• The Bullpen is Booming

    Since starting pitching was obviously going to be an unavoidable weakness, the Minnesota Twins knew they would need exceptional efforts from both the offense and bullpen in order to maintain a respectable record this season. We're only a week in, but thus far, both units have answered the call.

    In their 4-2 start, the Twins have averaged 4.7 runs per game on offense and the relievers have been outstanding outside of one implosion (or Chris Davis explosion) that led to Friday's loss. Across Minnesota's four victories, the bullpen has delivered 13 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing only seven hits.

    The meltdown on Friday was painful, but that was simply a poorly pitched game all around, with Liam Hendriks setting the tone by failing to last through the fifth. Outside of that hiccup, the relief corps has been absolutely phenomenal, and easily the Twins' biggest difference-maker in a fast start.

    That group received another boost over the weekend, when Tyler Robertson – who served up the grand slam that accounts for almost the entirety of damage inflicted against the Twins' bullpen this year – was bumped to Rochester to make room for Anthony Swarzak.

    I've noticed that Swarzak doesn't garner much fanfare. Maybe it's because of his unglamorous role, or maybe it's because of his failures as a starter. But the guy has proven to be an asset in the bullpen. As a reliever over the past two seasons he has posted a 4.02 ERA and 1.34 WHIP.

    Those are hardly spectacular numbers, but then you have to consider everything else he brings. He's been remarkably durable, frequently pitching multiple innings at a time and always available to start in a pinch. He's generally avoided injury, horseplay notwithstanding. And he's a former second round pick with a live fastball who's still only 27. There may be upside in him yet.

    On Sunday, Swarzak made his first appearance of the season, recording four critical outs in a close game and earning a win. His return improves a bullpen that has already been a smashing success in this young season.
    This article was originally published in blog: The Bullpen is Booming started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 21 Comments
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Swarzak's "live fastball" on Sunday was down a concerning 3MPH from 2012 and only around 89MPH. And although his first performance was critical to the Twins success on Sunday- and is obviously a much better option than Robertson- it wasn't like he was exactly dominating out there (2 hits and a BB in 1.1 IP). A good long reliever should be a guy that can consistently do exactly what Pedro Hernandez did on Sunday- pitch well enough in spot and emergency starting situations to give your team multiple chances to steal some extra wins- when the matchups suggest you should lose. Swarzak is simply HORRIBLE as a starter (5.79 ERA/.300 OBA/ 1.51 WHIP) and the numbers confirm that he is 2 shades below mediocre as a reliever. The Twins should most definitely look to upgrade this spot in the bullpen when they make their next legitimate run.

      Regarding the team bullpen numbers so far, they have been very good, but there is an element of luck involved here, as there are concerning peripherals that eventually will hurt. High BB%, mediocre GB%, unsustainably low BABIP (all well below their mediocre BP numbers from 2012). If Harden and Perez prove to be effective along with continued strong performances from the proven solid core group (Perkins, Burton, Duensing) and Roenicke and/or Pressly (nice surprises thus far) and Fien(?)- well then you might really have something to write about- a relevant Twins team in the second half.
    1. MattyJimmy's Avatar
      MattyJimmy -
      My perception of this team thus far is that virtually everyone is doing about what they were expected to do. The offense is pretty good, starting pitching is mediocre but not abysmal, defense is solid but not spectacular, and as you mentioned the bullpen has been pretty darn good. What's encouraging to me is that this has been good enough to win. I suspect the Twins will be around .500 at the trade deadline. The buy or sell decision should be an interesting one.
    1. jharaldson's Avatar
      jharaldson -
      I have concerns that Swarzak is unable to horseplay at a major league level.
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      The Orioles made the playoffs last year--but that was probably a fluke. So the pitching staff has faced two teams--one a post season team--one a 500 team. Lets see what happens in the K. I think the pen will continue to thrive this year but the rotation must pitch close to 6 innings per start.
    1. fairweather's Avatar
      fairweather -
      The bullpen is strong and has some depth. Gardy doesn't always manage it right but thats another story. The spot on the pitching staff that is weakest and has the strongest candidates for replacement is the spot occupied by Liam Hendriks in the starting rotation. IMO
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      > Across Minnesota's four victories, the bullpen has delivered 13 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing only seven hits.

      Allowing that this stat removes the less effective bullpen contributions, it's still an unsustainable stat. Someone in the game thread yesterday offered a remark along the lines of "OK bullpen, now do your job" when the Twins took their one-run lead. I didn't bother to harsh the buzz but it's somewhat above the job description to always throw three innings of shutout ball to preserve such a lead.

      > My perception of this team thus far is that virtually everyone is doing about what they were expected to do.

