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  1. Relievers can be one of the trickiest groups for teams to evaluate. One relief pitcher can look great, and another can look terrible with such small sample sizes attached to their performances. Minnesota saw multiple relievers leave last winter and not all of them have found success with their new teams. However, one pitcher might be proving the Twins gave up on him a little too early. Zack Littell joined the Twins in 2017 as part of an interesting trade deadline. Minnesota acquired Jaime Garcia from the Braves and then after making one start, he was dealt to the Yankees. Littell was part of the return from New York, and he was amid a tremendous minor league campaign where he posted a 2.12 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. Littell’s time in Minnesota was filled with ups and downs. After finding some success in the upper minors, Littell seemed to be part of Minnesota’s future bullpen with the numbers he compiled in 2019. As a 23-year-old, he posted a 2.68 ERA with a 1.16 WHIP with a 32 to 9 strikeout to walk ratio. He was striking out less than a batter per inning, but his ERA+ and FIP pointed to him being an above average relief option. He was also one of the team’s most reliable relief arms down the stretch. Things couldn’t have gone much worse for Littell in 2020. He made six appearances with the Twins and allowed five home runs. He made multiple trips to the injured list as his elbow was bothering him. This probably made it easier for Minnesota to designate him for assignment and remove him from the 40-man roster without another team making a claim. This still left the team in a little bit of a dilemma as he would need to be added back to the 40-man this winter or become a minor league free agent. He became a free agent and signed a minor league deal with the San Francisco Giants. In a division with the Dodgers and Padres, the Giants weren’t supposed to be in contention, but they entered play on Monday with a one game division lead. Littell has been part of the surprise club as he has posted a 1.47 ERA with a 0.98 WHIP across 20 appearances. The team even turned to him to make a start for the club. His strikeouts per nine are higher than his career average and he’s doing a better job of keeping the ball in the park. Last year’s elbow issues seem to be behind him. There are likely multiple reasons that Minnesota let Littell go whether they were worried about his elbow or low strikeout numbers. However, his success is tough to swallow when the Twins have struggled to get consistent production out of the bullpen in 2021. Do you think the Twins gave up on Littell too early? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  2. Minnesota’s relief core has struggled through much of 2021. It doesn’t help to see a former Twins pitcher finding success after the team gave up on him and got nothing in return. Relievers can be one of the trickiest groups for teams to evaluate. One relief pitcher can look great, and another can look terrible with such small sample sizes attached to their performances. Minnesota saw multiple relievers leave last winter and not all of them have found success with their new teams. However, one pitcher might be proving the Twins gave up on him a little too early. Zack Littell joined the Twins in 2017 as part of an interesting trade deadline. Minnesota acquired Jaime Garcia from the Braves and then after making one start, he was dealt to the Yankees. Littell was part of the return from New York, and he was amid a tremendous minor league campaign where he posted a 2.12 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. Littell’s time in Minnesota was filled with ups and downs. After finding some success in the upper minors, Littell seemed to be part of Minnesota’s future bullpen with the numbers he compiled in 2019. As a 23-year-old, he posted a 2.68 ERA with a 1.16 WHIP with a 32 to 9 strikeout to walk ratio. He was striking out less than a batter per inning, but his ERA+ and FIP pointed to him being an above average relief option. He was also one of the team’s most reliable relief arms down the stretch. Things couldn’t have gone much worse for Littell in 2020. He made six appearances with the Twins and allowed five home runs. He made multiple trips to the injured list as his elbow was bothering him. This probably made it easier for Minnesota to designate him for assignment and remove him from the 40-man roster without another team making a claim. This still left the team in a little bit of a dilemma as he would need to be added back to the 40-man this winter or become a minor league free agent. He became a free agent and signed a minor league deal with the San Francisco Giants. In a division with the Dodgers and Padres, the Giants weren’t supposed to be in contention, but they entered play on Monday with a one game division lead. Littell has been part of the surprise club as he has posted a 1.47 ERA with a 0.98 WHIP across 20 appearances. The team even turned to him to make a start for the club. His strikeouts per nine are higher than his career average and he’s doing a better job of keeping the ball in the park. Last year’s elbow issues seem to be behind him. There are likely multiple reasons that Minnesota let Littell go whether they were worried about his elbow or low strikeout numbers. However, his success is tough to swallow when the Twins have struggled to get consistent production out of the bullpen in 2021. Do you think the Twins gave up on Littell too early? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email View full article
  3. Entering July 24th 2017, the Minnesota Twins were 49-48 coming off a 9-6 loss to the Detroit Tigers the night before. The Twins now stood 2.5 games back of Cleveland, and ready to make a push towards claiming the AL Central crown for the first time in 7 years. "Falvine" decided to push the button, making their first major trade during their Twins tenure, and acquire Atlanta Braves starter, Jaime García . Finally, after years of purely terrible baseball, the Twins were back, and the Front Office was willing to go for it. Now, it's July 28th 2017, the Minnesota Twins are in Oakland, and on a 4 game skid as they sit 49-51. Jaime García takes the mound for the first, and only time as a Minnesota Twin. He pitches well, but unremarkably as he leads the Twins to a 6-3 victory ending the losing streak with a decent stat line: 6.2 IP 7 K 3 BB 8 H 3 ER. Flash forward a bit further to July 30th, the Twins are 50-52, Cleveland has gone on a run, and the Twins are 7 games out. Oh, how the turn tables. Falvine decides they're no longer pushing for that first division title in 7 years, so why hold onto the rental they just acquired? So, after spending less than a week as a Twin, Jaime García packs his bags once again and heads to the Bronx to become a Yankee. As the leaves turn from green to wonderful fall colors, the Twins find out it didn't really matter if they bought or sold. Jaime García didn't pitch very well as a Yankee, and the Twins still managed to claw to a 85-77 record, going from the worst team in baseball to a wild card team in just a year. 7 years of terrible baseball. 13 years without a playoff victory, now with a chance to change that. October 3rd 2017, enter: the New York Yankees. We all know how this story goes, there's no point in reliving this one again. So, okay, the trades themselves, what exactly happened? Looking back, I think we can safely consider Jaime García's performance itself a wash and rather insignificant. But what about the prospects involved? Trade 1: The Minnesota Twins receive: SP Jaime García, C Anthony Recker, Cash Considerations. (Recker was soon released and never played for the Twins) The Atlanta Braves receive: SP Huascar Ynoa Trade 2: The Minnesota Twins receive: SP Zack Littell , SP Dietrich Enns The New York Yankees receive: SP Jaime García So essentially, the Twins gave up Ynoa, to get Littell and Enns. Neither Littell or Enns are with the Twins anymore, and only Littell had marginal success. Meanwhile, I have yet to mention the ginormous horse in the room. Huascar Ynoa has been the ace of the Atlanta Braves pitching staff thus far in 2021 pitching 44.2 Innings while garnering 1.8 bWAR. However, he could be out the rest of this year. That being said, the Braves potentially have a really good pitcher for a long time to come, and Falvine essentially gave Ynoa to them for free. Not every trade works out, many work out great, and many don't, and unfortunately this whole saga is the latter. Perhaps the best part of this whole saga for the Twins is that a day after sending Jaime packing to New York, they signed a guy from Utica with a rad mustache who was driving for Uber, fan fave Randy Dobnak. Once again, all stats are thanks to Baseball Reference, and the picture thanks to MLB.com. What trades should we revisit next?
  4. Going into the 2019 Major League Baseball season the Twins had few question marks more glaring than what their bullpen would look like. Fast forward to season’s end and it was among the best units in baseball. That happened largely because of internal development, and Zack Littell was part of that. Acquired from the New York Yankees, Littell had pitched a brief 20.1 innings during the 2018 season. Working as both a starter and reliever in his debut year, he moved completely to the pen in 2019. Across 37.0 IP Littell posted a 2.68 ERA and 171 ERA+. While he wasn’t counted upon as one of Rocco Baldelli’s top arms, he consistently got the job done. Fast forward to 2020 and Littell seemed to quickly fall out of favor with the big-league club. He was given just 6.1 IP this past season, and after a disastrous debut in which he allowed three homers and four runs in just a single inning to White Sox hitters, there wasn’t much more opportunity from there. Ultimately Littell was DFA’d from the 40-man, and after passing through waivers unclaimed, was assigned to the alternate site in St. Paul. What Minnesota really has here is probably something in the middle of the two extremes. As good as the ERA was in 2020, Littell still owned a 3.62 FIP and whiffed just 7.8 per nine while allowing 2.2 free passes per nine. He saw nearly a 2 mph jump on his fastball velocity once moving to the pen full time, and the 12.8% swinging strike rate in 2019 was nearly double the mark set the year before. Without pitching in too many high leverage situations though, it was on the basis of a relatively untested arm. Given the emergence of guys like Tyler Duffey and Caleb Thielbar, opportunities dwindled for someone on the fringe. Minnesota tabbed Matt Wisler as a worthy project right away during the 2019 offseason however, and Littell feels like someone worth investing in this time around. Should the Twins not add him back to the 40-man, he’d be a free agent, but letting g of talent like that needing to fill spots in the pen seems foolish. There was next to no amount of normalization when it comes to production in 2020. With the season being just 60 games, a small sample size was the absolute best you’d be able to get. Having chopped up opportunity as Littell did, and seemingly losing his stature during the first week of the season, it’d be great to see him compete with a traditional runway once again. If Minnesota is truly going to shave payroll in response to decreased revenues during 2020, then making sure there’s an adequate amount of low-cost, high-performing talents internally is a must. That may mean there’s a revolving door for some spots until they get it right, but it can’t mean moving on from options prior to determining what is truly there. Zack Littell looks the part of a bounce-back contributor next season and giving up on that possibility when he’s just 25-years-old would be a mistake. