I think Taylor Rogers may have been the greatest Twin to be snubbed from anything since Joe Mauer didn’t get the 2017 Gold Glove. After earning the longest save from any Twins pitcher since 2000 yesterday against the Rangers (he retired all seven batters he faced) and becoming the pitcher with the most saves of three or more outs for the club this century, he made it clear once again that he’s definitely one of the best relievers in the game.
If you look at the group of relievers that were invited to take part in the Midsummer Classic playing for the American League, it doesn’t seem so absurd that Rogers wasn’t there. Aroldis Chapman, Shane Greene, Brad Hand, Liam Hendriks and Ryan Pressly all have very similar stats, with most of them being better than Rogers’. The only one of them who has a worse ERA than the Twins star (now at 1.82) is Hand (with 2.17). Only Chapman (12.98) and Hand (13.26) are striking out more batters than him (11.57).
So, if you think about it, it’s not absurd that he didn’t make the team. But it wouldn’t be absurd if he did either. He’s being at least as effective as the five of them. But Rogers has one difference which could give him the upperhand in a closer comparison with those pitchers. And I don’t think this angle would ever (or even should) be used to decide who an All Star will be. But it’s nice to look at it and have fun with the realization that the Twins have one of the best arms in the game.
Going straight to the point: Rogers is used in more important situations than those guys and he is more responsible for his team’s wins than any reliever in the AL. Like we saw before, his overall numbers are very similar or even slightly worse than the All Star relievers. But when you look at high leverage situations, none of them are a match for Rogers.
Talking about quantity, none of them was used in those situations as much as him. He pitched a total of 14 2/3 innings of high leverage, which currently ranks third in the AL. The AL All Star reliever who comes closest is Hand, who pitched 11 2/3. But the Indians pitcher posts a 6.17, whereas Rogers has a 3.07 ERA. The only AL pitcher who has pitched as many innings (15 1/3) and has a better ERA (2.35) than him is Houston’s Roberto Osuna.
No other pitcher in the AL has been more responsible for his team’s wins than Rogers has. Currently, he leads all of them in Win Probability Added (WPA), with 2.56. The second AL pitcher in that rank is Chicago’s Álex Colomé, at 1.86, which is still better than the first of the 2019 All Star relievers, Hendriks, at 1.82. Superstar Yankee closer, Chapman doesn’t have even one third of Rogers’ WPA, standing at 0.62. So, it’s safe to say that it would have been absolutely fair if Rogers was chosen over any of the current AL All Star relievers.
But now, I have something else to put up for discussion. Taylor is only 28 and, if he continues to pitch like that, I think nobody would have any objection to making him a Twin for the remainder of his career. So I should ask your opinion. Where in Twins history do you think Rogers could end up ranking at the end of his career? Does he have a shot at one day becoming one of the best relievers in club history?
Well, to start, I did a quick research, using Fangraphs’ Splits Leaderboard tool. Currently, Taylor has a 1.82 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and is striking out 11.57 batters per nine. The season is only at its midpoint and these numbers could very well get worse. But, if the season ended today, this would be only the second time in Twins history that a reliever has up to 1.82 ERA, over 11 strikeouts per nine and a WHIP of 0.98 or lower. The only other time that happened was in 2006, when Joe Nathan posted 1.58 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and struck out 12.5 batters per nine. Let me repeat myself: that only happened one other time in club history.
Nathan is the consensual choice any time someone asks who is the best reliever in Twins history. But interestingly enough, when you compare Rogers’ current career numbers and Nathan’s when he was 28, it gets scary. By the end of the 2002 season, when Nathan was still with the Giants, he had only one career save and -0.52 WPA. Rogers earned against the Rangers this Saturday his 14th career save and holds a 6.69 career WPA, which already ranks fourth in club history. Nathan has the lead with 24.55, but he didn’t throw a single pitch in a Twins uniform before he was 29.
