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  • Report Cards: Bullpen

    Nash Walker

    The Twins expected to have another great bullpen in 2021. It ended up being a tale of two halves, with much of the group struggling out of the gate before settling in. How did each member grade?

    Image courtesy of Ken Blaze, USA TODAY Sports

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    2021: 40 1/3 IP, 3.35 ERA (128 ERA+), 2.13 FIP, 35% K, 5% BB

    Rogers bounced back from a rough 2020 as the Twins’ steadiest bullpen piece throughout the first half. Over his first 35 appearances, Rogers posted a 2.45 ERA and 2.02 FIP while holding opponents to a .600 OPS. 

    The All-Star lefty then gave up five runs over his next 1 2/3 innings, including a grand slam in the Twins’ last game before the break. Rogers’ season ended shortly after due to a sprained finger. 

    The ERA paints a much worse picture for Rogers in 2021, but he was essentially the same weapon he’s been for much of his career. Even then, his looming ~$7 million price tag and finger injury could give the Twins a tricky decision on arbitration day. 

    GRADE: A-

    2021: 62 1/3 IP, 3.18 ERA (134 ERA+), 3.49 FIP, 24% K, 11% BB

    Duffey entered 2021 as one of the game’s best set-up men with a remarkable 2.31 ERA and 34% strikeout rate in 2019 and 2020 combined. Alarmingly, Duffey’s velocity was down this spring, raising questions about his arm heading into Opening Day. 

    Those concerns were valid. Duffey posted a 5.87 ERA and 20% strikeout rate over his first 15+ innings of the season. His velocity dwindled, and his luster as a lockdown set-up man was on shaky ground.

    Fortunately, Duffey bounced back with a 2.30 ERA over his last 47 innings, solidifying himself back in the top-25 among American League relievers. Still, his fastball velocity is down over a tick from 2019, and he walked way too many. 

    GRADE: B-

    2021: 59 2/3 IP, 3.92 ERA (109 ERA+), 4.06 FIP, 27% K, 6% BB

    Alcala was terrific in the shortened 2020 season, posting a 2.63 ERA and 29% strikeout rate in 24 innings. A full season breakout felt viable in 2021 for the hard-throwing right-hander. 

    Like Duffey, Alcala got off to a plodding start, evidenced by a 5.73 ERA and .464 opponent’s slugging percentage in his first 40 games. Alcala struck out just 22% of hitters during that span. 

    Alcala’s stuff is too good for such inflated numbers. With improved command in his final 22 innings, Alcala allowed just two runs (0.82 ERA) while striking out 27 and walking only three of the 77 batters he faced. 

    GRADE: B-

    2021: 64 IP, 3.23 ERA (132 ERA+), 3.47 FIP, 29% K, 7.5% BB

    One of the best stories of the 60-game campaign, Thielbar posted a 2.25 ERA and 2.34 FIP in his first 20 Major League innings since 2015. 

    Thielbar continued a strong 2020 season immediately in 2021. He struck out nine and walked none over his first 4 1/3 scoreless innings. Thielbar subsequently allowed 15 runs over his next 27 innings, contributing to a shaky Twins bullpen.

    The Northfield native then put together an outstanding second half. He produced a 1.76 ERA with a 25% strikeout rate after the break. Thielbar emerged as the Twins’ best left-handed reliever after Rogers went on the injured list. His spot on next year’s team feels secure.

    GRADE: A

    2021: 65 IP, 4.15 ERA (103 ERA+), 4.23 FIP, 20% K, 8% BB

    The Twins signed Colomé to be the pitcher he’d been over his entire eight-year career. Colomé owned a 2.95 ERA and saved 138 games before signing with Minnesota last offseason. 

    His debut couldn’t have gone any worse. Starting with a blown save on Opening Day, Colomé allowed 16 runs and five homers over his first 26 2/3 innings with the Twins. His Win Probability Added was a staggering -2.29. 

    Colomé eventually found his stride and pitched much better down the stretch, with a 3.29 ERA and 3.38 FIP over his last 38 games. Colomé served as the Twins’ primary closer and saved 15 of 19 games from late June to the end of the season. 

    GRADE: D+

    2021: 40 IP, 2.48 ERA (173 ERA+), 3.97 FIP, 26% K, 12% BB

    Opponents hit .189 with a .624 OPS against Minaya, whom the Twins signed to a Minor League deal before the season. He upped the usage of his outstanding changeup, which increased the effectiveness of his mid-90s fastball. 

    Minaya had previous Major League success with the White Sox, but this was his best season. His ground-ball rate rose to a tremendous 55%, and he posted a career-high 1.1 Wins Above Replacement. 

    Minaya’s peripherals - a 3.97 FIP in particular - create some uncertainty for sustaining success in 2022. Either way, the Twins have a ~$1 million decision to make, and there’s certainly space for him in the bullpen.

    GRADE: A

    2021: 44 IP, 4.91 ERA (87 ERA+), 4.83 FIP, 23% K, 13% BB

    Robles had a disastrous 2020 season for the Angels after a stellar 2019 where he posted a 2.48 ERA and saved 23 games. The Twins signed him for $2 million, betting that the Covid season was an outlier for the hard-throwing veteran.

    It looked that way early. Robles was fantastic with a 2.83 ERA through June 12th. Opponents hit .172/.305/.283 off him during that span. Unfortunately, iffy command caught up to him and previously escaped jams no longer were. 

    Robles allowed 15 runs over his next 15 1/3 innings and slashed much of the trade value he previously had. The Twins moved him to the Red Sox at the deadline for RHP Alex Scherff, and Robles pitched reasonably well down the stretch with a 3.60 ERA and 30% strikeout rate. 

    GRADE: D

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    6 hours ago, mikelink45 said:

    Nobody on this team deserves an A or any version of an A.  Nothing destroyed the season more than the pen and a short term good performance does not merit a full season A.   This group was bad and the best of the group gets a C. 

    A player comes in for 30, 40, 60 or more  innings and pitches to a low 3 something ERA over a full season is merely average in your world   ............................................

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    5 hours ago, old nurse said:

    A player comes in for 30, 40, 60 or more  innings and pitches to a low 3 something ERA over a full season is merely average in your world   ............................................

    When I watched this team there was no one that was consistent over the enjoy season.  ERA is not a stat I look at in RP.  If they come in and give up the runners on base, then get three ours they have a 0.00 era even though they cost the team two runs.  If they put runners on and the next pitcher gets outs without letting them score they have an era of 0.00.  I want dependable and durable.  Colome is released, but he had two different seasons - beginning and ending months were very different, but I did not like seeing him come in and now he has been released.  Duffey was our most reliable over the year, but TD articles consistently talked about how much he lost in his best pitches yet he would get my best grade and not an A.  Minaya was a shooting star.  He looked great for part of a season, but so did Colome.  No I would not give any A's to members of this years pen. 

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    Is there an easy way to see Juan Minaya's stats on first inning vs. second inning? (Or <25 pitches and >25 pitches?) I felt like there were quite a few games where he was asked to provide 2-3 innings since the rest of the bullpen was struggling or worn out.  And quite a few times he would cruise through the first 4-6 batters before struggling after 30 pitches.

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