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  5. The Dodgers have a 2-1 series lead in the World Series as I type this. It’s possible that the World Series is over as early as Sunday. Even if the series goes seven games, the series will be over Wednesday and the offseason will begin. Teams will have decisions to make. The Twins will have to make one interesting decision pretty quickly.Roster management is such a key component for a front office. There is a 26-man roster (or 28 in 2020). 40-man roster spots are precious, and in 2020, there was a 60-man player pool to keep tabs on too. On September 17th, the Twins announced that right-handed relief pitcher Zack Littell had been outrighted from the team’s 40-man roster. It was a translation that certainly created some discussion among Twins fans. And the six weeks since then hasn’t really clarified things. Did the Twins really DFA a then-24-year-old Littell to give Homer Bailey one start at the end of the season before DFAing him too? As a 23-year-old in 2019, Littell went 6-0 with a 2.68 ERA in 37 innings over 29 games out of the Twins bullpen. He became one of the Twins most reliable relievers over the final two months of the Twins season. But 2020 was not a good year for Littell. He pitched just six games for the Twins and gave up seven runs in six innings. He was especially hurt by five home run balls. He clearly wasn’t the same, and a couple of Injured List stints with elbow issues likely tells much of the story. The bigger surprise to many, at least to me (and several others I’ve talked to), is that he went unclaimed. 29 teams had the opportunity to claim him, a 24-year-old reliever just one year from having his breakout season. That is the way-too-quick summary of what brings us to today. But one other piece of information is important as it relates to right now. Zack Littell was the 11th round pick of the Seattle Mariners in June of 2013 out of Eastern Alamance High School in Haw River, North Carolina. That means that five days after the World Series is complete, Littell will (or could) become a 6-year minor league free agent. He will spend the entire 2021 season at just 25 years old. What are the options at this point regarding Littell, or any of the other Twins six-year minor league free agent candidates)? ADD HIM BACK TO THE 40-MAN ROSTER If the Twins don’t want to lose Littell, and feel confident in that fact, they could simply add him back to the 40-man roster before he becomes a free agent five days after the World Series. TRADE HIM The Twins could try to trade him to another organization and that team would then have the same set of options. That said, if that team is acquiring him within a week of him becoming a free agent, two things are clear. First, the Twins would not get much in return. Anything more than “Cash Considerations” would be fortunate. Second, that team would certainly want to add him to their 40-man roster. LET HIM BECOME A FREE AGENT If the team allows him to become a free agent, a few different scenarios could take place: If they beat other teams to the punch and sign him to a minor league contract quickly, that would be a positive. However, he would also be subject to the Rule 5 draft so he could still be lost in December. They could agree to terms with the player, but not officially sign the minor league contract until the days following the Rule 5 draft. If they aren’t interested in bringing him back, or aren’t willing to offer what other organizations are, he could simply sign elsewhere. So if you’re Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, what would you do? BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE Any of the players that the Twins signed as minor league free agents before the 2020 season will also be free agents five days after the World Series. The following players have now been in the Twins organization since at least 2014 and are also not on the 40-man roster. RHP Jake Reed LHP Sam Clay RHP Andro Cutura RHP Moises Gomez RHP Jose Martinez For more on each, refer to this article from August in which each was discussed. Should any of the pitchers be added to the 40-man roster? Would you prioritize bringing any of them back as minor leaguer free agents? Click here to view the article
  6. Roster management is such a key component for a front office. There is a 26-man roster (or 28 in 2020). 40-man roster spots are precious, and in 2020, there was a 60-man player pool to keep tabs on too. On September 17th, the Twins announced that right-handed relief pitcher Zack Littell had been outrighted from the team’s 40-man roster. It was a translation that certainly created some discussion among Twins fans. And the six weeks since then hasn’t really clarified things. Did the Twins really DFA a then-24-year-old Littell to give Homer Bailey one start at the end of the season before DFAing him too? As a 23-year-old in 2019, Littell went 6-0 with a 2.68 ERA in 37 innings over 29 games out of the Twins bullpen. He became one of the Twins most reliable relievers over the final two months of the Twins season. But 2020 was not a good year for Littell. He pitched just six games for the Twins and gave up seven runs in six innings. He was especially hurt by five home run balls. He clearly wasn’t the same, and a couple of Injured List stints with elbow issues likely tells much of the story. The bigger surprise to many, at least to me (and several others I’ve talked to), is that he went unclaimed. 29 teams had the opportunity to claim him, a 24-year-old reliever just one year from having his breakout season. That is the way-too-quick summary of what brings us to today. But one other piece of information is important as it relates to right now. Zack Littell was the 11th round pick of the Seattle Mariners in June of 2013 out of Eastern Alamance High School in Haw River, North Carolina. That means that five days after the World Series is complete, Littell will (or could) become a 6-year minor league free agent. He will spend the entire 2021 season at just 25 years old. What are the options at this point regarding Littell, or any of the other Twins six-year minor league free agent candidates)? ADD HIM BACK TO THE 40-MAN ROSTER If the Twins don’t want to lose Littell, and feel confident in that fact, they could simply add him back to the 40-man roster before he becomes a free agent five days after the World Series. TRADE HIM The Twins could try to trade him to another organization and that team would then have the same set of options. That said, if that team is acquiring him within a week of him becoming a free agent, two things are clear. First, the Twins would not get much in return. Anything more than “Cash Considerations” would be fortunate. Second, that team would certainly want to add him to their 40-man roster. LET HIM BECOME A FREE AGENT If the team allows him to become a free agent, a few different scenarios could take place: If they beat other teams to the punch and sign him to a minor league contract quickly, that would be a positive. However, he would also be subject to the Rule 5 draft so he could still be lost in December. They could agree to terms with the player, but not officially sign the minor league contract until the days following the Rule 5 draft. If they aren’t interested in bringing him back, or aren’t willing to offer what other organizations are, he could simply sign elsewhere. https://twitter.com/SethTweets/status/1319736664789454848 So if you’re Derek Falvey and Thad Levine, what would you do? BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE Any of the players that the Twins signed as minor league free agents before the 2020 season will also be free agents five days after the World Series. The following players have now been in the Twins organization since at least 2014 and are also not on the 40-man roster. RHP Jake Reed LHP Sam Clay RHP Andro Cutura RHP Moises Gomez RHP Jose Martinez For more on each, refer to this article from August in which each was discussed. Should any of the pitchers be added to the 40-man roster? Would you prioritize bringing any of them back as minor leaguer free agents?
  7. Box Score Odorizzi: 3 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 1 K Home Runs: None Bottom 3 WPA: Jake Odorizzi -0.259, Eddie Rosario -0.090, Max Kepler -0.068. Odorizzi Struggles; Leaves Early With Injury Jake Odorizzi made his third start of the year tonight and all three starts have come against the Kansas City Royals. Odorizzi ran into trouble in the first inning when he gave up a three-run home run to Jorge Soler. His defense didn’t help him much either. Sano and Vargas misplayed a pop up behind the first base bag, which allowed Whit Merrifield to score the first run of the game. In the fourth inning, Jake Odorizzi was hit in the ribs from a line drive off the bat of Alex Gordon. Odorizzi immediately dropped to all fours and was in obvious pain. He got back to his feet and attempted to stay in the game, but was eventually walked off the field by Minnesota’s head trainer, Michael Salazar. Jorge Alcala came in the game following the injury to Odorizzi and gave up a bunt single to load the bases and walked Merrifield, allowing another Kansas City run to score before recording back-to-back strikeouts against Nicky Lopez and Hunter Dozier to end the inning. Jake ended his night with a final line of 3 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 1 K Jorge Alcala Shines in Emergency Role After struggling early upon entering in relief of the injured Odorizzi, Alcala settled down and worked quickly shutting down the Kansas City lineup. In his second inning of work, Alcala struck out the first two batters of the inning on six pitches and induced a first pitch pop up for the third out. Alcala worked a second scoreless inning in the sixth, striking out two more Royals hitters and keeping the Twins within relative striking distance. Alcala pitched a total of three innings, allowing one hit and striking out six. Also, he throws gas, which is always fun to watch. https://twitter.com/tlschwerz/status/1296986951606775809 Injuries Continue to Mount Much like many teams across the league, the 2020 Minnesota Twins have suffered their share of injuries, most notably to this point on the offensive side. Entering tonight, the Twins were without Buxton, Donaldson and Garver due to injury. The injured list got a bit more crowded tonight. As previously noted, Jake Odorizzi left the game in the fourth after being hit in the ribs by a line drive. Later in the game, Zack Littell, who entered the game in relief of Jorge Alcala, also had his night cut short due to injury. After hitting Soler on the hands, Littell signaled to the dugout for pitching coach Wes Johnson and expressed discomfort in his pitching arm. He was removed from the game and relieved by Caled Thielbar. Losing two pitchers to injury in the first game of a 10-game road trip is not an ideal situation. The No Bomba Squad The offensive woes for the 2020 Minnesota Twins have been well documented. We’re now nearly halfway through this shortened season and the lineup is still sputtering and shows very little resemblance to the powerhouse they were a year ago. Tonight was no exception. Through the first seven innings, Minnesota mustered five hits, all of which were singles, and their lone run came courtesy of a fielders’ choice groundout from Ehire Adrianza, scoring Rosario. Their first extra base hit did not come until the eighth inning when Miguel Sano doubled following a walk from Cruz, who later scored on a wild pitch. The good news is the Twins are still in first place and have another game tomorrow. Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs): Full recap coming soon ... Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Postgame Pint Nick, Rena and Nash discussed a bad night for the Twins, both because of the result and the potential injuries that the Twins Daily community witnessed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mt9kFiMUGA0&feature=youtu.be Download The Postgame Pint Podcast You can also listen to the Postgame Pint and never miss another one. Just head over to our iTunes page and subscribe. Every morning you'll have a new episode waiting for you. Or listen wherever you download your favorite podcasts.