      This includes Gardy, IMO. He's got a bench that permits more maneuvering than in years past, and so far he has used it to put players in position to succeed. Ditto with the bullpen, and even with Robertson's gopherball it was a situation where the pitcher was put in where the odds should be in his favor, and if it doesn't work out you look into getting a different pitcher, not a different manager. (Not that a lefty-lefty matchup is rocket surgery, nor that a lefty can never give up a hit to a lefty, just that so far IMO Gardy's been pushing the right buttons.)
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by fairweather View Post
      The bullpen is strong and has some depth. Gardy doesn't always manage it right but thats another story. The spot on the pitching staff that is weakest and has the strongest candidates for replacement is the spot occupied by Liam Hendriks in the starting rotation. IMO
      It's early. But Gardy's only mistake so far was using Robertson on Friday night. That has as much to do with the fact that Robertson lost his fastball in the offseason. On paper, you go with the match up. Otherwise, Gardy has managed this bullpen really well. The better those arms get out there, the easier it will be to manage it. Swarzak helps. When he can add Perez and Harden, it will be one of the better bullpens in the league. At this point, it will be hard to find room for those guys. That's a good problem to have.

      As for Hendriks, if he pitches on Wednesday like he did Friday, he will be in Rochester by the end of the week. His replacement in that scenario (Hernandez) will be keeping the spot warm for Gibson, who I predict will make his debut sometime in May, unless Deduno takes it from him. I can't remember when the Twins had this much depth in the rotation.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      It's early. I can't remember when the Twins had this much depth in the rotation.
      It is early. Depth yes, but above average talent? That is the question that needs to be answered and only time will tell.
    1. h2oface's Avatar
      h2oface -
      A lot has changed in baseball for an ERA in the 4's to be considered an asset.

      After a 162 game season, making the playoffs is never a fluke. Other than a 83-79 record getting in because it wins a division and that is just the best a division can offer.......... I always despise discounting what is earned over a 162 game season. However a team does it, including a 29-9 record for one run games (they should be revered for accomplishing that amazing feat instead of discounted as a fluke), they deserve it and I could never consider it a fluke.

      Is the two hole in the Twins lineup jinxed? .... Whoever hits in that spot is destined to not hit?

      Joe Mauer sure seems rusty behind the plate..... missing an easy pop up, helping the bouncers become wild pitches by not catching the several catchable ones...... maybe it is just early rust.

      That play in center where Hicks stumbles around for the routine catch was truly delmonesque. It will be a great blooper sometime in his future. Aside from the futility of it, it was really funny. Once the top of the lineup gets more than a .143 and .286 OBP from the top two spots in this batting order, things should really get interesting for the offense.
    1. Mr. Brooks's Avatar
      Mr. Brooks -
      Going 29-9 in 1 run games IS a fluke, no matter how you want to spin it.
      Yes, it happened, and they get credit for it, and shouldn't have to apologize for it.
      But that doesn't change the fact that it was a fluke, and would only happen 1 time in 100 with the same roster, same opponents, same everything.

      It's an "amazing feat" in the same way that flipping heads 20 times in a row would be an amazing feat. Pretty amazing to see, but doesn't have a whole lot to do with the coin or the person flipping the coin.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by h2oface View Post
      After a 162 game season, making the playoffs is never a fluke. Other than a 83-79 record getting in because it wins a division and that is just the best a division can offer.......... I always despise discounting what is earned over a 162 game season. However a team does it, including a 29-9 record for one run games (they should be revered for accomplishing that amazing feat instead of discounted as a fluke), they deserve it and i could never consider it a fluke.
      That's exactly what it is. Variance from the norm in one run games is almost never repeated from season to season. Therefore, any team far above or below typical one-run victories/losses is a fluke (ie. a chance occurrence involving luck, not skill).
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      I believe it's all about winning those one run games. However... Just cuz the Orioles did it last year doesn't mean they will do it again this year. Its game by game... Finding a way to make the play that gets you the win.

      I'm as optimistic as they come... I believe the Twins can have a season to make us proud in 2013.

      I love the start so far and the bullpen has been fantastic but I will temper that enthusiasm by saying that Orioles did quite a bit to help us win two out of three.

      The mistakes made by the birds helped us immensely. If the Orioles keep making mistakes like they did. They won't repeat 2012.

      As for the Twins... The pitching staff just has to keep giving us a chance and the team needs to make plays when it's time to make plays. It can be done but we still have to play better.
    1. h2oface's Avatar
      h2oface -
      I watched a lot of the Baltimore games last year, because I was in need of exciting, tenacious ballgames. Watching a team consistently, for a year, find a way to win in high pressure games, over and over,.......... well.......... like is said, I can't consider it a fluke, and I am not spinning. Just because a string of high level performance can't be repeated, it doesn't mean it was a fluke. I saw a lot of clutch hitting skills go down. Over and over and over. Thankfully, most of the interesting things in life are not about the norm, but the skews away from the norm.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      The Twins appear to be well stocked with guys that could go a few innings. Duensing, Deduno, DeVries, Roenicke, Swarzak, even Robertson (if he improves his posture and gets his fastball back). Other than Perkins and Burton, is there anybody on the staff that can hit 95mph with his fastball?
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      The Twins have depth for the rotation, but still need a stopper. Maybe it will be Correia.

