advantage in their bullpen: a young, terrific weapon in Jhoan Durán, who’s carried the late-innings all year. Griffin Jax, another first-year reliever, has been more than serviceable with a 3.49 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 43 innings. It’s Durán, though, who made fixing the bullpen woes at the deadline easier than it appeared. 

    Durán is tied with Guardians’ generational closer Emmanuel Clase for the most Win Probability Added among relievers in the American League (2.80). He owns a sterling 2.15 ERA in 46 innings, striking out 58 and walking only 10. Durán’s emergence is a primary reason why the Twins are in first place. It’s hard to imagine where they’d be without him. 

    Durán’s excellence allowed the Twins to flip the bullpen picture completely. They already had one outstanding right-handed reliever and then traded for another. Jorge Lopez, who now has a 1.64 ERA in nearly 50 innings, completes one of the more overwhelming duos in baseball. López and Durán have combined for a 1.87 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 96 ⅓ innings. While Durán wows with one of the hardest four-seam fastballs in baseball, López induces chopper after chopper with a turbo sinker at 98-100 mph. It’s a deadly combo for opposing hitters. 

    The late innings will primarily belong to the two flamethrowers, but Michael Fulmer is an under-the-radar pickup for the Twins. Fulmer shuts down right-handed hitters, holding them to a .136 batting average and zero homers in 102 plate appearances. 

    Fulmer has given up one extra-base hit to a righty all season, a double from his new teammate Gio Urshela on July 24th. No righty has barreled Fulmer this season. In a division and league loaded with right-handed talent, he should continue to thrive in those matchups. Fulmer and Jax both have elite sliders, holding opponents to a combined .170 batting average. 

    Depth is as important as the stars, and Trevor Megill has filled in wonderfully. Megill has a sub-2 ERA in 19 outings, regularly reaching 100 with his fastball while showing good command. Megill, Durán, and López all average over 97 mph with their primary fastballs. When’s the last time the Twins had three high-velocity arms in their bullpen?

    Caleb Thielbar hasn’t shined in the ERA department, but his 3.09 Fielding Independent Pitching shows he’s been unlucky. Thielbar has a 1.38 ERA over his last 13 innings and a 2.90 ERA over his last 34 outings. He’s a reliable lefty and has held left-handed hitters to a .180/.281/.260 line. 

    Even Emilio Pagán, who the Twins demoted to a lower-leverage role, has a 3.18 ERA and 2.23 FIP with 21 strikeouts over his last 12 outings. This bullpen picture gets even brighter if he can fill a vital sixth-inning role. Pagán could redeem some of his value with a solid final two months. 

    It’s impossible to ignore the bullpen’s issues up to this point. Pagán and Tyler Duffey have allowed 40 earned runs in 79 ⅓ innings. Joe Smith, while excellent early, was so poor that the Twins DFA’ed him despite being the largest bullpen acquisition of the offseason. 

    Even with the much-improved outlook, there’s still hope and depth outside the 26-man roster. If Jorge Alcalá can return, he’d provide Rocco Baldelli with another high-octane option for the late innings. Alcalá posted a 0.82 ERA with 27 strikeouts over his final 22 innings of 2021.

    Jovani Moran, who the Twins optioned Wednesday, has a 1.93 ERA in 20 outings with the Twins this year. Kenta Maeda, a relief ace for the Dodgers in the past, is working to return for the stretch run in the Twins’ bullpen. 

    They still have to play the games and stay healthy, but this group looks excellent. The Twins have seldom had this many reliable relievers in one bullpen, and they’ve never had a duo with the weaponry of Durán and López. If the Twins win the division and make a run into October, the bullpen will be a crucial reason why. 

    What do you think of the Twins’ revamped bullpen? Comment below!

     

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    21 minutes ago, Mike Sixel said:

    Y'all realize it's the front office and the manager that manage the starters this way.... Or that almost no pitchers average 6 innings per start? Anyone here actually look at the rest of baseball?

    If a team has a guy that can go 6 or 7 innings without crossing the mythical 100 pitch barrier why wouldn't the manager let him do it? Of course the only way to find out if a pitcher can accomplish that rare feat is to let him pitch 6 or 7 innings.

    What's next? Telling relievers they can't throw more than 15 pitches per inning? Batters are only allowed 7 swings per at bat?