  8. The Twins headed to Kansas City to take on the Royals for three more games. Four batters into the game, the Twins were down 4-0. By the end of the evening, they had lost two pitchers to injury.Box Score Odorizzi: 3 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 1 K Home Runs: None Bottom 3 WPA: Jake Odorizzi -0.259, Eddie Rosario -0.090, Max Kepler -0.068. Odorizzi Struggles; Leaves Early With Injury Jake Odorizzi made his third start of the year tonight and all three starts have come against the Kansas City Royals. Odorizzi ran into trouble in the first inning when he gave up a three-run home run to Jorge Soler. His defense didn’t help him much either. Sano and Vargas misplayed a pop up behind the first base bag, which allowed Whit Merrifield to score the first run of the game. In the fourth inning, Jake Odorizzi was hit in the ribs from a line drive off the bat of Alex Gordon. Odorizzi immediately dropped to all fours and was in obvious pain. He got back to his feet and attempted to stay in the game, but was eventually walked off the field by Minnesota’s head trainer, Michael Salazar. Jorge Alcala came in the game following the injury to Odorizzi and gave up a bunt single to load the bases and walked Merrifield, allowing another Kansas City run to score before recording back-to-back strikeouts against Nicky Lopez and Hunter Dozier to end the inning. Jake ended his night with a final line of 3 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 1 K Jorge Alcala Shines in Emergency Role After struggling early upon entering in relief of the injured Odorizzi, Alcala settled down and worked quickly shutting down the Kansas City lineup. In his second inning of work, Alcala struck out the first two batters of the inning on six pitches and induced a first pitch pop up for the third out. Alcala worked a second scoreless inning in the sixth, striking out two more Royals hitters and keeping the Twins within relative striking distance. Alcala pitched a total of three innings, allowing one hit and striking out six. Also, he throws gas, which is always fun to watch. Injuries Continue to Mount Much like many teams across the league, the 2020 Minnesota Twins have suffered their share of injuries, most notably to this point on the offensive side. Entering tonight, the Twins were without Buxton, Donaldson and Garver due to injury. The injured list got a bit more crowded tonight. As previously noted, Jake Odorizzi left the game in the fourth after being hit in the ribs by a line drive. Later in the game, Zack Littell, who entered the game in relief of Jorge Alcala, also had his night cut short due to injury. After hitting Soler on the hands, Littell signaled to the dugout for pitching coach Wes Johnson and expressed discomfort in his pitching arm. He was removed from the game and relieved by Caled Thielbar. Losing two pitchers to injury in the first game of a 10-game road trip is not an ideal situation. The No Bomba Squad The offensive woes for the 2020 Minnesota Twins have been well documented. We’re now nearly halfway through this shortened season and the lineup is still sputtering and shows very little resemblance to the powerhouse they were a year ago. Tonight was no exception. Through the first seven innings, Minnesota mustered five hits, all of which were singles, and their lone run came courtesy of a fielders’ choice groundout from Ehire Adrianza, scoring Rosario. Their first extra base hit did not come until the eighth inning when Miguel Sano doubled following a walk from Cruz, who later scored on a wild pitch. The good news is the Twins are still in first place and have another game tomorrow. Win Probability Chart (via FanGraphs): Full recap coming soon ... Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Postgame Pint Nick, Rena and Nash discussed a bad night for the Twins, both because of the result and the potential injuries that the Twins Daily community witnessed. Download The Postgame Pint Podcast You can also listen to the Postgame Pint and never miss another one. Just head over to our iTunes page and subscribe. Every morning you'll have a new episode waiting for you. Or listen wherever you download your favorite podcasts. Click here to view the article
  9. When a team acquires a pitcher, via free agency or trade, it is because they believe that pitcher can get batters out with regularity. However, when the team signed Tyler Clippard and re-signed Sergio Romo this offseason, they were getting two pitchers with a ton of experience. Experience that can help develop the Twins young, talented bullpen arms.37-year-old Sergio Romo has pitched in 708 major-league games over the past 12 seasons. He has once been an All Star. He was an important piece in three Giants World Series championships (2010, 2012, 2014). Tyler Clippard is 35 years old. He has pitched in 751 games over his 13 seasons in the big leagues. He is a two-time All Star, and has been a part of two World Series teams. Only side-winding Joe Smith has pitched more games than Clippard among active players. Romo is fourth among active players in games pitched. Active MLB Leaders in Games Pitched 782 - Joe Smith 751 - Tyler Clippard 710 - Joakim Soria 708 - Sergio Romo 705 - Combined MLB games pitched by Taylor Rogers (258), Trevor May (191), Tyler Duffey (169), Zack Littell (37), Cody Stashak (18), Lewis Thorpe (12), Devin Smeltzer (11), Randy Dobnak (9). Sure, you can add Matt Wisler’s 129 MLB games to the list, but then the list above doesn’t look quite as cool. That said, the point is certainly clear. The Twins have two relievers who come with a ton of major-league experience. The 2020 Twins bullpen should be strong, but these two have many experiences and tips and tricks that they can share with the younger pitchers to help them improve. Some of it is simply accepting and thriving in the reality that they are now at a different phase in their careers. Tyler Clippard credited lefty Ron Villone and right-hander Brad Lidge for being guys that he looked up to and learned a lot from when he was new to the league. Now he is taking on that role as veteran leader, and happy to do so. He said, “That perspective that I had as a younger player, looking up to those veteran guys and knowing that I’m on that side of it now. Respecting that and recognizing that is very important to me and something I enjoy the heck out of every day. Hopefully they get something out of it, but I truly enjoy it. ” In his career, Sergio Romo has had some great experiences. For instance, he was the closer for a World Series championship team. He’s been a great set up man too. And he clearly sees the talent in the guys that the Twins are projected to pitch in those late innings. We know that Taylor Rogers would love to be the guy on the mound if and when the Twins win the World Series, as Romo was when he struck out Miguel Cabrera to end the 2012 World Series. It’s something that he and the other Twins pitchers can talk to Romo about. To hear a guy with Romo’s track record acknowledge how great Rogers is has to be meaningful. But Romo and Clippard aren’t just there to lead those late-inning relievers. They are there to get outs, and some big outs in key situations. They can also instill confidence in the rest of the bullpen too Romo said, “There are guys that haven’t had their coming out party yet, and I think this short spring could be something of that sort for a couple of guys in our bullpen.” He specifically mentioned Cody Stashak and Zack Littell. “These guys are going to come out with a bang, and they’re going to be so consistent in this short sprint that it’s going to be so dang hard to not talk about them in the long run.” Littell has appreciated the leadership shown by Romo and Clippard. He said recently, “I think the biggest thing they bring to the table aside from the obvious experience they have, is the ability to show that everybody needs to just be themselves. Sergio and Clippard are two very different personality guys, but each of them is able to go out and get outs everyday and have both been doing it a long time. And there’s something to be said for being comfortable in your own skin especially when you get into these big moments in games and they both are just examples of that.” Littell had transitioned from being a starting pitcher prospect into the bullpen and was such a key cog in the bullpen’s resurgence over the final two months of the season. In 29 games on the season, he went 6-0 with a 2.68 ERA. But with Romo on the roster in August and September, Littell must have felt much more comfortable. He gave up just one earned run over 18 2/3 innings covering 15 games. Stashak made his debut in late July last year. The cool, calm right-hander walked just one batter and struck out 25 batters over 25 innings (18 games). Stashak rejoined the Twins “Summer Camp” a little bit late as he was with his wife when she gave birth to the couple’s first child. He told Twins Daily recently that he hasn’t had as much time with Clippard, but he was a locker mate with Romo throughout his time in the big leagues last August and September. Of Romo, Stashak said, “He is a guy that will answer any question even if it is not about baseball. We talked a lot during my time up there. He was more of a mentor for me as I was still trying to get comfortable up in the big leagues. He is funny, energetic and everyone loves the guy. It’s hard not to like a guy like Serg.” But Stashak was quick to compliment other veterans on the Twins roster such as Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson and Alex Avila. He added, “The atmosphere around the clubhouse is great and everyone gets along which makes it such a fun group to be around. From a pitching side there are two guys who you mentioned who have experienced it all, like being a World Series contender and even a champion. Hopefully they can help guide us to a World Series and help us win it!” While Romo is the more boisterous of the two veteran relievers, he points out that Clippard not only has experience, but that he is able to communicate well with his teammates. “The experience that he has... The communication skills that he has that I’ve already seen... Being able to share his experiences and share his thoughts, and thought-process on the mound, and when what he’s trying to accomplish in his practice, in his bullpen sessions, his flat grounds, and even his normal play-catch sessions. It’s awesome how he can simplify it all.” Clippard has relished the opportunity to lead and be an ear and an example for younger pitchers. “That’s been one of the coolest parts of my career over the last three or four years, has been being a veteran guy and being a guy that (younger) guys look to for answers, whether it be it baseball-related, off the field stuff, anything or everything. I love talking to the younger guys. I love talking about pitching. I learn a lot of the times as much from them as they might learn from me.” I have talked to several former Twins recently for some upcoming stories, and each has taken time to point out how much ‘character’ has mattered when drafting, signing or otherwise acquiring players. It is clear that trait is still very important as Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard have not only had tremendous, long-laster careers on the mound, but they clearly have had a very positive effect on younger players and teammates as well. Click here to view the article
  10. 37-year-old Sergio Romo has pitched in 708 major-league games over the past 12 seasons. He has once been an All Star. He was an important piece in three Giants World Series championships (2010, 2012, 2014). Tyler Clippard is 35 years old. He has pitched in 751 games over his 13 seasons in the big leagues. He is a two-time All Star, and has been a part of two World Series teams. Only side-winding Joe Smith has pitched more games than Clippard among active players. Romo is fourth among active players in games pitched. Active MLB Leaders in Games Pitched 782 - Joe Smith 751 - Tyler Clippard 710 - Joakim Soria 708 - Sergio Romo 705 - Combined MLB games pitched by Taylor Rogers (258), Trevor May (191), Tyler Duffey (169), Zack Littell (37), Cody Stashak (18), Lewis Thorpe (12), Devin Smeltzer (11), Randy Dobnak (9). Sure, you can add Matt Wisler’s 129 MLB games to the list, but then the list above doesn’t look quite as cool. That said, the point is certainly clear. The Twins have two relievers who come with a ton of major-league experience. The 2020 Twins bullpen should be strong, but these two have many experiences and tips and tricks that they can share with the younger pitchers to help them improve. Some of it is simply accepting and thriving in the reality that they are now at a different phase in their careers. Tyler Clippard credited lefty Ron Villone and right-hander Brad Lidge for being guys that he looked up to and learned a lot from when he was new to the league. Now he is taking on that role as veteran leader, and happy to do so. He said, “That perspective that I had as a younger player, looking up to those veteran guys and knowing that I’m on that side of it now. Respecting that and recognizing that is very important to me and something I enjoy the heck out of every day. Hopefully they get something out of it, but I truly enjoy it. ” In his career, Sergio Romo has had some great experiences. For instance, he was the closer for a World Series championship team. He’s been a great set up man too. And he clearly sees the talent in the guys that the Twins are projected to pitch in those late innings. https://twitter.com/SethTweets/status/1282780542178664448 We know that Taylor Rogers would love to be the guy on the mound if and when the Twins win the World Series, as Romo was when he struck out Miguel Cabrera to end the 2012 World Series. It’s something that he and the other Twins pitchers can talk to Romo about. To hear a guy with Romo’s track record acknowledge how great Rogers is has to be meaningful. But Romo and Clippard aren’t just there to lead those late-inning relievers. They are there to get outs, and some big outs in key situations. They can also instill confidence in the rest of the bullpen too Romo said, “There are guys that haven’t had their coming out party yet, and I think this short spring could be something of that sort for a couple of guys in our bullpen.” He specifically mentioned Cody Stashak and Zack Littell. “These guys are going to come out with a bang, and they’re going to be so consistent in this short sprint that it’s going to be so dang hard to not talk about them in the long run.” Littell has appreciated the leadership shown by Romo and Clippard. He said recently, “I think the biggest thing they bring to the table aside from the obvious experience they have, is the ability to show that everybody needs to just be themselves. Sergio and Clippard are two very different personality guys, but each of them is able to go out and get outs everyday and have both been doing it a long time. And there’s something to be said for being comfortable in your own skin especially when you get into these big moments in games and they both are just examples of that.” Littell had transitioned from being a starting pitcher prospect into the bullpen and was such a key cog in the bullpen’s resurgence over the final two months of the season. In 29 games on the season, he went 6-0 with a 2.68 ERA. But with Romo on the roster in August and September, Littell must have felt much more comfortable. He gave up just one earned run over 18 2/3 innings covering 15 games. Stashak made his debut in late July last year. The cool, calm right-hander walked just one batter and struck out 25 batters over 25 innings (18 games). Stashak rejoined the Twins “Summer Camp” a little bit late as he was with his wife when she gave birth to the couple’s first child. He told Twins Daily recently that he hasn’t had as much time with Clippard, but he was a locker mate with Romo throughout his time in the big leagues last August and September. Of Romo, Stashak said, “He is a guy that will answer any question even if it is not about baseball. We talked a lot during my time up there. He was more of a mentor for me as I was still trying to get comfortable up in the big leagues. He is funny, energetic and everyone loves the guy. It’s hard not to like a guy like Serg.” But Stashak was quick to compliment other veterans on the Twins roster such as Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson and Alex Avila. He added, “The atmosphere around the clubhouse is great and everyone gets along which makes it such a fun group to be around. From a pitching side there are two guys who you mentioned who have experienced it all, like being a World Series contender and even a champion. Hopefully they can help guide us to a World Series and help us win it!” While Romo is the more boisterous of the two veteran relievers, he points out that Clippard not only has experience, but that he is able to communicate well with his teammates. “The experience that he has... The communication skills that he has that I’ve already seen... Being able to share his experiences and share his thoughts, and thought-process on the mound, and when what he’s trying to accomplish in his practice, in his bullpen sessions, his flat grounds, and even his normal play-catch sessions. It’s awesome how he can simplify it all.” Clippard has relished the opportunity to lead and be an ear and an example for younger pitchers. “That’s been one of the coolest parts of my career over the last three or four years, has been being a veteran guy and being a guy that (younger) guys look to for answers, whether it be it baseball-related, off the field stuff, anything or everything. I love talking to the younger guys. I love talking about pitching. I learn a lot of the times as much from them as they might learn from me.” I have talked to several former Twins recently for some upcoming stories, and each has taken time to point out how much ‘character’ has mattered when drafting, signing or otherwise acquiring players. It is clear that trait is still very important as Sergio Romo and Tyler Clippard have not only had tremendous, long-laster careers on the mound, but they clearly have had a very positive effect on younger players and teammates as well.