      Robertson is a one-batter pitcher. Maybe two. He succeeds or fails. But is a luxury, if you can afford it. The Twins can't, right now.

      DeVries either injured himself out of an opportunity, or can be a long-relief guy if the need arises. Right now, the Twins have Swarzak, Duensing, Roeincke and Pressly who can all go more than an inning. Fien is still questionable but has options.

      I think Mauer should stay in the three spot. He'll see more pitches before his at bat. He doesn't seem to be helping Hicks at the moment see better pitches. The question is, do you trust Dozier or Florimon or Escobar in that spot.

      I think it is time to say goodbye to Carroll. If he is just going to sit around, you can find someone else to do that.

      Why Mastro didn't open the season on the DL and you at least have a bat and runner there for a couple of weeks is beyond me. What is with the Twins playing nursemaid. Benson can shag flies, run bases, maybe even put a bat in his hand for a few weeks before going east again.

      At least we don't have to worry about Butera for awhile.

      Hendriks, so long, farewell.......Hernandez (like DeVries) shows that he can keep pitching after facing a jam.
    1. Mr. Brooks's Avatar
      Mr. Brooks -
      Quote Originally Posted by Rosterman View Post
      The Twins have depth for the rotation, but still need a stopper. Maybe it will be Correia.

      Robertson is a one-batter pitcher. Maybe two. He succeeds or fails. But is a luxury, if you can afford it. The Twins can't, right now.

      DeVries either injured himself out of an opportunity, or can be a long-relief guy if the need arises. Right now, the Twins have Swarzak, Duensing, Roeincke and Pressly who can all go more than an inning. Fien is still questionable but has options.

      I think Mauer should stay in the three spot. He'll see more pitches before his at bat. He doesn't seem to be helping Hicks at the moment see better pitches. The question is, do you trust Dozier or Florimon or Escobar in that spot.

      I think it is time to say goodbye to Carroll. If he is just going to sit around, you can find someone else to do that.

      Why Mastro didn't open the season on the DL and you at least have a bat and runner there for a couple of weeks is beyond me. What is with the Twins playing nursemaid. Benson can shag flies, run bases, maybe even put a bat in his hand for a few weeks before going east again.

      At least we don't have to worry about Butera for awhile.

      Hendriks, so long, farewell.......Hernandez (like DeVries) shows that he can keep pitching after facing a jam.
      I haven't looked at the numbers, but just off the "eye test", I have to disagree. It seems to me Hicks is getting a ton of pitches over the plate, he's just not doing anything with them.
    1. cmathewson's Avatar
      cmathewson -
      Quote Originally Posted by old nurse View Post
      It is early. Depth yes, but above average talent? That is the question that needs to be answered and only time will tell.
      Perkins and Burton, no question. Duensing can be serviceable if used correctly. I like Pressly a lot. Roenicke is above average, based on his numbers last year. I'm hopeful that both Harden and Perez will be healthy and above average. If not, Tonkin has a shot to be special. I'm kind of torn on Fien. I like what I see, but I have no idea if it will be sustainable over a whole season. Swarzak is a long guy and mop-up guy. If you keep him in that role, he's a useful guy to keep around. That's good depth.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by cmathewson View Post
      Perkins and Burton, no question. Duensing can be serviceable if used correctly. I like Pressly a lot. Roenicke is above average, based on his numbers last year. I'm hopeful that both Harden and Perez will be healthy and above average. If not, Tonkin has a shot to be special. I'm kind of torn on Fien. I like what I see, but I have no idea if it will be sustainable over a whole season. Swarzak is a long guy and mop-up guy. If you keep him in that role, he's a useful guy to keep around. That's good depth.
      His numbers say different, or people around here are getting used to a pretty lousy standard for acceptable (as I pointed out previously and as H2o so eloquently stated):

      A lot has changed in baseball for an ERA in the 4's to be considered an asset.
      As soon as you find a better option (Maybe Hernandez?), it's time to say goodbye to the Horseplay Hound.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Brooks View Post
      I haven't looked at the numbers, but just off the "eye test", I have to disagree. It seems to me Hicks is getting a ton of pitches over the plate, he's just not doing anything with them.
      Speaking of "eye tests", based on Mauer's performance at the plate, and behind it, it might be time for him to see an ophthamologist.
    1. Rick Niedermann's Avatar
      Rick Niedermann -
      Never been a Swarzak fan. But he did pitch well the first time out. To me he is one step better then say a Jeff Manship. But I will give him the benefit of the doubt and hope this is the year he breaks through. When he starts putting up Matt Guerrier numbers then I might change my tune a litte.
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