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  • Who are the Twins Road Warriors? (Pitcher Edition)

    Steven Trefz

    The starting rotation stays in order. The bullpen is divided into high and low-leverage options. Advanced metrics point out statistical differences between home and away splits. Should these rotations be taken for granted as plug-and-play decisions? Or should the game's location play a larger role in determining which pitcher takes the hill? These questions led me to ask "What pitchers on the current roster stand out as “road warriors,” and who might be better off "getting a couple of extra days of rest" when the team takes a road trip?"

    Image courtesy of William Parmeter

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    Where a baseball game is played has an impact on the game itself. This shouldn't surprise anyone. How much of an impact does location have on player success? That question is still up for debate. Park Factors continue to advance in quality and scope year after year. While we haven't seen this metric necessarily impact in-game decision-making, a look at the 2022 Twins season's home and away splits points out a few telling factors that might be worth a closer look during the 2023 season.

    Looking through the wonder that is FanGraphs, I dug into some of the Twins FIP information for 2022. Since I actually wanted to keep stadium type and normal schedule in the mix, I chose FIP over xFIP, but feel free to run the names and numbers yourself to see what changes.

    The first thing that I noticed was that Jermaine Palacios ranked top ten in FIP in 2022. For those who weren’t paying attention, Mr. Palacios isn’t a pitcher, and only pitched 2/3 of an inning of mop-up time in one game for the Twins. Apparently, this advanced metric requires intentional sifting in order to establish helpful information.

    Jovani Moran and Chris Paddack are the first two current Twins players that crack the top of the FIP list, and these names are significant to the Twins’ plans in 2023. The crickets chirp until #148 with Griffin Jax making an appearance. Caleb Thielbar checks in at #183, and Bailey Ober ranked #214.

    Other than the utter lack of mainline Twins starters at the top of the road pitching success list, Jhoan Duran’s away FIP of 3.63 (ranking him 300th) serves as the most startling statistic.  Especially since Duran's home FIP of 1.34 ranks him 30th. This trend obviously needs attention if the Twins are to make a playoff push in 2023. Is the split difference enough to warrant a bullpen rotation change on the road?

    Another interesting parallel trend comes in the fact that Joe Ryan and Emilio Pagan reside in similar places on the away FIP list, both on the home and away sides of the ledger. Ryan’s 3.62 FIP at home compares to his 4.47 FIP on the road, while Pagan’s 3.80 FIP at home balloons to a 4.83 FIP on the road. The rookie Ryan’s performance might be explainable through the lens of experience (or lack thereof), but Pagan’s trend points to a bigger problem at the back end of the bullpen when combined with Duran’s youthful struggles.

    As a team, the Twins fell in the bottom of the MLB in FIP on the road, with a move up the charts if xFIP is considered. With the bulk of the Twins starters residing on the bottom half of the list, this isn’t surprising but definitely needs some directional change in order to improve in 2023.

    Perhaps the brightest light that emerged from this research was the perspective on just how strong and balanced of a rookie campaign Moran provided. You can see how his presence in the bullpen became a source of hope for Twins territory as the season progressed.

    Pitching staff construction involves many variables game in, and game out. As metrics continue to develop for road games and individual ballpark success, it will be interesting to see just how much the Twins bullpen usage fluctuates from series to series. In a world where righty/lefty splits rule the game without a second thought, is the home/away split metric the next wave of overthinking baseball? It’s near impossible to manipulate the starting pitching assignments from series to series due to requirements and rhythm of off-days, but the bullpen could be a worthy environment for this strategy as the Twins look to improve in 2023.

    Trip #1 Kansas City & Miami (3/30-4/5)
    Trip #2 New York & Boston (4/13-4/20)
    Trip #3 Chicago & Cleveland (5/2-5/7)
    Trip #4 I love LA!? (5/15-5/21)
    Trip #5 Houston, We have a Correa! (May 29-31)
    Trip #6 Tampa to Toronto (6/6-6/11)
    Trip #7 Detroit to Atlanta to Baltimore (6/23-7/2)
    Trip #8 West Coast Bound Again! Oakland/Seattle (7/14-7/20)
    Trip #9 Kansas City & St. Louis (7/28-8/3
    Trip #10 Detroit & Philadelphia (8/7-8/13)
    Trip #11 Milwaukee (8/22-8/23)
    Trip #12 Texas & Cleveland (9/1-9/6)
    Trip #13 Chicago & Cincinnati (9/14-9/20)
    Trip #14 Colorado (9/29-10/1)




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