  11. Often on Twitter from 2015-2017 I found myself banging a drum that Ryan Pressly was the next great arm out of the Minnesota bullpen. He’d scuffled plenty, and the numbers weren’t glowing, so there was always plenty of pushback. His 2017 was especially mediocre, but there was another level to be achieved. In 2018 he raced out to a 3.40 ERA across 47.2 IP but was backed by a 2.47 FIP and 12.8 K/9. By all intents and purposes, he’d arrived. The Twins, not being in an immediate place of contention, made a difficult but logical decision. They cashed in on a reliever and sent him to Houston. He went on to post a 0.77 ERA in his final 23.1 IP and then followed it up with a 2.32 ERA last season. The Astros deserve credit for taking him to heights Minnesota was not previously equipped to accomplish, but the ability was always there to mold. Now with what finished as the third best bullpen in baseball during the 2019 season, and a group that could vie to be the best in 2020, there’s two arms that jump out as potential suitors to take that next Pressly-esque step. Trevor May – 2019 Stats 2.94 ERA 3.73 FIP 11.1 K/9 3.6 BB/9 The gaming celebrity is now 30 and already an established veteran for the Twins. He’s a free agent following this season, and despite the already glowing ERA, there’s reason to believe another level is possible. May worked around some additional trouble last year, having a FIP nearly a full point higher. Although he decreased his hit and HR rate, he doubled his walk rate and got away from the glowing 1.8 BB/9 mark he set in 2018. https://twitter.com/IamTrevorMay/status/1226982719994912769 Under the hood is where things get exciting for Trevor. His 34.8% hard hit rate was the lowest he’s posted as a reliever, and his 95.9 mph average velocity isn’t far off from adding two full ticks to his fastball. This is an age that relievers should see a decline in their abilities. But May, having fewer miles on his arm, could be gaining benefit from that past lack of use. Wes Johnson has him throwing absolute darts, and there’s room for a slight rebound in strikeout and whiff rates. He’s probably close to a finished product, but as the Twins invest in technology and May incorporates it, even a slight tweak could have him in the conversation for a top ten pen arm. He’s also all in on one series being more exciting than the rest. https://twitter.com/tlschwerz/status/1229881398187696132 Zack Littell – 2019 Stats 2.68 ERA 3.62 FIP 7.8 K/9 2.2 BB/9 Acquired by the Twins when Derek Falvey flipped Jaime Garcia to the New York Yankees, Littell has long looked the part of an intriguing arm. He wasn’t ever going to be a top of the rotation starter, but the floor has never looked anything but promising. After being moved to the bullpen full time a year ago, it seemed Minnesota was ready to unleash what had quickly been established as a weapon. Utilizing his fastball nearly 50% of the time, he too saw a near 2 mph jump on the pitch. Now averaging 94 mph, his whiff rate nearly doubled, and the chase rate rose 10%. Just 24-years-old, Littell is still settling into a relief role after a pro career of starting. His strikeout rate hasn’t seen the substantial jump yet, but I’d be on it coming. Phil Miller of the Star Tribune recently wrote about Littell changing up his offseason, essentially shifting towards a more intentional path towards development. He had produced some eye-popping numbers last season on what largely derived from talent and ability. Embracing data and generating actionable outcomes could be the thing that takes him to a new level of sustainability. Not all relievers are late bloomers, and Littell looks the part of a guy who’s settled into a role and now is ready to explode. MORE FROM TWINS DAILY — Latest Twins coverage from our writers — Recent Twins discussion in our forums — Follow Twins Daily via Twitter, Facebook or email
  12. The Twins were ready for Derek Shelton to return to Hammond Stadium. When the Twins were done with batting practice, the Pittsburgh Pirates came onto the field for their pregame work. When Shelton came out, he was met in the middle of the infield by a large contingent of Twins, starting with Rocco Baldelli. Derek Falvey wished him well. Shelton was given hugs by many Twins personnel. In addition, there were a few photos put into a slide show format on the stadiums video board. In addition, several chatted with Rick Eckstein, the Pirates hitting coach. He was the Twins minor league hitting coordinator in 2018 before getting the Pirates job before the 2019 season. Even after the Pirates made a change with their manager, Eckstein retained his job. Jose Berrios started and threw three scoreless innings. He gave up one hit, walked two and struck out two batters. It took him a little to get going at the beginning. "I tried to do the same thing I did last time. Throwing my four-seam fastball. Using the changeup, too. Trying to throw good changeups. But in the beginning, the first inning, I had issues with the grip because of the weather. Because I was thinking about it, I was being too fast with my first side. But other than that, I felt good about the outing." In addition, Berrios was working on a couple of things. "Yeah. I threw a couple of fastballs well, running up. That's something we've been practicing so far in spring training." He is also working on a spiked curveball, the more 12-6 variety, to go with his sweeping slider. It's something that his manager thinks will really help him, especially working in concert with his elevated fastball. Said Baldelli, "Being able to use those pitches off of each other, I think, is certainly a trick that Jose is aware of, and he's used, but I think he's still perfecting that kind of stuff and gaining even more feel for it. He can definitely sweep that breaking ball across the zone and that can be effective for some hitters, but if he can also be able to spin it up and down. We're talking slight adjustments here, but if he can do some different things with the breaking ball, that can come in in a useful way." Berrios said that he spent some time with Alex Avila after his outing. "After our outing, we talked and obviously, it's the first time we've played together. He said, 'The more I know you, the more comfortable it will be for me.' Today, I think we did great work." Asked if he and his staff has strategically aligned pitchers and catchers who have not worked with each other to work with each other early in camp, Baldelli said, "Yes. It doesn't always work out [perfectly where you get to match everybody up with exactly who you want them to work with. But I think it is important. know Wes and Mac and Bill also think it is important. We will ty to get Alex out there with as many of our pitchers as we possibly can throughout the spring. Hopefully he sees everyone. Hopefully he will see most of them multiple times. And the same with Bailey and Kenta with all of our guys, just trying to get feel for all these guys. It starts in the bullpens early on in camp and goes into live b.p. then obviously real games The more they can work together the better off we are going to be once the season starts." Littell Velocity Do Hyoung Park from twinsbaseball.com chatted with Zack Littell about his bullpen role. He told pitching coach Wes Johnson that he wants to hit 100 mph. Littell has really taken to the bullpen role. On Saturday night, he tossed two scoreless innings and struck out three. Nelson Cruz(es) Several of the players kids were in the clubhouse before the game on Saturday night. Nelson Cruz's son - also Nelson - was pretty involved in the night. When the Twins were taking infield practice, he was in line with the other Twins third basemen and fielded grounders and made the throws to (or most of the way to) second or first base. Whatever the other guys were doing. They stood together for the national anthem, and Nelson (the younger) got to spend time as a bat boy. Notes Rocco Baldelli did say that Jorge Polanco is expected to start at DH on Sunday afternoon. It will mark his first game of the spring. Marwin Gonzalez is expected to make his first appearance this week as well. Please feel free to ask questions. I've done several interviews and I have several more planned. They definitely won't all be published by the time I leave here next week. One thing is for sure. We will have a lot of pictures to use with the Twins Daily articles. Be sure to follow Twins Daily on Twitter.
  13. In his second start, Jose Berrios worked three scoreless innings. On a cold night in Ft. Myers, the Twins bats were also kept quiet. The Twins lost 2-0 to give former bench coach Derek Shelton his first managerial win.The Twins were ready for Derek Shelton to return to Hammond Stadium. When the Twins were done with batting practice, the Pittsburgh Pirates came onto the field for their pregame work. When Shelton came out, he was met in the middle of the infield by a large contingent of Twins, starting with Rocco Baldelli. Derek Falvey wished him well. Shelton was given hugs by many Twins personnel. In addition, there were a few photos put into a slide show format on the stadiums video board. In addition, several chatted with Rick Eckstein, the Pirates hitting coach. He was the Twins minor league hitting coordinator in 2018 before getting the Pirates job before the 2019 season. Even after the Pirates made a change with their manager, Eckstein retained his job. Jose Berrios started and threw three scoreless innings. He gave up one hit, walked two and struck out two batters. It took him a little to get going at the beginning. "I tried to do the same thing I did last time. Throwing my four-seam fastball. Using the changeup, too. Trying to throw good changeups. But in the beginning, the first inning, I had issues with the grip because of the weather. Because I was thinking about it, I was being too fast with my first side. But other than that, I felt good about the outing." In addition, Berrios was working on a couple of things. "Yeah. I threw a couple of fastballs well, running up. That's something we've been practicing so far in spring training." He is also working on a spiked curveball, the more 12-6 variety, to go with his sweeping slider. It's something that his manager thinks will really help him, especially working in concert with his elevated fastball. Said Baldelli, "Being able to use those pitches off of each other, I think, is certainly a trick that Jose is aware of, and he's used, but I think he's still perfecting that kind of stuff and gaining even more feel for it. He can definitely sweep that breaking ball across the zone and that can be effective for some hitters, but if he can also be able to spin it up and down. We're talking slight adjustments here, but if he can do some different things with the breaking ball, that can come in in a useful way." Berrios said that he spent some time with Alex Avila after his outing. "After our outing, we talked and obviously, it's the first time we've played together. He said, 'The more I know you, the more comfortable it will be for me.' Today, I think we did great work." Asked if he and his staff has strategically aligned pitchers and catchers who have not worked with each other to work with each other early in camp, Baldelli said, "Yes. It doesn't always work out [perfectly where you get to match everybody up with exactly who you want them to work with. But I think it is important. know Wes and Mac and Bill also think it is important. We will ty to get Alex out there with as many of our pitchers as we possibly can throughout the spring. Hopefully he sees everyone. Hopefully he will see most of them multiple times. And the same with Bailey and Kenta with all of our guys, just trying to get feel for all these guys. It starts in the bullpens early on in camp and goes into live b.p. then obviously real games The more they can work together the better off we are going to be once the season starts." Littell Velocity Do Hyoung Park from twinsbaseball.com chatted with Zack Littell about his bullpen role. He told pitching coach Wes Johnson that he wants to hit 100 mph. Littell has really taken to the bullpen role. On Saturday night, he tossed two scoreless innings and struck out three. Nelson Cruz(es) Several of the players kids were in the clubhouse before the game on Saturday night. Nelson Cruz's son - also Nelson - was pretty involved in the night. When the Twins were taking infield practice, he was in line with the other Twins third basemen and fielded grounders and made the throws to (or most of the way to) second or first base. Whatever the other guys were doing. They stood together for the national anthem, and Nelson (the younger) got to spend time as a bat boy. Notes Rocco Baldelli did say that Jorge Polanco is expected to start at DH on Sunday afternoon. It will mark his first game of the spring. Marwin Gonzalez is expected to make his first appearance this week as well. Please feel free to ask questions. I've done several interviews and I have several more planned. They definitely won't all be published by the time I leave here next week. One thing is for sure. We will have a lot of pictures to use with the Twins Daily articles. Be sure to follow Twins Daily on Twitter. Click here to view the article
  14. https://blogs.fangraphs.com/zack-littell-on-his-two-sliders/ Interesting piece over at FanGraphs where Zack Littell discusses the two different sliders he used in 2019 and the possibility of adding a third(!) in 2020.