    Physical limits should be based on demonstrated physical performance, not artificial counts universally applied because it's the "in" thing. But that's just my opinion... out of step with the times, as usual.

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    5 minutes ago, Dave The Dastardly said:

    If a team has a guy that can go 6 or 7 innings without crossing the mythical 100 pitch barrier why wouldn't the manager let him do it? Of course the only way to find out if a pitcher can accomplish that rare feat is to let him pitch 6 or 7 innings.

    What's next? Telling relievers they can't throw more than 15 pitches per inning? Batters are only allowed 7 swings per at bat?

    Physical limits should be based on demonstrated physical performance, not artificial counts universally applied because it's the "in" thing. But that's just my opinion... out of step with the times, as usual.

    Of course, neither of those is a thing at all.....

    And what makes you think it is physical, and not something else?

    My issues are twofold.... Not every damn thread needs to be complaining about something that won't change. Every thread. Over and over and over. Second, this is how baseball is played, and it isn't a Rocco issue at all, but a twins/MLB decision. Complain, occasionally, about the game changing, but stop saying this is on Rocco. 

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    8 minutes ago, Dave The Dastardly said:

    If a team has a guy that can go 6 or 7 innings without crossing the mythical 100 pitch barrier why wouldn't the manager let him do it? Of course the only way to find out if a pitcher can accomplish that rare feat is to let him pitch 6 or 7 innings.

    It's not a matter of physical ability or fatigue. Pitchers get hit harder the 3rd time through the lineup. Only the best starting pitchers have better production the 3rd time through than an average reliever the first time through the lineup. The Twins rotation doesn't really have any starting pitchers who are that good. Tyler Mahle is 32nd in Fangraphs pitcher WAR, the next Twin is Gray at 56th then Ryan at 76th. You should be glad when the bullpen relieves Bundy or Archer.

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    I'm excited for the bullpen now too, but "clear strength" is a stretch after one successful game with the new guys. 

    I'll watch for a month and hope to see the unit develop into a clear strength.

    If Fulmer produces, I'd like to see the FO get him locked up for 2-3 years before he hits free agency.  That hasn't been their MO, so it probably won't happen.  As stated above, there is no reason for a bullpen mess at the beginning of next season.  

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    48 minutes ago, Mike Sixel said:

    Of course, neither of those is a thing at all.....

    And what makes you think it is physical, and not something else?

    My issues are twofold.... Not every damn thread needs to be complaining about something that won't change. Every thread. Over and over and over. Second, this is how baseball is played, and it isn't a Rocco issue at all, but a twins/MLB decision. Complain, occasionally, about the game changing, but stop saying this is on Rocco. 

    I'm assuming your issues as stated are directed at TD posters in general and not me in particular as I did not mention Rocco in this post at all, only baseball managers in general.

    Secondly, it's my understanding TD is a board for Twins fans to share their likes and dislikes, their ideas, their opinions and frustrations regarding the Twins in particular and baseball in general. Therefore I don't think it fair to categorize differing opinions and ideas as  "complaints" as if they should be automatically dismissed as niggling and not worthy of consideration.

    Yes, the game has changed, but a number of fans don't like the way it's changed. Perhaps that's one of the reasons behind baseball's declining fan base. Can anyone of us change the trends? Probably not. Do we have to like all the changes in order to remain fans? No, we don't. Can we still express our dislikes and still be considered baseball fans? I should hope so. If not, I suspect there is no reason for TD and like platforms to continue to exist.

     

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    3 minutes ago, bird said:

    And now add Alcala. Invincible.

    I think we should temper our expectations on Alcala. Mind you I hope I’m wrong but his injury history is concerning. I will be shocked if the next step isn’t Tommy John surgery. 

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    Shocked and amazed Iyam. Never in 20 years of following this club have I seen what, on paper, looks like a brilliant trade. If this pans out, all else being equal, the Twins now actually have a decent, daresay legitimate chance to beat somebody.

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    It's been one game. I think we need to slow the roll a bit. Sure it looks like we made a couple decent additions to the pen, along with a good starter. I'd prefer to wait 2-3 weeks and see how things shake out, and also how Rocco is going to use them. 

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    4 hours ago, Karbo said:

    It would be interesting to see where the Twins rank in innings pitched per start.

    28th, at 4.8.