Another angle through which we can also speculate that Rogers can surpass Nathan in the competition for best reliever in Twins history are their Fangraphs’ Wins Above Replacement (fWAR). Rogers currently is currently worth 4.2 career fWAR, at age 28, in his fourth year as a Major League pitcher. At age 28, Nathan was worth -0.4 and after his fourth season in the Majors he was worth 0.8.
So everytime this Colorado kid comes up to the mound this year, Twins fans should be extra grateful for the opportunity. Chances are we might be witnessing one of the greatest pitchers to ever play for Minnesota. Too bad All Star game won’t have this opportunity this year.
A year ago, in January to be specific, I penned a piece suggesting that the Minnesota Twins time to rebuild was over and that the new focus should be around building and supplementing the core. From that point, the organization experienced an 85 win season and a postseason berth. Heading into 2018, Derek Falvey and Thad Levine are all systems go in regards to the building effort.
When the dust settled following a one game defeat in The Bronx, Minnesota had a few clear cut avenues for improvement. They needed a starting arm, at least one. Paul Molitor needed a revamped bullpen, and a bat remained a relative luxury. As the hometown nine remains on a collision course with Opening Day, they've checked off all of the boxes and then some.
Going the relief route first, Addison Reed was the first surprise move to take place. Arguably among the best relievers, not named Wade Davis, to be available this winter, he provides a huge boost for Minnesota. Fernando Rodney and Zach Duke come in on one year deals and both provide significant upside with little room to be a disaster. On top of being outside additions, Paul Molitor now also has the luxury of using the reinforcements to strengthen the overall depth at his disposal. Names like Alan Busenitz and John Curtiss are now on the outside looking in, despite being more than capable of producing at the highest level. When it comes to relief, check off that box.
In the rotation, the goal was to bring in a pitcher that would slot among the Twins top three. With Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios at the top, Minnesota has two quality options and a bunch of question marks behind them. In solidifying three-fifths of the rotation, the names bringing up the rear are in a position to force only the best performers an opportunity to consistently be considered. The front office flipped Jermaine Palacios, a nice player that wasn't going to factor in at Target Field, for a pitcher that fits the mold in Jake Odorizzi. Sure, it's still somewhat deflating that Minnesota couldn't land Yu Darvish, but the reality is that he was the top player on the market and someone like that landing with the Twins is a long shot at best. As things stand right now, the rotation box can also be marked off, but a surprise addition of Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb would take things to an even higher level.
Finally, and least important, a bat looked like an avenue for improvement. In a steal of a deal, Logan Morrison joins Minnesota. Coming off a breakout season with 38 homers and a slugging percentage north of .500, he adds an incredible amount of thump to an already potent lineup. Minnesota has an opportunity to bat five players in the top two-thirds of their lineup that accounted for just under 150 home runs a season ago. Morrison removes the uncertainty of Kennys Vargas from the equation, and if Miguel Sano can consistently be ran out at third base, things get even more enticing. If this was the optional box to check, Falvey and Levine made sure to cross it off as well.
If we've seen anything this offseason, it's that there should never be a point in which you expect what comes next. The dollars have been depressed, but the deals have still come. When it appears Minnesota may be done making moves, another announcement is on the horizon. With some money yet to spend, Lynn or Cobb would seemingly be the final piece to a well constructed puzzle. No matter what though, the landscape has been navigated wonderfully.
While bringing in a significant amount of talent, the front office has managed to commit only to situations in their favor. Only Addison Reed has a guaranteed contract into 2019 of the new acquisitions, and there's plenty of options on the table that allow for the Twins to capitalize on the upside available to them. Not only has it been a strong blueprint for talent acquisition, but the savvy spending shouldn't be overlooked either.
As the Twins embark on one of the most promising seasons in recent memory, they'll do so following one of the best offseasons in organization history. With the growth and development of a core capable of winning, Minnesota's front office has put their faith behind them and helped to build a contender. Cleveland is still where the division winner must go through, but Minnesota is hardly a far cry from wrangling that title away. If a 2017 postseason berth wasn't going to get you excited for what lies ahead, the off the field action should absolutely do the trick.
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