  15. Going into 2019 one of the biggest storylines was that of the Minnesota Twins bullpen. New manager Rocco Baldelli had a rag tag group of arms, and there were more question marks than anyone would have liked. Fast forward a year and Wes Johnson transformed that narrative allowing 2020 to keep the unit entirely off the radar. When the team broke from Spring Training down in Fort Myers last year, only six players were truly relievers. The group consisted of Taylor Rogers, Trevor Mayer, Blake Parker, Adalberto Mejia, Trevor Hildenberger, and Ryne Harper. Of those, only three remain. Over the course of 2019 that unit took on a considerably different feeling. From one of uncertainty to a relative strength, new faces were added, and steps forward were taken. When the dust settled, Minnesota’s unit posted the 3rd highest fWAR in baseball, and were on par with the vaunted Yankees relief corps. The 3.92 FIP was the best in baseball, and while they didn’t have the best strikeout rate, a 2.9 BB/9 led the sport as well. Fast forward to today and the bullpen is all but settled. The Twins have some pieces to add on the roster, but this isn’t an area that needs work. With a 26-man roster for 2020, an eight-man staff to start out the year makes a good amount of sense. The names that make the most sense are Rogers, May, Sergio Romo, Tyler Duffey, Tyler Clippard, Zack Littell, Cody Stashak, and Matt Wisler. As a holdover from 2019, Ryne Harper could also push to eek his way in. This configuration includes hard throwers, bat missers, and guys with a strong ability to hit their spots. Breaking balls are present in the arms of Romo, Duffey, and Wisler. Littell and May can both shove, while arms like Rogers, Clippard, and Stashak are well rounded overall. This group doesn’t have names like Chapman or Britton, but you can bet that on performance alone, there’s household contributors to be utilized. After needing to replace four-fifths of the starting rotation from last year, it’s there that the Twins will find the most question marks for the year ahead. Give credit to Wes Johnson stepping in and immediately establishing himself as a viable and impressive pitching coach at the Major League level. The rotation is now buoyed mainly by veterans, but the supplementation of younger arms will need to be positioned with opportunity for success. Last season there was a good deal of changes made on the fly in the pen and being able to successfully navigate those waters provides a blueprint for the year ahead. No team will ever have enough pitching, and while Minnesota has flip-flopped the avenue in which they are needy, an infrastructure that fosters success is clearly in place. We don’t yet know how the Twins relievers will perform in the year ahead, and volatility on that part of the roster is to be expected. Given where the narrative was just a season ago however, the development and change are to be celebrated. For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
  16. If you'd told me two months ago that the Twins would be so brimming with quality bullpen talent by the end of September, they'd be looking at leaving out deserving candidates from the postseason roster... well, I'd have given you a real funny look. But, here we are. Even with deadline centerpiece Sam Dyson fizzling out entirely, the Twins have the second-highest bullpen WAR in baseball since they acquired him. With the relief corps figuring to play a pivotal role in this year's postseason run, let's examine some of the difficult decisions being weighed.In projecting the playoff bullpen, we need to set a few parameters. We'll presume that the Twins carry 12 pitchers, which is generally the most you'll see given the reduced need for starting depth. Even the Brewers, who last year bullpened their way through the playoffs, carried only 12 pitchers. So, we can safely assume that six of those pitchers will be Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, Tyler Duffey, and Sergio Romo. Next, there is a batch of borderline locks: Randy Dobnak, Martin Perez, Devin Smeltzer. The length these guys provide is essential, especially with Minnesota possibly planning on multiple bullpen games in a series. One might quibble with Perez's presence in that second group, but I think his effectiveness against lefties (.592 OPS) solidifies his bid, given the lack of specialist alternatives. That leaves us with, at most, three open spots for the taking. And that's if the Twins elect to carry a shorthanded bench in favor of additional pen flexibility. Here are the candidates, listed from most-to-least viable as I see it: 1. Cody Stashak, RHP Stashak has ever-so-quietly put together a dominant showing in his major-league debut, posting a 23-to-1 K/BB ratio through his first 22 innings with an elite swing-and-miss rate. Control and stuff: two traits you absolutely want in your bullpen against imposing lineups filled with sluggers. The only question is how Stashak, a former 13th-round draft pick who opened this season in Double-A, will handle the pressure of such a stage. There's been zero indication to this point that he'll be rattled much. 2. Zack Littell, RHP In his second appearance of the season, Littell wore one against the Rays, giving up eight runs over 4 1/3 innings in mop-up duty. Since then, Littell has a 0.94 ERA over 25 appearances. He vacillates between a 94 MPH fastball and 87 MPH cutter in equal measure, and the formula's been very effective for him. Littell has recorded five or six outs in three of his past four appearances, so he's primed to handle a couple innings. That's very handy for the Twins in their situation. You could make a fair case that Littell should be No. 1 on this list, or even in the lock category. 3. Brusdar Graterol, RHP The 21-year-old's initial exposure to the majors has had its ups and downs, but the invigorating high points reaffirm his potential impact. Graterol is the kind of weapon you like to have at your disposal in tight contests, bringing triple-digit heat that's tough to square up when he locates it. Obviously there's an added level of risk and uncertainty at play here, but I think the Twins will wisely accept that in tandem with his upside. 4. Lewis Thorpe, LHP Now we're getting into the "outside looking in" group. Thorpe is an interesting case, because he offers length the Twins might value in front-to-back bullpen games. But he has a 6.15 ERA and 1.71 WHIP. There have been moments where Thorpe's looked really good, and his competitive moxy would fit right in with the intensity of October, but it's hard to imagine the Twins calling on him for multiple innings in a playoff game. He hasn't been good against lefties so match-ups don't really factor. 5. Kyle Gibson, RHP The Twins have given Gibson every chance. His last three appearances cascaded into catastrophe, systematically eroding the notion that he can help in any kind of postseason role. First, Gibson came back from an IL respite and got bashed for six runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. Then, he made a relief appearance and promptly gave up a costly home run. Most recently, he was an erratic mess against Kansas City, failing to complete two innings. Over his past five appearances, opponents are hitting .413 against Gibson. The physically-hampered righty continues to miss bats even in this diminished state, which is the only solace I'll take in the (likely?) event that the team carries him out of sheer loyalty. 6. Fernando Romero, RHP At the beginning of the season, it would've been easy to envision Romero at the head of this conversation. But that was a long time ago, and the 24-year-old has since had a rough go of things. Constantly wrestling with his command, Romero has seen his upper-90s fastball fail to garner the desired results, in both Triple-A and the majors. There's still a glimmer of intrigue in that raw arsenal, but he's been too shaky to merit any trust. 7. Ryne Harper, RHP It's a raw deal for Harper. He was a vital bullpen fixture in the first half. He's a great story. I'd love to see him playing a role in the postseason. I just don't think the Twins can justify carving out a spot for him. Harper's heavy reliance on a big slow curveball, supplemented by a sub-mediocre fastball, was solved by big-league hitters after about three months, resulting in a 5.51 ERA and .318 opponents' average since the break. The idea of serving those pitches up against a bloodthirsty Yankees or Astros lineup is... discomforting. 8. Trevor Hildenberger, RHP Given his history, Hildenberger might've nudged his way back into the postseason picture -- despite his immense struggles over the past year-plus -- had he managed to string together a few shutdown performances here in September. But that hasn't happened. The righty looks awful. In three appearances since returning to the Twins, he's allowed six runs on six hits and three walks in 2 1/3 innings, with two swinging strikes on 59 pitches. He's not usable. 9. Kohl Stewart, RHP Stewart's last three appearances for the Twins have come against likely postseason teams: OAK, NYY, ATL, WAS. Here's how that went: 7 IP, 13 H, 10 ER (12.86 ERA), 6 K, 3 BB, 2 HR. He serves no purpose outside of mopping up meaningless innings and that's just not a guy you need around in a five-game playoff series. 10. Jorge Alcala, RHP The fact that he has made one appearance since being called up 10 days ago, as the sixth pitcher in a game that slipped out of hand late, tells you all you need to know about where he stands in this bullpen hierarchy. Alcala is merely an extra emergency arm to have around for September, and it's become clear he was never auditioning for anything more. Based on these rankings and the supposition of a 12-man staff, here's how I see the ALDS bullpen shaking out: Berrios, Odorizzi, Rogers, May, Duffey, Romo, Dobnak, Perez, Smeltzer, Stashak, Littell, Graterol. What do you think? Would you rearrange these rankings? How many pitchers do you foresee them carrying? Have any creative thoughts on strategy and deployment? Sound off in the comments. Click here to view the article
  17. In projecting the playoff bullpen, we need to set a few parameters. We'll presume that the Twins carry 12 pitchers, which is generally the most you'll see given the reduced need for starting depth. Even the Brewers, who last year bullpened their way through the playoffs, carried only 12 pitchers. So, we can safely assume that six of those pitchers will be Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi, Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, Tyler Duffey, and Sergio Romo. Next, there is a batch of borderline locks: Randy Dobnak, Martin Perez, Devin Smeltzer. The length these guys provide is essential, especially with Minnesota possibly planning on multiple bullpen games in a series. One might quibble with Perez's presence in that second group, but I think his effectiveness against lefties (.592 OPS) solidifies his bid, given the lack of specialist alternatives. That leaves us with, at most, three open spots for the taking. And that's if the Twins elect to carry a shorthanded bench in favor of additional pen flexibility. Here are the candidates, listed from most-to-least viable as I see it: 1. Cody Stashak, RHP Stashak has ever-so-quietly put together a dominant showing in his major-league debut, posting a 23-to-1 K/BB ratio through his first 22 innings with an elite swing-and-miss rate. Control and stuff: two traits you absolutely want in your bullpen against imposing lineups filled with sluggers. The only question is how Stashak, a former 13th-round draft pick who opened this season in Double-A, will handle the pressure of such a stage. There's been zero indication to this point that he'll be rattled much. 2. Zack Littell, RHP In his second appearance of the season, Littell wore one against the Rays, giving up eight runs over 4 1/3 innings in mop-up duty. Since then, Littell has a 0.94 ERA over 25 appearances. He vacillates between a 94 MPH fastball and 87 MPH cutter in equal measure, and the formula's been very effective for him. Littell has recorded five or six outs in three of his past four appearances, so he's primed to handle a couple innings. That's very handy for the Twins in their situation. You could make a fair case that Littell should be No. 1 on this list, or even in the lock category. 3. Brusdar Graterol, RHP The 21-year-old's initial exposure to the majors has had its ups and downs, but the invigorating high points reaffirm his potential impact. Graterol is the kind of weapon you like to have at your disposal in tight contests, bringing triple-digit heat that's tough to square up when he locates it. Obviously there's an added level of risk and uncertainty at play here, but I think the Twins will wisely accept that in tandem with his upside. 4. Lewis Thorpe, LHP Now we're getting into the "outside looking in" group. Thorpe is an interesting case, because he offers length the Twins might value in front-to-back bullpen games. But he has a 6.15 ERA and 1.71 WHIP. There have been moments where Thorpe's looked really good, and his competitive moxy would fit right in with the intensity of October, but it's hard to imagine the Twins calling on him for multiple innings in a playoff game. He hasn't been good against lefties so match-ups don't really factor. 