    The MLB average is 5.2. Over 162 games, that means that the Twins would need to cover about 65 more innings from its bullpen compared to the average team. You can look at that at least three different ways.

    1. Given that 65 innings is about average for a good reliever, the Twins need to come up with one more quality reliever than the average team. 
    2. In a seven-game week, the Twins bullpen will need to cover about 2.8 innings more than their opponents.
    3. I haven't come up with a third, but I'm sure folks on TD that are smarter than me (and there are many) will come up with a couple more!

    That's a helpful number, but I'm not sure it's a tell-all stat. Three starters going eight innings each time and two openers going an inning also works to the league average 5.2, but puts a different type of strain on the bullpen than five guys going 5.2. 

    And for what it's worth, the standard deviation on this would be pretty small, meaning that Rocco isn't handling things much differently than other teams. Out of 30, 26 are averaging from 4.8 to 5.5. One of the teams outside that (Tampa Bay) has used openers regularly in the past. I don't know whether that's the case this year. 

    Archer is a factor in this. Take out his 4.1 innings per start, and the team average is 5.1, almost the mean. Among guys who've started at least 13 times across the majors, only he and Yusei Kikuchi* are averaging less than 4.5 innings per start. 

    *With Kikuchi killing my fantasy team in the process.**

    **Kikuchi is not alone in doing so. 

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    One game. Against Detroit.

    Significantly better off. Still the new bullpen will be significantly challenged…any bullpen would be for a team whose starters go 5 innings or less practically on a daily basis. Theoretically…but only theoretically, adding Mahle will help in that regard. We’ll see.

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    8 hours ago, TwinsDr2021 said:

    IMO Duran is the prime example if you have a guy with a filthy arm he doesn't need to toil in the minors trying to become a starter for years, bring them up put them in the pen and work on the secondary stuff with the major league coaches. I will assume he could throw 100 the whole time in the minors and had a pretty good curve, but not the others pitches to succeed as a starter?  If he proves he can develop that third and fourth pitch stretch him out and give him a chance as a starter later on.

    I agree with this article the pen looks real good, I hated pagen in the 8th and 9th but as a 5th, 6th or even 7th inning pitcher he is awesome, along with the rest, now Rocco just don't burn them out 😜

    He was not reportedly not touching triple digits until the shortened covid season. He did have the nasty splinker and good curve. He just couldn't stay healthy as a starter. When the twins traded for him he was sitting low 90's and touching mid 90's, but all over the place and had injury issues before. He was a wildcard for sure. 

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    3 hours ago, Dave The Dastardly said:

    I'm assuming your issues as stated are directed at TD posters in general and not me in particular as I did not mention Rocco in this post at all, only baseball managers in general.

    Secondly, it's my understanding TD is a board for Twins fans to share their likes and dislikes, their ideas, their opinions and frustrations regarding the Twins in particular and baseball in general. Therefore I don't think it fair to categorize differing opinions and ideas as  "complaints" as if they should be automatically dismissed as niggling and not worthy of consideration.

    Yes, the game has changed, but a number of fans don't like the way it's changed. Perhaps that's one of the reasons behind baseball's declining fan base. Can anyone of us change the trends? Probably not. Do we have to like all the changes in order to remain fans? No, we don't. Can we still express our dislikes and still be considered baseball fans? I should hope so. If not, I suspect there is no reason for TD and like platforms to continue to exist.

     

    I think Mike’s point is that there is a difference between ‘sharing likes and dislikes’ and being a broken record. Unless you happen to enjoy listening to broken records, of course. Mozart and Weird Al could make really good broken records. I haven’t seen either of them frequenting the board lately. This gives me the sad.

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    7 hours ago, Linus said:

    I think we should temper our expectations on Alcala. Mind you I hope I’m wrong but his injury history is concerning. I will be shocked if the next step isn’t Tommy John surgery. 

    Unfortunately turns out I was right. Bummer. 

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    If the Twins can get Maeda, Ober, Thielbar, and Alcala back this rotation looks really good. One of the problems I saw was execution. Tonight for example, they threw Megill an extra inning and he got shelled. Then Duffey came in and let up just as many though 1.2. You have 8 bullpen arms so use them.

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    12 hours ago, Mike Sixel said:

    .......this is how baseball is played, and it isn't a Rocco issue at all, but a twins/MLB decision. ........