5. Kyle Gibson, RHP The Twins have given Gibson every chance. His last three appearances cascaded into catastrophe, systematically eroding the notion that he can help in any kind of postseason role. First, Gibson came back from an IL respite and got bashed for six runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. Then, he made a relief appearance and promptly gave up a costly home run. Most recently, he was an erratic mess against Kansas City, failing to complete two innings. Over his past five appearances, opponents are hitting .413 against Gibson. The physically-hampered righty continues to miss bats even in this diminished state, which is the only solace I'll take in the (likely?) event that the team carries him out of sheer loyalty. 6. Fernando Romero, RHP At the beginning of the season, it would've been easy to envision Romero at the head of this conversation. But that was a long time ago, and the 24-year-old has since had a rough go of things. Constantly wrestling with his command, Romero has seen his upper-90s fastball fail to garner the desired results, in both Triple-A and the majors. There's still a glimmer of intrigue in that raw arsenal, but he's been too shaky to merit any trust. 7. Ryne Harper, RHP It's a raw deal for Harper. He was a vital bullpen fixture in the first half. He's a great story. I'd love to see him playing a role in the postseason. I just don't think the Twins can justify carving out a spot for him. Harper's heavy reliance on a big slow curveball, supplemented by a sub-mediocre fastball, was solved by big-league hitters after about three months, resulting in a 5.51 ERA and .318 opponents' average since the break. The idea of serving those pitches up against a bloodthirsty Yankees or Astros lineup is... discomforting. 8. Trevor Hildenberger, RHP Given his history, Hildenberger might've nudged his way back into the postseason picture -- despite his immense struggles over the past year-plus -- had he managed to string together a few shutdown performances here in September. But that hasn't happened. The righty looks awful. In three appearances since returning to the Twins, he's allowed six runs on six hits and three walks in 2 1/3 innings, with two swinging strikes on 59 pitches. He's not usable. 9. Kohl Stewart, RHP Stewart's last three appearances for the Twins have come against likely postseason teams: OAK, NYY, ATL, WAS. Here's how that went: 7 IP, 13 H, 10 ER (12.86 ERA), 6 K, 3 BB, 2 HR. He serves no purpose outside of mopping up meaningless innings and that's just not a guy you need around in a five-game playoff series. 10. Jorge Alcala, RHP The fact that he has made one appearance since being called up 10 days ago, as the sixth pitcher in a game that slipped out of hand late, tells you all you need to know about where he stands in this bullpen hierarchy. Alcala is merely an extra emergency arm to have around for September, and it's become clear he was never auditioning for anything more. Based on these rankings and the supposition of a 12-man staff, here's how I see the ALDS bullpen shaking out: Berrios, Odorizzi, Rogers, May, Duffey, Romo, Dobnak, Perez, Smeltzer, Stashak, Littell, Graterol. What do you think? Would you rearrange these rankings? How many pitchers do you foresee them carrying? Have any creative thoughts on strategy and deployment? Sound off in the comments.
  18. For months there was a growing notion that the Twins would make a move. This club looked the part and jumped out to a big divisional lead. With a relief corps that could use some reinforcements, the front office would almost assuredly deal from depth to bolster the bullpen. Although it didn’t happen in as timely of a matter as some may have hoped, and there could have been some hiccups avoided mid-summer, moves came. Two veteran arms with high ceilings would be added to a back end that already had some promise. But then, two became one, and a handful emerged. Dyson was the best reliever dealt at the deadline. There were bigger names that weren’t moved, but it was he who had previous closing experience and top-notch stuff. He has since been shut down and it looks like his season may be over. Romo and his wipe-out slider are still getting the job done, and he’s stuck in high leverage as expected. One of the two moves worked, but it’s the ones set into motion many months before that are truly paying off. Back in February I suggested that the Twins would win 92 games en route to a Central division crown. Chief among the reasons was the revamped coaching staff and infrastructure within the organization. The current group is a collaborative power that is constantly changing on the fly and looking for an opportunity to exploit the next level out of each player. For some, it takes longer to unlock then others, but if there’s a way this contingent of coaches is going to find the right buttons. There’s no more apparent area currently reflective of that then the bullpen. Since the trade deadline the Twins have posted 2.9 fWAR (2nd in MLB). Their 2.06 BB/9 is the lowest in baseball as is the 3.58 FIP that suggests they’re even better than a fifth best 3.67 ERA. The 1.54 WPA is fifth in baseball and one of just 12 teams currently putting up positive numbers. No one has opponents chasing more than the Twins' 35.2% and the arms they’re doing it with are virtually all home grown. You already know Taylor Rogers is an absolute menace. He’s a lefty with high velocity stuff that doesn’t care what side of the plate you stand on. Tyler Duffey owns 0.8 fWAR since August 1st and hasn’t given up a run since July 23 (a streak of 18.2 IP). He has a ridiculous 30/5 K/BB in that time, and looks the part of the elite closer that Minnesota drafted out of Rice way back in 2012. Looking for his calling with the Twins, there’s no denying Trevor May appears to have found it. Despite an ugly breaking pitch against Cleveland, and one that Rafael Devers beat him on in Boston, his 20 innings since the deadline have been exceptional. May has generated 0.5 fWAR and has allowed just those two earned runs in 20.0 IP. He has a 25/4 K/BB and opposing batters have mustered a sad .325 OPS against him. Arguably the most impressive work comes from the guy that the least was expected of. Still just 23-years-old, Zack Littell was asked to take a game against the Rays on the chin in May. He went back to Triple-A and transitioned to relief. Ramping up the velocity in shorter stints, he showcased his stuff in brief call-ups throughout the year. Now adding the time up, he’s pitched 24.2 innings in relief since June. Littell has allowed just two runs, both in the same outing, and has 21 strikeouts to his credit. He’s still working through command issues at times, but the .209 batting average against is exceptional. With just two weeks left until postseason baseball, Minnesota’s earliest bugaboo has now become an area of strength. This isn’t a lineup that needs to pad a starter’s lead bridging a gap to Taylor Rogers. The Twins are something like six or seven deep in quality arms, and none of those guys could care less who is in the opposing batter's box. Opponents may not have heard of anyone aside from the elder statesmen Romo, but this is a group that will generate name recognition as they turn from the plate watching the ball go around the horn following any given at-bat. There’s no denying that Rocco Baldelli is going to need a healthy dose of mix and match in October. Only the Astros go deep enough to throw starting cares to the wind. Teams like Minnesota will need to get what they can from the first man on the bump and then turn it over to the reinforcements behind the wall. Fortunately for this group, everyone from Baldelli to Wes Johnson, Jeremy Hefner, and the entirety of the minor league pitching support staff deserves a significant pat on the back for the speed with which they turned a deficiency into an asset.
  19. Kyle Gibson W-L 13-7, 4.76 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 151 K, 50 BB, 155.0 IP Minnesota used Kyle Gibson as a reliever on Sunday and things didn’t go exactly to plan. He entered the game after Fernando Romero had already put multiple runners on base and then Gibson surrendered a three-run home run. Only one of the earned runs was charged to Gibson, but the big hit came when he was pitching. One of the bigger issues for Gibson are the health issues he has been battling for most of the season. In spring training, he was also diagnosed with E. coli that he contracted while doing mission work during the off-season. He entered camp around 200 pounds, which is down about 15 pounds from his desired weight. Recently, he returned from the 10-day IL after missing time because of ulcerative colitis. Gibson struggles when batters get repeated looks at him in the same game, especially for the third time. His first time through the batting order he has held batters to a .248/.315/.376 (.691) slash line with a 63 to 18 strikeout to walk ratio. His third time through the line-up results in batters hitting .333/.386/.558 (.944) with eight of his 22 homers allowed coming in this situation. Martin Perez W-L 10-7, 4.89 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 125 K, 64 BB, 152.2 IP Perez didn’t even start the year in Minnesota’s rotation, but he was a breath of fresh air when he was added to the rotation in mid-April. From April 15-May 23, he looked like one of the best pitchers in the league as he posted a 2.17 ERA and held batters to a .644 OPS. His cut fastball was a revelation and it helped him to strike out 44 batters in eight games. He looked like a candidate for the All-Star Game and it certainly seemed like Minnesota had made something out of nothing. In his 18 starts since May 23, Perez has not looked like the same pitcher. His cut fastball, that had been his bread and butter during his hot start, has not looked the same. He has allowed more than a hit per inning and he’s only managed 69 strikeouts in 94 2/3 innings. With 16 home runs allowed, he has surrendered nearly a home run per appearance. Right-handed batters have compiled an .817 OPS against him throughout the year. This isn’t good news for the Twins that will be facing the Yankees or the Astros in the ALDS and both clubs are very right-hand heavy. Only New York and Houston have higher OPS totals than Minnesota this year so there doesn’t seem like a scenario where Perez would be asked to see their line-up multiple times in the same game. Bullpen Game After Friday night’s botched rainout, the Twins were left no available starting pitchers for Saturday’s doubleheader. This left the team with a unique strategic situation and a full September roster of bullpen arms. In Game 1, the Twins were able to shut out the Indians behind three innings from Devin Smeltzer and more than one inning from Zack Littell, Tyler Duffey and Taylor Rogers. During Game 2, Lewis Thorpe was the lone pitcher to surrender any runs as he struggled with command throughout his appearance. Cody Stashak and Trevor May joined the shutout crew from Game 1, but the most impressive appearance was from 21-year old Brusdar Graterol. Over two innings, he was regularly sitting in triple-digits with his fastball and this pitch had more movement than any of his other big-league appearances. Add in a strong slider and he looked lights out. https://twitter.com/TFTwins/status/1173231000123559939?s=20 During last year’s playoffs, the Milwaukee Brewers used a bold strategy as they used Wade Miley as the starter and he only pitched to one batter. Manager Craig Counsell was hoping the Dodgers would load their line-up with left-handed hitters and then the Brewers quickly switched to a left-handed pitcher. Teams are likely more aware of this type of strategy, but it is something a team could try during October, especially one like the Twins with few starting pitching options. What strategy do you think the Twins would use in Game 3 of the ALDS? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
  20. With the emergence of quality relief arms like Tyler Duffey and Trevor May, who are capable of pitching late in the game, and the addition of late-inning arms in Sergio Romo and Sam Dyson (if he’s ever healthy), the Twins haven’t felt as much need to pitch Rogers multiple days in a row. Add in Zack Littell, who has also been really solid down the stretch, and the Minnesota bullpen appears to be in good shape, especially relative to starting pitching and the dearth of healthy position players. With a bullpen that is overflowing with arms due to September call-ups, I was curious to see how the aforementioned relievers have performed while pitching on back-to-back days. With so many quality relief options and the September additions, it seems less necessary than ever to pitch anyone without a day of rest between outings. Of course, rosters will contract prior to the postseason, but with so many good relievers right now (and problems in the rotation), the Twins would do well to consider the best usage of the bullpen. Let’s take a look at how the top six relievers have performed both on zero-days rest (in the left-side of the box) compared to their overall numbers on the season (on the right-side). Yikes! Those numbers on zero days of rest are pretty atrocious across the board. The one glaring exception is Trevor May, who contrary to the trend, actually has pitched much better without a day off between appearances. Of course, we’re talking about a very small sample size of just 9 2/3 innings, but compared to his peers it seems that May is the man to go to if you need someone to pitch two days in a row. However, in the course of a full season the Twins would have to be careful not to overuse May if he was to be relied on to go back-to-back days more often than the others. As far as the others go, the numbers while pitching with no rest really stand out compared to their overall numbers, especially considering that the no-rest performances are also included in the overall numbers, causing them to be a bit bloated. Looking at the differences in OPS allowed shows that the pitchers are making hitters look below replacement level overall, while Rogers, Duffey, and Littell are allowing batters to look like MVP-caliber hitters when pitching on back-to-back days. The diminished strikeout-to-walk ratios of Rogers and Duffey point to a lack of control potentially due to the extra fatigue of pitching without a day of rest. Before the trade deadline, Minnesota rode Rogers hard out of necessity, but it is really no longer advisable to do so. With five to six high quality relief arms (depending on Dyson’s health) the Twins don’t really need to use any reliever on back to back days. Rocco Baldelli deserves credit for the overall fluidity of the bullpen roles, but the Twins can afford to be even less strict with the positioning of their best arms. Although Rogers is the preferred reliever to bring in to close out the game, Romo has done so on occasion since joining the team, and both Duffey, and to a lesser extent May, can be trusted in the highest-leverage situations. And if the Twins aren’t married to Rogers in save situations, he can be brought in to late-inning situations with more lefties due up or when facing the heart of an opposition’s order prior to the ninth. While the Twins might not want to bring Littell in to end the game, he has pitched really well and seems to be at the point where he can be trusted in the late innings of a close game. Dyson is a bit of a wildcard as he hasn’t pitched in a while due to injury, but if he comes back strong he also has closer experience and is capable of being a late-inning weapon. Minnesota currently has a plethora of lesser relief options that should be considered before pitching anyone other than May on zero rest days. Relievers like Cody Sashak, Ryne Harper, or possibly even Brusdar Graterol could be preferable to the non-rested options. Depending on how the opener role is used going forward, Randy Dobnak, Lewis Thorpe, and Devin Smeltzer would also be viable options out of the pen. The Twins would then be able to use three of their superior options for the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings, saving the other two or three for the next game whenever possible. They could also let one of the top relievers go more than one inning on occasion, especially if they are not asked to pitch in the next game. And while the “lesser options” may not be as attractive as the top five or six, when compared with the numbers of the “superior” pitchers with no rest, they don’t look so bad, and their effectiveness could be further enhanced by being utilized against the bottom of opposing team’s lineups. The Twins have yet to clinch the division, but they are well on their way to doing so and with the number of relievers that they have available there is really no reason to run out any relievers on back-to-back days. The postseason is a completely different animal, and with the current lack of starting pitching the bullpen will be paramount if the Twins hope to advance. The good news is that there are plenty of days off between games in the postseason, which should prevent the top bullpen options from too much overuse. Obviously, Minnesota wants its best pitchers throwing in the postseason, but they only seem to be at their best when they are properly rested. It will certainly help to have such a high number of quality late-inning arms, and hopefully an extra lefty or two. Beyond this season, Minnesota may be able to take advantage of limiting the use of relievers on back-to-back days next season as well. Sergio Romo is the only impending free agent of the top six arms, so the Twins should have plenty of good options for high-leverage situations. They also have plenty of young arms with options left, so they will be likely to keep the Rochester-Minneapolis shuttle going strong, making it easier to have fresh arms available. Beyond that, the new rules for 2020 could also lead to less reliever overuse. With pitchers having to face a minimum of three batters (unless the inning ends first) there should be fewer situational pitcher changes, although the Twins don’t do a whole lot of that due to the lack of LOOGYs in their pen. Rosters will also expand to 26 players which will make it all the easier to carry an extra arm. Utilizing the bullpen is essential not only for the remainder of the regular season, but for the postseason if the Twins are to go anywhere at all. After much fan dissatisfaction with the bullpen in the first half of the year, the Twins now have one of the best pens in all of baseball and are poised to be strong in 2020 as well. It’s always nice to have your best pitcher in the game, especially when the game is on the line, but it appears that the best are only the best when they have proper rest (all you coaches out there feel free to use that handy rhyme with the youngsters). It’s already a huge advantage to have such a large quantity of quality arms, and if the Twins are able to fully utilize their relievers with rest between outings, the bullpen will that much more of a weapon going forward.
  21. As the season winds down there has been some talk about Taylor Roger’s ineffectiveness when pitching in back to back games. A quick glance at his numbers will confirm what the eye has observed as Rogers has pitched to a 7.71 ERA on zero-days of rest while pitching to a 2.45 ERA overall on the season, and to their credit, the Twins have shied away from overusing Rogers of late.With the emergence of quality relief arms like Tyler Duffey and Trevor May, who are capable of pitching late in the game, and the addition of late-inning arms in Sergio Romo and Sam Dyson (if he’s ever healthy), the Twins haven’t felt as much need to pitch Rogers multiple days in a row. Add in Zack Littell, who has also been really solid down the stretch, and the Minnesota bullpen appears to be in good shape, especially relative to starting pitching and the dearth of healthy position players. With a bullpen that is overflowing with arms due to September call-ups, I was curious to see how the aforementioned relievers have performed while pitching on back-to-back days. With so many quality relief options and the September additions, it seems less necessary than ever to pitch anyone without a day of rest between outings. Of course, rosters will contract prior to the postseason, but with so many good relievers right now (and problems in the rotation), the Twins would do well to consider the best usage of the bullpen. Let’s take a look at how the top six relievers have performed both on zero-days rest (in the left-side of the box) compared to their overall numbers on the season (on the right-side). Download attachment: BullpenSheet.png Yikes! Those numbers on zero days of rest are pretty atrocious across the board. The one glaring exception is Trevor May, who contrary to the trend, actually has pitched much better without a day off between appearances. Of course, we’re talking about a very small sample size of just 9 2/3 innings, but compared to his peers it seems that May is the man to go to if you need someone to pitch two days in a row. However, in the course of a full season the Twins would have to be careful not to overuse May if he was to be relied on to go back-to-back days more often than the others. As far as the others go, the numbers while pitching with no rest really stand out compared to their overall numbers, especially considering that the no-rest performances are also included in the overall numbers, causing them to be a bit bloated. Looking at the differences in OPS allowed shows that the pitchers are making hitters look below replacement level overall, while Rogers, Duffey, and Littell are allowing batters to look like MVP-caliber hitters when pitching on back-to-back days. The diminished strikeout-to-walk ratios of Rogers and Duffey point to a lack of control potentially due to the extra fatigue of pitching without a day of rest. Before the trade deadline, Minnesota rode Rogers hard out of necessity, but it is really no longer advisable to do so. With five to six high quality relief arms (depending on Dyson’s health) the Twins don’t really need to use any reliever on back to back days. Rocco Baldelli deserves credit for the overall fluidity of the bullpen roles, but the Twins can afford to be even less strict with the positioning of their best arms. Although Rogers is the preferred reliever to bring in to close out the game, Romo has done so on occasion since joining the team, and both Duffey, and to a lesser extent May, can be trusted in the highest-leverage situations. And if the Twins aren’t married to Rogers in save situations, he can be brought in to late-inning situations with more lefties due up or when facing the heart of an opposition’s order prior to the ninth. While the Twins might not want to bring Littell in to end the game, he has pitched really well and seems to be at the point where he can be trusted in the late innings of a close game. Dyson is a bit of a wildcard as he hasn’t pitched in a while due to injury, but if he comes back strong he also has closer experience and is capable of being a late-inning weapon. Minnesota currently has a plethora of lesser relief options that should be considered before pitching anyone other than May on zero rest days. Relievers like Cody Sashak, Ryne Harper, or possibly even Brusdar Graterol could be preferable to the non-rested options. Depending on how the opener role is used going forward, Randy Dobnak, Lewis Thorpe, and Devin Smeltzer would also be viable options out of the pen. The Twins would then be able to use three of their superior options for the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings, saving the other two or three for the next game whenever possible. They could also let one of the top relievers go more than one inning on occasion, especially if they are not asked to pitch in the next game. And while the “lesser options” may not be as attractive as the top five or six, when compared with the numbers of the “superior” pitchers with no rest, they don’t look so bad, and their effectiveness could be further enhanced by being utilized against the bottom of opposing team’s lineups. The Twins have yet to clinch the division, but they are well on their way to doing so and with the number of relievers that they have available there is really no reason to run out any relievers on back-to-back days. The postseason is a completely different animal, and with the current lack of starting pitching the bullpen will be paramount if the Twins hope to advance. The good news is that there are plenty of days off between games in the postseason, which should prevent the top bullpen options from too much overuse. Obviously, Minnesota wants its best pitchers throwing in the postseason, but they only seem to be at their best when they are properly rested. It will certainly help to have such a high number of quality late-inning arms, and hopefully an extra lefty or two. Beyond this season, Minnesota may be able to take advantage of limiting the use of relievers on back-to-back days next season as well. Sergio Romo is the only impending free agent of the top six arms, so the Twins should have plenty of good options for high-leverage situations. They also have plenty of young arms with options left, so they will be likely to keep the Rochester-Minneapolis shuttle going strong, making it easier to have fresh arms available. Beyond that, the new rules for 2020 could also lead to less reliever overuse. With pitchers having to face a minimum of three batters (unless the inning ends first) there should be fewer situational pitcher changes, although the Twins don’t do a whole lot of that due to the lack of LOOGYs in their pen. Rosters will also expand to 26 players which will make it all the easier to carry an extra arm. Utilizing the bullpen is essential not only for the remainder of the regular season, but for the postseason if the Twins are to go anywhere at all. After much fan dissatisfaction with the bullpen in the first half of the year, the Twins now have one of the best pens in all of baseball and are poised to be strong in 2020 as well. It’s always nice to have your best pitcher in the game, especially when the game is on the line, but it appears that the best are only the best when they have proper rest (all you coaches out there feel free to use that handy rhyme with the youngsters). It’s already a huge advantage to have such a large quantity of quality arms, and if the Twins are able to fully utilize their relievers with rest between outings, the bullpen will that much more of a weapon going forward. Click here to view the article