    Just don't tell Justin Verlander, fresh back from TJ surgery and still proving it doesn't have to be at 39 1/2

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    15 hours ago, IndianaTwin said:

    28th, at 4.8.

    The MLB average is 5.2. Over 162 games, that means that the Twins would need to cover about 65 more innings from its bullpen compared to the average team. You can look at that at least three different ways.

    1. Given that 65 innings is about average for a good reliever, the Twins need to come up with one more quality reliever than the average team. 
    2. In a seven-game week, the Twins bullpen will need to cover about 2.8 innings more than their opponents.
    3. I haven't come up with a third, but I'm sure folks on TD that are smarter than me (and there are many) will come up with a couple more!

    That's a helpful number, but I'm not sure it's a tell-all stat. Three starters going eight innings each time and two openers going an inning also works to the league average 5.2, but puts a different type of strain on the bullpen than five guys going 5.2. 

    And for what it's worth, the standard deviation on this would be pretty small, meaning that Rocco isn't handling things much differently than other teams. Out of 30, 26 are averaging from 4.8 to 5.5. One of the teams outside that (Tampa Bay) has used openers regularly in the past. I don't know whether that's the case this year. 

    Archer is a factor in this. Take out his 4.1 innings per start, and the team average is 5.1, almost the mean. Among guys who've started at least 13 times across the majors, only he and Yusei Kikuchi* are averaging less than 4.5 innings per start. 

    *With Kikuchi killing my fantasy team in the process.**

    **Kikuchi is not alone in doing so. 

    Thank you for the research. What this tells me is that the Twins aren't doing it like everybody else, They are doing it similiar, kind of to other but not the same.

    I look at it just to get to league average (if you numbers are correct)

    That 65 innings would be all 5 starters going 1 extra inning in 13 of their starts. But more realist would be the top 3 going an extra inning in 17 starts and the bottom two going an extra in 7 starts.

    So just to get to the league average, Gray and Ryan this year (assuming 45 more innings (65 * 2/3)  from their starters so far this year) would need to have gone an extra inning in 15 games each, and another 15 from all the other starters. Does this really seem like the Twins are doing what everybody else is doing? And remember that is just to get to the league average.

    On a side note people keep talking about the 3rd time though the lineup. I posted a week or so ago that the Twins Starting pitches average around 21/22 batters faced a game and the only outlier is Archer who was around 18. That means the Twins feel their starters can face the top 3 or 4 batters on a team 3 times but not the bottom of the lineup, that seems very unfair to the starters for example if the Starters were pitching against the Twins they would be facing Buxton, Arraez and Correa three times but no the likes of Urshela, Laranch, Sano, Gordon, Celestino, Sanchez and Jeffers just to name a few.

    When you dig into the numbers it kind of seem people are making up stuff to run cover for the Twins and what they are doing or if the numbers are pointed out they will say injuries, rookies, pitch limits, etc is the reason. In this post I am not saying what the Twins are doing is right or wrong, but saying NO not everybody is doing what the Twins are doing, yes certain teams treat certain pitchers the same or even multiple pitchers the same but not every pitcher.

     

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    13 minutes ago, wabene said:

    Ask and ye shall receive:

    Looking at the team below the Twins, all seem to have 4 starting pitchers and use the 5 spot of a non traditional type starter. Which is very similar to the teams above them, it does look like at first glance the closer you get to average the less non traditional starts there are.

    I don't see that they twins have done that unless you count Sands and Chi Chi's starts (but both were basically just bad).

     

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    2 minutes ago, TwinsDr2021 said:

    Looking at the team below the Twins, all seem to have 4 starting pitchers and use the 5 spot of a non traditional type starter. Which is very similar to the teams above them, it does look like at first glance the closer you get to average the less non traditional starts there are.

    I don't see that they twins have done that unless you count Sands and Chi Chi's starts (but both were basically just bad).

     

    Another thing I notice is there is a lot of payroll in the top ten. 

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    Nope: They fixed 8&9. But if Rocco continues to yank starters at 5 innings then 6&7 will continue to kill us like it did last night! Pagan should have followed Smith out the door and Duffy to St Paul. Cotton is laughing at last night's debacle! McGill is another stiff. Starters have to give another inning with this Pen!

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