  22. The Twins defeated the Indians 2-0 in the first game of their doubleheader Saturday. Devin Smeltzer set the tone with three scoreless innings and the rest of the bullpen continued to shut out Cleveland. Jorge Polanco provided the big blow, hitting a two-run homer in the third inning.Box Score Smeltzer: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 59% strikes (29 of 49 pitches) Bullpen: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K Home Runs: Polanco (22) Multi-Hit Games: Kepler (2-for-4), Arraez (2-for-4) Top 3 WPA: Rogers (.209), Smeltzer (.162), Littell (.135) Devin Smeltzer entered this start with 14 2/3 innings pitched against Cleveland. Smeltzer had allowed 17 hits, 13 runs and six homers, including three from Francisco Lindor. Smeltzer’s success against Lindor on Saturday was a reflection of his outing. He held the All-Star to two foul pop-outs and the Indians to just one hit and no runs in three innings. Mike Clevinger started with his 11-2 record and 2.49 FIP. Luckily for the Twins, Jorge Polanco was not fazed. His two-run shot and dazzling diving stop in the third were decisive. Hitting home runs is vital in beating dominant pitchers, and Minnesota proved that on Saturday. Clevinger struck out 10 in eight strong innings. The Twins were planning on one bullpen game Saturday, but not two. After Jake Odorizzi’s start was washed away, Minnesota knew they would need 18 innings from the second-best bullpen in the American League since Aug. 1. They did not disappoint in game one. Zack Littell made his case to be a primary set-up man down the stretch with two scoreless innings. Littell could fill in for Sam Dyson after the former Giant was shut down and will undergo evaluation on his right arm. Taylor Rogers is seemingly unavailable for tonight's game after completing the five-out save. Rogers was huge once again, and is further submitting himself as one of the best relievers in baseball. This win means Minnesota will lead the AL Central by at least 2.5 games heading into the final 13-game stretch with the White Sox, Royals, and Tigers. The Twins can smell the ALDS. The magic number is 11. Postgame With Baldelli Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days. Click here to view the article
  23. Box Score Smeltzer: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 59% strikes (29 of 49 pitches) Bullpen: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K Home Runs: Polanco (22) Multi-Hit Games: Kepler (2-for-4), Arraez (2-for-4) Top 3 WPA: Rogers (.209), Smeltzer (.162), Littell (.135) Devin Smeltzer entered this start with 14 2/3 innings pitched against Cleveland. Smeltzer had allowed 17 hits, 13 runs and six homers, including three from Francisco Lindor. Smeltzer’s success against Lindor on Saturday was a reflection of his outing. He held the All-Star to two foul pop-outs and the Indians to just one hit and no runs in three innings. Mike Clevinger started with his 11-2 record and 2.49 FIP. Luckily for the Twins, Jorge Polanco was not fazed. His two-run shot and dazzling diving stop in the third were decisive. Hitting home runs is vital in beating dominant pitchers, and Minnesota proved that on Saturday. Clevinger struck out 10 in eight strong innings. The Twins were planning on one bullpen game Saturday, but not two. After Jake Odorizzi’s start was washed away, Minnesota knew they would need 18 innings from the second-best bullpen in the American League since Aug. 1. They did not disappoint in game one. Zack Littell made his case to be a primary set-up man down the stretch with two scoreless innings. Littell could fill in for Sam Dyson after the former Giant was shut down and will undergo evaluation on his right arm. Taylor Rogers is seemingly unavailable for tonight's game after completing the five-out save. Rogers was huge once again, and is further submitting himself as one of the best relievers in baseball. This win means Minnesota will lead the AL Central by at least 2.5 games heading into the final 13-game stretch with the White Sox, Royals, and Tigers. The Twins can smell the ALDS. The magic number is 11. Postgame With Baldelli Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.
  24. On the morning of Sept. 3, 2019 the Minnesota Twins have a 99.7% chance to make the playoffs and 94.5% chance of winning the division. Of course the division race is not mathematically over, but with just under a month to go and a 6.5 game lead, you have to feel good about where the Twins are. Just look at this fun graph from Fangraphs. The Twins have not been under 50% since May 7 and even when Cleveland took the lead the Twins still had a better chance. With the Twins all but guaranteed to go to the playoffs, a lot of talk about the potential playoff roster has been heating up. With a current 36-man roster including fifteen pitchers after September call-ups, the Twins will have a few tough decisions. Who will be in a playoff rotation? Will Kyle Gibson make the roster? How many bullpen pitchers will the Twins carry? I think the Twins will go with a three-man rotation, Kyle Gibson will still be recovering, and the Twins will have nine in the bullpen. Who will make the Twins playoff bullpen? After months of questioning if the Twins would even have enough pitchers to make up a competent playoff bullpen, the script has been completely flipped. The Twins now have about ten to twelve guys with a real shot to make an impact in the playoffs, but it will likely come down to about eight or nine. With five guys being locked in, who else has a shot? This list will assume Berrios, Pineda, and Odorizzi make the roster. Locks: 1. Taylor Rogers 2. Tyler Duffey 3. Sergio Romo 4. Sam Dyson 5. Trevor May Most likely: 6. Zack Littell 7. Brusdar Graterol 8. Martin Perez 9. Ryne Harper 10. Lewis Thorpe Unlikely: 11. Devin Smeltzer 12. Cody Stashak 13. Trevor Hildenberger 14. Jorge Alcala 15. Fernando Romero 16. Randy Dobnak 17. Kohl Stewart Going off of these rankings, creating a playoff bullpen will be tough and that is a good problem to have. With a three-man rotation, the Twins can likely afford to have nine men in the playoff bullpen, but who will they be? Zack Littell is probably the easiest answer at this point. Since being transferred to the bullpen full time, he has pitched 19 2/3 innings and given up just two runs on two solo home runs. That is good for a 0.92 ERA to go with a 1.12 WHIP, 22.4 K%, and .675 OPS. The Twins have used him in a set-up role lately, showing him that they trust him. He gets the sixth spot in my way too early playoff bullpen. Next up, the Twins will probably want at least one more left-hander to be used as a lefty specialist to go get an out against Didi Gregorius even though it seems impossible. The three competitors will be Perez, Smeltzer, and Thorpe. The best OPS against left handed hitters this season from that group belongs to Perez at just .583 (Thorpe at .929 and Smeltzer at .816) so I expect him to be an effective bullpen arm. He gets bullpen spot number seven. That leaves two more. The eighth guy in my bullpen is someone who the Twins and everyone around them have been talking about for months, and that is the flame-throwing right-hander Brusdar Graterol. Honestly I don’t think I would be able to forgive myself if I didn’t put him here. The upside for Graterol has already been expressed by everyone around Twins Territory but even Thad Levine was saying this is definitely a special pitcher. He made these comments about him to the Minneapolis Star Tribune: “In my entire career, I’ve never seen a pitcher other than [Yankees All-Star closer] Aroldis Chapman sit above 100 MPH for an entire inning,” Levine said. “I think he threw one fastball that was timed at 99, and it was almost disappointing.” The final spot in my early bullpen is completely up for grabs from anyone remaining. The player who outperforms the rest this month will get a playoff job so you may want to keep your eyes out for the hot hand. It could really be any of these players, but my best guess would have to be Lewis Thorpe. His 2.76 FIP and 9.2 K/9 are extremely impressive, and his best games have been against the Yankees and Red Sox. Sign me up for some more Thorpedo. Final bullpen: 1 Taylor Rogers 2 Tyler Duffey 3 Sergio Romo 4 Sam Dyson 5 Trevor May 6 Zack Littell 7 Martin Perez 8 Brusdar Graterol 9 Lewis Thorpe What would you change about the bullpen? Let me know in the comments below.
  25. Box Score Pineda: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 10 K, 66.3% strikes (71 of 107 pitches) Bullpen: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 3 K Home Runs: None Multi-Hit Games: Kepler (2-for-5), Polanco (2-for-, RBI) Top 3 WPA: Pineda .244, Littell .144, May .098 Bottom 3 WPA: Graterol -.447, Sanó -.155, Romo -.129 Pineda is lights-out again We’re barely one week into September. It’s too early to jump to any conclusions, but I don’t see why we can’t be excited by some good signs. Take the rotation, for instance. Twins starters were among the ten least productive units in all baseball during August. Now, they’re starting (OK, maybe timidly) to get back on track. Tonight’s outing from Michael Pineda was another indication of this. To provide some context, the Twins rotation was among the bottom ten worst in the league in ERA (5.48), WPA (-1.40), WHIP (1.59) and AVG (.294) last month. Coming into tonight’s game, those numbers had improved to 4.70 ERA, 0.09 WPA, 1.17 WHIP and .227 AVG. All of those numbers are going to look even better after Pineda kept the Indians’ offense on a leash, going six innings and allowing only one run on four hits, while striking out ten Cleveland batters. The only run came off a Francisco Lindor solo homer in the third. That’s definitely not a fluke for Big Mike. After a rocky start of the season in April, he’s been the Twins best starter since the start of May, posting a team-best 3.46 ERA since then. And that was true even before tonight’s game, as he had a 1.31 WPA (also a team-best) on that same period, more than twice as much as the second starter on that list (Jake Odorizzi, 0.65). Pineda has been great fuel for Minnesota’s playoff push, in the midst of chaos caused by the José Berríos struggles, the Kyle Gibson injuries and the lack of consistency from Odorizzi and Martín Pérez. Bullpen does its part in regulation This is how amazing the Twins bullpen has turned out to be in the past weeks: https://twitter.com/TwinsBrasil/status/1170133089948962816 After their performance against the Red Sox in the three-game series in Boston, they earned even more credit, as they took care of business all by themselves in the series opener and shut down the world champions in the following two games. Tonight, they had to work under pressure, as the offense couldn’t provide them with enough run support. Sergio Romo gave up a leadoff triple in the eighth to Oscar Mercado and went on to retire all the remaining batters he faced. However, one of them, Yasiel Puig, managed to score Mercado on a sacrifice fly, which tied the game. Trevor May and Zack Littell both had scoreless innings, with Littell picking off the runner at first to help end the ninth. Quiet night from the offense leads to extras For the third consecutive game, Twins bats were held back. They couldn’t score more than a couple of runs to back up Pineda and the bullpen. C.J. Cron and Jorge Polanco each batted in a run. They weren’t able to respond after the Indians tied it in the ninth, but they threatened. LaMonte Wade Jr. drew a walk, to bring his OBP to .385, in spite of still not having a hit in the majors. Graterol can’t handle first big challenge After Cody Stashak and Lewis Thorpe alternated to pitch through the tenth inning, rookie Brusdar Graterol was handed a two-out, one man on situation in the eleventh. He faced four batters, but couldn’t retire any of them. A couple of singles from Roberto Pérez and Lindor gave the Indians a two-run lead. With Trevor Hildenberger pitching, Mercado hit a two-run single to put this one away, doubling their lead. Postgame with Baldelli https://twitter.com/fsnorth/status/1170199619013206016 Bullpen Usage Spreadsheet Click here for a review of the number of pitches thrown by each member of the bullpen over the past five days.
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